still photo of oranges in bowl by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

An Essential Guide to Still Photography: Type, Gear | 10 Composition Techniques

In this day and age, everyone has a camera on their phone. But not everyone knows how to use it to take still photographs that are interesting and beautiful.

This guide will teach you the basics of still photography, from choosing the right gear to composition techniques that will make your photos stand out. Let's get started.

What Is Still Photography?

Still photography is a genre that involves taking pictures of inanimate objects such as flowers, fruits, vegetables, bottles, books, etc., that have been arranged in a specific way. The main aim of this genre of photography is to capture the beauty of these objects in the form of a photograph.

product photo of wireless earphone

Photo by Salman Hossain Saif on Unsplash

The fact that these objects are just ordinary items that we see in our everyday life makes this genre of photography more special and interesting.

Two Types of Still Photography

There are two main types of still photography. These are:

  • Created still photography
  • Found still photography

Created Still Photography

This is a type of still photography in which the photographer arranges the objects in a specific way to create a particular composition. The photographer has complete control over the photo's lighting, composition, and background and can arrange the objects in any manner he wants.

An example would be a photographer setting up a scene with some flowers, a vase, and a few other objects and then taking a picture.

Found Still Photography

This type of still photography is where the photographer has no control over the scene and has to work with whatever they find. In this type of photography, the photographer has to be very observant and look for interesting compositions in their surroundings.

photo of top-sliced fruits

Photo by Luke Michael on Unsplash

An example would be a photographer taking a picture of a flower arrangement they found in a park.

Equipment for Still Photography

Just like any other hobby, you need the right equipment for still photography if you want to get serious about it. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your equipment:

Camera

A still photographer needs a camera that is capable of taking high-quality pictures. For professional still photographs, it is essential to consider the resolution and quality of the image of the camera.

The best camera to use for still photography is a full-frame camera. However, they are expensive to buy and maintain.

Lens

A still photographer needs a lens that is capable of capturing sharper images. The best lenses to use for still photography are prime lenses. Prime lenses are capable of taking sharper images as compared to zoom lenses. They also have wider apertures, allowing more light to enter the camera, resulting in better-quality photos.

photo of a storage corner with bottles and fruits

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Moreover, a still photographer needs lenses with different focal lengths to capture different compositions. Some of the most commonly used focal lengths for still photography are 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm or 100mm.

A 35mm lens is best for more extensive scenes or even smaller ones where you do not have the option to move back. An 85mm or 100mm lens is ideal for taking pictures of small objects and lets you auto-focus better.

A 50mm lens is the best to go for if you start with still photography, as it does not cause any distortion in the images.

Tripod

A tripod is a must-have for any still photographer as it helps to keep the camera steady and prevents it from shaking. This is especially vital when taking pictures of small objects, as any camera movement will create a blurry image.

If you are taking photos in the studio, you can use a bigger tripod because there will be no need to move around. However, if you are taking pictures outdoors, you need a smaller, more compact tripod that is easy to carry around.

Speedlight

photo of a glassball with image inside

Photo by Julian on Unsplash

For you to take good quality pictures, your object should be well-lit. This is why a Speedlight is essential equipment for a still photographer.

A Speedlight is a small, portable flash that can be attached to the camera. It is very helpful when taking pictures in low-light conditions or when you want to add some extra light to your subject.

Softbox

A softbox is a type of diffuser that is used to soften the light from the flash. It is very helpful when taking pictures of small objects as it prevents the light from being too harsh.

Reflector

A reflector is a piece of equipment used to redirect light onto the subject. It is very helpful when taking pictures in low-light conditions as it helps brighten the subject.

10 Composition Techniques for Still Photography

There are specific composition techniques that are commonly used in still photography. These are:

1. Leading Lines

photo of glass bottles with flowers inside

Photo by James Cousins on Unsplash

Leading lines are a great way to draw the viewer's attention to the photo's subject. They can be either natural or imaginary lines that direct the viewer's eye towards the subject or main point of interest in the photo.

Leading lines can be created using a variety of objects such as fences, roads, railway tracks, etc.

2. Rule of Thirds

Although the rule of thirds is not a hard and fast rule, it's a good guideline to follow when composing your shots. It involves dividing a frame into nine similar sections using two vertical plus two horizontal lines. You should place the main point of interest in the photo at the point of intersection of these lines or along them.

This composition technique works best for landscape and cityscape photos but can be limiting for other photos, such as still photos, as the final image can look quite unbalanced.

3. Grouping

Grouping is a composition technique that involves arranging the objects in the photo in a group or cluster. This composition technique works best for images that have more than one subject. It helps to create a sense of harmony and balance in the photo.

How objects are grouped can also help to create a certain mood or atmosphere in the photo. This makes grouping a very vital composition technique for still photography.

4. Golden Ratio

The golden ratio is a composition technique based on the Fibonacci sequence. It involves dividing the frame into two unequal parts, with the longer part being 1.6 times the length of the shorter part.

photo of kettles on the desk

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

You should place the main point of interest in the photo at the point where these two parts meet. This composition technique works best for landscape and cityscape photos but can also be used for other images, such as still photos.

5. The Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is a composition technique similar to the golden ratio. It involves dividing the frame into three unequal parts, with the longest part being 1.5 times the length of the shorter part.

You should place the main point of interest in the photo at the point where these three parts meet. While vertical and horizontal lines suggest stability, the triangle indicates movement and a sense of action. This composition technique works best for sports and action photos but can also be used for other images, such as still photos.

6. Rule of Odds

It states that an odd number of objects in a photo is more visually appealing than an even number of objects. This is because our brain is programmed to perceive odd numbers as being more balanced and harmonious.

While even numbers compete for attention, odd numbers work together to create a sense of unity and harmony. Using this composition technique, it would be best to have 3 or 5 elements in your photo.

Using more than five objects in your image will trouble the viewer's brain to process all the information, resulting in a cluttered and confusing photo.

7. Color

photo of ingredients in bowls

Photo by Andra Ion on Unsplash

Color is an essential aspect of composition. A photo's colors can help create a certain mood or atmosphere. You can also use it to draw the viewer's attention to the photo's subject. Using colors wisely and not overdoing them is essential as it can create a chaotic and confusing image.

8. Negative Space

Negative space is the space around the subject of the photo. It emphasizes the subject and provides a feeling of movement and direction.

9. Fibonacci Spiral

The Fibonacci spiral is a composition technique based on the Fibonacci sequence. It involves drawing an arc from the corner of the frame to the main point of interest in the photo.

This arc should then be divided into two unequal parts, with the longer part being 1.6 times the length of the shorter part. This technique works best in overhead shots.

10. Phi Grid

The Phi grid is a composition technique similar to the rule of thirds. The difference is that the center lines are closer in the Phi grid, unlike in the rule of thirds, where the center lines are further apart.

Conclusion

Still photography is an excellent way of capturing the beauty of inanimate objects. You can use it to create beautiful and detailed compositions of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other objects. Knowing the gears and composition techniques used in still photography, you can now try your hand at it.

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