Creative still life photography is a challenging artistic pursuit. Instagram aficionados and professional photographers are well aware of the difficulty and satisfaction of creating and shooting objects in exquisite compositions. Many factors go into these deceptively simple works of art, and there are a few special considerations for iPhone users.
Here are some tips to help you shoot compelling still life photos with your iPhone.
Choose an Intriguing Background
Beginners often shoot items against a white wall, but the ideal background will have some texture and set the tone for the photo. Arrange your composition on a windowsill to capture the outdoors as a distant backdrop, or use exposed brick, wood, shrubbery, or textured fabric. Choose dark or muted colors for a moody tone, or light colors to make dark objects stand out. Experiment with the distance between your scene and your backdrop. A background that’s too busy up close might work well if it’s farther away. Be aware of any shadows your items might throw against the backdrop, especially if you’re using any special lighting.
Arrange the Items
Fruit, flowers, and wine bottles are classic still life subjects, but you can shoot anything. Select items that make sense together and would normally be found on the same tabletop, like fruit and flowers or perfume bottles and a hairbrush. Consider the shapes of your objects, mixing round shapes like apples with long shapes like cattail leaves. Be deliberate with colors, either by choosing a color theme or by arranging the colors to create a pleasing palette. It’s generally best to have an odd number of items, and not to clutter the shot. When in doubt, keep removing things.
Create your arrangement in a space where you’ll have bright, indirect light. Set up your items to create strong lines or a flow that will draw the eye through the finished image. Creating triangular shapes with the items usually works well.
Select Your Angle
When the Old Masters created still life paintings, they sat for long periods in front of an easel with their subject arranged on a table nearby. If you want to create a traditional-looking still life photo, re-create this angle by sitting in a chair and shooting from your eye level to capture the “painter’s eye view.” Early photographers did exactly this, arranging objects on a table and setting up a tripod nearby to support their bulky equipment.
But if you want a nontraditional still life, you have endless options. Modern equipment like the iPhone 6’s iSight camera offer great light capture at almost any angle, and they are so slim and lightweight that you can easily maneuver the camera wherever you want it. Try arranging your items on a flat surface and shooting from directly above for a modern look. Place items in the grass or on carpeting and shoot from ground level. Zoom in close, or go wide. Your options are endless.
Crop in Tight
If you want to create an abstract image, consider cropping your photo in, nice and tight. When you zoom in on your subject and take the image up close, you’re able to see details that normally would have been missed. Additionally, you can eliminate an unwanted background, by using your subject to completely fill the frame of the photo. It’s important to crop in to reveal only the most interesting part of the subject. If you want to shoot even closer, consider using a macro lens on your iPhone.
Create a Retro Feel
Even those who are new to the iPhoneography world know that vintage is in right now. Vintage objects and photo settings are popping up all over social media sites like Instagram, and viewers are loving it. By using vintage pieces in your shot, you can give your photo a retro feel. Use anything, from vintage signs and letters, to antique telephones and electronics for an old school vibe.
You can even take it one step further and try out a photo editing app, that will allow you to use vintage filters and color tones after the photos are taken.
Frame a Spectacular Shot
The first guideline all photographers learn is the Rule of Thirds, and that rule won’t fail you when you’re framing a still life. The simplest way to apply the rule is to enable your iPhone’s camera grid and place the focal point of your composition on the intersecting lines.
Another aspect of framing is how close you get. Sometimes you’ll want to fill the entire frame with your subject, or even crop closer so part of your still life is only implied by the photo. Other shots look best with plenty of negative space around them, grounding your still life in a sense of place.
Pro tip: Unless you have an external telephoto lens such as an Olloclip, it’s better to move in and out to reframe your subject. Phone cameras don’t offer clarity when zoomed in.
Framing and shooting gorgeous still lives is an art form as old as photography itself. If you spend some time experimenting with backgrounds, angles, arrangements, and composition, your still lives will start coming to life for you in no time. Keep practicing to develop your “voice” as a photographer.
So there you have it, 5 simple ways to take eye catching still life photos with your iPhone. Creative Still Life Photography is a subject that can be captured at anytime, no matter what the weather is doing outside.
If you have been inspired by this article leave a comment below or share your own still life photos on Instagram using the hashtag #mobiography.
This article was written by Ashley Carter, a full time student writing her way through college. When she’s not writing she enjoys hiking, photography and any other outdoor activity imaginable.