[NEW] What is Still Life Photography

 WHAT IS STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY - An interpretation of inanimate object

Still life photographs can be just anything that doesn’t move. An Old Home,Indonesia. (24mm lens, 1/60sec. f/2.8, ISO1250)
Still life photographs can be just anything that doesn’t move. An Old Home,Indonesia. (24mm lens, 1/60sec. f/2.8, ISO1250)

We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning. - Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007)

The term still life is derived from the Dutch 'Stilleven', defining still life as a picture consisting predominantly of inanimate objects. These objects include natural objects: food, flowers, plants, feathers, rocks, and stone etc. They also include man-made objects; books, vases, glassware, jars, jewelry, coins, currency, tools, candy, toys etc. The French give the still life tradition a term "nature morte", it means dead nature.

As early as 17th century, photographers found inspiration in the still life paintings and try to get photography accepted as a serious art form. As photography developed into the twentieth century, many photographers began to engage with still life images, they are Andre Kertesz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Jean Baudrillard, just to name a few. For example, Edward Weston incorporated still life photography in experimentation with organic forms and connections in nature.

Traditionally still life photography is usually made in a studio setting where photographers use precise composition and controlled lighting to render shape, establish mood, and draw viewer’s attention to the subjects.

Tabletop Still Life Photography could be easily done in a corner of a house. (35mm lens, 1/250sec, f/1.6, ISO100)
Tabletop Still Life Photography could be easily done in a corner of a house. (35mm lens, 1/250sec, f/1.6, ISO100)

Comparing to other types of photography such as landscape or portraiture photography, it gives photographers more leeway in the arrangement of the design elements within a composition.

I personally find that outdoor offers a great opportunity for good still life photography. We can find plenty good still life photography outdoor, be in around our living environment, or when we are traveling to a new location. Examples such as leaves floating in the river, a nice composition of street objects, an aged window, or an interesting rock on the beach etc.

With proper observation, we could find unique subjects and backgrounds. We may choose still life objects for a variety of reasons: sometimes we want the symbolism value of the object to express a point; sometimes we discover the objects that hold some forms of personal interest; sometimes we just want to show the truth we have encountered; sometimes we chose objects simply they are aesthetically pleasing.

One of the characteristics of still life photography is that the photographer can relax and take the time to shoot. Unlike the general photography such as street photography or reportage photography which is based on the motion. We often emphasize “decisive moment” but for still life Photography, we are shooting the objects that are not moving, and timing might not be that critical. On top of that, you don’t have to seek permission from the objects you are photographing.

There are no limits on what you can do with still life photography, you probably can be the first person to photograph a series of drop leave in the drain passage, or develop a personal portfolio on a still life photography.

Such as the old windows, followers or other objects. When we are shooting still life outdoor, there are several things we have to keep in mind. First, we need a digital camera with a standard lens or zoom lens says around the range 24-70mm focal length; we might consider using a tripod with release cable for long exposure setting. A flash or LED light might be useful for a situation when fill-in light is needed.

LIGHT AND SHADOW

To photograph is to write with light. It is light and shadows together that produce a great photograph. When natural light falling across a subject provide a sense of shape and depth, makes it three-dimensional.

Still Life Photography, Blangladesh. (70mm lens, 1/500sec, f/7.1, ISO200)
Still Life Photography, Blangladesh. (70mm lens, 1/500sec, f/7.1, ISO200)

Still Life Photography, Taiwan. (28mm lens, 1/400sec, f/2.8, ISO500)
Still Life Photography, Taiwan. (28mm lens, 1/400sec, f/2.8, ISO500)

By finding scenes with strong color composition, be it one color against a neutral
background, or one color dominating as the primary color, can generate a powerful effect.

Still Life Photography, Taiwan.(28mm lens, 1/400sec, f/2.8, ISO500)
Still Life Photography, Taiwan.(28mm lens, 1/400sec, f/2.8, ISO500)

Still Life, Nepal. (19mm lens, 1/60sec, f/7.6, ISO200)
Still Life, Nepal. (19mm lens, 1/60sec, f/7.6, ISO200)

LOOKING FOR METAPHORIC VALUE

Looking to capture images that seem to have two meanings: one that shows on
the visual level, and another that the photographer alludes to suggest. This often
makes a photograph interesting and give viewers a chance to interpret the
photograph differently.

Still Life, Singapore. (28mm lens, 1/800sec, f/2.8, ISO100)
Still Life, Singapore. (28mm lens, 1/800sec, f/2.8, ISO100)

By placing the subject on the focus points near the interaction points in the rule of thirds, we can give balance to a composition while simultaneously making it more engaging to the eyes.

Still Life, Singapore. (35mm, 1/13sec, f/2.8, ISO1250)
Still Life, Singapore. (35mm, 1/13sec, f/2.8, ISO1250)

STILL LIFE IN STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

The essence of street photography is about documenting everyday life and
society on the streets, it is also a great opportunity to spot still life when the
photographer is wandering from street to street.

Still Life, Singapore. (28mm lens, 1/800sec, f/2.8, ISO200)
Still Life, Singapore. (28mm lens, 1/800sec, f/2.8, ISO200)

Still Life, Guizhou China. (50mm lens, 1/60sec, f/7.1, ISO320)
Still Life, Guizhou China. (50mm lens, 1/60sec, f/7.1, ISO320)

SHOOTING STILL LIFE WHEN WE ARE TRAVELING

When traveling we can break the cross-cultural boundaries and capture still
objects in a different cultural environment.

Still Life, China. (28mm lens, 1/100sec, f/2.0, ISO80)
Still Life, China. (28mm lens, 1/100sec, f/2.0, ISO80)

Still Life, Bangkok Thailand. (24mm lens, 1/60sec, f/4.0, ISO250)
Still Life, Bangkok Thailand. (24mm lens, 1/60sec, f/4.0, ISO250)

Introduction to Yeo Yeow Kwang

Born in Singapore, he has been involved in photographic activity since his school days in the 1970s. He was awarded Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society of United Kingdom in 1988, Galaxy Exhibitor Distinction of the Photography Society of America in 2013 and The Photographer of the Year 2013 by Singapore Ngee Ann Cultural Centre.

Yeo-Kwang’s works includes social documentary, travel and fine-art photography. He has won more than a hundred international photographic awards including the most recently the Best Single Image of The Travel Photographer Of The Year Award 2011 and first place in the Sony World Photographic Awards 2013.

He is a certified photographic instructor and has been involved in a wide array of photographic activities such as photographic education, assigned documentary photographic projects and digital editing. He has also contributed as member of jury of several international photographic competitions.