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Secrets to Shooting Stunning Portfolio Pics for Interior Designers

By Robin Callan on October 07, 2013

Top right photo in collage: Claire Barrett Patrick. All other photos in collage: Suzi Q. Varin. © Room Fu

Whether you plan to work for a design firm or go out on your own as a freelance interior designer, your portfolio will always be your main selling tool. If a company or client is choosing between one prospective designer with substandard pics and another candidate whose work is reflected in beautiful imagery, you can bet the better-looking portfolio will win the job. Plus, if your photography is compelling enough, it could garner editorial interest from shelter magazines, newspapers, and design blogs. Here are nine tips for creating a dazzling portfolio:

1. Don't Scrimp. Everyone with a smartphone and filter apps thinks they're a professional photographer, but unless you truly have some photography training and mad composition skills, it pays in the end to hire a pro to shoot your portfolio pictures. Consider this expense an investment in your future income potential.

2. Rent It 'Till You Make It. If you don't have the budget for professional photography and have to go the do-it-yourself route, you can rent camera and lighting equipment from many camera stores at affordable rates. Taking a class or two to get up to speed with the basics of photography and composition is worthwhile, as are practice shoots in your own home, to get more comfortable and confident with the equipment.

3. Go Natural. There's nothing more pleasing than a room flooded with natural light. By scheduling your photo shoot when you have the most sunlight available in the space, you'll be able to capture this magic in your photos.

Photo credit: Claire Barrett Patrick, © Room Fu

4. Good Timing. If photographing bathrooms is on your agenda, wait an hour or two after your clients' morning shower to visit for photos. Why? Wet tile grout tends to appear darker, throwing off how others will view your selections.

5. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. While things definitely need to be neat and tidy, don't feel like you have to spend three hours creating a sanitized space before the photographer shows up. The camera won't catch everything — especially if your pics will be viewed online at 72 dpi. If you can't book the shoot to follow your client's regularly scheduled cleaning crew, take a few minutes to clear surfaces and stage the space. Photoshop is there if you need to eliminate a dirt speck here and there after the fact.

6. But Don't Be Afraid to Go Small. While it's true that there is some value in a prospective client seeing wide shots that demonstrate your talents for whole-room interior design, don't underestimate the power of a good vignette or tightly cropped shot. Images with loads of details can be distracting to the viewer. Highlighting special elements makes a cleaner-looking statement in your portfolio. Compose a close-up shot showing how you've combined different textures or fabric patterns. Zoom in on the beautiful contours of a chandelier you selected. Not only do these types of images end up being more artistically appealing, they effectively illustrate your design style.

Photo credit: Suzi Q. Varin, © Room Fu

7. Simplicity Sells. Eliminate visual clutter from your photos by limiting accessories and incorporating bolder shapes or colors that are easier to see from a distance. Bath mats are a no-no, as are soap dispensers, trashcans, tissue boxes and extraneous items on kitchen counters and bathroom vanities.

8. Open Door Policy. Any doors visible in your shot should be left ajar. It's a subliminal way of saying, “Welcome,” inviting the viewer into your design.

Photo credit: Suzi Q. Varin, © Room Fu

9. Photoshop Finish. Now that the shoot is over, there are a few things you can do to finish off your images. Don't give your pics jaundice or anything, but do add a slight bump of yellow in the color balance to give your photos a warmer, more inviting look. Also, take a moment to eliminate distracting minutia, like weirdly placed electrical outlets and ceiling fan pull chains that dangle into view.

Getting a great job as an interior designer depends on the quality of your portfolio photos. With these secrets in your back pocket, you're sure to get the images you need to move your career to the next level.

Bonus: Want to learn professional interior design skills? Enroll in the New York Institute of Art and Design's Interior Design Course today!

About the Author

Robin Callan is the founder of Room Fu – Knockout Interiors, a Best of Austin award-winning interior design firm whose work has been featured by HGTV, Apartment Therapy and various other publications. Her popular design blog for Room Fu features modern home decor, design tips, and a decent amount of snark.

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