Anybody who has ever done professional photography of a project knows that prep starts days, if not weeks, before. Most people might think you just roll up to the house, set up a camera and start clicking but that is...well, wrong, so very wrong.
We actually start planning for the shoot months before - here at NLI, it's even a part of our overall project calendar. Once orders for the main pieces (think upholstery and case goods) are placed, we begin planning for accessories and final styling - that includes styling the house for our clients lifestyle, and styling the house for photography.
These are usually separate categories because how a client lives in a space day to day is typically not as layered as a house is layered for a photo shoot. Therefore, we need to plan for any extra accessories we think we might want to use during photoshoots, including extra layers like blankets, maybe different pillows, extra pillows, books, lots of books, vase fillers...faux and real, fresh flowers, and decorative accessories galore.
I've been lucky to work with a couple of great photographers over the years. When you're searching for a photographer, research and look until you find one you jive with - someone who speaks to you both in their messaging and their captures. You may work with a few until you find one that you really love, but stay the course! Some might specialize in a specific look or niche, just like designers, while some do a little bit of everything. Also note that if you find someone you love, chances are so do other people so keep in mind they might book out well in advance so plan accordingly.
Prepping the Shot List
Before the big day, we make a list of rooms we want to shoot, and specific vignettes or views of each room we want to capture. We even take crappy iPhone shots ourselves in what I call a scouting day at the project, usually a day or two before the actual shoot, so we can review and discuss different options, until we decide upon our "money shot" or shots of the room. We also have a list of any detail shots we want captured.
Designer Tip: I like to write my wish list out in full, then I go back and prioritize a top 3 or top 5 shot list and give it to my photographer ahead of time. This is a list that basically says I will be so happy if we at least walk away from today with this list. Your photographer can then say 'yes, we'll have enough time for this' or 'no, you'll need to book more of my time,' or 'we can do this and more,' in which case you could send them your overall wish list list.
Time is money and professional photography is a must, but you also need to respect your photographer's time. They not only do the photoshoot, but there is also editing time behind the scenes post photo day...remember that going in. Just like you want your clients to respect your time, be respectful that they have some post-shoot work in front of them too.
I used a new photographer for my latest shoot, and although we booked a whole day for our photoshoot, this house was huge. At the end of our whole day range of time she told me, "Look, time is up, but I know you had more to photograph on your list. Do you want to add on hourly to capture more rooms?" I appreciated that because again, I knew she had edits still to do. Even with additional hours, we still have more to photograph and will be doing that after the last final three pieces come in for this project. I say all this to say you must absolutely have a shot list and a plan. Work the plan and still be prepared to yell "plot twist."
Here's a quick behind the scenes - and maybe something you don't realize seeing the beautiful photos that result from a shoot! Some of the rooms have to be photographed in the dark, with all the windows shut, like this media room! Or we have to hold big filter screens in front of hanging art to stop the reflection of light on the glass.
You're like a contortionist at times, who turns into a sprinter and marathoner at various points during the day. We're styling the shots (some people hire styling out - I'm not so trusting...yet) and then running back to view on the photographer's tethered device to see if anything needs to be tweaked, fluffed, or tucked before the button is clicked to take the shot. It's a huge investment in money and time but hands down, it's worth every penny as you'll soon see!
What Tools to Pack for an Interior Shoot
So we've prepped our list, shopped for accessories and styling objects galore. We go to various wholesale florists and specialty stores to buy fresh flowers, plants, etc. to bring more life in on picture day. We also bring clippers, just in case we see some beautiful branches or leaves calling our names.
At least one day before, we then pack our styling bag and our installation bag. Here's a list of our essentials - give it a save if you're building your own styling and installation bag!
Don't forget water galore, and snacks like almonds and chocolate! Anything that can be eaten quickly...because I'll admit I rarely stop to eat or drink on install and photography days. There's never enough time in the day, right designers?
Don't Forget These Tips
Pack your bags two days before and note anything you need to restock.
If we are in an unfamiliar area of town, we try to find restaurants that will deliver and look at menus beforehand and plan ahead for food ordering/delivery for our crew.
On shoot day, don't be afraid to unplug cords (so they don't have to be edited out later) and remove tags from pillows etc. It will save your photographer so much time - it's a no brainer! And they'll be able to deliver your images that much faster - win win!
Don't be afraid to move stuff around or swap things out for multiple shots or evergreen content as well!
Bring holiday styling items as well as your everyday styling items. Come November and December, you'll be glad you did.
I hope this is helpful for you if you're about to start planning for a photo shoot of your own! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! Stay tuned next week for the start of some gorgeous room reveals from this whole house renovation project.