Photographing furniture for manufacturers and retailers calls upon my skill as a moment maker. The best furniture photography shows the furniture design accurately, without distortion and in an inviting setting.
My experience shooting for furniture retailer Restoration Hardware and furniture manufactures Ironies and Brownstone allow me to efficiently direct a team. Often more than eight people will be hauling prepping and installing the the furnishings. Stylist and their assistants will pull together the set as drapes are hung, rugs are laid, chandeliers installed and the furniture arranged. The finishing touch will layer in accessories, art, florals as the stylists go to work. The client, art director and I direct this team to craft the composition for the look and right fit for the catalog or ad. Often secondary views of the setting are taken to be shown on the company website, in social media and other platforms.
Each client brings a style and design direction to their product offering that is part of their brand. The best photographers see and understand this brand message and help to develop it and deliver it in the catalog and product photography. When developing this brand aesthetic I like to think of a few adjectives to describe the look that is sought, I then use these adjectives as a filter for each photo to insure the message is conveyed in the visuals created.
Styling of the photography needs to follow the brand aesthetic. Most often an inviting setting emulates a real life situation. The best styling for furniture photography uses objects that harmoniously blend into the photo. Think of the finished composition as a completed puzzle with no empty holes and not a piece grand standing. The hero is the featured product and the props are supporting characters.
Lighting is important to the furniture photography. In my furniture and catalog photography I seek a natural lighting feel. Getting the lighting right takes years of experience to “see” the light in the room and know how it will move throughout the day. My furniture and product photography is a mixture of available daylight, strobe lighting and exposure layering.
Controlling distortion is a major consideration in photographing furniture and make it look natural. The precise choice of lens, camera height and camera placement is key to the best photo. On set in the room or studio I make slight adjustments to the composition by tweaking the furnishings avoiding awkward tangents and odd angles.
Silhouette photos of furniture can be shot in most any space, the key is to have enough room for the camera to be away from the furniture and enough room for the lighting too. The goal is that the furniture have a natural feeling without distortion. Back in the studio, Photoshop is used to drop out the background or silhouette the photo to appear to be on a white background, sometimes a drop shadow will be added so the furniture feels grounded. When the furniture has reflective or glossy surfaces extra care is needed to make a finished photo free of defects.
Product details and artisan photos lend a bespoke quality to the furniture presentation. For some assignments getting in close to the product and using selective focus to lends an artistic feeling to the layout and really useful in social media and website photos.
Post-production is the work done on the furniture and product photos after the shoot. With the use of Photoshop minor imperfections can be digitally repaired; wood grains highlighted, welts straightened, wrinkles remove. Hours of Photoshop time can go into making the final and publish perfect photo. When done well this Photoshop work is completely undetectable to the viewer.
I have more than a dozen years photographing furniture in rooms and photo studios and can produce, art direct, style and photograph products for catalogs and furniture manufacturers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and beyond.
All images © David Duncan Livingston