Trying to make a still life render

I struggle with composition, it’s just a bunch of objects that i happen to have on hand or made previous put in the scene because why not, and i usually just place them where ever because im not a skilled artist in terms of arranging objects. But im working on this scene to try and better myself. Tried to get the lighting looking half decent, turns out all HDRIs just produce flat boring lighting, so i had to add huge dark walls to the scene to get some shadow, and add a rim light. The glass plate is a mistake and theres still a few changes i need to make before the final image. Any feedback is welcome.


I’m not at a good day to give suggestions about composition but I can recomend you a book to study it deeply and learn a lot! look for Rudolf Arnheim: art and visual perception.

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One cheese and the knife seems to float in the air :slight_smile:

Here’s a thought: when regarding a scene, your eye wants to follow a path. It will start at the brightest and most-contrasty thing in the picture, and from there your eye wants to be led from object to obect to finally wind up where it started. The arrangement of objects such as the cheese-knife can also be used literally as pointers.

As it stands now, my eyes tend to bounce between the glass bowl, the cheese, briefly the grapes, then the table setting. They really don’t get to the bowl of fruit.

When composing a still-life, use color in the lighting plan. The illumination is almost never “white.” Your present lighting seems to come from only one source – burning-out the top edge of the table completely – and it is purer-white than any actual lamp would ever be. Color variation can also be used to add interest to the “path” that I spoke of.

The modeling, the caustics on the glass, the texturing and materials etc. are all excellent. The fact that the wood texture can be seen in the light is very, very nice. Really, the only thing that I think needs improvement is the lighting plan.

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Cheese and knife floats in the air …

Yep – missing a shadow or two.

Thanks i normally go overboard on materials realism as that is what interests me the most, but other areas of composition i am very lacking in. Im trying to take your advice on board and just watched a video on composition, i shall upload another render, it wont be perfect but hopefully an improvement.


Now i see a grape floating in the air, and my knife blade is wrong. But has the lighting improved?


New render with compositing, but i’ve decided im going to re-arrange all the objects as its not quite right. Im going to bring the cheese board forward and have the wine glass as the center piece lit up by the spot light.

The concept and the overall look is great, and I agree that the scene needs a focus object: for instance the grapes or the cheese or the plate if there would be something on it. However, you need to work a bit on the materials, because the grape looks like glass, the apples are too reflective and the SSS on the cheese looks red and so a bit spooky. The one thing that looks very off is that vase, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be made of. Great effort!

Forget the objects. Work with the basic elements of art: the arrangement of line, shape and color. If for a still render, then it is a 2-dimensional design on a rectangle, where there are choices of format (width and height) and the relationship of the basic elements to the edge of the frame. Think about composition (rule of 3rds etc.} as you move things about. In the end it isn’t placing an “apple” here or there, but placing a somewhat round (2d) object with a certain color in a certain place. Then consider how it relates to the objects around it: does it overlap, just meet at the edge, how does its color relate to those around it - in hue, value, saturation. The objects may have psychological and historical/cultural manifestations, but at their most basic they are just vehicles for the process of creating. In essence, think below and beyond the surface of things.

I think then that i am focusing all my efforts on technicalities like realistic pbr material, or rendering fx, modeling and all the other high level things, but im not focusing any on the lower level stuff that is the foundation of art, color shape, position/composition. Im probably falling into the trap of jumping ahead to the exciting stuff rather than putting effort into the basic stuff underlying it which is not quite as exciting as making materials and such.

In a still life, "lighting is everything." Notice how real-world photographers do it. Behind the camera and overhead, so-called “soft boxes” provide square or round areas of perfectly even light. Behind the objects on the set is a matte-finished paper or finely-textured cloth. Highlights are then carefully injected into the scene, such as by a “hot” strobe bounced off a large flat mirror or piece of polished metal. They sometimes use an “octopus” of fiber-optic strands to “squirt” beams of light exactly where they need to go.

The shot might be taken by a box camera or, to achieve orthographic projection, an “old-timey” box camera in which the lens-plane and film-plane can be adjusted separately.

Plenty of books – some old, some new – on this “film” photography technique are still out there, and most of what they talk about is the delicacies of lighting and how to build up(!) the lighting of the final scene from its foundations. All of these lessons directly apply here, and they might answer a lot of questions because most of these “tricks” are not obvious in the completed shot unless someone points them out to you.