Mastering the Art of Still Life

Still Life scenes are popular subjects for painting and photography because the maker has complete control over the composition and lighting. In each case, the maker translates a highly controlled scene into their particular media. While the painter spends a lot of time in front of the still life to translate what they see into brush strokes, the photographer captures the image and then typically post processes the image to achieve the desired effect.

I've admired the work of still life photographers, especially the creative ways in which they arrange inanimate objects to make a unified and pleasing or thought-provoking scene. A few photographers who belong to the Los Gatos Saratoga camera club are particularly skilled at creating still life images. One of them, Larry Shapiro, gave a full-day workshop that I attended recently.


After learning about the history of still life and looking at some contemporary works, Larry has us rotate among six different set ups, some using natural lighting and some using studio lighting. I learned that it is important to collect unusual things from garage sales and to be on the look out for discarded objects so that one has materials for creating various scenes. Larry has a garage full of objects he's collected over the years. He brought many items from his collection for us to use.


He divided us into groups of three. We assembled each scene by consensus, oftentimes rearranging items to get a more pleasing aesthetic. Of the half dozen set ups that I photographed, I like the results of two. One is art-themed, and the other a more typical fruit scene. Each required some extensive post processing to achieve the result you see here.


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