High-quality images are important for all of our clients, but especially for our interior designers. Skillfully-shot portfolio images can be your best selling tool. They are essential for showcasing your design aesthetic, attracting your ideal clients, and getting your work published. Here are our top tips for preparing for a portfolio shoot:
When preparing for a home shoot, there are several factors to keep in mind—lighting, props, orientation, and timing just to name a few. That’s precisely why our first tip is to hire an expert.
If you collaborate with a photographer experienced in interiors, they will give you a great deal of direction and help you juggle all the variables.
Amy Bartlam, lifestyle photographer extraordinaire and our biggest girl crush, says: “When choosing a photographer I highly recommend picking someone who specializes in interiors – it may be tempting to enlist a friend who takes amazing weddings photos, but trust me when I say it’s not the same. There are so many differences from settings and lenses, to framing a shot and working with the light. Lots of interior magazines and blogs prefer straight-on, vertical shots, but a photographer who normally shoots weddings probably won’t know that. It’s things like this that can elevate your chances of getting published.”
No matter what your photographer’s level of experience, keep Amy’s pointers in mind when preparing.
Lifestyle photographer, Madeline Harper, says “Shooting interiors is so different than shooting people. Instead of getting to know personalities you’re showcasing hard work and want to make sure you capture every special piece that was picked! When a client tells me the story behind a purchase, that’s the unique story I can capture on camera.”
Shooting from waist height mimics what your eyes would see in person as you sit on furniture. The details are more prominent and the rooms proportions are more accurate.
You should also ask your photographer to shoot on a 60/40 split—60% vertical images and 40% horizontal.
If they don’t have light reflector discs, you can pick up matte white foam core boards to soften glares and reflections.
Equally as important is timing. When scheduling your interior design photoshoot, keep in mind what time of day will yield the most natural light in the space. If you want your work to photograph accurately, the rooms need adequate natural light, as artificial light just doesn’t have the same effect.
Let the photographer know which direction the windows face, as well, so that the sun isn’t shining directly through the windows during shoot time. If the windows have large overhangs or trees outside them, your photographer will need that information as well.
No matter what, shoot with the lights off. Turn off overhead lights, sconces, lamps and can lights. The colors are more natural that way and details show more accurately.
If you’re unsure about the best lighting throughout the day, record a time lapse video on your phone! You’ll be able to tell quickly and easily what time of day was the lightest and brightest.
Speaking of timing – it’s even better to choose a time when the homeowners won’t be there. The last thing you want to do is inconvenience them, but their presence could create distractions. Their “lived-in” home might not be your exact design, and you will want the freedom to move and remove accessories and family belongings without offending.
With homeowners out of the house, you will have room to bring in help. Having an assistant for moving furniture, cutting stems, or whatever else is needed, is invaluable. It will save time and give you the opportunity to focus on the big picture—literally.
Since most photographers charge by the hour, the extra set of hands will get you the most frames possible. Swapping out pillows, art work or house plants can easily double the length of a shoot, so having an assistant can avoid any overages and keep you on track.
Even when the home has been impeccably designed there are likely to be some last-minute tweaks to plan and make time for. The way a room is shot for editorial is different than the way a room lives.
Find a piece of art to have on-hand to replace the TV with if it’s in a conspicuous place. Take a hand-held steamer for smoothing wrinkles in draperies and linens. You will also want to have a variety of styling props. Amy recommends baskets, vases, pillows, throws, fresh flowers, house plants and other accessories. When in doubt, more options are better than too few.
“What looks right in real life can look totally wrong on camera, and it’s so difficult to guess how things will look ahead of time, so having an arsenal of props is key,” Amy says.
Upon arrival, you will want to turn off all the lights (even the lamps) and unplug and hide those pesky power cords. Remove any of the homeowners belongings that you plan to before you start styling so that you have a nice blank canvas to work with. Remember to take a quick phone snap before removing any items, so you can return the belongings to their homes when you’re done properly.
We can’t stress it enough: photos are the most important investment you can make in your interior design business. No matter how aesthetically-pleasing your website, it cannot stand alone without clear, expertly-shot photos of your work. Couple the two, and we can make magic.
We hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your next portfolio shoot. As always, our inbox is wide open for thoughts and questions about this blog. Please visit our featured interior photographer expert Amy Bartlam’s website for examples of stunning interior design photography at here and keep in touch here on Instagram. Thank you, Amy, for sharing your gorgeous images and wisdom with us!
For more tips on expanding your interior design portfolio’s exposure or lifestyle brand’s website, check out these posts:
The Identité Collective is a full service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering bespoke branding, web design and social media content creation, we help brands built around beautiful living elevate their digital presence to represent the physical spaces they design. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.