Advice From Still Life Judge

Updated: Mar 4


Still life with food
Bouquet Garni by Jim Scherer

The deadline for submissions to the next Newton Camera Club competition, Still Life/Open, is April 12th. Our judge for this competition, Jim Scherer, has photographed food and still life in his Boston studio for over 3 decades. His clients have included Au Bon Pain, Trader Joe’s, Dunkin’ Brands, and the Boston Globe.


In response to the question of what constitutes a Still Life photo, Jim responded with the following information and advice:


I think of still life as a composition primarily of stationary inanimate objects. In French they call it nature morte, which means literally "dead nature." There are always exceptions - a sleeping cat could be part of a still life image, but a splash, by itself, is not. Motion would not usually qualify, unless it were just part of the background. If there's a composited image, it's a gray area and depends somewhat on the intention of the artist: is this a collage, or is this a scene that needed another element to make it complete?


When I look at a still life image, the strongest ones, and the ones I want to come back and look at again, are those that show me something familiar in a new way. The subject matter is almost irrelevant - what excites me is how you create a picture using that subject matter. How you do that comes from your own artistic vision - how you compose the shot, how you choose your vantage point, how you light it, how you use (or don't use) color and texture, what you choose to show and not show.


One more thing. Beautiful is nice, but not everything! Giving the viewer an insight or an "aha" moment, making them think, can be a wonderful thing that goes beyond beautiful.


Metal cut flower holders
Chorus of Frogs by Jim Scherer
Chunks of chocolate with coffee beans
Cocoa Coffee by Jim Scherer

Silverware with suds
My Sink by Jim Scherer


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