Monday, April 6, 2009

The Bachelor Pad Photo Shoot Story

I always try to very respectful of the designers whose work I choose to post on my blog because I know how much hard work goes into even the most simple of projects. It's not just the projects that take a lot of work though, documenting them takes just as much work which is condensed into a span of just two days! I finally styled my bachelor pad project professionally photographed recently and the photographer, Jonathan Ragle, and I thought it would be fun to not only post the final photos but chronicle what actually goes into a shoot. There is real life which looks one way and there is what the camera sees which can be totally different. As Jonathan described to me, "the camera is only one eye without a brain, so it flattens things out and distorts, but it also allows me to make omissions and emphasize elements of a scene that really make the point of a designed space."

Of course, before we could shoot the apartment, Jonathan had to take my portrait. If you have a good eye, you might notice that in post production, he put a painting over the television. Jonathan's advice is to be careful of any electronics that may date quickly. We also moved all the books on the coffee table so the spines faced the camera. Now when I read magazines, I have a tendency to look at them from a stylistic perspective and notice when they make these little changes.

I might be good at taking vacation photos but I didn't know the first thing about shooting interiors until Jonathan showed me the ropes. Whereas before, I might shoot the whole room, now I know it's better to create little vignettes. As Jonathan says, "if I simply stand back with a wide lens and photograph the entirety of every room in a place, sure everything has been documented, but then the photos look like real-estate listings or Library of Congress files. If we close in, and treat the photograph as a piece of artwork in it's own right, then people will be attracted to it's balance, and they will want to look at it and study it and, generally, they will want to see that place for themselves or recreate the feeling of it. It's like choosing where to place a window in a living room which looks out onto a great view. You have to make some decision, so it should be great! Also it quiets the experience and focuses the mind. If you want to see the whole view, then you can always go outside."

As Laurie Reynolds were styling the apartment the day before the shoot, Jonathan stopped by to take test shots which would then create the shoot schedule for the next day. The shot above is one of my favorites because it's one I never would have thought of on my own. After working with Jonathan, I look at spaces in a whole new way.


Part of the process involves making a complete mess and moving everything else in the room while shoot one particular area. What Jonathan is doing now is checking the computer to look at the composition of the photo. I really enjoyed this part since part of what I do is look at images all day and I can tell if something isn't working or should be changed. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes a room can look great in real life but the camera lens will distort the image and you need to move things in order for it to work on film.

Since these photos were just for the blog and my portfolio, it was just the two of working together most of the day which actually made it a lot quicker and we could take more shots. If it were a magazine shoot there would many more people and opinions involved. According to Jonathan, "a magazine interior shoot is often 'propped' to some degree, not unlike a home would be if it were for sale. This varies of course from subject to subject. If the owner is very close to a great designer or stylist, or is a great designer themselves, then we just move things around to suit the camera angles and convey the experience one has by being there. One big potential influence on magazine shoots is how many interests are at play. You may have things in a home which were given to the owner or donated to the shoot in hopes that they would appear in the magazine story...major things, like whole kitchens. It is rarely that extreme, but it does happen and those contributions need to be considered, especially where they really benefit the interior and the photographic story."

The desk was one of the shots were we had to move items around numerous times to make sure they looked right on camera. The apartment faces North so the light was also a factor and why we left some of the lamps on. Usually for magazine shoots, they leave all the lamps turned off.

I didn't have any good photos of the dining area of the apartment so it was important for me to get a good shot for my portfolio. Jonathan tried the same test shot that I took which was of the table with the wall of maps behind but it looked lifeless so I'm so glad he came up with the idea too shoot it from the kitchen. It's another example of thinking outside the box and looking for different angles in the room. I didn't crop any of the photos so I may take out the light fixture. We ran out of money when we got to that area so I had to paint it instead of replacing it.

It was also very important for me to get a shot of the bedroom without wrinkled sheets! I also love how you can see the city skyline through the bamboo blinds.

Since the linens were such a big deal and I mentioned to Jonathan how the "Do You Iron Your Sheets" post garnered the biggest response, he thought it would be funny to take a photo of me with the iron in my hand! Then I yelled at him since my shirt was untucked and I had no lipstick on and I made him retake it after I had freshened up! I also hadn't finished styling the room in this shot.

One popular interior shot is to cut the bed and just take it with one nightstand. There was also an outlet in this shot that Jonathan was kind enough to remove the visually offensive item in post production. If anyone forgot what the place looked like before the makeover, you can click here.

It was a lot of work but I am so happy to have professional photos to finally share now. Jonathan did such a great job setting everything up before we began that I don't think it could have gone any better. And even though it was a lot of exhausting work, it was really fun too! It's really a shame that there aren't that many magazines left since I enjoyed being an editor for a day. If anyone needs a photographer, I highly recommend Jonathan Ragle. When asked what he loves best about being a photographer, he replied, "I love the relationships I build with my subjects and the people connected. It's my job to see things that other people would love to see but probably can't any other way." Oh, and if anyone needs a stylist, you know where to find me!

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