Thanksgiving Still Life Photography Ideas

Holiday imagery is always in demand in the stock photography business.  With so many ways to use these images, it is up to the photographer to capture a wide range of options for consumers to choose from.  The simplest way to produce any holiday image is to incorporate the many symbols and icons associated a particular holiday, and to use them in as vast an array of themes as possible.

Let’s look at Thanksgiving.  As American’s we reserve this day as a time to gives thanks for the bounties we enjoy through out the year and to share our riches with the people who are the most important to us.  As stock photographers, we are provided a wealth of symbols, both traditional and modern, to work with.


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What could be more traditional for Thanksgiving than the Pilgrim?  After all they were the ones who started the holiday in the first place.  Placing a pilgrim or a pilgrim’s hat into the picture frame makes that image immediately associable to this holiday. 

Thanksgiving Turkey

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Tom turkey may not be having his best day come Thanksgiving morning, but his likeness sure is enjoying the holiday.  Live or roasted.  Stuffed or talking.  This guy’s no chicken.


The cornucopia or Horn of Plenty symbolizes the abundance associated with the first Thanksgiving feast.  Filled with the bounty of falls harvest; apples, squash, nuts, and corn it is the true representation for the holiday.


Hotly contested as an icon.  Some feel it is more Halloween than Thanksgiving, but my feeling is anything that gives it’s life for a pie should have it’s own place as a holiday icon.

Thanksgiving Food

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Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy are the staples of any holiday table.  And who can live without the pumpkin pie?  But don’t forget the peripherals like candied yams, candy corn, or green bean casserole.  Tur-Duck-En anyone?


Not exactly traditional, but most Americans now incorporate one or the other into their holiday celebration.  Personally my Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without both.


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Shopping has become as much a part of the Thanksgiving tradition as the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie.  It used to be that Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – was the biggest shopping day of the year.   Now so many stores are opening on Thanksgiving night I think we’ll have to start calling it Grey Thursday.


Copyright Karen Foley |

Thanksgiving started with the giving of thanks so religion is a central theme to the holiday as well.

With so many icons available to represent the holiday, how can you choose what to work with?  My suggestion is to mix and match these icons along with the themes of the holiday to produce truly memorable holiday images.  What themes standout for the holiday?

  • Tradition:  Every family has their own customs and traditions associated with the holiday.   Is it mom and daughter baking the pumpkin pie?  Father carving the turkey at the table?  Some customs are regional, some personal – highlight them all.
  • Harvest and Still Life:  Bountiful and plentiful are the themes for the season.  Combine fall leaves and cornucopia of fall vegetables.  Pumpkins in the pumpkin patch.  Cups overflowing.  Bringing in the harvest.
  • Family Life:  Images of families gathered around the table for dinner.  A game of flag football before the feast.  Family togetherness and bonding is theme to be stressed.
  • Parties and Food:  What more can I say?  Who doesn’t love the food and drink associated with this holiday?
  • Travel:  Happy family reunions.   Nightmare travel scenarios.  Take your pick and make it come to life.
  • Shopping:  Camping out in pilgrim costumes awaiting the doors to open for savings on black Friday.  Crowded stores and angry shoppers juxtaposed against the Norman Rockwell image of a Thanksgiving Feast – well, you get the idea. 

THese are just a few examples of how I would use icons and themes together, but I’m sure you can draw from your own Thanksgiving memories to create unique holiday imagery.

All images in this post are copyright Karen Foley.

About the Author

Karen Foley is a professional freelance stock photographer who contributes her work exclusively to Dreamstime Stock Photography Agency. Look for her blogs about photography and portfolio of work here.