Friday, September 30, 2011

Composing a photo of vignettes or details.

This is my third post on the subject of photographing interiors, all written with the aim of improving my own photos.

Lately, I've noticed that I am particularly attracted to photos of rooms where the details, vignettes, or one wall of the room is photographed like the pictures I am about to show you.

Let's look at these photos.  Where is the photographer in each shot?

Now that you've had a chance to look at a few, what do you notice?

I see that the photographer is at a 90 degree angle to the subject being photographed.

Source: None via Camille on Pinterest

This is not a sideways glance.  It's like someone looking you straight in the eye.

It is straightforward and studied look which gives the feeling of honesty.

The photographer holds the camera lower than eye level as evidenced by the amount of table or other surface one can see in the photograph.

And for me at least, the fact that the picture is taken low to the floor gives an impression of intimacy, as if I am the one standing in the room viewing the scene. 

These shots are taken further away, but they still achieve the same effect for me.

Some are symmetrical.

Others are not.

But they are all, in my opinion at least, beautifully composed.

* * *

And just to make a point, let me point out a few pictures, ones that I love, which I feel could have been more successful if taken with the above ideas in mind.

I love pretty much anything by designer David Jimenez, and as much as I really like this vignette, I do wish the photo was taken head-on.  While sometimes it is nice to get part of a piece of furniture in the corner of the picture, the amount of the pillows, couch, and vase we see is not enough to let us get a feel for the room. Also, the light is on.  Natural light and no flash seems to work better in photos.

Here's another I really like, and while I realize it's hard to take a photo of a mirror without taking a picture of yourself, I think this would have also been better composed with a straight-forward approach.

If I could have this entire vignette somewhere in my house, I'd take it in a second. 
 I just don't think the photograph does it justice.  Too high, too much of an angle maybe?

While sometimes it would be preferable to take the picture head-on, you need to show a detail that cannot be captured that way.  Like the antique mirror disguising this medicine cabinet.

Just so you don't think I'm being a huge photo snob,
Here's a picture I took a few months ago.  In fact, all you need do is scroll down to previous posts to see that I have a lot to learn still. 

Long-winded enough for you?  Are you asleep? 

If not, here are some more posts on photographing interiors, should you want to read them.


  1. i'm with you camille. i love a front facing shot. the problem i have with them is that my house is so small that sometimes taking a front shot is nearly impossible. it requires acrobatics almost. i'm wondering if that is the case in some of the examples you've shown. love these posts.


  2. Astute observations, Camille! I'll have to file these away for future projects. I've never really thought about the impact camera angle and height would have on my photos. Thanks for the tips!
    Heidi @ Show Some Decor

  3. Nope, not asleep :) I thought it was a great post.

  4. Great post, Camille. Love your observations and your images!

    Have a lovely weekend!


  5. I liked this post and agree that straight on shots are the best. Small spaces pose their own challenges though and you sometimes have to go sideways. Ask me how I know :)

  6. Janet and Rene, you are right. I hadn't thought of that. Some spaces don't allow a straight shot. Bathrooms and entries just don't have enough room to get the whole detail.

  7. very cool info. I need to pay more attention to that stuff. I stink at pictures!

  8. Seriously, Camille, you are quickly becoming the go-to source for photo advice. I really appreciate the recommendations to photograph thing directly on. Looks like I'll be trying some of your tips this weekend...have a great one!

  9. My house is as tiny as a dolls house. I have to do closeups or the whole house and every animal, sometimes in extremely embarrassing poses show up.

    I'll give it a try though.

    xo jane

  10. I love this post....anything to help me with my picture taking is good! I suck!

  11. I am SO enjoying these and learning so much! I agree - they are very honest and intimate. The other thing that I think adds to the intimacy - and I guess this is more staging than photography - is that something is left "undone" you just walked into the room and found some one actually using the space - imagine that! ie, veggies ready to be cut, an open magazine, etc. :) Awesome post again!!! Thanks so much for your enthusiastic comments btw on my blog - I am loving them - it is very motivating to get such energy from you! :)

  12. Never have I payed much attention to this topic, but now I can't stop analyzing photos. I love these photography lessons you are doing!

  13. Thank you Camille. I love this series. My husband who is the photographer in the family always tells me not to take a photo standing. He says to bend down a bit and it always works for me.

    I look forward to your next photography class!

    Take care,

  14. Great post, Camille. I've had my house photographed twice and I've learned so much starting with what looks good in print doesn't often look best in real life and vice versa. It's all a huge work in progress. Great advice!

  15. I'm just enjoying your analysis and ramblings. Only since I've tried to take pictures for my blog have I realized how much thought must go into composing the vignette.

  16. I am really enjoying and learning from this series. You are so right about shooting straight on, and this came as a surprise to me. I see that I've been trying to compensate for poor composition by shooting from an angle to make the shot more interesting. Thanks for posting these beautiful images and your insightful commentary. So instructive!


I enjoy reading every comment.