Photographer Victoria Ling has the kind of portfolio anyone would be envious of, brimming with exquisitely polished photographic work; still life compositions created for high-profile clients and personal projects alike. Her work achieves the kind of ethereal polish that makes you wonder how much of it could possibly real, but the majority of her imagery is all captured in camera, as she explains below…
Tell us who you are and what you do.
Victoria Ling, a London based still life photographer. I shoot objects, sometimes on their own, sometimes set within a built environment and sometimes using the objects themselves to construct the built environment. Colour and light are an important part of my work, bringing images to life.
Your portfolio is all still life. What is it about that style that particularly appeals to you?
I studied Fine Art at university, so starting with a blank canvas appeals. Being able to control everything in the shot is wonderful – it’s a bit like making a 3D painting. I also love collaborating, something I didn’t like about the prospect of being an artist was my perception of working alone…I also wasn’t a very good painter.
Talk us through the process of setting up a studio shoot.
Shoots vary, I can work alone on personal projects and then on a commercial job there will be loads of people on set. I actually love both, they involve different challenges. Working solo means there is no-one to bounce ideas off and it can get frustrating if things aren’t going the way I want them to. Working with a team of art directors, set designers, stylists, set builders, makers, clients means there are more opinions to consider and briefs to fulfil but I love that challenge of everyone going away happy, getting a great image but one that also works for what it’s been commissioned for.
On a personal shoot I might work with a stylist, set designer, maker or art director on an idea then we come together on the day and play around, see what happens with the objects we’ve brought together; I think you have to always leave a bit of room for manoeuvre on personal work. So we lay out what we have bought together, then start to build the set up, taking things in and out, changing colours, backgrounds, objects and lighting. Some shoots involve objects simply sat on a surface, others involve more complex rigging and some a lot of prep time/set builders. Commercial work is pretty similar but there are more meetings beforehand and more decisions made in advance. I’d also usually have put together a treatment, a basic document collating images and words to describe how I would approach the project.
You usually work with set designers on commercial jobs. How does that work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
On a commercial project I would always work as part of a team; the creatives from the agency, a set designer and maybe a set-building or model-making team. Usually the creatives will have come up with a concept for the ad, they then ask for my thoughts on how I might interpret this visually, with colour, lighting, texture. Usually I would recommend a set designer but the creative team also sometimes have someone in mind. I would suggest different people according to the style of the job. We then all get together to work out how we make it work.
Does that mean there are limitations to what you can achieve with personal work, or are you an accomplished maker and stylist now too?
I definitely wouldn’t call myself an accomplished maker. It does mean the personal projects I work on alone involve less making but I am happy rigging and styling. I’m not afraid to get stuck in!
How much retouching is involved in each image?
The images you have chosen here involve very little retouching, but on some commercial jobs more is required. I try to get everything as I want it in camera but sometimes you need retouching to allow the image to be as you want it or create options that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
What would you say you’re looking to achieve with your photography?
I have always gone out to create images I’m proud of, images that have beauty and a bit of soul. Whether the image is of a tin of beans, an expensive hang or a complicated set at the end of the day my part of the image is all about the details and the lighting to elevate it.
What other photographers have inspired you to develop your work over the years?
I’m really lucky to be working at a time where there are so many great still life photographers, it’s great to keep pushing me forward to want to be better. When I started out I was taken on as an apprentice by Richard Foster, who was a great inspiration in how to work and keep motivated. We have quite different styles but he is amazingly technical and taught me a lot about precision and lighting.