Still life doesn’t have to be boring and uneventful, and it certainly doesn’t mean photographing a dusty bowl of fruit over and over again. We’ve put together a few points to think about when you’re arranging a still life composition to give it a little extra edge.
Think about which objects should be in the foreground or background, or whether they should sit beside each other in your composition. The usual rule is bigger objects at the back and smaller ones at the front, but rules exist to be broken. Try stacking them on top of each other or using them to obstruct the view of other objects, and see where it takes you.
Do you need the entire object in your image? Sometimes photographing something from halfway across creates a more stylistic image, and cutting off one element can completely change the focus of the photo. A tree trunk without its leaves will have a much different effect on your photo than the green branches.
Find patterns. And if you can’t find them, create them. Take your photo from above and create polka dots with objects like buttons or coffee cups, arrange wires into zig zags and curving lines or use shadows to create shapes. Patterns can be found in the most average everyday objects if you use a little imagination.
Think about how your objects are placed, and whether they need to be placed in their usual way. Maybe a vase full of water is tipping over, dangerously close to spilling out. Placing things in a way that they almost shouldn’t be arranged can add an interesting element to your photo.
Colour can dramatically change a composition. Use the colour wheel as a guide and play around with the way your objects are arranged. Sometimes a neutral background is exactly what your photo needs to make the subject pop, and other times a completely clashing colour will have a better effect. Learn about which colour combinations compliment each other and which will only result in a loud, headache-inducing photo.
Finally, do your objects have to stay the way they are? Or could they be broken, smashed, torn or tangled? There’s no reason to keep that dusty bowl of fruit in one piece, after all.