There is no universal recipe for getting inspired. But every photographer has a set of tricks and go-to ideas to kickstart the process. So, if you’re looking for a spark of inspiration for your still life photography and want to try something new, but don’t know what exactly, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. I’ve rounded up five ideas to try in your next still life experiment that are simple, versatile, and don’t require any complicated gear or rare props. Here’s hoping one of these is exactly what you’re looking for!

1. Imagine a character

T-Rex and his sense of kawaii (Part 3) by Dina Belenko on

My favorite way to come up with ideas for still life photography is to think about a character, a hero of your story. A reader, a stargazer, a pirate, an architect, or a watchmaker. Pick someone with a little spark of adventure. Say your hero is a writer. What would he do? Would he spend a sleepless night looking for a new plot twist in a bottom of a coffee cup? Would he burn an unsatisfying layout of a book right in a typewriter? Would he see a notorious raven in spilled ink? The key element here is asking one question: what does it mean visually?

Beautiful words by Dina Belenko on

If your hero is a steampunk engineer, what does that mean visually? It might mean having blueprints, rulers, and compasses on the table. It might mean dark colors, like a color palette with craft paper, leather, copper, and steel. Asking and answering that question gets easier and easier each time you try.

2. Experiment with your food

Summer Balance by Dina Belenko on

Food is one of the most promising themes to work with. So if you’re struggling for ideas, just look at your plate.

Dissect your favorite meal and show how it’s made. Make a pie chart from your breakfast cereal: this sector is for oatmeal, this one for berries and this tiny one is for a pinch of vanilla. Or take it a step further and photograph a comprehensive recipe. Arrange a flat lay with ingredients, paper arrows, and stickers with written instructions.

Alchemy Donut by Dina Belenko on

I’m helpless at cooking, so my approach here is to fantasize about how easy cooking could be with magic! How with one spell or one pentagram, you could avoid all that fuss with cutting, roasting, sauteing, dressing, and blanching. I can’t bake a proper donut to save my life. But I can imagine how I could summon a tasty chocolate donut with help of transfiguration.

3. Build your own tiny world

Abducted Cookies by Dina Belenko on

What’s the absolute best thing about still life photography? It’s a large amount of world-building and reality-warping opportunities. There’s a tiny world, full of petite adventures, hiding in plain sight. Picture a conventional still life scene and populate it with tiny people. They could build a treehouse on your cacti, steal your cookies with a UFO or sail the wastelands of your soup plate. Imagine your own tiny world, live in it, tell its stories.

Sugar castle by Dina Belenko on

4. Add some action

Make your still life photography less, well, still. Dynamic images always look captivating. Pouring sauce, falling sugar powder, rising steam, melting chocolate, and coffee splashes all add dimension!

To the Sea by Dina Belenko on

For your first experiment with splash photography, I recommend shooting from the side, using a smooth background, and dropping a sugar cube into a cup. Shooting from above is a bit trickier because if you need another iteration, you won’t be able to just merge a clean shot and a shot with a splash together. You would need to clean up the background first. That may seem risky and complicated, but photographing coffee splashes is actually easier than it looks, I promise.

5. Try your hand at dimensional type

Eat your veggies (later) by Dina Belenko on

Photos always say something: sometimes they can do it literally. That’s where dimensional typography comes into play! Beautiful texts made from flowers, confetti, chocolate, wire, stationery clips, and spices all work well. Any other substance you can form in a certain way can also be a hero. The easiest way to get started is to find objects similar to letters and united by one theme. Pick a theme: sweets, flowers, outer space, toys, autumn, you name it.

That’s your new alphabet now! Cookie with a bite is for C, a spiral of a peeled orange zest is for S. Write Y with carefully poured mustard. Use two crossed flower stems to form X. Create W from a broken slinky and make a specific button stitch is for Z. Make a list of possible objects and find corresponding letters.

Summer Treats by Dina Belenko on

Now you’re ready to write something witty. Wish someone good morning, spelled out with bacon and eggs. Offer another waffle with letters made from syrup. Add some spice to your nachos with letters made from chili pepper.

Stay inspired and best of luck!

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Creature of Light (My Pet Unicorn) by Dina Belenko on

What’s your favorite still life photo? Share it with us in the comments!