The art of photography can help make even a modest home design sparkle and has the added benefit of highlighting things that you may love, or need to change, about your home. I spoke with Anne Schwarz, a photographer who specialises in architectural and wedding photography and even runs her own gardening site, about her experience and top tips for the amateur.
How did you get into Architectural Photography?
I started in weddings (because that’s what everyone does!), and then I knew a few architects so that’s how that started. The interior design side of it comes in because architects want photos of the structure and the building, but their clients want photos of the rooms, so I end up styling for that too.
How does a shoot usually work?
Really depends. The architect will give me a brief, because they know what they want photographed, how to show the design of the house. They’ll give me a list of the details they want, the rooms – usually not the toilet! So then I show up with my bag of goodies because I have to be ready for everything, sometimes there are children and builders and nannies running around. I usually do a walk through with the architect and they show me what they want photographed and the angles they want, and what time of day they want as well. Often they want some evening shots as well to show off the exterior and have views of the lighting at night to create a cozy scene. So I will sometimes be there all day, from 9am to 9pm, and sometimes even stay over.
When I stay overnight, for example, I shot a house in Devon – when it’s far away you usually have to stay over anyway. It was Deborah Vos’ home, she’s an amazing interior designer and the house is beautiful, clad in black Japanese style timber. It does help when you stay overnight because there’s no time limit, and you do notice little details, and you have time to move things around without anyone there or being offended if you move or leave out things they may be sentimental about.
What little details make it look professional?
- Avoid estate agent photos – don’t try to get the whole room in. You’re not trying to show that you have a door and a window. Think about what you actually want to show in the image.
- Shoot in portrait – the vertical lines need to be straight, that’s what’s most important. Use the artificial horizon if you have that setting to see if it’s straight. You can fix the distortion afterwards in photoshop but there’s a limit to how much you can correct.
- Get the exposure right – use a tripod! Tip for windows – take the same photo, once with the exposure to focus on the outside, and once to focus on the interior, and use photoshop to replace the window that’s focused on the image with the interior focused. I don’t like to use HDR because I think it looks fake. Interiors are usually shot with a higher f-stop (not the shallow depth of field with the blurry background) so you see everything. But when you do this then your shutter speed has to compensate for it, so you need the tripod.
How would you set up or stage a house for the photograph?
Staging is important. Decide what you want to photograph, then set up your camera, take a picture, then look at the picture – not the room, the picture- and see what’s distracting. Then you can see what you need to move – “if in doubt, leave it out!” It’s often easier to take everything away and then add in little by little. The styling is fun – flowers, books – although be careful with the book titles! Try different angles, and often professional photographers think about layout – show the wider shot to have context, and then the close up of the detail.
How do you photograph bathrooms?
Everything reflects! It’s a real problem. What you need to do is get a wide lens, use a tripod, use as slow a shutter speed as possible, because most bathrooms don’t have much lighting. I’m quite tall (5’11”) so in this photo I was actually squatting all the way down and just the tip of my head was in the mirror so I still had to photoshop it out.
Limescale is something people don’t think about but those grey dots and smears will shop up and you can’t photoshop them all out – so I always bring Viakal!
Any other tips for the amateur photographer shooting their own home?
Photograph lots! And don’t be too hard on yourself – you see magazine photos and they’ve been heavily photoshopped, the photographer has spent hours on those photos – none of this is real! And don’t forget this is your own home, you make it nice and take nice photos of it. Play around with moving furniture and try out different angles. Find a small corner to focus on – practice copying a similar example from a magazine. I buy Elle Decoration just for the photography to get ideas and see how other photographers shoot things and be inspired. See your own home with new eyes!
Anne Schwarz is an Austrian architecture and interior photographer living in London, UK.
Following training in fine art photography, she began her career as an architectural photographer in 2012 and has since worked with a wide variety of clients including the Fries Museum, Netherlands, FormRoom + propstudios, Trendstop and Dior, as well as a number of architectural studios and interior designers.
In her photography, Anne blends a restrained aesthetic with an eye for detail to create images that display clarity and warmth, and convey asense of place and calm.