Photographing kitchens: A few things I've learned
I make no secret on this website that I have worked for a long period at Affordable Granite – “the South East’s leading supplier of solid stone worktops.” This has meant that, alongside growing in experience and skill photographing brides and grooms, babies and large scale events, I have become a specialist interior photographer, photographing kitchens and kitchen worktops in particular.
All of us from time to time want or need to photograph a room. It may be for the purposes of selling or renting a property; it may be just as a souvenir of that lovely hotel upgrade you had in Marrakesh – either way, you want pictures that look right. What are the secrets to taking good photos of interiors?
The first priority for any series of photos that aim to describe a room is the general shot – the image that takes in the whole space, and in a way which is more or less the way you see it as you enter. I find that in most rooms there is one position which gives the most pleasing view of the whole and, though I may take images from several different angles, one resultant photographic view which makes the cut as the definite photo of the room. So be ready to move around a bit until you find the sweet spot which gives you the result you need.
The connection with the classic rules of perspective
Any general view of a room is going to be made or broken by the accuracy of the perspective view. Ever since the Italian Renaissance and the elaboration of single-viewpoint perspective concepts by Vermeer and other Dutch masters, the western mind has been more or less ruled by the convention that verticals should look vertical and horizontal lines should angle together towards a vanishing point or points.
The fact that our eyes – and our cameras – actually also see vertical lines converging doesn’t break this convention. Unless we are very consciously looking up – perhaps at a skyscraper as in the World Trade Centre photo here – general views of buildings and rooms look a bit “off” if they don’t obey the “vertical verticals” rule.
It is possible to see the principles laid down by the Dutch masters in this image of a Yew Tree kitchen with in-frame doors in Cuckfield, West Sussex. I find the kitchen – and this image of it – intensely pleasing. Verticals are vertical, a tiled floor would keep Vermeer and his chums happy, and the Steel Grey Granite worktops are superb! 😉
To get images that look right, in terms of perspective, the camera itself needs to be set square to the vertical. In other words, it needs to be straight and level, with all verticals vertical. A room photographed like that will look right – a room where the verticals are squiffy will not. When photographing kitchens, how do I get the verticals so exact?
- Using a tripod and taking time to set the camera properly – it’s spirit-level stuff!
- Making any small final corrections in Photoshop afterwards.
Photoshop can’t work miracles with perspective, but if the resolution is reasonably high, and there is a reasonable amount of space around the main subject, to stretch and squish, then some corrections can be made. Taking the photograph with a good wide angle lens is a great help; very often there just isn’t enough ‘space’ to do much. The tweaks below to a customer photo show what can be achieved when the original image isn’t too far off.
The general view is not the only way to look at a room, of course. Using my own kitchen work as a lens, over the coming weeks I plan to look at other ways of photographing kitchens and other interiors so as to give a broad and thorough treatment to any indoor space.
Kitchen taken with Nikon D700 and D800s © copyright Andrew King Photography