Capture sensational seasonal still life shots before autumn is over

Watch video: Autumnal still life

Autumn makes me think of with wet woodland walks, the fiery glow of leaves turning yellow and orange before falling to the ground, some of the best comfort food Britain has to offer with seasonal veg and cosy days spent indoors as the days get both shorter and cooler before we begin to hunker down for the winter.

While there’s no shortage of photogenic subjects to turn your camera towards outside this autumn, it’s easy to overlook the bounty of still life opportunities you can have indoors too, perfect for those rainy days where you’re not able to get outdoors with your camera. In this project I’ll give you the inspiration and key settings to shoot your very own seasonal still life scene indoors, oozing with autumnal atmosphere.

Speaking of autumnal produce, you can either collect and forage items such as leaves, acorns, rosehips, conkers and pine cones when you’re next out on a forest or woodland walk, or head to your supermarket (or allotment) for some seasonal veg like pumpkins and squashes. We used a mixture of both, and added some extra items from a bag of pot pourri from a craft shop which helped us fill in any remaining gaps in the composition with flowers, cinnamon sticks and dried fruit.

Still life photography is a great way of flexing your creative muscles when you aren’t able to get outdoors due to the ever changeable British weather. It will test you in new ways and help you grow as a photographer too. One of things I love about still life photography is there’s no time limit – you can really slow things down and perfect all of the various elements, from the positioning of your subjects, the composition, lens choice and camera settings to name just a few of the key variables. You can also either use natural window light, flash or even get creative with a torch as we did here to transform the way your shots look. Below you’ll find our top tips for cracking still life scenes this autumn, follow along and watch the accompanying video to see how you can pull it off too. 

1. Set up your still life scene

(Image credit: Future)

Put some autumnal objects on a table and rearrange them to your liking. We used some hessian fabric to complement the autumnal brown and orange tones and added a vinyl background to make the backdrop clean and uncluttered.

2. Set up on a tripod

(Image credit: Future)

Now it’s time to set up your Canon EOS camera on a tripod. This will help you lock off the composition while you move elements of your still life around the frame. A tripod will also eliminate camera shake in low light scenes indoors and help you nail the focus.

3. Play with depth of field

(Image credit: Future)

Start in Aperture priority (Av) mode and experiment with different aperture values and take shots both wide open such as at f/1.8, or closed down to a mid value like f/11 and inspect your results to see what depth of field works best for your still life.

4. Camera settings

(Image credit: Future)

When you’ve worked out the aperture you would like to use, set the ISO to 100 for best image quality and take a note of the shutter speed, ours was 4 secs. Then go into Manual mode and enter the exact same settings again to lock them off. Turn on the 2 sec Self-timer to avoid shake too.

5. Add 'fake' studio lighting

Canon Still Life Food Photography

(Image credit: Future)

To make the lighting a bit more dramatic, we used a small torch with a warm LED bulb to add light from one side to inject some moody shadows and contrast. You could also paint with light over the whole scene to eliminate shadows, to mimic the effect of an expensive five light studio!

6. Cook up some food photos

Canon Still Life Food Photography

(Image credit: Future)

You don’t have to pack up when you’ve captured your first autumnal still life. If you’re skilled in the kitchen, as well as behind the camera, why not try cooking some simple autumnal dishes like soup and make the most of the seasonal produce you’ve collected or brought. 

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Dan Mold
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, Dan also brings his technical wizardry and editing skills to Digital Camera World. He has been writing about all aspects of photography for over 10 years, having previously served as technical writer and technical editor for Practical Photography magazine, as well as Photoshop editor on Digital Photo

Dan is an Adobe-certified Photoshop guru, making him officially a beast at post-processing – so he’s the perfect person to share tips and tricks both in-camera and in post. Able to shoot all genres, Dan provides news, techniques and tutorials on everything from portraits and landscapes to macro and wildlife, helping photographers get the most out of their cameras, lenses, filters, lighting, tripods, and, of course, editing software.