I was overwhelmed by your kind response to my first photography tips post: everything you need for gorgeous interior photography. Thank you! I am (finally!) continuing the series with the next step: tips for staging and composition.
For those of you who (like me) like to organize things in your mind, I’m planning to go “in order” of how this process works. The series will continue as follows:
- Everything you Need… (photography equipment)
- Staging and Composition (this post)
- Editing in Lightroom
- Editing in Photoshop
If there are any topics you would be interested in that don’t fall under the above categories, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I’m open to expanding the series if you all would find it helpful! That said, here are my suggestions for staging and composition.
I have 15 suggestions for you today, but in an attempt to make it all easier to remember, I’ve organized them into four general principles – 4 “S”s for you to remember when staging your home for photographs:
1st “S” of Staging: STRAIGHTEN UP
This may sound like a no brainer… No one finds your dirty laundry spilling onto your couch especially inspiring, right? [Though that’s not to say we don’t all have it from time to time! 😉 ] But I have found that taking this a few steps further can make a difference:
1. Hide electrical cords
2. Empty trash cans (or remove them from the picture)
3. Remove clutter (my desk is rarely this empty 😉 )
2nd “S” of Staging: SIMPLIFY
I have found that as the quality of my photography improves, my need for “stuff” in the picture lessens. I used to need to fill the entire image with pretty things to look at… But the sharper, crisper, more vibrant images don’t need distractions.
4. Remove extra items from the background (for example, I moved books off the table behind the flowers in this image)
5. Move furniture, if need be, to get a clear shot of ONLY the vignette you intend (for example, I had to move the couch to take this image)
6. Close doors (unless you are focusing on what is through them, of course)
3rd “S” of Staging: SQUARE OFF
I know that this is not always possible because of the size and shape of rooms, but I have noticed a huge difference in the aesthetic quality of my images since I started really trying to square off, both vertically as well as horizontally. Like all of these suggestions, there are obviously times when gorgeous images break these rules, but I try to start with a squared off approach and move from there. There are also some wonderful editing tools to help you get your images perfectly square; I’ll share those in a future tutorial.
7. Move furniture, if necessary, to face your subject head on (I had to move the couch for this image, too; it wasn’t in the picture, but it wouldn’t allow me to stand directly in front of this table)
8. Get low so that you are on the same level as your subject (notice how the crib is perfectly square, rather than the birdcage, which is actually closer to eye level when standing?)
9. Get creative with your tripod (I had it sitting in the sink in order to take this image)
4th “S” of Staging: SUPPLEMENT
This is the fun part: supplementing can take on many forms, but it’s the opportunity to add that final touch to your image.
10. Add layers to your image (sometimes the foreground or background needs a little something! I shifted the side table with the log slice into the bottom left corner of this image to balance the trunk and tv on the right)
11. Repeat a color in the background (see how the basket on the armoire balances the accessories from the coffee table?)
12. Shift your furniture or art to better fill the frame (I pushed the tufted ottoman towards the red dresser so that it was no longer centered on the bed for this image, but it filled the frame better)
13. Include a luxury item (the crumpled throw, for example, invites people to relax)
14. Include a functional prop (much more fun than just telling my reader the shelf is waterproof 😉 )
15. Attempt balance, rather than symmetry (wood knife block and butcher block island… brushed nickel light and stainless stove – far from symmetrical, but creates a soothing balance)
As I mentioned, these are suggestions for staging and composing your photos. For every suggestion above, I can offer at least 5 images that break the rule, like this beautiful picture that is taken at an angle, rather than straight on…
Or the fact that the 2nd “S” is SIMPLIFY and the 4th is SUPPLEMENT. I realize that they are a bit contradictory… But that’s kind of the nature of photography.
But I find it wonderfully fascinating and fun. I hope you do, too. And I hope these suggestions were helpful to you as you consider your own staging and composition.
Update: Find the next tutorial in the series here.
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