On Instagram, I run a page called Layered.Home that’s focused on interiors: design, styling, home improvements and lifestyle in an interiors setting. Here, I work with brands on their brand awareness campaigns and product placements. All these involve styling and photographing products and spaces, sometimes with a specific brief to adhere to and at other times I have the freedom to style as I wish.
The unprecedented rise and popularity of social media platforms has paved a way for a new photography niche: personal brand photography. This is where photographers shoot content for brands to use on their website, promotional materials and social media posts. Whilst this is not my niche, I have photographed businesses, interiors and products both for clients and for my own social media page and continue to do so.
Whilst I hope the above articles will give you some photography techniques, this article will focus on some techniques when styling interiors for photoshoots and some tips for photographing them at the end. Let’s dive in.
Purpose of the photoshoot:
Before you can style interiors successfully, first you have to ascertain the purpose of the photoshoot. Who is it for? What is it for? Are there any targets to meet? Regardless of the answer, bear in mind that the styling must always be on-brand.
Whatever the purpose may be, it is imperative that you understand your client’s branding first and foremost and that you style to strengthen the brand, not to dilute it.
Some purposes of styling might be for the following:
- client’s website – images for landing pages, blog posts, slideshows etc.
- social media feed – styling content for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc
- seasonal promotions – spring, summer, autumn, winter, etc
- advert in a magazine
- feature in a magazine – magazines also have their own niches and styles so stylists match interiors to appropriate magazine brands
- product placement
- brand awareness campaigns
The latter two usually allow scope for styling off-brand. It may be because the client wants to reach your audience. Therefore, they may want you to style the product for your brand instead of theirs to reach your audience and as a result, expanding their customer base.
There are many styles with now trendy names coined to describe them such as Scandinavian or Scandi, Bohemian or Boho, Scandi-Boho, Modern, Mid-century modern, Minimalist, Maximalist, Eclectic, Mediumalist(!), Retro, Vintage, Contemporary, Traditional, Transitional(!), Industrial, Country, French-Country, Rustic, Shabby Chic, Hollywood Glam, Period (eg. Victorian, Edwardian), Coastal. And it goes on.
Play it safe by reading up on the style or mixtures of style and nailing down the accessories and pieces that are appropriate for them.
Understanding both purpose and style will help make you an effective stylist.
1. When it comes to styling, there are two general camps: hero or layer?
Hero styling is putting a piece in the spotlight, the piece that takes all of the attention. Nothing else surrounds it that might take away any of that attention and make the piece disappear. The aim is to evoke a strong response from the viewer and create maximum impact.
Layering is the opposite type of styling. This is where you carefully style a piece within an arrangement of various other pieces, often varying in texture and form. Layering creates a cohesively styled space that evokes a strong response – the same aim as hero styling, but as opposed to hero, it doesn’t do so alone.
If you think about it, the aim for many, if not all images, whether viewed on print or digital media is the same: the scroll-stopping, track-stopping, breath-taking response from the viewer. I’m sure there are many other ways to get there, but the aim is the same.
2. Evaluate what goes on the 6 walls!
In a space, there can be up to 6 walls; the latter two are almost always forgotten! When one walks into a room or space, the first things we see are usually eye level surfaces and spaces, and that means the walls in front of us and around us. We notice pictures, mirrors, tall lamps, and accessories at eye level.
A successfully designed space invites the viewer’s eye to wander everywhere and notice, not just eye-level design, but all-levels design. This includes the 4th and 5th walls – the floor and ceiling. A rug can do wonders to a floor in the same way a statement light or a painted/wallpapered ceiling can draw attention upwards.
Regardless of the style you are creating, bear in mind the 6 walls in your space.
3. Play with scale
Whether you are styling a Minimalist Scandi space or a Maximalist eclectic interior, do not underestimate what playing with scale can do to a space. You may be designing an all-white Scandi minimalist room with only six pieces in the room. Imagine having all of those six pieces at all the same scale – all small, medium or large.
Alternatively, imagine playing with scale using those six pieces so that you are putting an oversized light arching towards the center of the room or hanging low from the ceiling and an oversized rug on the floor. The rest of the pieces are a mixture of medium and small. Immediately you are upping the interest level and increasing the dynamic of the space.
In a Maximalist interior, it is easier to play with scale because you are dealing with so many decorative items often in varying sizes. The challenge is not so much the “what” as it is the “how.” How do you group and arrange together all these items so that there is order in the madness? Or so a full room does not look cluttered, and somehow there is a tidy structure to it all?
You can arrange by size, color, theme, in rows, or you can mix-and-match and group items, so a busy space gets punctuated by quieter spaces in between. I find that having such a structure helps with how the space is received.
Finally, you have finished styling. It is now time to photograph your space.
Photograph wide so that you show the entire space. Be careful of going too wide where distortions are disturbing or cannot be corrected, especially when shooting at 24mm and wider. A focal length between 35mm – 50mm is easy on the eye and won’t give you distortions.
Although interiors favor a wide-angle view of the space, close-ups are just as important. Use them to focus on specific features of the space or product. Get closer in and photograph vignettes and interesting compositions. Use mantle pieces or shelves for horizontal bases and alcoves or chimney breasts or sofa arms for vertical lines. Think of strong compositional framing and use elements in the space to achieve them.
Spaces look better when there is a contrast between light and shadow. This is why the use of flash (especially head-on, and flash that creates flat light illuminating an entire space) is often frowned upon and natural light is more favored. Choose a time of day where the light is at an angle, and you can photograph light and shadow. It looks natural and evokes emotion from the viewer.
That is what really makes an image successful.
I hope these tips help you style and photograph spaces and interiors.
Do comment below if you have tips to share, or if you would like to share some of the spaces you style after using these tips.