Simple, uncluttered backgrounds are a fundamental element to most good photos, but they are extremely important in still life images. Here are two examples of effective still life backgrounds.

• Try a seamless black velvet, it will absorb any light hitting it so no shadows or reflections will show up in your photo.

• If you use a white background, you can make it look as if your subject is floating in space by lighting the background separately at two stops brighter.
Adapted from The Ultimate Field Guide to Photography (National Geographic, 2006; $25)_