Ok! Now lets start creating with light.
Go steal someone’s desk lamp and shine it onto the scene. Better? Worse? Go steal another.
Now you are into the dynamics of lighting. Here are the basics of lighting something.
You have a main Light and a Fill light. The main light is usually the brightest. You use it to light the scene. Being one light it is going to light one side of the scene.
Turn off the overheads and set this lamp a little off to the right of your camera. Observe the result. Hmm, don’t like those shadows now on the left? Now you turn on the other lamp and put it on the left of the camera to fill in the shadows with its light.
If both lamps are the same wattage move the fill back until it is just reducing the shadows without creating nasty shadows of its own. Couldn’t steal a second lamp?
Go get some aluminum foil. Find something big and flat that no one is going to miss for a while like the Monopoly board or cut up a packing box and tape the foil to it.
Now you have a reflector that will act as a second fill light. You can buy these at photography Shops or you can just carry foil with you. Set up your reflector so it ‘fills’ the shadows.
Take a few shots and have a look at the Still life now. You can add more lights if you have them but usually it’s a waste of time and electricity and you’ll end up tearing your hair out.
The more lights you use the more shadows you’ll get and the more you’ll have to fool around trying to highlight or fill different parts of your Still Life. When you get really frustrated just go back to two lights until you get those right.
By now you’ve probably exhausted all the possibilities of lighting and angle. If you’ve been very good and haven’t cheated, your heap is still the same arrangement as when you started.
Now you can play about with adjusting the composition. See our photo composition page for a simple rule for composing a photo. Now try this rule with your Still Life. You have some main elements and some sub elements. The coins are sub elements. The cell phone may be a main element. What do you want your viewer to notice? Use composition to guide the viewer’s eye on a tour of your Still Life.
Shoot lots of shots. Play around and each time ask yourself: What does this image communicate?
Now you’re ready to get a bit adventurous. You can take a prowl around the house and spot pleasing compositions, or go the fruit market and buy some vegetables – large and small, different colors.
Or just take a walk around the neighborhood at different times of the day and look for some still lifes. Here’s one from my neighborhood.
If you really want to learn how to take great photos, still life or otherwise, and get good at this stuff we highly recommend Beginner Digital Photography as a resource.
It covers everything you need to know from beginner to pro in an interactive format you can study or refer to at your own pace and at your level of experience.