How to Create a Still Life Photograph

A Day at the Sea, Still Life Photograph made using flowers from Hampstead Heath and shells, algae, seawater and sand from a beach in Southend © Diana Serban

6 easy steps to experiment with your creativity at home

by Diana J. Serban

How often do you dedicate time specifically to being creative?

Diving into a creative process, irrespective of the form, can be vastly beneficial for your wellbeing and not only. With photography being one of the most accessible and democratic art forms at the moment, I’ve put together a few steps to consider the next time you want to have a creative moment with yourself.

To make it a bit easier, and for you to have complete control over the process, we will be focusing on still life images.

Use your phone or camera and feel free to follow all the steps or none!

  1. Ask yourself what you want your image to say
    Would you like to play with a concept or just experiment with light, colours and shapes?
    Look for inspiration around you, in art books or on Pinterest.
    Would you like your image to hint at a social or personal subject matter? Or maybe just to seize a moment in time and space?
    Think about colour palettes and style – would you like something minimalist? Or something rich in details, textures and colours? What type of atmosphere do you want to depict?
    Take a few moments (or more) to think and imagine before making a decision.
  2. Source the elements of the composition
    Once you feel like an idea starts to take shape, move on to the composition. You might notice a particularly pleasing arrangement in your house, or you could create your own specific set up.
    Think about size, texture, colour and shape. You might have everything you need at home
    already. Plants, flowers, food, bottles, cans, vases, furniture, decorations – they could all be used to create your unique still life image. Your local charity shop could also be a good source of props- I especially like the All Aboard shop on Finchley Road, and I often browse the bric-a-brac and antiques on Flask Walk.
  3. Play with light
    Observe how the light moves in your space. At what time is it the brightest? Do you have direct sunshine? Find a spot where you have front or side light and play with the shadows, depth and clarity.
  4. Set up and experiment
    Choose the main element, a star of the shot and start from there. Add things around it, remove them, move them around, take test shots and adjust.
    Either using your phone or your camera, try multiple angles. Even unusual ones! Seeing what you don’t like will guide you closer to what you like. If you are still not sure, you might even want to leave the set-up as is and come back to it at a different moment of the day as the light moves and changes.
    Once you find the angle that you feel comfortable with, try to fix the camera in position and play with the set-up again, doing small changes to try to improve the composition. Think about symmetry, weight and balance. Take as many photos as you want!
  5. Choose & define
    Have a look at all the images you’ve created and slowly exclude the ones you don’t like until you are left with one or two choices. Edit the images – maybe a bit of cropping or more saturation or contrast- and then choose your favourite.
    Now that you have the one, sit down with it for a few moments and write 2-3 lines about it, how you came to create it, what it means to you, why you chose those particular objects and that composition. You might be surprised to notice some thoughts that you didn’t even realise you had come out on paper.
  6. Share
    Share your image with at least one person, and ask them how they would describe it. Most of the times it’s helpful to see how someone else ‘reads’ the same creation.

We would love to see what you come up with! Tag us in your creations @burghhouse1704 and

Visit Diana’s website for further inspiration.

Still 1, Diana Serban. Still Life photograpy using a sculpture, fruit and glass bottle.

Text and images © Diana Serban

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