Move In: Getting The Details
“The details are not the details. They make the design.” —Charles Eames
Private Residence, Edgework Design|Build
The conventional approach to architectural photography and by many interiors photographers is to make a project shot list, starting with the grand, overarching views of the whole project or space. Detail shots are either much further down the list or missing altogether.
I take a different approach. Regardless if it's residential architectural photography or commercial photography, before I create a list of project shots, I walk through the project with the architect or designer. I ask a simple question: “What inspired your design?”
Aria Apartments, Doran Companies
Inevitably, it gets down to one small feature that sets the tone or inspires the vision of the entire project.
For instance, one of my clients designed a new airport terminal that he wanted to bridge the past, present and future of the city where it was located. His important detail? A custom floor that represented a nearby historic railroad bridge. It was such an important feature of the project that the airport authority granted an additional $500,000 to include it.
Minot International Airport, Coover Clark & Associates
Another time, an interior designer (I work with many Minneapolis interior designers) discovered a talented local artisan who creates magnificent custom tables out of single tree trunks. She encourage her corporate banking client to invest in these extraordinary works of art.
Bridgewater Bank, Momentum Design Group
Early in my career, I learned that important details like these can be lost if the photographer isn’t conscious of unwanted or unneeded visual content that clutters the image. One of my mentors would press his hand on my back. “Move in,” he would say. This constant process of subtraction makes for a cleaner, less cluttered picture that makes a specific point in the mind of the viewer.
Private Residence, Ground One Enterprises
Besides the architect or designer, I also enjoy talking to their clients, the owners of the project. Clients often talk about interesting details that emotionally connect them to their new space. For instance, a client told us how much she was taken with the way light appeared through a decorative concrete block wall day and night because she felt it gave her a glimpse into the private space beyond. Her unique perspective helped us create an image showing an important design element of the project.
Spoon & Stable, Minnesota Tile & Stone
Sometimes, discovering important details happen in the moment. Even though an architectural photo shoot includes a plan, I allow breathing room between shots to help discover unexpected design elements. Many times, I'll see an interesting detail out of the corner of my eye. the way a counter is constructed, the texture of a glass wall or the creative use of a material all add to the project's visual narrative.
Bridgewater Bank, Momentum Design Group
The process of photographing details is often different than shooting larger views. Instead of using a wide angle lens like a 24mm tilt/shift designed for architecture, I usually choose a longer focal length, such as a 50mm or 85mm lens, to capture details. This narrows the view and adds compression. Industry best practice is to use an expanded Depth of Field to increase sharpness from the foreground to the background. Shooting details is often just the opposite. Since we’re focusing in on small parts of a scene, I use a small or shallow Depth of Field to isolate the detail and throw everything else out of focus. The resulting photo feels intimate, as if the viewer is actually standing there in real time, experiencing it. HDR architecture photography helps in the creation of these images.
Private Residence, Biota Landscape Design
Capturing details bring a story, and a project, to life by adding to the visual narrative.
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