The Subtlety of Still-Life Photography

The Subtlety of Still-Life Photography

What commonly comes to mind when imagining still life are the countless examples of flowers in vases depicted in paintings. However, the subjects chosen for still-life photography are not only limited to flowers in vases. Oftentimes ordinary everyday objects that most people do not think much of are the subject matter of these photos, making the challenge of this genre of photography to find a way to make these normal objects stand out. And to bring attention to the subject, photographers would experiment with several techniques such as lighting, composition, and arrangement. Through this process, still-life photography comes to life and brings the best out of the ordinary.


The beginning of still-life photography is rooted in the early 20th century when photographers such as Baron Adolf de Mayer become known for their photographs depicting stylized or artistic views on subjects. During this time, photographers aimed to give the illusion that their photos were hand drawn using lenses that have a softer focus and darkroom techniques. When modernism started spreading throughout Europe, there was also a shift in tone for the still-life photography movement, where there was a clear change to darker and grittier subject matters. At present, still-life photography seems to have gone full circle and has seemingly picked up the original idea of renowned photographer Man Ray once again.

Still-Life Photography


First and perhaps most important is a camera, however, it is worth noting that the camera to be used does not necessarily have to be the latest model. Instead, using a simple camera or even a mobile phone would be more than enough to capture beautiful images. Remember that when being introduced to still-life photography, there is a very low threshold to start. Another piece of information worth taking note of when picking up this genre of photography, all that is needed is a subject that can be made interesting through the use of different lighting techniques, composition, patterns, and backgrounds.


Possibly the most common category of still-life photography, due to its popularity and demand gained on social media found today is food photography. From its name, this category is focused on capturing food in an appealing manner that would make audiences crave the food being shown. Closely related to food photography is product photography, with the main difference being that the goal of this style is to promote and showcase a product that will be sold and prepared for the market. Because of this goal, images for product photography offer clear photos of the product being promoted. However, due to this broad definition, there are instances where food photography and product photography can overlap.

Still-life photography unlike other forms of art has still been able to stay true to its original goal. While there have been movements that caused slight changes in the tone of subject matters being tackled, this genre of photography was still able to keep the essence or in other words, the spirit of the art. Today, still-life photography continues to keep its place in the photography industry and has even been seen to play a more important role in the past few years.

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