Interiors and Architecture

Photo Tips - Straight Walls Please

I always encourage clients or potential clients to reach out to me no matter the size of a project. I'm always happy to try and help in any way I can.  However,  I understand that not all projects have the budget for a professional photographer but I still want my clients to have great shots of their hard work!   So I'm here to provide some easy tips for better photos!

These tips will focus on using your camera phone but the same principals apply no matter what kind of camera you use.   For our purposes we will discuss two main topics: Lighting and composition.   These are just tips and shouldn't be taken as gospel.  Some of them are my personal preferences. 

Lets tackle a quick composition tip first - architectural/design photography focuses a lot on lines. In this case the walls, floors and furniture create very distinct lines.  When you compose a shot of a room you want to try to keep all those lines straight.  This can often be a struggle because rooms aren't always level/perpendicular.   But try your best .. pay special attention to the vertical wall lines.  We want straight up and down not leaning.  Check out the examples below

 

 See how the walls aren't straight ?  The bottom of the walls are being pinched in ... this happens a lot when photographing buildings.  Also see how it tends to lead your eye to middle of the chair?  So we miss out on seeing how the chair fits into the space.  It feels more chaotic. 

See how the walls aren't straight ?  The bottom of the walls are being pinched in ... this happens a lot when photographing buildings.  Also see how it tends to lead your eye to middle of the chair?  So we miss out on seeing how the chair fits into the space.  It feels more chaotic. 

 Here we are a little bit more pulled back so we can the rest of the area and get a better sense of how the chair exists in the space.  The chair gets a little more breathing room and the area feels more organized.

Here we are a little bit more pulled back so we can the rest of the area and get a better sense of how the chair exists in the space.  The chair gets a little more breathing room and the area feels more organized.

 

Next on the list : tough lighting scenarios.   The one I believe is most challenging for people is when the light is really harsh and directional.  Examples would be, a couch with a window behind it,  a window with streaming light coming from the side.  In both these scenarios what the camera sees isn't the same as what the human eye can see.    So how do we fix it?   

The easiest way is to use an HDR app on your phone.   I don't use HDR but it can be a life saver in when facing tough lighting conditions for the layperson.   In case you are wondering what HDR is,  it stands for High Dynamic Range and it refers to a range of tones beyond what is normally captured in a single shot by a normal camera.  The app on your phone accomplishes this by merging several exposure into one image.  But don't worry about that part.  For this post all we care about is that it can help us with the blown out windows and really dark shadows.   A word of caution with HDR - you want to be as still as possible when taking the photo otherwise it will be blurry.  Additionally the native camera app on your phone my have an HDR option.  These situations are the perfect time to use it.  See Below.  

 

 This is close to how your regular camera might take this photo.  There isn't much detail in the highlights/windows. 

This is close to how your regular camera might take this photo.  There isn't much detail in the highlights/windows. 

 Here we have the same shot .. same time of day but shot with an HDR app.   You get better colors and better detail in the windows. 

Here we have the same shot .. same time of day but shot with an HDR app.   You get better colors and better detail in the windows. 

 That wraps it up for these quick tips.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to drop me a note via my contact page. 

 

 

My Dream House in Sonoma!

This past summer I had the pleasure of photographing my dream house!   Well it wasn't actually MINE but a girl can dream.   The project was shot in the Alexander Valley area of Sonoma and is the work of the design team at MAS Design located in Oakland, CA.   

I asked Dawn Carlson of MAS design what their inspiration was for the space... their goal Organic Modern.

This project is near and dear to our hearts.  We worked with fantastic clients whose primary residences are in San Francisco and Tokyo.  Their vacation home is in a stunning part of the world, Sonoma County, and the home has incredible architecture and even more impressive views. 

Although the clients’ tastes are typically uber modern, we all agreed that the natural setting and views should be showcased above all else.  The organic world would be our inspiration, and although we always infuse an element of surprise into our designs, the focus here should rather be about subtlety and textures that would complement and showcase the natural surroundings. 

Our choices were either inspired by nature, or in stark juxtaposition with it.  We love the tension created by a strong juxtaposition (such as lucite and natural stone, for example).

The client had one great request:  That we find items with a story.  Don’t just create a beautiful/vapid space, but something that would also have meaning. The jumping off point was the pendant lighting over the kitchen island, which are a rare find.  They were once Indonesian water backpacks, converted into pendant lighting. There are a lot of special moments like this throughout the design.

From there we just kept with the theme, which we’re calling “Organic Modern”.  Chic, nature-inspired textures, strong juxtapositions, neutral hues, and the Japanese concept of “wabi sabi”, or perfect imperfection.  There was no shortage of inspiration.

                                                                        Dawn Carlson, MAS Design


The MAS Design team had some very clear design goals for the space and our goal was to make sure those were captured beautifully.  I always want my images to feel like you are in the room.  The viewer should get to experience the warm sun filtering through the curtains or the long shadows that cast along the wooden floor.   This is of course a bit of a balancing act because I also want to capture the details of each room accurately.  Additionally,  for this project it was essential to capture no only the design elements inside but also bring the outdoor into the mix as well.  No where is this more evident than in the kitchen.... who wouldn't want to cook in here???  Pasta Anyone?

This house was a dream to work with in terms of lighting!   I don't think I had to mutter the words " I need more light" a single time.  I really love all the images that we captured that day but my favorite of them all is the dining room.  I love the richness and silky, creamy feel of the lighting.  I can imagine sitting down to the table with some good friends and a nice bottle of wine and watching those long shadows move across the wall until they disappear as the sun sets across the valley. 

After watching the sun go down and would kick my friend so I could go relax in this amazingly serene master bedroom and bath?  Can't you just picture the cold beer or glass of wine on the edge of the tub? 

Ok! enough day dreaming... back to work!  I've been working with MAS Design for a few years now and each project just gets better and better.  We both agree that this has been our favorite butI have no doubt that they will continue to wow me with their designs! 

If you just can't get enough and would like to see more images from this awesome house check out the Houzz feature at the following link: Organic Modern

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

 

Oceans Apart .... Interior photography

Welcome to March! Last month I shot a new interiors project for one of my favorite designers, Katie Storey of Storey Designs.  Katie and I always have a blast working together!  She is fun, laid back and essentially lets me have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to making her design look best in camera.   Our recent project  spanned two days, at two very different homes owned by the same client!  One was a sophisticated  flat in San Francisco and the other a darling seaside house on the cliffs of Santa Cruz (aka my dream house!)

A sophisticated city escape in San Francisco
A sophisticated city escape in San Francisco
A cozy cottage by the sea... so dreamy and relaxing!
A cozy cottage by the sea... so dreamy and relaxing!

These two locations were a dream to shoot.  They both had great architecture and amazing light to work with.   However, no adventure is complete with some bumps in the road including a last minute cancellation from my assistant and a bed that weighed more than an elephant but absolutely had to be moved so I could try to get a workable shot.  So we put or back into it and got it done!

More gorgeous rooms from the location in Santa Cruz.... did I mention it's my dream house!
More gorgeous rooms from the location in Santa Cruz.... did I mention it's my dream house!
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I've been working with Katie for a while now and have shot other projects for her and we both agree that this is our favorite one.   I love shooting interiors for obvious reason such as great lines and light but part of my love affair with shooting a beautiful room is the collaborative process between me and the designer/architect.   I truly enjoy learning how each client sees the room and  watching how a their design evolve after we have worked together on several projects.  Truly the most satisfying part about the experience is knowing that I am helping them grow their business and hopefully get closer to their goals/dreams.  It really give me a warm fuzzy!