How many times have you bought and opened an interior design or architecture magazine and dreamed of living in the comfortable and relaxing spaces you see inside? But more than that, how many times have you asked yourself just how the images turn out to be so flawless and rich in detail?
You will need more than just a good photo editing program, just as you will need more than just a good architectural project to create beautiful photographs. Certainly, decent basic elements are helpful, but what is essential is a good eye for interpreting the spaces you have before you.
I have been working in collaboration with the architect Mauro Soddu, from the Tramas firm, for two years now; together, we have created not just a solid friendship and working relationship, but also a balance between his concept of architecture, especially interiors, and my photography.
Your tools form the foundations for a job well done. Your camera needs the support of a tripod, possibly with a three-way tilt head to control the smallest vibrations, a three-axis spirit level for all directions and at least one decentered lens.
Often, the mistake is made of using a wideangle lens, but the problems with this are visible even after lengthy graphic processing, for example, issues with parallel and perpendicular lines.
Another essential tool, and maybe the most important, is patience: little, short movements can make the difference between a great photograph and an all-right photograph, both for you and for your client.
Create a good relationship with the people with whom you are working. Knowing their tastes, understanding their work and, above all, what they want to convey, are all aspects that can make your shoot easier and more stimulating. The one risk will be that you realise only at the last moment that you have forgotten some important detail. Study the building plan; go and have a look round, preferably twice, and at different times of day.
The presence of natural light can resolve a great many problems, just as it can create them. Personally, I don’t recommend using artificial light, but instead a greater light stop. This system will allow you to provide the brightness necessary to highlight details. Furthermore, ask your client to provide you with a render of his desired final result, so that you can best satisfy his demands and understand his point of view.
CBB House is one of the latest works by the architect, Soddu, whose construction process I followed. Documenting the project helps the client to understand how the structure takes shape via his alterations, especially those that are ongoing. The project in question is the renovation of a flat in an area of the old town centre of Cagliari, in the lower end of the city, near the harbour.
The main feature of this architecture is the spatial continuity, created using a glass wall. This solution enhances the visual aspects of the living spaces and, using natural light, highlights the substance, thanks in part to the combination of the white with the travertine.
The contrasting elements are an Indian door linking the bedroom to the entrance and certain dark tones chosen for the furnishings.
The entrance is delimited by a full-length mirror, which hides, via a system of opening panels, a second space containing the guest room, totally separate from the rest of the house.
The seemingly cold atmosphere changes at sundown with a warm artificial light that takes the main stage both in the false ceiling system and in the floor lighting that outlines the different areas of the house. The photographer is not just the person who chooses the scene; he also creates it. For this reason, I wanted to make some changes to the house in terms of furniture and objects.
Together with the architect, we chose to create a comfortable environment, with the help of Nicola Filia, a ceramics artist. Using the colour scheme as parameter, the ceramic pieces were positioned in such a way as to assume importance and embellish the different spaces.
Only when this had been accomplished did I decide to take my pictures. As I mentioned earlier, I like to compose a scene using parallel and perpendicular lines. Often, such images turn out very static. To make them more dynamic, I get someone to make a clean movement whilst I shoot with a long exposure (wide aperture and slightly slow shutter speed of around one second).
I also use these shadows in motion to provide a point of reference for the space proportions. I alternate shots from straight-on with those from the side. To give a sense of depth of field, in this case, I used the corridor, highlighting the various surfaces. The contrast between the white and dark colours made the scenes very striking to the observer.
In narrow spaces, if you can’t shoot straight-on, try overlapping foreground and background. This makes it impossible to describe the space faithfully, but it arouses the curiosity of the observer, who may later use the building plan to work out the architectural design.
Don’t forget to use a fixed lens, with good aperture, to capture a few details; in my case, useful for enhancing the texture of the travertine. With these few steps, I have described the ideal situation for producing a complete project.
Reality doesn’t reflect our demands; often, there is not enough time to follow every detail of this method, so you will have to improvise with new ideas. Be firm in your choices. It is always better to have few photographs, but ones that meet the needs of your client.
Don’t be in a hurry to get your work done but have the patience and determination to focus on the final objective. This is the only way to achieve good results.
The biggest problems you will encounter, if you decide to devote yourself to this type of photography, will be narrow spaces: learn to love them and you will understand how best to exploit them. Leave the building with a product that shows its worth.
Remember that it is not just a project that will become part of your portfolio or make your client happy, but it will also be a personal presentation of yourself. With this in mind, my advice to you is, above all: enjoy yourself!
Cédric Dasesson is a professional photographer whose studies in architecture caused him to rediscover his love for his homeland. This led him to engage in a long journey through the field of abstract and architectural photography of landscapes, especially on water or at sea, and to tell stories made up of simple elements. His main publishing channel is Instagram, by means of which he works with various internationally recognized magazines and brands.