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The New Age of Architectural Photography
Gone are days of interior photos looking like furniture showrooms. So, too, are the days of exterior photos being full of uplighting accents and HDR effects.
Today, architectural photography is all about lifestyle. The appeal of luxury has shifted away from the material luxury and flashy spaces of high society to an intangible luxury that transpires during quiet moments with loved ones. It’s more about quality of life than quality of goods.
When shooting interiors, your goal as photographer is to create a space that makes the viewer want to be there. You want them to imagine themselves in that space, and most importantly, to escape to it.
As a photographer, you not only have to read a space for its light, material, and flow, but you also need to feel the space. Consider a sleek urban condo in a downtown high-rise versus a historic Victorian house in family neighborhood versus a new construction in a suburban development. Each architectural development stirs up different feelings, and these are what you want to capture in your photography.
So how do you transfer these feelings into your images? Here are four steps to get you started.
Focus on the personality and live-ability of the space. Luxurious bouquets of roses set in an empty room at sunset won’t do the trick. Instead, emphasize the day-to-day moments — an open book and some cushions on the seat of a bay window, a comfy throw blanket draped over the couch, or jewelry laid out on the dresser of a walk-in closet.
Yes, the space should be clean. Yes, it should be cleaner than usual. However, it shouldn’t feel sterile. You want it to feel lived in, but not dirty.
All flat surfaces should be wiped down and cleared, except for staging items. Every light fixture should be in working order since they’ll be turned on to ensure the space has adequate lighting. Floors should be mopped or vacuumed. Any areas where the carpet or hardwood floors look old and worn, such as in high traffic areas, should be covered up with inexpensive area rugs. Be aware of any clutter that we get used to in our day-to-day life. A small pile of clutter goes a very long way in photos, and so all those stacks of mail, magazines, and books should be tucked away out of sight.
A well-lit space is crucial! You want to create a look that feels natural, happy, and real, so use all of the light resources available to you. Photos should be shot during the day so you can take advantage of any soft sunlight that pours in.
As a secondary light source, be sure to turn on all of the lights. Yes, all of them. They’ll be turned on to give the space a warm and inviting feel. Long exposures shot on a tripod help brighten up shadows a bit, but you can also use a flash to bounce light off walls and ceilings to fill in shadows.
Wide shots are vital and dramatic and show the overall space well. However, details can be just as compelling.
Materials and traditional luxuries themselves are not important to show in detail. Rather, you must show the personality in the details. Staged items are perfect for shooting close-ups and setting the tone.
That pen and paper on the desk. The pastry and coffee cup on the side table next to an arm chair. The puzzle in progress by the bay window with a view. The tea kettle steaming with boiling water on the stove. These touches take your shots from a simple set of interior photos to the story of a lifestyle.
What are your tips for giving architectural photography a natural look and feel? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments section below.