Saturday, May 17, 2014

Home Preservation: Photography Style

Somewhere between aspiring to be a math teacher and pursuing my dream as a professional photographer, I wanted to be an interior designer. Color schemes, coordinating patterns, furniture placement and utility: Decorating a room for someone else (or just myself) is as much an adventure in learning about the person as it is in applying paint and situating bedside tables.

Well, those interior design aspirations only lasted about a year, but through photography I've gotten about as close to that aesthetically-inclined career as I can get with my mirror and lens tools. And by that, I mean that among my many other photographic pursuits, I have begun framing other peoples' spaces (homes, restaurants, offices, hotels) capturing the essence and personality of the room.

This weekend on my visit home, my good friend/coach/mentor Kate asked me to help her with a project to showcase her home for advertisement for rental on Airbnb. (If you haven't heard of Airbnb, check it out, it's a way for home, condo, or apartment owners to rent out extra space for travelers.)

Kate's plan is to have two newly-remodeled  bedrooms (yes, kids, this is what happens to your room when you move out, apparently) available for rent, so we started upstairs with them. I've nicknamed one the "orange" room and one the "blue" room. The "orange" room - obviously not just orange, but many coordinating warm shades of red, coral, and brown - was her son's old room, but is now a spacious guest room complete with a cozy entertainment alcove. The openness of the room made it very easy for me to photograph.

In addition to taking wide-angle images of as much of the room as possible, I like to capture vignettes that showcase the space in a more abstract manner. When I saw the reflection of a part of the room in this ornately-framed mirror, I knew this would be a descriptive vignette.

The "blue" room - with beautiful white, gray, yellow, green, and brown accents - was marginally my favorite of the two rooms, but only because of my obsession with the color blue.  I love making color-focused images that showcase my favorite part of interior design (basic color scheme is often the first thing people notice when walking into a room), so this room appealed to me because of Kate's play with the light and airy blues and white with just a hint of sunshine yellow. In fact, Kate and I joked about me just staying in that room the next time I come to town instead of my parents' house. (It was a joke...mostly...I'll come by the house at least once, Mom, I promise!)

I find bathrooms very difficult to photograph, not only because of the limited space to maneuver, but because of the subject matter. While it is an important feature, it is often rather difficult to make a toilet appear aesthetically pleasing. (Maybe that will be my next personal project. I'll call it "Majestic Toilets.") Yet, because it is important to show renters the bathroom they have to look forward to in this beautiful space - as opposed to a grungy hotel - I tried to take a photo showing the different shapes and lines playing together in the room.

Kate generously plans to allow renters access to her pool table and kitchen, so these were our next stops on the tour. I had not yet gotten a close-up of anything, so I took the opportunity to focus on the billiard ball slightly blurring out the background to make the photo a little less cluttered while still showing everything in the room.

Kate has one of the nicest home kitchens I have ever seen, so capturing a couple photos to do it justice was quite a difficult task. By showing the details of the brick bar sides as well as a wide-angle shot of the whole space leading back to the entertainment room, I tried to show some of what the kitchen has to offer.

Our last stop of the tour was the deck. On a warm spring day, this would be the perfect place to read a book while smelling the flowers!

On my way out I grabbed this cute shot of her pup, Duncan (or "Dunkin" - she's a doughnut fan) to show to renters what kind of dog they would get to play with while enjoying their stay.

I had a blast with this shoot because I got to photograph beautifully decorated rooms all while catching up with one of my good friends and enjoying the afternoon. As I learn more about capturing the personality of a room, I hope to expand into the real estate market photographic for home owners looking to sell, or for decorators looking to showcase their work.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Uno, Dos, Tres, ¡Sonríe!


Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! Or, for your Star Wars nerds out there, today is Revenge of the 5th (the day after May 4th - "May the fourth be with you.") Dorkiness aside, I'm just happy the weather is finally nice again. And with warmer, sunnier weather, Jaimie and I have been able to shoot outside, taking advantage of the warm natural light and beautiful array of colors that Asheville in bloom has to offer. 

For me, outside shoots (especially in the spring) are all about color. Not only do the clothes saturated in bright hues come out when the weather gets warm, but the green and flowery scenery makes for the perfect backdrop for outdoor portraits. 

The trick with all the color is to create a balance so that the photos are vividly colorful without being overwhelming and cluttered. A couple years ago one of my professors taught us about "color key," as he called it, where dissimilar objects in a photo are the same color, creating a connection where there otherwise wouldn't be one. So for the first outfit (all black with the gray and yellow purse) I immediately remembered the lesson and set out to position Jaimie -unbeknownst to her! -  so that the yellows of the purse connected to those of the "no parking" paint and fire hydrant, and the black outfit refered to the black and gray asphalt. It may not be every model's dream to allude to a street, but I think the color key makes for a simple yet beautiful color scheme.

On the opposite end, I also love contrasting colors, and Jaimie's pink dress easily stood out from the yellows and greens of the foliage. We did this particular shoot right beside Montford Park in front of a couple historic buildings, and the architecture there was a serendipitous find in terms of back drops. Although Jaimie's outfit was decidedly modern, the light airiness of it blended nicely, especially with the bench scene under the tree, as the soft backdrops brought out her femininity.

Of all of the shoots we have done, this last outfit was by far my favorite. Until now, we haven't done any "lying down" poses, but I do believe we're onto something. Though I've been very happy with many photos previously, these are the first I might venture to label "editorial." Whether it's Jaimie's elongated limbs posed elegantly on top of a very uncomfortable stone wall, the odd angles of the photos with a more intimate perspective, or simply the flatter, yellower tones mimicking magazine tear sheets, these next two photos are by far my favorites.

This shoot goes to show that you don't need professional equipment and fancy backdrops to create beautiful and elegant portraits. "¡Sonríe!" means "smile," and I'm certainly smiling at the prospect of more outdoor shoots.