Pretty Light on Pretty Stuff: An Interview with Annabelle Breakey


Several weeks ago, Annabelle Breakey, one of my favorite photographers, tweeted:

I’m a photographer and the market place is really crazy-
how best to share work and inspire?? go forward? thoughts anyone?

How could I resist? I asked if she’d consider a virtual interview to share here. Wonderfully, she said yes! First, you should pop over and check out her beautiful work… especially how she plays with light. It’s magical. She definitely inspires me!

All the photos below are Annabelle’s (used with permission) Hope you enjoy the interview:

Yellow-Still Lifes
[photo by Annabelle Breakey]

SLW: On your portfolio, I loved this quote “I like pretty light on pretty stuff.” What makes pretty light in your eyes? Where do you lie on natural versus studio lighting?

AB: I get more comments on that statement, and it seems like such an obvious thing to say. For me, with photography, making images is really the study of the quality of light, color, mood, emotion, and texture on people, places and things. Why not have the subjects be pretty or made pretty by how I photograph a subject? Shaping light and all of its complexities: color balance, contrast, direction, or volume on a subject is all done to make a statement or to create feeling. This study has been a life long passion for me.

As for natural vs. studio… it doesn’t matter. I think sodium vapor street lights make beautiful images. Just look at what Todd Hido does at night in suburban landscapes. He truly makes the ordinary extraordinary.

Whoopie Pies
[photo by Annabelle Breakey]

SLW: What are your 5 best tips for making a successful shot?

1) Have a plan
2) Have the best help possible if you don’t have a plan
3) Know your tools
4) Have the best help possible if you don’t know your tools
5) Sounds silly but, bring joy to the set

Spring Feast
[photo by Annabelle Breakey]

SLW: What camera equipment do you usually shoot with? Are you all digital now? Any gear that you couldn’t live without?

AB: I have been fully digital since 1995. I bought my first computer in 1992 and have been using Photoshop ever since. My preference is a 4×5 with a PhaseOne digital back for still life. Also, I use a Canon 5D for people, lifestyle. I don’t think I can live with out my loupe, level, a jillion cf cards, batteries, an almost grey card, copious amounts of hard drive space and all those extra cords.

Cocktail Crime Scene
[photo by Annabelle Breakey]

SLW: Speaking of magazines, your work for Sunset Magazine (one of my favorites) is always stunning. The avocado piece from one of the recent issues really blew me away. Tell me a bit about working with them.

AB: I love Sunset Magazine. They have a really wonderful approach to working with talent. My studio, location and style of work has really clicked with them lately. However, the magazine is constantly evolving. The creative department is always trying new things and pushing the quality of all the sections: more interesting homes, more clever gardens, and super tasty and different recipes. They are one of my biggest inspirations that me push me to test, test, test which keeps me on my toes. They are so connected with what is happening with photography, even if I am on some creative tangent, they always are patient and look at the crazy testing I’ve done lately and give healthy feedback. This is why I am so inspired by the team there. Oh! and the food in the Avocado Story was gorgeously styled by Karen Shinto. She rocks.

[photo by Annabelle Breakey]

SLW: You get to work with some amazing food and prop stylists. Who are some of your favorites to work with? Do you ever do you own food or prop styling?

AB: I work with the most amazing and talented people out there. I have a very long list of people- too long for this article. Go to my site and look at the info on each image. It’s all there. Prop my own shots?! Why? When it can be SO much better with a pro. I only do my own propping if I’m really in the mood or there is zero budget. On more simple and conceptual shots, I often do the props, as it is usually a journey of discovering light. For food and commercial projects, I prefer to have a team, make creative decisions and then we all come together to make images. I prefer to spend my time studying photography, light and the concepts behind images. Let the styling pros do their thing! I have So much respect for them, and their craft.

SLW: How about other photographers? Who really inspires you?

AB: This list gets longer and longer every day. Even if I started to name names, I would feel terrible because I couldn’t include all of them. I just have to start with my peers just in SF. There is so much amazing talent in my own back yard. Then it explodes, globally – Just look at who PDN reports on. I never cease to be inspired. I look at all aspects of photography in all genres. I take it all in and mush it around. This can be a problem.

Meringue Cake
[photo by Annabelle Breakey]

SLW: Do you read any food blogs? If so, what are some of your favorites?

AB: Fabulous food blogs? There are too many to count! I like yours, of course. Ok- for a ‘today’ scenario… There are a few food blogs that are on my google home page in betwixt the news and photo blogs… right now… (I am already feeling guilty about those not listed… and I admit, I am following a fair number of interesting folks on twitter… fyi: photo_ab):

SLW: How about cooking? Do you cook at home? What are your favorite things to make?

AB:Cook? Why cook!?! I have the most amazing stylists in the world cooking in my kitchen and leaving left-overs. If I’m going to make anything, it’s either a latte or homemade chicken stock for the stylists – just because I really like roast chicken. I also make ice – or rather – my freezer does.

Thanks Annabelle for sharing little about yourself with us!

0 thoughts on “Pretty Light on Pretty Stuff: An Interview with Annabelle Breakey

  1. Thank you for bringing Annabelles’s work to SLW! These days, I think we need to all inspire each other and keep feeding our creativity. Looking at her work, I kept thinking “I wish I would have been part of that!”

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