When I blogged with Blogger in 2012 this was my most popular post, over 75,000 views.
Today’s architectural photograph is the First Place Award Winner in the small bathroom category of the 2012 NKBA Northern California Design Competition. This residential bathroom in Campbell, CA was shot in 2011 for Angela Victoria Rasmussen of H2H Design and Build.
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to offer advice about photographing small bathrooms, below is my best effort on this matter without giving away the content of my IDCEC 0.2 CEU “Photography for Interior Designers” (#8369) (Yes, I am available for bookings. :)
Small bathrooms and powder rooms are a technical challenge for photographers because the limited space and the prevalence of reflective surfaces makes it impossible to light sufficiently, or nearly so. I work with available light and the HDR, or tonemapping technique so this isn’t one of my concerns. My images capture the character and atmosphere of the space as the designer intended because I’m not forced to attempt to recreate a semblance of the character and atmosphere through artificial means.
I work to create images that capture the essential nature of the space, directing my energies on communicating the design concept not the technicalities of lighting for photography or the cascading complications of altering the space to suit the mechanical limitations of the camera. I capture the design concept because I focus my attention on the artistry of the design - the graceful flow and form of the designers vision not the avoiding the distraction of artificial externalities.
Stuff is not your design
The first thing you have to remember when photographing small bathrooms, or any space or structure really, is that you’re photographing design not stuff. Anyone can put those beautiful soaps, that imported towel, that hand made tile from Barcelona that slab of granite for the vanity top in their bathroom. Adding “stuff” will not help show your design well, unless the “stuff” is in context to the situation you are photographing.
Less is more, before you put that beautifully ornate soap dish on the vanity ask yourself if you really need it next to the liquid soap dispenser. Remember that you’re not in the business of selling soap dishes you’re in the business of creating artistic design, photograph that.
Seeing the space before you
To get great photographs you need to see the space as an artistic abstraction, free of preconceptions and emotional investment, divorced from your relationship with the client, contractor or supplier and you cannot allow your insecurities to direct your efforts. Just because you fought with the contractor to get that light fixture mounted on mirror two inches to the left doesn’t mean it’s worth photographing. You need to step back and see the space for what it is, and as it is not how you would have liked it to have been if the client had another twenty-thousand dollars, or if they had gone with your original idea for the backsplash.
Focus on what you can show
We all know that we need a wide angle lens. The award winning bathroom show here is shot with a 12mm anastigmatic lens, most people reading this don’t have the resources to spend thousands of dollars on a lens. If you only have a 35, 28 or 24mm lens you won’t be able to show everything in one shot, don’t worry about it. I can’t show everything in one shot even with my lenses. You simply have to accept your limitations and work within them. Focus on what you can show not what you can’t. If you need to do a shot of the vanity then do the best shot of the vanity you can and do another for the shower partition and a third for the cabinetry, use your artistic talents to create a composition that is pleasing, engaging and tells the story of your design. Remember you're an artist, you can do this.