Behind the scenes - anatomy of a photo shoot / by Sarah

What goes into a photo shoot?  I have been asked that question many times and depending upon the shoot, the answer varies greatly.  In my years spent as a commercial photographer I have experienced may different locations, elements and factors.  From photographing a mason laying block 54 stories up, overlooking Miami Bay, to literally carrying models on my back during a particularly wet and muddy spring fashion shoot.  

Over the past 3 years my commercial work has been focused solely on interior and architectural photography.  Perhaps it is my love of art history or my own labor of love in renovating our 1880's home, but there is something about the world of interiors and architecture.  I have found it to have so much amazing talent, who are also the most fun people to work with.  A day on an interior photo shoot can be long, but we always seem to have fun.  For that reason, I thought it would be fun to share what a day in the life of an interiors photo shoot looks like. 

5:45 am - My 4 year old is usually up sneaking into our bed and my 2 year old is calling for me from his crib (although recently it has been all about dada.)

6:15 am - Alarm goes off.  Even tough I have two little alarm clocks who are more precise that a swiss time piece, we still need a reminder that snuggle time is over and it is time to get moving. 

6:15-7:45am - Our morning routing is a finely orchestrated (chaotic) system to get everyone up, fed, and dressed in some sort acceptable, weather appropriate clothing.  I get the kids dressed and down stairs.  Our babysitter arrives to help finish up breakfast and the packing of snacks and lunch while I run upstairs to get dressed.  All showering must be done the night before because there is now way I have time to do all that in the morning.  I would have to actually get our of bed at 5:45 and I am not willing to miss snuggle time. 

 On shoot I want to look professional but I also have to be able to move around, climb, and be on my feet all day.  Which is why for a photo shoot day, I usually rely on some type of skinny jeans/pants, a silk top (Tibi and Rag and Bone are my favorites) and flat shoes, (Chucks, Vans-like sneakers, or a pointy toe flat if I am feeling fancy :)  P.S. this not my closet but a shot from a photo shoot I did for a store interior.  I WISH my closet looked like this. Uniform certainly dressing makes life easier.


7:45 am - I am literally waiting for pre-school door to open at 8, so I can drop my daughter off and then rush to the shoot location.  For earlier shoots or further destinations I enlist the hubby, babysitter, mother-in-law, legal driver with a pulse, you name it, to do the drop off.  

Then it is off to the shoot.  Again, all camera prep, packing of gear and organization has been done the night before.  Sometimes I even get to hop over to Nantucket for a shoot.  By ferry or by CapeAir (or Cape"scare"), I don't care.  I love those days.  

Arrive on location - I think my mornings are chaotic, making sure I have all my gear, etc., but my clients and their stylists have usually been prepping for the shoot for days if not weeks, shopping for styling props and getting the location all ready.  Not to mention, usually a pre-dawn trip to the flower market to get fresh flowers for the shoot.  Their cars are packed to the brim with all sorts of goodies.  My friend and talented designer, Erin Gates does a great break down of what an interiors photo shoot looks like from her end in her book Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life

Shooting - The actually shooting of a space can be quite calm.  I think that is what I love it so much.  For a full day shoot I have usually done a scouting trip, so I know approximately which angles and shots we want to get.  It can really make the difference. 

Then is it just taking time to play with lighting (only natural lighting if possible ) and micro adjust elements in the room.  Lamps moved a centimeter to the left, rotate the flowers a quarter of a turn counter-clockwise, reorient the entire rug, ya know...the little things.  My goal is to recreate what it feels like to be in the space through photography.  Do I use the sunbeams shining through the french doors, or do I defuse the light to make it more even?  Do we use that extra chair peeking into frame, or remove it entirely?  I love the collaborative nature of an interior shoot and often have the designer peeking through my lens or right over my shoulder as we create.  I also have my laptop tethered to my camera so we can really "see what the camera sees."

5:00/6:00 pm or when the sun sets - Photo shoot days are long.  We often eat lunch standing and are constantly moving around.  One day I logged 40 flights of stairs and 18,000 steps on iPhone health app.  And depending upon the time of year we are often racing to get that last shot before the sun sets, which is why summer can be quite the busy season.  It is amazing what cameras can do these days but there is only so much you can do without good old natural sunlight.  

Post Production - No matter how great the lighting is on location, or how perfectly we have arranged the flowers, there is always post-production retouching to be done.  Sometimes it is as easy as dodging in the view from the windows, (but not too much because you don't want the photo to look fake or have that terrible real estate rendering look), other times more extensive retouching is required or requested.  It is all about creating what the eye naturally sees.  How it would look if you are in the room?  High-lighting the design and the feel of the room.  

Just me, my computer and photo downloads (and lots of coffee and snacks:) 

Then I Dropbox link the photos to my client, pitch stories to publication and try to get those beautiful spaces seen.