How to take photos (without hiring a pro)

Welcome to our hints and tips for taking good photos.  While we’re focusing mainly on how to photograph a building, we hope that there’s something to help everyone in the ideas below.

If you’re a hotelier, a property developer, a restaurateur, an interior designer or a holiday home owner, you’ll know how important good images of your premises can be.  Of course, as professional photographers, we’d much prefer you to hire us to do your photography.  But times are tough and sometimes a little bit of DIY is the only viable option.  Or maybe you just have one newly decorated room to show off and don’t want the expense of hiring someone to photograph it (although do check out our room-by-room hotel photography service if you’re in North Wales or North West England).

We’re not going to tell you how to work your camera, as this will vary from model to model, and we’re not going to get all technical.  But we will touch on the non-technical aspects that can help your images to look good.

Switch the lights on

Even if it’s a sunny day, switch on every single light in the room.  This maximises the light available, helping to create a good shot, and also makes the room look cosy.  This is particularly important for bedrooms, pubs and rooms with dark colour schemes.

Make sure that your image is straight

One of the most basic tasks in professional photography is to ensure that everything in an image is straight, including walls and the horizon.  Doing this is a big step forward in making your results look as good as possible.   So take a careful note of the position of the architecture or landscape in your shot, focusing  particularly on vertical walls.  Sometimes you will find that, for technical reasons that we won’t go into here, your camera goes a bit Alice In Wonderland and throws out all the walls in a room at slightly different angles.  If this happens, choose  the most prominent vertical wall (it may be the one in the foreground or it may be a feature wall) and make sure that this is the one that’s straight.

Dress the room

We don’t need to tell you to tidy up (loo seat down, duvet straight), but have a think about how you can dress a room to make it look as appealing as possible.  A bouquet of flowers is the obvious choice; but do make sure that you vary the arrangement and don’t take the same bouquet from room to room.  Also make sure that dining rooms have their tables laid, as a bare, unoccupied room can look very sorry for itself.  If you’re a hotel or B&B which offers extras such as flowers or chocolates, show a representative selection in one of the rooms – without going overboard, as this can look unrealistic.

Holiday home owners have a particularly strong opportunity to dress their rooms.  Your aim should be to draw a picture of the kind of holiday experience a customer can expect.  Avoid personal items such as toothbrushes and think about your target audience.  Creating evocative vignettes that reflect your target audience can be highly effective.  Think about scenes such as croissants at breakfast, butterfly nets at the back door, wine on the patio and so on.

Note where the sun is

If you’re photographing the exterior of your premises, stop and take a look at the position of the sun in the sky.  Shooting into the sun, which is what occurs if it appears directly in the shot, can make an image seem over-exposed and blown out.  It’s much better to wait for a time of day when the sun has moved out of the way.

Think of interesting angles

Most websites and literature show a room in its entirety, or a large portion of it, and that’s usually highly appropriate.  But you can make your premises look more interesting by including architectural or decorative details as well.  Get into a crouch so that luxuriant plants frame the foreground of an exterior shot.  A close-up of a wooden heart hanging from a doorknob can look contemporary yet homely.  Even a simple close-up of a bedhead with fluffy pillows and cushions will be cosy and inviting.

Is there anything different about your business that should be included in the photographs?  For instance, are you a B&B that makes your own bread, or a farm with pedigree animals?  Anything that makes you special or different should be included in your list of items to photograph.

Strong-arm some models

We would only ever recommend using professional models, as they know how to relax in front of the camera.  And yet, people can add life and vitality to an image.  There are two options which can work – with a bit of luck.  The first involves people doing what they do without looking at the camera, such as a bartender mixing a cocktail.  The other involves letting some children run around and play while you take pictures.  If you’re concerned about the kids’ privacy, have them run away from the camera so that you can photograph them with their faces turned away from you.

Post-production (when the image is edited)

Professional photo editing packages, such as Photoshop, are expensive and complicated.  There are some options, however, that let you perform basic tasks to make your pictures look much better than in their raw state:

  • Rotate an image to straighten     the lines
  • Crop an image to make it look     tighter and more aesthetically pleasing
  • Lighten a dark room.

There are several free photo editing packages that you may like to look at: Picasa, PhotoPlus and Photo Pos Pro.  Even the Microsoft Office software that you probably have on your computer can be used to perform a simple crop (click on an image to open Microsoft Picture Editor).

And what about the camera?

Well, yes, good question.  Our main cameras cost thousands.  At this level you get a degree of depth, detail and clarity that an everyday camera cannot provide.  But there are plenty of point-and-click options that will do the job at a simple level.

New cameras are launched all the time so we won’t go into them here, but some useful places to check them out are these websites: What Digital Camera and the Which guide to choosing a digital camera.

We hope that these tips will help you create some good images.  Any questions? Just get in touch with us and we’ll do our best to answer them.  Thanks for reading!

About us: We offer creative and cost-effective commercial photography in North Wales.  Geoff Steen, our photographer, specialises in interiors, exteriors and corporate photography.  He has clients across North and Mid Wales, Cheshire, Merseyside and Manchester.  Find out more by visiting our commercial photography pages.

Posted by: Geoff

Image via