Kyla Elaine is an Amsterdam-based photographer specializing in still life, lifestyle, and product photography. Originally from Calgary, Canada, an itch for change led her to Europe 14 years ago. From concept to creation, to retouching, Kyla is a perfectionist and doesn’t let any small details slide by.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional career.
Kyla Elaine: I think still life photography was always in my bones, though it took me a while to get here. When my dad gave me my first Canon EOS 5 35mm camera at the age of 13, the first thing I did was grab my little brother’s toy car and GI Joe, run out to the driveway, set it up, and take my first picture. I’m originally from Canada and I spent my high school years either in the band room or the darkroom. At that time, photography school was the dream. Instead, my path lead me into advertising, then to Amsterdam, then to production. After only a few months working in production and working with amazing photographers from all over Europe, my fire for photography was reignited and I knew I had to be behind the camera, not beside it. I enrolled in photography school on the weekends, and after a year of working full-time while going to school, I quit my office job and started assisting.
Now, almost 10 years into my photography career I’ve had the pleasure of shooting for clients such as Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, Ace & Tate, and Buddha to Buddha. I get to do what I love, every day.
What is it about Still Life photography that you enjoy so much?
Kyla Elaine: I find still-life photography very intimate. A few creative minds in the same room – photographer, stylist, art director, all bouncing ideas off each other to make an image that nails a brief, makes something look spectacular, or creates something new. I also enjoy being able to walk into my studio in the morning by myself, play with an object and light, and walk out at the end of the day with a new piece of art.
What is more important to you, the story behind your images or the technical perfection?
Kyla Elaine: To be honest, I don’t think I can have one without the other. Without a story, I have no starting point of how to light the product in order to set the tone of the image, or how to build the set to compliment the narrative. Technical perfection is part of the story, it’s the grand finale.
How has your style evolved over the years?
Kyla Elaine: Well first of all my subjects changed drastically, When I was living in Canada and wanted to start a photography career I was shooting weddings. I didn’t make it to photography school and was young, green, and thought I already knew it all so I didn’t even grasp all the different types of photography there were. All I knew was I loved the camera, and I loved capturing something beautiful. It wasn’t until I was in Amsterdam and started school that I got to dip my toes into different genres – documentary, fashion, portrait, landscape, lifestyle, and finally still life. After setting up that first studio light and making my first image I was in love.
Once I took off with stills, it took about 4 years to really develop my style. It’s a style that fits my personality, graphic and bold, colorful and exciting, and sometimes a little romantic.
Where do you find inspiration?
Kyla Elaine: I find inspiration everywhere. From conversations I have, to places that I’ve traveled, to becoming a mom. From the way the colors of a sunset reflect on building windows, to the chalk drawings my kids make on the sidewalk. My initial inspiration for really perusing still life came from a Dutch photographer named Bart Oomes. I worked with him as a producer and his technique, perfection, vibe on set, and attention to detail gave me life.
What advice would you give to a Still Life photographer who is just starting out?
Kyla Elaine: I have two pieces of advice.
1. Assist. I learned more in 6 months assisting, than I did during 3 years in photography school. Find as many photographers as you can that you admire and try to get on their assisting team. Every photographer has a different way of doing things and different unique tricks. This knowledge is invaluable.
2. Never stop shooting. Practice, practice, practice. And try it all. I tried interior, portraits, documentary, fashion, etc, but still life is what got me most excited and that’s how I found my niche.
What are your future goals for your work?
Kyla Elaine: Since my career has so far been very fashion focused, my ultimate goal is to shoot a still life campaign for Chanel. But in the meantime, I just want to make cool work, with brands that are trying to make a difference in this world. I want to branch out and work with different types of products outside of fashion, work with new materials, and tell as many stories as I can.
What made you join Production Paradise?
Kyla Elaine: Visibility. As much as I spent the first half of my adult life in advertising, marketing and production, when it comes to promoting myself, I’m never able to make it a priority over my own art or my kids. Plus, the team at Production Paradise is just the best, and it means a lot to feel like they really support my career and believe in the work I do.