Creative Still Life, Product Photography

Finding inspiration and creativity in still life photography

We interviewed Phase One Ambassador Paloma Rincón to discover how she continually finds the inspiration for her wonderfully creative still life images.

How do you define yourself as a photographer?

I define myself as a still life photographer, but sometimes this description isn’t enough. So, I usually have to explain my profession, because my work also covers other creative disciplines including art direction.

What would be a typical job for you?

Typically, when I get contacted, the client asks for me to interpret the task and add my own creative style to it. So usually, my task is not just to follow an agency brief, but also to help develop the creative concept. Usually, I get asked to do commissioned shoots based on references from my own personal projects. This is also why I do a lot of personal projects – so that I can move my commercial work in a direction that I also have an interest in. My projects are often product shots of, for example, food, drinks or tech products, but composed in a more graphic way with bright colors. On the side, I also do more conceptual work. I recently did a collaboration with the in-flight magazine of Norwegian Airlines, where I did a graphic illustration of a festival in the US, where they have a frozen Norwegian guy in a lake, and then they created this weird festival around this crazy idea.

How do you come up with the creative ideas for your commercial projects?

The methodology I have developed for planning usually includes two important steps: First, I try to plan what techniques I want to explore in the particular shoot and do research for new creative solutions that I could possibly work with. Second, my creative workflow includes creating and documenting ideas about the creative elements and the overall aesthetic for the shoot. Then I go into the actual preparation – planning part by part through the color palettes, composition, and various sketches, for example. After this process, I usually have a clearer vision for the shoot, and the idea is ready to be put into execution.

What goes into preparing and setting up your shoots?

Planning is actually the main part of my shoots, since I am not creating something that is actually happening. As a still life photographer, you actually have the chance to plan down to every little detail – from colors and textures to environment and lighting – everything is very thought-through before I even start to shoot. In my plan I always keep some room for unexpected happenings on the actual shoot, but the full idea has to be in place before I even start.

Can you walk us through a common workflow for you on a shoot?

First, I do the basic settings where I place the props and elements I am going to photograph. Then, I set up my camera and arrange the final composition from my camera, where I can see every detail of the things I am going to shoot. The composition and details are very important to me, because I generally work a lot with details in my shoots – so one centimeter right or left could make a great difference in the overall composition. I also use the colors and shadows to compose, which is why I really love shooting tethered. I actually always shoot tethered, and that is one of the reasons why the Phase One camera is perfect for my work, because I can see the images right away on my computer and use Capture One to see exactly how the image will turn out. The tethered options also allow me to play with both vertical or horizontal to see how that works for the image. Generally, the technology behind my Phase One Camera System enables me to always make sure I have all the right elements in place for the image before going into post-production.

Moreover, I quite frequently use the focus stack function, because I usually shoot small things and I am close to them, so I need to make sure that everything is in focus. With the focus stacking tool on the XF Camera System, I can make sure that the elements – no matter how small they are – are never out of focus.

I do all my processing in Capture One. If I shot a focus stack, then I process it and put it all together before going into photoshop to finish my editing.

What is the most difficult thing about your job?

The most difficult thing is to come up with new creative concepts and ideas. I always want to make sure that I bring something new to the table and challenge myself – creatively or technically – and that requires a lot of research, preparation and time. Sometimes, I can get scared that I am not able to come up with a new idea, but then I give it a few days, and boom: an original idea comes to my mind.

You say that coming up with the idea is the most difficult and critical part, so where do you find your inspiration?

Basically, anything could inspire me. I always try to get out of my routine and be receptive to new ideas. I believe that it is kind of an attitude; always being willing to keep your eyes open for new ideas. Sometimes I go out and visit different places that could potentially inspire me to use new colors, textures, etc. This could be a visit to the local flower store, a walk on the beach, or somewhere else. Last week, for example, I was visiting a swimming pool, and I saw this woman with a beautiful 60’s hat, and all of a sudden I came up with this idea to create a composition similar to her hat. So really, the inspiration can come from anywhere. It is just about having an open mind and be willing to see things in a different way, and finally, to put all the small ideas into a concept.

Why do you like to use Phase One for your work?

I love the quality of the Phase One files. The images are super detailed. I like how the camera captures light and reproduces color. Compared to working with DSLR, the perception of space you have in a medium format camera is just incredible, and you get so much brightness and crispiness in your images – it is incomparable. Plus, the quality of the lenses is just amazing. The 80mm is my favorite, because it is the most versatile and gives me a sense of volume and movement.

Do you have any tips for photographers who want to get into still life photography?

Still life photography is a genre that requires a lot of patience. Also, it requires a lot of technical knowledge and interest, but the technical aspect should be viewed more as part of the creative process. My best tip is to explore a lot. Do many test shots and try to find your own “voice” in terms of what you are doing and want to create. Don’t get anxious when you start, because it will take time to learn the right techniques. Allow yourself the time it takes to master this genre.

Filed under: Creative Still Life, Product Photography


Paloma Rincón is a Madrid-based, Mexican-born photographer. From commercial assignments for big companies to more experimental and personal projects, Paloma’s work has taken her all over the world. She creates visual games in the intersection where photography meets sculpture, design, installation, or illustration. With a playful and contemporary aesthetic approach, the resulting images showcase interesting worlds where shapes, textures, materials, lights, and color live together in harmony inside fine, rich, and detailed graphic compositions. Paloma is a Phase One Ambassador.