What still life means
Still life is a photography technique akin to the still life painting technique – photographing inanimate objects on a neutral background. This at least is the basic idea, around which various different techniques revolve.
What still life photography is for
Simple and neutral scenery serves to draw all attention to the object, or in this case, the product. No distractions in the background, no elements included that could cause confusion on what this picture is about – the product is the star of the show. This is why still life is ideal for selling your product and accentuating its features.
Why still life is ideal for selling cosmetics
Cosmetics are smaller-sized products, which must be observed in detail. In still life photography, all attention goes to your product, never being diverted from the model or other central elements, and so it’s the ideal method for e-commerce sites and for all other kinds of marketing. One trick for good still life photos is to take two pictures of the same product, to show off its different characteristics. For example, a closed lipstick to show off the case and the same lipstick opened up to display the color, as in this case, or one of a jar of cream closed and another one open to show viewers the texture. One other idea is to take the still life photo from above for a very effective geometric composition, as you can see here.
The technology needed for still life
The minimum equipment required for doing still life photography consists of:
- a digital SLR camera
- a suitable background
- proper lighting, which is better than flash photography due to the consistent illumination and because the outcome can be controlled more easily.
The first thing to do for a still life shot
Take a second before picking up your camera. The first and perhaps most important thing for a successful result is to decide the point of the image. Start with the assumption that the picture must highlight the primary features of the product, communicating a mood. It is true that still life photography is named after the still life painting technique, but in commercial marketing it is necessary emphasize the ‘life’ aspect, the soul of your product. Are you marketing a high-tech serum, a perfume with a sensual feel, or a colorful eyeshadow? Each of these products will need to be presented with a different mood; cold and scientific for the serum, warm for the sensual perfume, and bright and colorful for the eyeshadow.
Highlighting the features of your cosmetics with still life
After considering the personality of your product, it’s important to reckon with the actual object. Examining the materials, shapes and colors can help you make many fundamental decisions. Is your product a multi-faceted glass bottle? The photo can highlight this aspect, for example by placing a light source behind the product in order to highlight the transparency of the bottle. This is a minimalist version of the technique of stained-glass windows widespread in Gothic cathedrals, which are placed on the side of the building that gets exposed to the sun, so that the sunlight shines through and bring the colors of the glass to life. If, on the other hand, you’re taking a picture of a small plastic box, for example a jar of cream, give the right emphasis to your product by making a sort of pedestal for it so that it’s right at the center of the viewers’ attention.
How to set up a space for still life
So you’ve decided to make the images for your catalog, for your e-shop, or for your advertising yourself. In addition to the camera, you need to prepare a suitable space, making sure that you have enough room to move around. To work well you’ll have to find space not only for the actual set, but also for the equipment; the camera stand, the light stands, and of course the products to be photographed, so that you can work continuously without having to waste time doing things like climbing a flight of stairs every time you have to photograph the next item.
The best background for a still life photo
Once the space has been set up, you can move onto the background and the support surface of your still life photo. One of the simplest and cheapest options is to use a light-colored cut of fabric for the background. Take time to set up the fabric, be it totally smooth, or draped to form folds. You can do things whichever way you like, but things must never be chosen at random. For your choice of pattern, think back to your product’s personality. What do you want to say about it? If you’re taking still life photos of organic and natural cosmetics, you can use a blank and natural fabric, such as linen or jute. If you’re offering a luxury cream, it’s better to go with silk or gold for an effect similar to this. You can also go with a totally neutral background, which can be set up using a small wall made of cardboard or white plexiglass.
Support surface for your products in still life
Your products will be set up on a surface, and this surface must be the same for the whole range you’re advertising. You can use fabric here like with the background. Fabric also allows you to make a little ‘set’. Take a small product such as a jar of eye cream. You can place it on a stand made from a box and spread your chosen fabric over it. Alternatively, perhaps you want to present your 3 best-selling products. You can make a little podium, always using boxes or other objects, and put the fabric over that. There is a wide range of possibilities, and it can’t all be explored in one article! Keep following us for more tips on still life photos!