Our environment has a profound influence on us. For example, interior design has been shown to impact how we behave and feel, which explains our interest in the subject. Home/Garden Photography not only provides inspiration for our own living spaces but also often satisfies our curiosity about how other people live. It’s a reliable staple across mainstream media and less subject to trends and ups and downs than other photography genres.
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This specialty is distinct from architecture photography, which focuses on the structure itself. Home/Garden Photography usually concerns itself with everything in and around the physical structure and hones in on individual touches. This includes furniture, art, decor, cabinetry, and flooring. Home and garden images may or may not include people as they are an important visual element to show how the space is used. So it’s not a coincidence that many photographers who lean towards this specialty often also offer portraiture photography. Good home and garden photography showcases how somebody designed and crafted their living space and how they interact with it. In fact, a lot of home and garden photography assignments include the inhabitants or designers of the photographed space. Like a good portrait, it often reveals something deeply human about the owner. The Charlotte, North Carolina home and garden photographer Joel Lassiter says,
How people mold their personal environment can be a great look into who they are.
Photographers specializing in this genre need to be attuned to other people and their spaces to bring out their personalities in their photography. It also requires considerable people skills to make the homeowner feel at ease while showing the area at its best.
At the same time, it also requires an analytical mind and technical skills. Trent Bell is a Maine home and garden photographer. He says,
I think the primary skills you need are a very analytical mind and a very aesthetic focus. Shooting architecture and home and garden photography was one of the most tedious and difficult things I have ever tried to shoot when I first started.
The Los Angeles home and garden photographer Teal Thomsen agrees,
You need to be extremely detail-oriented to ensure lines are straight and smooth, cords are hidden, etc., while capturing the little details that make a space special. Also, you need a strong sense of natural light. You can add mood or drama to an image by knowing the sun’s position and when to shoot a certain space.
Photographers also need to be able to light large indoor spaces with a mixture of natural and artificial light. Eyes naturally compensate for low light and varying color temperatures emitted from different light sources, but the camera does not. Often, studio-style lamps or strobes, gels, and reflectors are required as well as color correction in post, to show the space as we perceive it.
Being able to offer aerial photography can give you a competitive edge. The incredibly prolific aerial and home and garden photographer Julia Lehman regularly takes her drones to assignments. She says,
With aerial photography, you can show the interesting relationship between nature and homes and gardens. How the human need for shelter and nature can create harmony. I feel I have a bit of an edge with the uniqueness of the imagery and can charge a bit more for it.
Especially if there are different light sources, some editing in post-production to adjust color temperature is often inevitable.
Home and garden photography is a firm part of lifestyle content. Specialist home and garden photographers work for a large variety of editorial and commercial clients, such as
If you are wanting to get hired as a home and garden photographer, we have some advice as well as some important factors for you to consider.
Should you specialize as a home and garden photographer or stay more of a generalist? There are pros and cons to both approaches. A specialist is often seen as more of an expert in their field, which can help with relationship building: it’s easier to categorize a photographer with a clear specialty. Then, if a home-and-garden assignment comes up, it’s more likely that your name will spring to mind compared to a generalist.
However, there are also advantages to keeping your portfolio more open. There are, for example, a lot of photographers who do home and garden as well as portraiture photography – maybe because they are both about showing personality. The Munich home and garden and portraiture photographer Elias Hassos believes that specializing in these two genres has helped his career. He says,
I do a lot of home and garden photography now but still love portrait photography and reportage, which is my background. I’m always happy to have variety and find that the different jobs cross-fertilize. In interior sections, the portraits are often the weakest images. The picture editor of Architectural Digest Magazine liked my portraits and wanted to upgrade the portraiture photography in the magazine. So he gave me a chance, and it worked out very well, as I got more work on the back of it.
Suzanne LaGasa, the Creative Director of the highly-respected Dwell magazine, says,
I would advise photographers who are looking to work in home and garden to create work for themselves that represents what they aspire to do professionally. We always love looking at personal work to get a sense of their natural style and voice. It’s also great to see their interests and technical comfort level. So definitely having a clear, inviting online portfolio is key, show personal work, tell the kinds of stories you want to tell professionally, and don’t be shy about contacting photo editors directly. It goes without saying that a creative, well-curated Instagram account also goes a long way.
Of course, every client and every publication has its own style and content. The closer aligned a photographer’s portfolio is, the greater the likelihood of being commissioned. Suzanne says,
We try to work primarily with fine art and portrait photographers who have the sensibility to see a home or garden the same way one would see a person: complex, with their own character, with flaws, uniqueness, purpose, and beauty. Our aim is for honest portrayals of a space, without artifice, styling, or over-produced techniques. We seek to honor the photographer’s point of view, their perspective, and sensibility to the space as much as possible.
For more information, please look at their rather brilliant Fruit Bowl manifesto.
The prices you can charge vary widely depending on the job, the client, and your experience. Editorial typically pays less than commercial shoots, which tend to have higher budgets. Pricing also depends on whether you need assistants, lighting equipment for indoor shoots, and a drone for aerial photography. Trent carefully calibrates how much he charges. He explains,
When you’re starting out, you have no way of proving your value other than performing work that stands head and shoulders above other photographers. Once your work gets noticed and clients seek you out, you can start to charge what established photographers who produce a similar quality of images are charging. If you produce images people love, you will be able to slowly feel out how much you can charge and where the breaking point is for your clients. I have overpriced myself before and learned from it. It’s humbling but a process you have to go through.
Of course, you can charge a premium if you have a unique selling point (USP) like a particular style, or be able to capture aerial images. Julia, for example, finds that she can charge more when she includes drone photographs in the production, as clients value the unique perspective it yields.
Learning to light interiors well takes time, skill, and equipment. It’s a specialist skill, so photographers versed in this specialty can often build up a more reliable client base and a steadier income stream than in other fields.