Still Life


Various still life images must be taken with the intent then chose a single image, meeting the criteria of still life. The objects can either be outside or studio based but the still life objects must be separated by man-made material and organic if more than one item is photographed. For example, fruit can not be in the same frame as a wine glass or any other manufactured material.


I have conducted research into examples of still life photographs and artwork. I have looked at various items, including organic and manufactured and the way they have been composed. 

In my research I was more interested in the way the objects were lit and how the light reflected off different surfaces. For example, the ice cubes were interesting to research as the reflective surfaces and transparency produced a variety of outcomes depending on the lighting. Low key would show more dramatic reflections in the ice, such as highlights from the lights and harsh shadows of darker areas of the background. Whereas high key setups produced a more even lighting result, mostly showing the background and some reflections off the ice. I found the low key setups to be more impacting and creative, therefore I will experiment with this style. 

Pieter Claesz

Born in 1586, Pieter Claesz was a still life painter who lived in the Netherlands. His later works showcased a darker, earthy colour palette. One of his focuses was to capture the light in his paintings, which I think he’s accomplished effectively.

I researched the work from Claesz because I found the type of objects to be interesting and found the lighting to be effective. I appreciated the tonal range and shadows cast in the images, creating depth. Mid tones are not created through the whole piece, but instead a gradient from the highlights to shadows that produces bold contrasts and rich tones. I find the use of multiple items to be creative and produces more of a narrative in the image. I feel that the romantic era has been portrayed effectively, producing a poetic approach to the images.

My Work

Figure 1


In figure 1 I have displayed my first still life shoot using fruit. I used a home studio setup, consisting of a bed sheet, bark with items to hold it down and one light. Due to the low light conditions I used a tripod so that I could set the shutter to ⅙ second 16735557_775666862610154_2144957372_oto allow enough light to enter the lens and the aperture was set to f5.6 to create a sharp image but with a shallow depth of field. The ISO was 100 to reduce the amount of noise in the image. I made sure that the light was directed only at the fruit so that the bed sheet would only appear completely black. I used my Canon 50mm f2.8 macro lens to capture small details that was accompanied by my Canon 7D.

Emotional Response

I have always appreciated still life photography and enjoy to create my own pieces, therefore was happy to have this as an assignment. I thought I would experiment with fruit as I wanted to capture the surface textures and the vibrancy. I would normally prefer monochrome but felt that I would try something different and unfamiliar. I enjoy trying new experiments and found to be interesting to conduct.

I worked from home because I did want to rush in the University studio and prefer to challenge myself to minimum equipment. Fortunately, I had my studio light for this experiment but created the setup with basic items found around any home. I took some images of the fruit on the black seat but did not like the outcome. Therefore, I saw bark peeling off logs by the fire and decided to use a piece for this shoot. I found his to be an improvement and continued to use it through the rest of the shoot. I find it more satisfying to use ordinary items that anyone one could find to create photographs than using a studio already set up. I think I learn more from this and have to pay more attention to the technical elements, such as lighting.


A negative from this was that the images do not have any striking qualities. In my opinion, there is nothing that stands out to the viewers. I think this could be improved by testing different lighting techniques. Creating interesting shadows and highlights would produce depth to the picture.

I also do not think the color has created an impacting image. I think more creative thought should have been put into this shoot and different experiments with lighting and colour should have been conducting. For the other experiments, I will focus on all aspects of the image and try different styles to find the most effective outcome.


I found this to be a useful experience with still life photography in reflection think it is my weakest series of work compared to the other attempts below. I think the pictures with the raspberry and blueberries are stronger than the experiment with more fruits. I initially only used the raspberries and blueberries but then went back to the setup with a variety of other fruits. However, I did not think worked successfully and feel that the previous images worked more effectively.

I think the lack of experience hindered this shoot. I should have conducted more quick trials to understand the lighting and how it can change the image. I could have been more creative and added shadows or changed the images to black and white. I could have also captured closer images of the raspberries, showing more of the textured detail of its surface.


Figure 2


For figure two I used the same setup as the previous shoot but moved away from fruit. I wanted to experiment with a rose and try to use colour in the image similar to the first shoot but with a more successful outcome. I think I lit the fruit too much, therefore, I created more shadows in between the petals for this piece to add character and depth.

Emotional Response

I took a variety of images but they did not have much difference between them and felt that the one presented was the best outcome. I feel more positive about this experience because I feel that the lighting has worked well against the deep red of the rose. I feel that the colour has worked better than the first shoot with the fruit and am pleased that I am making progress.  

Due to the setup being the same as the fruit shoot I did not find this time consuming or difficult to create the correct setup. Instead, it was a simple process that I found enjoyable and felt that I had more confidence using the lights. I had not used the lights when shooting the first experiment but for this one, I had more understanding.


I think that overall the rose piece is an improvement from the fruit. I thought that the multiple pieces of fruit made it overly complicated and lost the effectiveness of the image. However, for this I r=kept it simple, only adding water droplets that I thought added more depth and texture to the image.

I think I improved the lighting by taking more time to review how it appeared on the image and then made small changes to understand the effects it had on the rose. I did not overexpose and saturate the rose but still maintained retail through the highlights on the petals. The colour has worked more successfully compared to the fruit. I made sure it did not dominate the picture but still create a vibrant outcome that could catch the viewer’s attention.

I think to improve this I could have included more of the simple black background above the rose, rather than the various leaves.  I think this would have made the petals bolder by isolating them, instead, the leaves take away some focus and do not add to the aesthetic of the image, becoming unnecessary to have in the frame.  


I did not take enough pictures with different experiments for this series. I think this hindered the project as it did not offer me with much variety to chose from. I did not change the position of the flower much or the lighting. I think I should have tried more lighting techniques and changed the composition to understand what could make the image more impacting. I could have then created a large scene, with flowers and other natural objects that would have been different from the smaller, simpler setups I normally experiment with.

Figure 3


I had taken some images of antique perfume bottles for my Typology project, however, I then found the matching set for one particular bottle and thought that it would create an interesting still life piece. I placed the tree bottles on a sheet of glass found in the garden with my black dressing gowns as the backdrop. I used two studio lights, touch off my phone and another torch to light this piece. I used a slow shutter to capture the details and allow enough light for the low lighting conditions. The aperture was f8 to make sure the whole bottle was in focus whilst ensuring the background was not.

Emotional Response

I had thoroughly enjoyed creating the Typology piece with the bottles, therefore knew I would enjoy this experiment. This was correctly presumed as I found it very satisfying to create the setup from minimum supplies but still trying to make it appear as though it could have been done in the studio. The particular set of bottles were my favourite out of the collection due to the intricate details cut into the glass.

I found working with the lighting to be fascinating as it provided me with more understanding how it reflects off an interesting surface like the bottles. It was still a challenge to get the effect how I imaged and to also create the reflection in the glass, however, I felt determined and did not stop until I felt that I had accomplished my goal.


It benefited the project to create a colour and monochrome version of the piece. This enabled me to compare and see which one was more effective. I found the monochrome to create a much stronger image, because it produced a bolder outcome, with a more striking contrast between the highlights and shadows.

I felt that the glass was negative, This is because it was not clean and even though I had tried to clean it as much as possible it still ad remaining scratched. This is also the same with the bottles which can be seen. I think I could have been more thorough with the dust on the bottles and tried to find glass that was less scratched.


I found the lighting to be a hindrance and also a benefit. This is because in the final result the lighting has worked effectively with the cut of the glass, creating a strong contrast with the shadows when shown in monochrome. However, the lighting was also difficult to work with, especially when combined with the glass reflection. I had to use half of the reflection because there was a string shine on the rest of the glass. I tried moving the lights and reducing and adding lights but could not remove the glare. Therefore, I decided to only show some of the reflection in the frame. This was the best decision but I must conduct further experiments to understand how to remove this issue.

Figure 4


Of the fourth still life shoot, I used violins that were old and worn. I wanted to focus on the scratched and dust from the used violins instead of making them appear clean and new. I did not use a studio or my normal home setup on a chair. I had to use my bed as the setup for this series of images. I placed the black dressing gowns on the headboard and stood my phone up with some folded areas of the gowns. I then sat on the end of the bed and took handheld images with my macro lens used for the other images. I had to raise the ISO to 400 instead of 100 because I was using a tripod because it would not stand on the bed and this was the only place I could take the image.

Emotional Response

I was excited to try this shoot as I enjoy to photography antique objects or those that appear aged. It was also satisfying to not only have a home built a studio out of ordinary items but also discovering one of the violins in the bushes in my lane. This made the pieces more sentimental to me as I ad worked harder to create the effect than if I were using a studio and the items were found and reused.

I found this challenging because it was difficult to create the intended light with my phone but did not have other lights at the current time. It was also difficult to make the phone direct at certain angles and to also handhold the camera.

I conducted an experiment with this series, instead of taking pictures with light directed in areas that I thought were effective. Instead, I wanted to note the different outcomes from the angle of light. I keep all other variables the same and only changed the position of my phone torch. I started from one side and moved 180* around the violin. In figure 4 it will be evident that the light has created different effects that have been effective or less effective.

I first took an image of the violin with strings, but I came back to the experiment with the other violin where I conducted the lighting test. I then revisited this a third time and took more images with my phone and a desk lamp on either side. This created a shadow in the middle of the violin. I found this to be very interesting and enjoyed to revisit to experiment further with lighting.


I think a positive was that I used the aged appearance from the violins to their advantage. I think it added character and depth to the image. It also was enhanced by converting them to monochrome.

I think the lighting is most effective when the rim light is created around the curves of the violin. The best example of this is the violin with the strings. I think the shadows and highlights have worked well together for the darker images, but the ones where there is more light do not work as effectively.


A positive from this was the amount of experimentation. It enabled me to gain more knowledge on the lighting effects and was very beneficial to conduct this test myself. I gained much from it and was able to revisit and apply what I had learned.

I think a hindrance was that I handheld the camera. I should have found another location where I could place the tripod. I feel that the images are not very sharp and could be improved. The desk lamp also hindered the third shoot and it made it very difficult to move it around and was brighter than the phone light. This made the lighting on either side uneven and difficult to control. I should try different lights, but make sure they are similar.

Final Conclusion

Overall this project has been one of my favourable. I have enjoyed using the controlled conditions of a studio style shoot but the challenge of building my own from mostly household supplies. I think I have made progress through the project and have shown evidence of understanding the new skills and techniques that I have learned and applying them to improve the work.

I have learned much from this project, especially in lighting. This will have a large impact for future projects and I will continue to develop my skills and conduct more tests. From this, I have discovered that I enjoy still life photography, especially with objects that have character.

Final Selection

214 bw

I have chosen the image above for my final submission. I believe that the violin has shown technical qualities with theory. For example, I wanted to create leading lines and shapes within the image. I used the shape of the violin to my advantage and created a rim light around the body so that it highlighted the curved, elegant shape. I thought this made the image more effective by emphasizing the characteristics of the violin as an elegant and poetic instrument.

I created lines by making the strings reflect the light so that they appear striking but as there are only two strings that have caught the light it is not overpowering the image. I intended the viewer’s eyes to be attracted to the rim light around the body first and then be taken down the image to the strings. I then wanted to fill the rest of the violin with a soft gradient from mid tones to black shadows. This was because I thought it balanced well with the highlights on the strings and around the body, making sure it was not overexposed that would have taken the vintage feel away from the violin.


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