Research: Studio Lighting – Still life

For this area of research, I have started to look at contemporary examples of studio based photography, starting with still life photography.

Many of the practitioners I have researched have produced images of both portraits and still life subjects, therefore there will be numerous crossovers between both posts.

From this, I want begin to think about existing examples of studio based still life images and start to consider various aspects that could influential when composing any future still life images or commercial work i.e. pack shots. These aspects include trends, compositions, application or absence of colour, lighting and use of subject matter. This is reinforces my selection of images, of which I feel use a variety of these concepts very successfully.

One of the first examples I came across was the creative work of photographer, Andrew Woods.


Having spent many years shooting everything under the sun my work is now mostly still life.

In the 90’s I started a studio in Bethnal Green in the East End of London, moving down the road to Broadway Market, London Fields, a few years ago.

The modern 1200sq ft studio is fully equipped with high quality retouching in house allowing for integrated post production. A lot of the work on the site will have been retouched in house, though I am used to working with outside retouchers as well as retouching work shot elsewhere.

I work across markets and have small editorial clients as well as shooting for design and advertising agencies.

I want to do a great job and enjoy doing it.

Within his portfolio, he divides his still life images by beauty, accessories and design & tech.

From this, I have highlighted a few examples from each that caught my attention and interest and are as result, images that I feel are successful in their approach or technique.


Andrew Woods - still life- beauty







Design & Tech



Andrew Woods - still life


My next reference is from a photographer whose work I found very influential during my food photography brief, Annabelle Breakey.



I like the pretty stuff.  Who doesn’t?  Well, rather, I really love pretty light on pretty stuff. I love food, I love finely made merchandise, I love how humans can be captured in a moment that transcends time.

And if you are wondering about capabilities, I have been shooting since 1990 when I received a bfa in photography from the Academy of Art University. I have continued with passion and love for photography ever since.  If you would like to hear more about how I work, give us a shout.


client list includes:

  • Starbucks
  • Method
  • Logitech
  • AOL
  • Microsoft
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Sharpie
  • Shutterfly
  • Shaklee
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Sephora
  • Harry & David
  • Taco Bell
  • Safeway
  • Silk
  • Del Taco
  • Annie’s
  • Marie Callender’s
  • Beringer
  • Blue Diamond Almonds
  • Ariat International
  • The North Face
  • Robb Report
  • Acme Made
  • Chronicle Books
  • Sunset
  • Yoga Journal
  • 7×7
  • Playboy
  • Diablo Magazine
  • San Francisco Magazine
  • Culinary Institute of America
  • AARP The Magazine

In this, I have focused upon her still life photographs as means of generating ideas in relation to light, composition and subject matter.

Annabelle Breakey - Still life - cotton balls + swabs Annabelle Breakey - Still life - iron + shower Annabelle Breakey - Still life - method Annabelle Breakey - Still life - shuffle flowers Annabelle Breakey - Still life - starbucks Annabelle Breakey - Still life - wallet + butterflies

My third point of reference is photographer, Rick Gayle, whose work appears to be predominately focused upon food photography.

Rick Gayle - about

Rick Gayle - still life 1 Rick Gayle - still life 2 Rick Gayle - still life 3 Rick Gayle - still life 4 Rick Gayle - still life 5 Rick Gayle - still life 6

My fourth example is Adrian Mueller still life, food and liquids photographer based in New York.

Adrian grew up in Lucerne, Switzerland and initially studied architectural engineering. he was drawn to photography because of the similarities in both fields: clean lines, concise structures and how light reflects off surfaces. time in Japan further influenced his creative approach through the concepts of craftsmanship, simplicity and reducing everything to its essence.
in contrast to his precise still life + liquids work, Adrian’s aim with his food and location photography is to create images that connect with a viewer’s personal memories. he hopes that someone looking at his photographs will be moved to pause and remember a certain smell, taste or experience. he lives in New York with his wife and son.

Adrian Mueller - still life 1 Adrian Mueller - still life 2 Adrian Mueller - still life 3 Adrian Mueller - still life 4 Adrian Mueller - still life 5 Adrian Mueller - still life 6


My final reference offers more an experimental, fine art approach to still life subjects, Charles Grogg.

Upon his portfolio, there were various distinct categories defining his work; CREMA, AFTER ASCENSION AND DESCENT, RECONSTRUCTIONS, BODY, METEMPSYCHOSES and EARLY WORK – SENT FROM THE GARDEN. I found his work to be very compelling and definitive in its approach to often delicate, natural subjects. There are signs of influences from historic still life images, such as Edward Weston and Karl Blossfeldt, particularly in their exploration of abstract shapes and forms.


Edward Weston


Karl Blossfeldt


I used an iPhone to make images of crema—the rich foam that forms on my morning espresso—in the summer morning light. These relatively uninteresting experiments in isolating the patterns in the foam as it dissipates became much more interesting in the process of making negatives of the images for platinum printing.

The immediate and physically simple transition from positive to negative colors rendered haunting possibilities—the universe unfolding like cells on a slide, or impossible planets brimming with the promise of sustainable life. In my art practice, I am most interested in the fundamental rejection of the apparent by photographs, in the idea that pictures hold their meaning in abeyance, the way the unconscious— to a trained and curious mind—is clearly visible in our actions but otherwise elusive. In this sense, even the apparent accidental arrival at meaning in the pictures seems destined, as if I had been after these images without understanding them.

Though I made slight adjustments to the digital images as I would have analog images in a darkroom, I left them almost entirely without affect. The blue in these images, for example, is the natural negative of the beige/brown color of the crema, though brown coffee has nothing to do with these pictures. They come instead from processes, not from things.

Charles Grogg No. 1 Charles Grogg No. 14


After Ascension and Decent:

I take the title of this portfolio, “After Ascension and Descent,” from a phrase by Pierre Joris in A Nomad Poetics in which he calls for an approach to writing that accounts for what Gilles Deleuze refers to as “rhizomatic,” allowing for varieties of discourse, idioms, syntax, even languages.

I gave the work this title because I am at a loss when it comes to speaking of knowing one’s roots. My family, with its adopted members, silence about its past, reverence for the absolute at the expense of the profane, has taught me to speak one language only. To be monolingual is to be foreshortened, and like so many Americans I know I speak a provincial, not a global, language. The advent of “wireless” living does nothing to allay this. If anything, we are almost hopelessly tethered—to each other, to the world. It’s when we forget this, when we think we are free beyond complicity, that we encounter trouble looking for meaning.

I watch as our attempt at domestic growth reaches for infinity and then think of growth in terms of what matters to me most, my ancestral family, the roots mostly hidden. I am aware of a subtle desperation in these pictures, as if I were trying to save something, to ground the dearest thing somehow to keep it.

Thinking in these terms has resulted in these images, an expression of desire for growth at the moment of inhibition, when hesitation is the gap between desiring and having.

Charles Grogg - intravenous


Charles Grogg - repair



Charles Grogg corner




When my grandmother’s pansies grew unbidden from the ground 30 years after she had abandoned them, her kitchen garden, and her house, I knew I had to go home. She planted them in 1975, but widowed and lonely she left the farm that had defined her life. I became fascinated with how something could lay dormant for so many years to pop up out of the ground as if nothing had happened, or only a season had passed. I wanted to crawl out of the ground myself, but I found it much harder. I saw myself in her place. I began to quilt my images, to build scaffolds and ladders, amendments: tethers, anchors and coils. I found myself attaching these to the prints, demanding from the objects in the images that they stand still long enough for me to say something before they would move on.

Unbridled growth used to enjoy the stamp of authenticity and freedom, but now it’s seen as a threat economically, culturally, even personally. There is always a moment of hesitation between achievement and reflection, the going forward and the holding back, and I keep returning to that moment.

CG pastfuturepresentI

CG rootbound


Metempsychosis is the belief in the transmigration of souls, the speculation that the spirit of a living thing migrates after death into another living thing. All of these images consist of one object only, which has been manipulated–spun around, wiggled, or dropped multiple times during a single exposure, or over the course of several exposures. One negative takes anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour to make. I aim to find gesture not only in subject matter but in idea: we are stepping into the river Heraclitus wrote we step into just once, and we’re looking at the others before us who have stepped into the river that is always moving. The subject of each of these images is one floral stem, but like our own bodies, it echoes the life of its ancestors in its mellifluous state of being.



From this, I have found a good starting point in terms of identifying the general themes and attributes of still life studio images, each carefully considered aspects of the composition, although seemingly simple, have a massive influence upon both fine art and commercial photography.

When considering a particular audience or intention, a variety of factors can reinforce a positive or negative influence with a brand or product. One of the most distinct aspects of this I have found is through the application of colour. There is a great deal of consideration when colour coding within a composed image.

This was an aspect I considered during my food photography project, considering whether to use complementary colours or colours with the same categorisation.

Most of the still life photographers I have referred to have mentioned a desire to synthesize a particular emotion within their work, a desire to associate their product theme or subject with experiences familiar to the audience. Whether this is a particular scent, texture, sound and so on, there is this sense of anthropomorphizing the subject.

I believe this has been a productive start to this area of research, I will reflect upon this and begin to formulate potential ideas.


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