Too often I see fine photographs that have been over styled with things placed on a desk, table or counter for no purpose other than to fill space. You don’t want to clutter your image with things that distract from the design. Quite often this over styling is the result lack of clarity in your vision.

A minimalist approach to styling will focus the attention on the design. It can be difficult at times but we must remember that we are not photographing stuff.

Mulford Hall, UC Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
Gicklhorn Lazzarotto Partners (now GL Planning and Design)

When your photographing a space it’s important that you focus on the critical element of your design and build a composition that showcases that element. In this photograph the critical element was the clear finished maple and translucency of the glass. We then removed all the clutter and accouterments of life that obscured or distracted attention from the features of the work station, door, trim and glass.

Then we started adding styling elements that were necessary to realize the purpose of the space one by one, starting with the most important - the chair because a desk has to have a chair or it can’t be used. We then added the books to the shelf to realize the purpose of the shelf. Adding the plant gave us a third green color element and added a life element to reinforce the good chi of the design.

We knew we were done styling because we had achieved the goal of focusing the viewers attention on the design and describing the purpose of the space. Adding anything more to the surface of the desk would have cluttered the space and disturbed the balance of the image.

When your styling a space for photography remember that stuff is not your design. Start by clearing out all the stuff that fills the space until you start compromising the integrity of the design then slowly adding things back, one by one, working to define the purpose of the space and illustrate it’s use.

When styling always keep the words of Mies van der Rohe in mind “Less is more.”

AuthorDean Birinyi