Professional still life photography.

Starting a professional still life photography business can be a creatively and financially rewarding career that will put all of your photography skills to the test.

Taking beautiful, high-quality still life photographs can be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable challenge. If you’re looking to grow your skills as a photographer, take on new challenges and learn from real-world projects that require advanced composition, lighting, and workflow, then still life photography may be exactly what you’re looking for. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the fundamentals of successful still life photography so that you can quickly jump into the challenge and have fun creating stunning imagery.

perfume bottle

How Much Do Still Life Photographers Make?

How much do still life photographers make? This is a common question among those trying to break into this niche area of photography. While it’s true that you can make money as a still life photographer, the extent to which you can earn varies wildly. 

Still photographer salary.

You might be shooting for a client and making $100 an hour, while someone else may get paid $10,000 for one shoot. Still life photographers who work with advertising firms or product companies, or photographers who do freelance work have the potential to have a very lucrative business, oftentimes outearning someone who shoots portraits for weddings, for example. 

Demographic data from survey.

Demographic data from the State of the Photography Industry Report that Zenfolio conducted earlier in 2022 shows that only 20% of still life photographers surveyed made less than $30,000 per year. In addition, 31.1% earn between $30,000 and $60,000 and 40% are above $60,000. 

Still life photography equipment.

Choosing the right still life photography equipment can go a long way in ensuring the photography session will be better for everyone involved. 

Some equipment you’ll need to get started is the right camera, a sturdy and stable tripod, and the proper lenses.

camera lenses

Best lens for still life photography.

Most still life photographers will say that the best lens for still life photography is the 50mm f/1.4 lens. The reason for this is because of its unmatched ability to capture crisp, sharp images and its wide aperture, which makes it ideal for capturing a lot of light in low-light conditions. 

Along with this, it has an angle of view that closely matches that of the human eye and its depth of field can be adjusted manually to suit your needs. However, as with any item in photography, it’s not always about what you use but how you use it.

many cameras

Best camera for still life photography.

The best camera for still life photography is a full frame DSLR camera. They have high resolution, so you can take close-up shots and achieve a highly detailed shot. Also, it’s easy to start out learning your craft on a DSLR camera as they’re flexible and easy to use for beginners while being robust enough that they deliver all of the features professionals need to get the job done. 

However, DSLR cameras aren’t ideal for everyone because they can be expensive and heavy, which means you might not be able to move around easily. If you want something that delivers the same features but is a little lighter, and more manageable, a mirrorless camera might be a better option.

props for still life

Props for still life photography.

Still life photography is one of the most sought-after genres of photography these days for both artistic and commercial applications.  The props for still life photography are a critical element, and there are many considerations for what kind of props you need for your still life shoot. Think about what the tones, colors, and props you’re choosing for your scene evoke. There is a narrative or a concept you’re trying to convey when photographing a still life scene. Make sure that each element you include is working to communicate that idea.

The aesthetics of a brand and the items you are photographing will dictate which type of props you should use; airy and bright food items often work best with a clean white background, while flowers can lend themselves to a scene grouped into a floral arrangement or laid out individually to add texture and color. 

How to start a still life photography business.

Learning how to start a still life photography business can be a fulfilling endeavor. A still life photographer’s work can be commissioned by clients, sold as stock photos, and produced for an advertising campaign, to name a few applications. 

Get commissioned.

In order to get commissioned, you will want to build relationships with people in the art industry. Getting familiar with art buyers, gallery owners, and art collectors, as well as people in the publishing or event planning spaces will help get your work noticed. 

Build a portfolio.

The easiest way to start making money from your photography is by building a portfolio and getting your name out there on social media and with an online portfolio website. With still life photography, you can create a scene from the comfort of your home. You can even create mock advertisements to show off your skills. 

Set up an online shop.

You may also want to consider setting up an online shop for your work as a way of generating passive income. For example, with Zenfolio you can list all of the print products you want to offer and let our trusted print lab partners handle the rest. 

Market continuously.

To remain successful in the still life photography business, you have to continuously market your services. This can be done on social media, by word of mouth, or in person, as well as with traditional and digital marketing campaigns.

Start your still life photography business today.

Starting a still life photography business can be challenging, but there are things you can do to make it a smoother experience. Learning from those photographers that have gone before you and made their own mistakes will set you up for success as you grow your business.

Follow these tips to get started:

Know the market and your competition.

You’ll need to do some research before diving into the industry. Find out what kind of photographers are already working in your area and what they’re charging for their services. Get a sense of what some of the local needs for still life photography might be, try to find a gap in the market where no one else is really operating, and make that your own. 

Set up shop.

You might want to start out with a small studio in your home or garage before investing in a commercial space. For a lot of still life photography jobs, a large commercial studio space is not necessary and you can create incredible images from your own home studio. In situations where you might have a larger, more complex scene to set up, consider renting studio space at a local commercial photography studio so you don’t have to invest in your own space right away.

Develop a marketing plan and advertising materials.

Once you’ve got a good sense of the market in your area and you have a space you can work from you’ll need to develop a marketing strategy to get your name out there. Social media is your friend, whether it’s creating a paid marketing campaign on Instagram or just networking with local businesses on Facebook, don’t underestimate the power of your digital network. You can also go the more traditional route and create some marketing assets like flyers, business cards, and brochures that can be used when approaching potential clients about your services. The most important marketing tool you can have, however, is your online portfolio website where you can showcase your work, tell visitors what you’re all about, and create a point of contact where they can hire you, or buy your products. 

Create your photography website in minutes.