by Christian Scully
There is a very basic law of photography that should be confessed from the get-go: What appears in reality is not what appears in the camera, and vice versa. It has been said that the camera is the greatest liar of all (quote a photography history course, somewhere, sometime). While you could delve for days into the philosophical and ethical meaning of this idea, I’m simply referring to the ability of the camera to lie, or perhaps slightly bend the truth, or light.
Our eyes and brain are very perceptive to our surroundings, able to recognize depth, size, and proportion as we move about a room. But place a glass lens at a single perspective and reality can start to morph. Pieces of furniture can change size. Five feet of space could become one. A tiny room can even appear large. It comes down to how the photographer’s lens choice translates the interior onto an image.
The real job of an interior photographer, after gaining technical camera skills and understanding light, is to become a mover, a stager, a set builder. I’m not the first in saying my job is 10% photography and 90% moving furniture, and though exaggerated, the notion is correct. Once I have determined the best angle to capture an interior, I then need to adjust everything in the frame according to the camera, not the eye.
Often, when working with a new client, I see signs of worry and panic on their face as I move a piece of furniture or prop. They are viewing the space from perhaps several feet above and to the side of the camera, viewing the reality, not the story that the camera is about to tell. After assurance and an explanation, I will create the image and reveal the results, followed by sighs of relief and a couple of laughs. They understand.
Representing interior design and architecture is a craft, requiring years of practice, trial and error, and attention to even the most minute details. It still consistently presents new technical challenges, and I’m always learning.
Christian Scully is a professional architectural and interior photographer and founder of Design Imaging Studios.
Most people can walk into a room and either take it for granted or acknowledge it, saying “nice room” and then move on with their lives. Not a photographer. It doesn’t matter what space I am in, interior or exterior, small or large, historic or modern, I autonomously scan my surroundings to find the best possible image, the “hero” shot. Like many photographers, I see the world in frames. I frame my vision with lines, textures, color, shape, tonal value, depth and pattern, always looking for that one great shot. It is this thought process, this visually addicted personality, that brings value to the title of professional photographer.