January 26, 2012

how to style and photograph your design projects

I have been more than a little preoccupied lately with photo shoots — fun, exciting … and a lot of work.  I’m looking forward to sharing the results with you, but unfortunately I need to keep them under wraps for a little while longer.  Until then, though, let’s talk about something we  can — styling and photography.

Remember when I heard Eddie Ross speak about styling?  His advice — consider “the story” — is still the absolute best.  (No surprise there.  Eddie and Jaithan are world class at what they do.)  “The story” makes propping a shoot almost effortless!  Well, unless you are hunting down things you don’t own / can’t find / can’t afford, but that’s another post.

There’s still a big piece missing, though, right?   You may have a perfectly styled room — full of perfect vignettes — but unless the photographer is able to “capture the moment,” the room won’t resonate with anyone other than the people in the room right then.  Sigh.

Isn’t that the rub?  You’ve created a beautiful space — and the beauty doesn’t translate on film.  There’s a reason that top photographers get paid the big bucks!  One of my priorities for 2012 (and a big one for the end of 2011) is to invest in professional photography — so that I am able to share, truly share, what I do every day.

You don’t have to be a designer to want a great photo, either.  Maybe you just want to share your hard work on your personal blog or with your family who lives away!  But — if you can’t hire a professional stylist and a professional photographer (and let’s be clear, that’s the norm — not the exception) — what’s a girl to do?   Study the best — and the way to do that is to study the top magazines!  You can study both the styling and the angles the photographer uses.

And there’s even a “cheat sheet” — because Camille over at The Vintique Object has put together a fantastic series on photographing interiors.  Camille breaks down styling to show how the eye “travels” across the entire photograph and then covers kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms and vignettes.   While she readily admits that she is not an expert and still has “a lot to learn,” Camille has done a remarkable job of identifying commonalities across all of these photos — which in turn will help you as you compose your photographs.

And if you aren’t photographing your own interiors?  I’ve realized that I just cannot take a decent photograph — and candidly, I haven’t made learning how to do so a priority.  (Translation: I have too many other priorities!)  But Camille’s advice still helps.  When a professional photographer shoots interiors, he or she usually has a computer attached so that the designer and/or stylist can see the image just taken.  When I am looking at the computer screen, I’m remembering all of this information so that I can adjust for a better image on the next shot!  The photographer will notice some of these things, of course, but — especially in the absence of a stylist — it helps if the designer looks for adjustments as well.

What is your best styling or photography tip?   If I get enough good ones, I’ll compile them all in a separate post!

Thank you, Camille, at The Vintique Object!


  • Sherri Cassara
    Jan. 26, 2012
    This is a great post Traci - I am bookmarking it to come back to and read when I have more time to fully absorb it.
  • Amy Vermillion- Martineau Vermillion Interior Design
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Traci, This is a GREAT post. Love the pics too. As my photographer knows, I am a cuckoo on photo shoots. I obsess over every detail and that is how to get a good shot. The feeling is just as important as the design of the room. Greatest compliment I ever got about my portfolio…"I feel like I would be relaxed in your interiors…" she hired me too. My important thing is to look as closely as what isn't in the shot as what is…in other words the negative space. One's eye has to have a place to rest. I didn't say that well but you know what I'm talking about. Hugs, Amy
  • kristie@thedecorologist
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Traci, This is an issue I struggle with, as well. I use so many of my own photos from my projects on my blog -I can't hire a photographer to take pictures of everything, so I do my best to learn what I can to improve my own photography. Just one more thing to try to excel at, oh my. Anyway, thanks for the post, I will check out Camille's article!
  • Naomi@Design Manifest
    Jan. 26, 2012
    So true! A good design is only half the battle. Thanks for tipping me off to Camille's series. I will definitely check i t you. Looking forward to seeing your work whenever you are able to share! :)
  • Amanda
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Seriously Amazing! This is something I need help with, one of my goals for the year! Taking Classes!
  • kathysue
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Traci what a great post. I am going to go and read what Charlotte has to say. I can not capture my home in an image at all. When people that have seen pictures on my blog of my home come here for a visit they always comment on how they had no idea that it would look like it does in person. They are always very complimentary about the way it looks and feels but it is letting me know what I already knew, I can not take a decent picture!! Kathysue
  • Lisa Mende
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Great post Traci! I think flowers or plants are always a plus in styling!
  • Lori @ Lori May Interiors
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Photography is my nemesis. But, I'm learning and what I've learned so far is to take tons of pics. The more I take the better I get. I'm also planning to take a class in the spring to help me learn more about using the manual function on my camera. One other thing I find is that I love the closeup detail shots. Sometimes if I can't get a good wide shot, I go for the closeup and I still get the same feeling. Obviously, this doesn't work for everything, but for the blog especially it can work really well. This is a great post Traci. I look forward to reading everyone's tips.
  • The Vintique Object
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Traci, you are awfully kind to feature my photography series. I enjoyed reading everyone's tips about taking photos and will have to think a lot more about what folks have said and start looking for pictures that match. I'm doing another post on Monday called "The Peek Shot" and hope to continue doing these posts until I'm all out of ideas! Camille
  • Sheila @ SZInteriors
    Jan. 26, 2012
    Traci, thank you for this post. It's really helpful, and I appreciate the links to Camille's series. It's so nice to have this information. This is a bookmarked post, for sure!
  • Holly
    Jan. 26, 2012
    I'm always amazed at what good photography can really do for a space. And I always find the posts so interesting when a magazine has come in to shoot how much accessorizing and styling really goes into those sessions and how much different it looks from the actual finished product from the designer. I would love to be able to take better photos on my own, but at this point I don't see a course happening any time soon. I'll have to check out this series.
  • Meghan Blum
    Jan. 29, 2012
    Traci, Great post and very informative. I like so many designer's struggle with taking pictures of my work. It seems like we are always on to the next project that you don't truly appreciate what you've just created. There's always room for improvement! One thing I like to do when I'm doing the before pictures is I like to stand in all 4 corners of a room and take a picture. I then do the same after I've installed everything. This ensures that you get similar perspectives and it's easy to remember.

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