Shooting Interior Spaces: Are You Getting Your Best Shots?

Professional interiors photographer Sara Essex Bradley offers her best tips.



Kinship spoke with New Orleans-based interiors photographer Sara Essex Bradley to learn more about making every shot count. Sara’s work has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, Luxe, Southern Homes, Flower, Garden and Gun, and she’s a regular contributor to New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles. 

When presenting your interior design work to the world, nothing speaks more loudly or clearly than beautifully-shot photographs. Sara advises, “It is hugely important to have professional quality images of your work. Photography shot by an experienced professional tells the story of who you are as a designer. Designers that I started shooting for 2–4 years ago are now getting House Beautiful “Designer to Watch,” or getting asked to do show houses, and they work with a PR person to disseminate images. These designers are the ones getting their projects covered in magazines.”

We’ve gleaned more of Sara’s best tips, shared below.

Tell Your Story

“Hone-in on your point of view so that what you want featured in your portfolio distinguishes you from other designers. A picture should convey your point of view.”

In one fell swoop, a photo can convey your philosophy, aesthetic, thoroughness, attention to detail, as well as the type of projects you take on. What is your aesthetic, what type of work are you doing? What story are you telling through your work? The photography in your portfolio needs to be consistent, of a piece. If there are colors, textures, patterns found throughout your work, highlight those. And whatever your end goal – or your ideal client – your portfolio needs to reflect that.

Consider The Lighting

“Some photographers totally light rooms when shooting, and that can be gorgeous. That’s not me. I work for clients who desire natural light. Overcast is the best light; you don’t get harsh shadows.”

Quality photography is all about interacting with and controlling light in the best way. The type of lighting you use when photographing is part of your aesthetic. Whatever your preference, be consistent. And religiously check your work on the computer screen as you go! It will give you a much better idea of what is being captured and what may need to be adjusted for the next shot.

Frame The Shot

“You want to try to shoot rooms straight-on where the seam of walls and ceiling will be parallel to the edges of the pictures. In a corner, all those lines make a less pleasing photo. While you can’t see as much of the room shooting straight on, you do get a better photo with much more impact in that it makes the viewer look longer.”

When you enter a room, you can see nearly 180° thanks to peripheral vision. A camera captures a much, much smaller view. It captures an edited version of the whole. Consider composition, excerpts of the scene, and don’t be afraid to get in close and capture details. If a photograph makes a viewer want to see more, that’s a good thing! Your work has piqued their interest.

Photograph Every Project

“I know designers who got swept up with their busy careers, moved on to the next project and look back and wish they had worked with me from the beginning and had photos of all their projects. Especially as they look to doing books.”

This point cannot be stressed enough. Designers must reframe their thinking and incorporate professional photography as an essential part of each project. Designers often build the expense into the project’s budget and pass it down to the client. Photography shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Hire A Professional 

“Editors are more likely to run a story when a project has been shot professionally.” 

Professional photography is a great tool when it comes to growing your business. The best way to get more eyes on your work, whether through magazines or Instagram, is with excellent photography. Practically speaking, Sara recommends that designers start thinking about a professional photographer when about halfway through project. Then get a loose production schedule in place at least six weeks before completion, nailing down dates as you get closer.

All photos by Sara Essex Bradley. Her books include House Proud: Unique Home Designs, Louisiana and most recently Dog Decor: Canines Living Large. You can view more of Sara’s work on her website or Instagram.

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