Still Life Reference Photos

still life photograph

Online classes are starting soon and I’m in need of some still life photos. I use these mainly for color matching and mixing exercises and need some good, clear still life references. Out with the trusty tripod and LUMIX ZS50, some coroplast board and assorted fruits.

White backgrounds are good for watercolor exercises

Fruit still life with white background
Fruit still life with white background

I like to have bright and light photos for my still life classes. The classes are great for practicing color identification and mixing and the fruit shapes are simple enough for beginners to tackle. These setups are intentionally a little, dare I say it, dull. They’re not meant to result in paintings you’d hang on your wall but a means of practicing skills that will pay off in your real paintings. An example video from my youtube channel showing how I approach these kinds of setups is linked below

YouTube player

White wooden blocks are great for practicing values

white block value study reference
White block value study reference

While I had the photography gear out I took some photos of my white wooden blocks and colored spheres. The blocks are great for practicing painting values and the spheres for modeling form correctly. They seem simple but they’re not.

You can get a selection of blocks from Amazon. I get plain wood ones and simply paint them white with some acrylic paint.

Colored spheres are good for color exercises and modeling form

polystyrene colored spheres for color exercises
Polystyrene colored spheres for color exercises

These are 3 inch styrofoam balls which I’ve also painted using acrylic. They’re not perfect – the bobbly surface disrupts the smooth change in value so I might invest in some wooden ones. Good enough for now though. (Update: the wooden ones are much better). As well as white it’s useful to paint the same shaped block or sphere with different values. These are good for modelling form through value. Hat tip to Paul Foxton for the idea.