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8 Tips for Indoor Still Life Photography

by Sue Barthelow

Here's some tips for setting up and shooting still life subjects indoors.

1. Use Indirect Natural Light

Position your subject so it's lit using the natural light from a nearby window. Indirect and soft light is best. If there's too much direct sunlight coming through the window, cover the window with a white sheet to diffuse the light.

2. Illuminate from the Side

Give your subject extra dimension by using side lighting.

3. Brighten Your Subject

Use a reflector or white paper to lighten your subjects shadowy back or side.

4. Create a Backdrop

Use a backdrop to remove the clutter from your image and to let your subject stand out. Choose black, white or a color that complements your subject. A swath of velvet or velour creates a nice soft background. You can use mounting or mat board, un-creased butcher paper, a table cloth and even a shower curtain as your backdrop. If you're shooting something small, a jacket or shirt may be large enough to do the trick.

5. Position Your Backdrop

Keep the backdrop two to three feet away from your subject. This minimizes shadows your subject casts onto a light colored backdrop and keeps a dark backdrop dark. It also lets you set your depth of field so the backdrop's texture doesn't show on the image unless you want it to. If your backdrop is white, you can use a reflector or white paper to reflect light onto your backdrop to keep it nicely lit. Beware of light reflections from your backdrop since they'll compete with your subject.

6. Dull Your Table Surface

Make sure the surface your subject sits on does not reflect light at the camera when the surface will be included in the image. You may want to cover the surface with something that is non-reflective.

7. Use a Tripod

Use a tripod to record a sharper image. If you don't have a tripod, see if you can create a substitute by setting the camera on something. Use a bag of dry beans or rice from your pantry to support the camera at an angle of your choice.

8. Use Your Camera's Self-Timer or Remote Control

Reduce camera shake by using the self-timer or a remote control to trigger the shutter. Every little thing helps when you're trying to capture a sharp image. The simple action of pressing the shutter button can make your camera move as you take the shot.


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