AI Matter(s)

Son-in-law Heath’s brilliant new AI photographic studio initiative was highlighted in New Zealand‘s leading business magazine this month.  It’s a real breakthrough idea for agencies and marketers all over the world.


Matter, spearheaded by photographer Heath Waugh, is redefining the landscape of commercial imagery creation through innovative AI integration.


With roots in traditional photography, entrepreneur and owner of Matter, Heath Waugh, is seamlessly blending human expertise with cutting-edge AI technology that’s revolutionising the industry of commercial photography. By leveraging AI to generate photorealistic backgrounds and composite products seamlessly, Matter eliminates the need for expensive location shoots, offering significant cost savings to clients.

In the fast-paced world of commercial content creation – especially with the introduction of large language models and AI image generation – innovation is the name of the game. As businesses seek to differentiate themselves in increasingly competitive markets – and certainly in the current economic climate where every cent spent needs to produce good ROI – the demand for captivating visual content has never been higher. Enter Matter, a trailblazer in the local industry, harnessing the power of AI to redefine the way businesses approach visual content creation.

With a client roster including outdoor furniture brand Deck and high-end kitchen hardware company Arch, Matter’s approach is garnering attention and reshaping how businesses approach visual content creation.

The story of Matter begins with Co- Founder Heath, a seasoned photographer with over a decade of experience in the field. Heath’s journey into photography started in the advertising industry, where he honed his skills as a producer before venturing into photography. “I left the advertising industry and moved into photography… I opened a studio with the same guys that I still work with now,” recalls Heath.

Alongside his trusted team, including Rob Hart, photography and Ron Anand, post production, Heath founded a traditional photo studio, where they spent years perfecting their craft. However, it was a chance encounter with AI that sparked Heath’s entrepreneurial spirit and laid the foundation for Matter’s inception.

Recognising the transformative potential of AI in photography, Heath saw an opportunity to change the way he was doing business and his approach to often elaborate commercial photo shoots. He envisioned a future where AI could seamlessly integrate with traditional photography techniques, offering a novel approach to visual content creation.

“I realised last year, prior to starting Matter, when starting to work with AI, that there was the potential for the technology
to dramatically shift the way we work. We’d already done quite a lot of composite work in our time shooting a product to fit into an existing background. Usually those were stock images or something else that was provided by the client. So we’d had a fair bit of practice anyway. But the longer we worked with AI, we realised that rather than what a lot of people are doing with generative AI – working in this otherworldly kind of space – we could scale it back from that to a more photorealistic look and that we could then put product into an environment without going to shoot at a specific location,” explains Heath of the inception of Matter.

At the heart of Matter’s philosophy lies the fusion of human expertise and AI innovation. Unlike traditional photography studios, Matter embraces AI as a powerful tool to augment, rather than replace, human creativity. By blending AI-generated backgrounds with expertly captured product imagery, Matter achieves a seamless integration that captivates audiences and elevates brands.

“We’ve spent years honing our craft in the studio, and AI allows us to take our work to the next level. By seamlessly integrating AI- generated backgrounds with product shots, we can create compelling visual content that resonates with audiences,” explains Heath.

He says that it would take hundreds and thousands of dollars to shoot the traditional way, in studio building sets or on location, and years to be able to build a library of images for a single client. “Whereas now, with the use of generative AI like Midjourney, we can do it for them in a couple of weeks at a fraction of the cost.

“There’s one other business that we follow in Denmark that’s doing the same thing as us. He’s about six months ahead of us on his journey, and it’s the same kind of work that he’s starting to really find success with. He’s just done an 80 room set for a paint company where he generates the background in AI and then deals with the colour technician from the paint company to adjust the colours of the rooms. So again, the logistics of doing that for a paint company is almost impossible. Typically you’d choose four or five hero colours and then you’d shoot those on location and you’d have to be happy with that. And the rest of your database would just be the rest of your product base shown with colour swatches. Now you can showcase them however you like essentially. So yeah, we are really excited. I think we are further down the path than most people, and have been dead excited from the day we opened Midjourney,” says Heath.

He and his team work almost exclusively in Midjourney, which he says has made a lot of progress in its development over the past few months. “But it’s more the additional add-ons, the steps in the process that we’re using to differentiate our offering. And that’s coming from other AI applications, other AI sources. So an image will go through a lot of steps and two or three of those have come from new technology that’s been released in the last few months.”

One of the earliest adopters of Matter’s innovative approach was the furniture industry. Recognising the potential for
cost savings and efficiency gains, furniture brands eagerly embraced their AI-powered photography solutions. By integrating products into AI-generated environments, furniture brands could showcase their offerings in captivating settings without the need for costly location shoots.

Heath explains: “Initially, we focused on the furniture industry, where we saw the biggest benefit. By eliminating the need for expensive location shoots, we were able to offer significant cost savings to our clients.”

While the furniture industry served as a springboard for Matter’s success, the company’s ambitions extend far beyond
a single sector. As Heath and his team continued to refine their AI-powered photography solutions, they began exploring new opportunities across various industries.

“Our approach has resonated with diverse clientele, from kitchen hardware to jewellery brands. By leveraging AI to create captivating visual content, we empower businesses to showcase their products in compelling ways, driving engagement and enhancing brand perception,” says Heath.

The expansion into new verticals necessitated a nuanced understanding of each industry’s unique challenges and opportunities. “We realised that the ideal end-users are more home furnishings and brands with a large amount of SKUs,” explains Heath.

Of course, navigating the intersection of AI and photography is not without its challenges. As Heath acknowledges, there are still uncertainties surrounding image ownership and copyright in the realm of AI-generated content. However, Matter Studio remains committed to transparency and ensuring that clients understand the nuances of AI-generated imagery and its implications.

“The ownership thing is tricky at the moment because it’s all kind of playing out in the courts currently,” Heath acknowledges. Yet, his unwavering commitment to excellence and attention to detail ensures that Matter’s creations remained at the forefront of industry standards.

“We remain committed to ethical practices and transparency. While there are challenges in navigating image ownership and copyright, we strive to ensure that our clients understand the process and implications of AI-generated content,” he adds.

In addition to ensuring transparency over issues concerning ownership and copyright, Matter also grapples with technical complexities inherent in AI-driven workflows. “Keeping up with the rapid pace of technological advancements is a constant challenge,” notes Heath. However, by fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation, he and the studio remain agile in the face of evolving technological landscapes.

As technology continues to evolve, Matter remains at the vanguard, embracing new AI advancements and refining their processes to deliver exceptional results. “I’m just a real student of this stuff at the moment,” says Heath. “It’s really reinvigorated all of our passion for all this… There’s this renewed excitement about being at work and the potential of what we could be making.”

With Heath’s visionary leadership and a team dedicated to pushing the boundaries of possibility, Matter is not just shaping the future of photography but rewriting its very essence.


As Matter continues to chart new territory in the world of commercial photography, the future looks promising. With a growing roster of satisfied clients and a reputation for innovation, Matter has positioned itself to become a leader in of the industry.

Looking ahead, Heath envisions even greater opportunities for Matter as AI technology advances and becomes more accessible.

“I think over the next 18 months [the industry] will all change quite dramatically,” Heath predicts.

As businesses increasingly recognise the importance of compelling visual content in today’s digital landscape, Matter Studio’s AI-powered solutions provide a pathway to success.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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