Builders and Interior Designers: How to Work with a Photographer

Exceptional photography doesn’t just happen in the moment. It takes preparation, especially in the case of architectural photography, whether you’re a builder capturing your work or an interior designer looking to frame your achievements within a broader space. Importantly, making sure you get the photos you want the first time can save you significant time and money. Like any other project, you want the best quality with minimum expense.

Choosing to use a professional photographer is one of the first steps to ensure a quality result. But that’s not your only obligation as the builder or designer. You need to spend time before the shoot helping the photographer understand the building or its interior components to help get the shot framed just how you want it.

Each piece of the puzzle you can illuminate and discuss before the day of the shoot is one less surprise for you or the photographer, which means more quality time getting the images you need to help grow your business. Here is our best advice for getting the results you want.

Shooting the Exterior

Photographers will benefit from knowing the full scope of a project. If possible, provide a site plan in advance so they can begin assembling the images in their heads. You’ll also want to double check that construction activity has, in fact, completed. Even something as simple as window washers being present can cause delays or ruin the perfect shot.

For buildings in urban settings, it may be necessary to have police assistance to redirect traffic or guarantee parking for your photographer. The same challenge in a more mundane form may occur if parking is an issue even in a suburban area.

While it may not be necessary to access the building, remember that interior lighting and blinds may still affect an outdoor shoot. Having interior access is a helpful way to avoid any issues.

For new construction, you may need to wait until landscaping has finished, as an unfinished portion of the site can spoil the shot as well. Other landscaping details, like fountains, sprinkler systems, and automatic lights, have the possibility of interfering with a shot. If you don’t have the ability to control an automatic sprinkler system, for instance, check in advance to find out the timing of when it will be on.

Shooting the Interior

The most obvious—but possibly overlooked—need for interior photography is access. Make sure you have a plan to gain access to all parts of the building. If you’re shooting on a weekend, the security setup may be different than during normal business hours (not to mention elevator functionality). Also, let your photographer know in advance if specific areas will be inaccessible for any reason.

Just as a site plan is helpful to a photographer in the initial planning stages, so too is an interior floor plan. This can save considerable time once the photographer is onsite, giving the photographer more time to spend shooting and less time spent planning.

Whether the building is brand new or not, there’s always a chance that some debris may be left behind on the floor. See if you can secure access to a vacuum and basic cleaning supplies—this may provide the much-needed emergency cleanup to save a shot.

Also for interior shots, the photographer will want to know whether it’s permissible to move objects like desks or other furniture to better capture a space. As the interior designer, you may want to clarify this in advance. If computer or television screens will be within the frame, your photographer may want to have them turned on, and it may be necessary to have them project a certain image for best appearance.

Lighting Considerations

Light is pivotal to photography, and your photographer will want to know in advance about the availability of adjusting lighting at the site. Larger buildings may have automatic lights. It’s always best to have full control, but if you will not have control over certain lighting, letting the photographer know in advance removes one more potential surprise.

For advanced projects, it may be necessary to have access to the circuit breaker and, potentially, an electrician. This may be especially true with new buildings that could have a few bugs. (Knowing you have access to spare bulbs can be a lifesaver for shooting an older space, too.) As noted earlier, control of shades and blinds—or the knowledge that there are none—may affect the best time of day to photograph a space.

Who Needs to Be There

Depending on the project, it may be just you and the photographer, or the cast may include a range of characters. It’s important that everyone knows their role on the day of shooting. If your photographer is shooting during an active workday, make sure all employees know what is taking place. (An advance memo to have employees organize their personal space is essential.) If you’re shooting after hours, check the schedule of cleaning personnel to avoid any overlap.

For some shoots, models may be used to provide a sense of life in an otherwise empty space. Make sure they’re briefed on expectations, from time on set to appropriate attire. If your shoot includes children, be sure to get all releases in order in advance of the shoot.

While checking on every potentiality can be time consuming, it’s not nearly as painful as arriving at a shoot unprepared. It’s easy to understand how neglecting even one of these responsibilities can make a shoot more costly, less productive, and result in an inferior product. Planning is the best way to make sure your construction or interior design efforts are seen as you intend—a positive impression that leads to more business for you or your firm.

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Michael Conway

Owner of Means-of-Production. A marketing agency for architects, interior designers, landscape and design-build firms. We're dedicated to increasing website visits, lead conversion and sales growth through through the use of content marketing, PR and website design.