Thursday, April 14, 2011

Real Life ≠ Photography: Tips from Eddie Ross

Translating the look and feel of a room into a photograph is more than capturing the room as it is. As Eddie Ross pointed out in his talk Tuesday at the DC Design Center, real life does great interior design photography. In addition to styling, it's essential to move furniture and change the placement of accessories in order to translate the look of the room into a photograph that does it justice. Instead of trying to capture the whole room, focus on the "moments' - the shot of the fireplace, the corner with the secretary, the seating area. Help the viewer see the room as if they were in it. As Eddie mentioned, when rooms are professionally photographed furniture is rearranged to make the most of it. Don't think literally - think of the experience.

Style to Tell a Cohesive Story
In addition to ideas for capturing the look and feel of a room, Eddie shared numerous great tips in his signature funny and so-real way. While showing a photo of a kitchen that had been styled in a manic moment with cut watermelon, lemons ready to be squeezed, bunches of lavender, grilled zucchini, etc, he noted, "Check out the berries sitting next to the raw shrimp in the sink, if that's not a recipe for a food borne illness..." (there was a lot of fun and laughter throughout the presentation) Better to style a kitchen simply with a cohesive concept, such as a breakfast, so the styling adds to the design, not detracts from it.
Styling with a Season in Mind

If you're a designer, keep in mind that clients will look through your portfolio throughout the year. Do your rooms read a range of seasons or just one? Styling can help place the season of the room for the viewer. In the first photo, Eddie's choice of blue throw, pillow and flowers feels like spring. A change to an orange accents brings a warm, fall feel. In the last photo, a cream throw and pillow creates a whole new look - escaping the heat in August.

More Styling & Photography Tips:

- Don't skimp on flowers and try to use unusual ones.
- Open doors and windows to bring in life.
- When styling an etagere or shelf, don't place objects as if they're for sale at a store.
- Pull chairs out from tables so they look like they're really being used.
- Notice what's reflected in the mirror. Move things if you need to to make the reflection add, not detract, from the shot.

- Put clear plastic packing tape on the back side of pillow sham flanges to keep them upright.
- Avoid photographing a king size bed straight on. Choose an angle to capture the look.
- Is the bedside table leggy, with a vacant space underneath? Consider a stack of books or pulling up a chair.
- To keep the perspective right in the photograph, pull the second bedside table mid-way. It will look correct in the photo even though they're "out of place" for real life.

Dining Rooms:
- Instead of setting a complete table, consider stacking the plates and grouping the flatware together as if you're getting ready to set the table.
- Be careful not to photograph directly at table height when it's set with plates. They'll end up looking like weird saucers.
- To show off a beautifully set table, take the shot angled over the table.
- Don't burn candles in a shot that's clearly day time; it will have an out of place feel to it.


- If you're shooting down a hallway with a console with 2 lamps, you'll need to pull the second lamp out so it's not blocked by the other.

Living Rooms:

- Don't face pillows perfectly, make them look real.
- Notice furniture placement. A coffee table too close to a sofa will show up and seem strange.
- Bring in accessories - change out the ones that don't pop on camera.
- Watch out for furniture or objects that block the great views, such as a fireplace. If an ottoman works in real life in front of the fireplace but not in the photo, move it out.

- Don't overdo the styling. Eddie had us laughing with a magazine photo of a powder room with scented candles, and an air diffuser. Plus its waste basket was actually full of trash!
- Style the tub in way that makes sense (towel, chair to rest it on, etc) Skip the three trays of perfume bottles you'd have to climb over to get into the tub.

Hope you've found Eddie's tips helpful. It was a terrific talk & a great fun seeing Eddie and Jaithan in DC. If you ever have a chance to attend one of their events, definitely go.


  1. What great tips Eddie always has up his sleeve and I always appreciate his wit! He really is so nice and Jaithan too. That shows in their work and in the photos.

  2. Great tips! I had no idea about the pulling side tables forward and such! Very helpful!
    Now I know what makes it all look so god!!!!

  3. Great tips! My interior pictures always come up looking pretty horrendous, I will definitely try some of these!

  4. That chocolate ottoman is beautiful! I love all of the useful information in this post. Thanks. Have a great day.

  5. Thanks for sharing some of the tips. I asked them to do a post or two on their blog so I'm hoping it's something they'll consider. Definitely some good things to consider.

  6. I was so sorry to miss this... too much going on. :-(

  7. These are great tips- so many things I wouldn't have thought of like pulling out a table or a lamp when shooting two so that the perspective is right and one isn't blocking the other etc. Loved this!!

  8. The tips were so helpful, thanks so much !

  9. Fantastic round up of tips! Looks like so much fun.

  10. Great post and tips Michele! I would not have thought to pull out the night table or lamp for proper perspective.

    Do you know, my boss finally approved my Washington conference trip about a month after I already made other plans. What a putz. We were so disappointed as I had decided not to give a paper but still hoped to come. I asked him several times about it and then gave up.

    Darn! Will be back to DC eventually and once thought of coming for the cherry blossoms but imagine it is a zoo then. Luckily we caught the cherry blossoms in Vancouver last week.

    Hope you are well. xo Terri

  11. Love it! Thanks so much for your wonderful post about me and for the great pictures!
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  12. What a fantastic post..I've bookmarked it for future reference..such useful and easy tips. Eddie is such a great guy!! thanks for sharing..have a lovely visit my blog when you have a moment! xx meenal

  13. Love the tape on the sham flanges idea!

  14. Some great design tips there!
    Beth x

  15. Michele,
    This is wonderful! I had so wanted to make the lecture and just couldn't get away---so it means so much for you to take the time to share the details of Eddie's talk. I love that he mixes great ideas with such humor!!

  16. Thanks for sharing those tips! It sounds as if it was an event that was not to be missed. Sorry I did.

  17. thank you SO much for generously sharing your notes! when i saw that eddie was giving this talk, i so badly wanted to go, and couldn't...your post was the next best thing. many thanks. xx

  18. Loved hearing these tips. "Syled" rooms and real life sometimes seem to get in each other's way.

  19. Great seeing you there Michele!! Eddie was great, thanks for introducing him to me!

  20. What great tips. I'm so excited to learn about packing tape on the back side of pillow flanges! That has always bugged me doing bedroom photo shoots. You are sooooo wonderful to share with those of us who are so far away! I have a photo shoot on Monday that I will be styling. This post came in very handy! Thanks to you and to Eddie Ross!

  21. I have watched stylists and photographers as they shoot my projects for various magazines. It truly takes an eye to capture the shots. I am more of a travel and landscape photographers, and struggles when I need to photograph vignettes in my showroom. I visualize through the lens but the lighting is so tricky. I apply all the tricks mentioned by Eddie and it makes the difference between an amateur shot and a publishable image.

  22. I agree...getting a great shot is not easy. Recently I was asked to send in some snap shots of my house to shelter mag. I was disappointed with them, and I'm a pretty good with a camera. I know many of these tips...but not all. I could have used them...

  23. Thanks so much for posting this! GREAT tips. I recently went with my sister (who is a photographer but not of interiors) to photograph a house that my husband was selling. I tried to convince them that things needed to be moved around for the photos (what looks great in person will look different in a photo) and in the process broke a vase - oooops! Everyone watching was sooo mad at me (turns out the vase was already cracked and the client didn't care AND I replaced it with a nicer one before they came home) but the point was that to make a nice photo, things need to be tweaked. I used the same points in this article when telling my husband what he needed to tell his client WHY I moved their things ;) I will bookmark this post for sure.

  24. Great post! Eddie Ross just amazes me sometimes...he seems to be everywhere and so productive and creative!

  25. How did I miss this?! These are really great tips that can help all of us photograph our projects better. That's what is so great about Eddie......such talent and always such a great sense of humor.

    Lucky you to see them in D.C.!!!

  26. Great things to think about especially for a novice photographer!

  27. great tips. seems like so many rooms are styled to within an inch of their lives these days! it can feel very contrived, but Eddie's shots are always done perfectly!