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13 tips for better still life styling

Here are a few tips for creating better styling for still life and food images.

Cutlery

  • Aways have cutlery pointing away from the camera, especially knives. It can be seen as more inviting and less threatening.
  • Make sure cutlery is clean and spot free. Older vintage cutlery can be an advantage as there are minimal reflections if it is tarnished.

Linen

  • Use freshly ironed linen where possible. Make sure there are no stains visible and always try to hide any tags or labels.
  • Pick up the linen by a corner and shake a little before laying down. Lift and re-lay a few times to get that perfect look of messy linen.
  • Or fold neatly and place cutlery on it.

Flowers

  • Looking a little past their prime? Add a few drops of cola and they will perk up in no time.

Working with water

  • Want your fruit or flowers to look just picked? Spray them with water from a spray bottle. The droplets always make us think of dew and give the feeling of just picked off the tree.
  • Want bigger, longer lasting water droplets? Add equal parts glycerine and water, and spray onto fruit of flowers (glycerine is safe to eat in small amounts, but it is still best to wash fruit before eating). You can even use an eyedropper to place glycerine drops exactly where you want them.

Light

  • For even, flat light, always move a little further away from your direct light source or diffuse it wherever possible. Unless you are looking for dramatic lighting, soft, even lighting is usually preferable for still life.
  • Use some white cardboard, foam core or a reflector to bounce a little light back into your image on the shadow side. This evens out the light a little more and can make things soft and dreamy.

Styling

  • When styling a shot, leave your camera on a tripod to free your hands up. You can then subtly move items around in between shots, adding and removing secondary items as you go. Having multiple shots and styling to choose from is always a good thing and digital is cheap.
  • I sometimes take a shot with my phone and look at light and objects, making sure everything is how I would like it. Often the camera sees things differently than our eyes do.

Reflections

  • Use a CPL filter to try and reduce reflections.

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