Composition Still

Composing a Still or Inanimate Object

Composition Still Life

A photo you take could be exposed correctly with an exciting and captivating subject, but poor composition could take a potentially award-winning shot and make it just “so-so”.

Understanding how composition can dramatically affect the “look” of an image will not only accelerate your photography and also your love of this great hobby, it will change the way you look at everything!

By owning and using a DSLR or any camera to its full potential, you can get down and dirty with your composition. For one, you have the ability to use different lenses for each and every situation which we will discuss later.

Let’s quickly talk about some subjects that you may want to shoot.

Inanimate or still subjects

Ok, you are faced with a fairly static scene that you wish to capture and you have plenty of time in which to shoot it. Rather than do what 99% of people do, which is just shoot it from where they stand, try to see it from different angles.

  • Is there anywhere nearby that you could stand to make the subject stand out more?
  • Can you move around the subject to incorporate a different and more complimentary or colourful background?
  • Does moving around the subject (thus adjusting where the light hits the subject) make a difference?
  • Can you stand much further away and use a telephoto lens to zoom into the subject? This will increase the background blur (decrease the depth of field) and really make the subject stand out.
  • Can you get higher or lower to shoot the subject from a different perspective? A grand statue or building shot from lower down will increase the appearance of grandeur. A close up shot of a single flower as opposed to a wide shot of a full flower bed will increase its beauty and significance.
  • Will a wide aperture (to lose the background by blurring it) enhance the subject or do you need to use a small aperture to keep the background in view as it enhances the subject?
  • Would a slow shutter speed used on a tripod be good so that you can have the subject in clear focus whilst the people walking around it are blurred? An effect used on busy London streets for advertising many times.
  • Would a wide angle lens shot close up make the subject appear more dramatic?

So let’s take this rather large wind farm as an example. I would only shoot this on a sunny day so that the blue sky really emphasises the size.

​Composition Examples

A dull, white/grey sky would allow the windmill to blend into the background too much. I have also positioned myself to that the sun is hitting the subject with the deepest blue sky behind.

Composition Still Life Wind Farm

The first composition shows the windmill in all its glory and a natural environment. The second is zoomed in to start to show the scale of this thing against a fence and the last composition, shows the full scale compared to an object (the car) that the viewer can relate to more.

In these next shots of a building in Spain, once again I have looked at the light and time of day for the best shot and angle possible.

  • Shot one shows the complete building
  • The second shows it from a different angle and perspective
  • Number three  shows part of the architectural detail and...
  • The fourth shows the finer details within the architecture
Composition Still Life Buildings and Architecture

Don’t just take one shot of any object you are shooting, as I said, look at the light, the background, the angles, the details and take a few especially if it is for a project, stock or a client.

A lot of things to think about I know, but once you “get it” and understand what to look for, it becomes second nature. After a lot of practice and once this sinks in, one of the nicest things about photography is the ability to look at any subject and let your creativity flow just by knowing these things.