Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Paul Costello wants you to take better photos.

Remember THIS post about photographer Paul Costello? If you love Domino magazine, chances are you've drooled over his amazing work.

I emailed Paul recently to ask him for advice on interior photography, especially since so many of us are blogging and sharing photos of our homes on the web. Paul had great advice:

From Paul:

Don't ever use an on camera flash.

Get a tripod and bracket the exposures. In otherwords if the lightmeter tells your camera to expose for 2 seconds, start there then do 4 seconds, then 8 seconds until it is obviously too bright.

Sometimes the best light is really low light... Don't be afraid of 30 second exposures.

Turn off your lamps and overhead lights... Not just in the room your shooting but in nearby rooms as well.

If the room and the styling are ugly, it's likely your pictures will be ugly too.

Even most point and shoot cameras have manual settings. People would be well served to get familiar with their cameras... They'll be suprised how many functions even cheap cameras have.

If you're scouting for magazines (this is good advice for anyone) remember that editors want to see the whole room... Avoid tons of middle distance vignettes. Also try to show how rooms flow to each other.

Frame up shots with things in the foreground and middleground. Sometimes it's cool to let a chair close to the camera go all blurry.

Try things that are contrary to the obvious way you look at the room... Like get really low or get up high. Don't think you need to always be super graphic and at right angles.

Take a shot from a better angle of view. Be willing to move yourself - or your furniture - around.

In otherwords, experiment while you're shooting... The best pictures are often surprises.

Lastly, the way a room looks best when you're standing in it is often not the best way to shoot it... Get ready to move furniture around.


Get to know your camera. Play with depth of field and aperture settings. You can then focus on points of interest and the background sort of fades away.

Sometimes details matter. Get close.

Natural light. It worked for the masters. It can work for you.

Thank you, Paul Costello, for your advice.


Habitually Chic said...

You couldn't have posted this before I had my apartment photographed?! Just kidding! This is great advice. I have a Nikon D40 that I need to learn how to use better although I have already started experimenting with the manual button and turning off the flash. It definitely makes a difference! Fun post!

Kwana said...

What great advice. Thanks so much for this post. I'm bookmarking it since I'm in the market for a new camera and really want to take better photos. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

That shot of Nick Olsen's coffee table shows you Costello and Domino's genius, how they are doing something no other decor magazine out there is doing. The photograph teaches you something about the guy AND his apt. You're never going to see a shot that revealing in an old-school mag. like Elle Decor.

Jules said...

Great tips--the tripod especially. My house is so, so, so dark that even in the middle of the day I can't take a picture w/o turning on most of the lights and using flash. I'm not joking--it's really bad. If I had the tripod, I could just let the exposure drag on. said...

Fantastic tutorial. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Decorno, so informative you are and of course you would have Paul Costello's email address! So connected you are. Paul is so generous with that advice, thanks so much! - Shelley

Decorno said...

Actually... I am not that connected. I just emailed him from his website and figured, what the hell. :)

He was kind enough to reply right away and generous with his tips. Lucky us.

erika - urban grace interiors said...

wow! this is the most informative post I've read in a long time! thank you for 'going there' for the rest of us! i just ordered a new camera and a wide angle lens and I cannot wait to start workin' it... i printed these tips for my camera bag - thanks Decorno & Paul Costello!!!!

pve design said...

I want to take the Paul Costello pledge to take better photos. Point, Click, with Paul in my back pocket!
He certainly makes it look and sound easy.

Anonymous said...

Oh, good heavens. What wonderful tips; thank you!

maison21 said...

i've been saying i need to buy a tripod for a long, long time. i really will now. really. swear.

Abbey Goes Design Scouting said...

This is awesome, you are awesome!

Decorno said...

No, you are.

Anonymous said...

I like that he's not afraid of "overexposure," that he finds beauty in light sometimes obscuring details. He's made himself one of the masters of that technique, and has made it a Domino trademark.

blogazar said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I was just thinking about how to improve my indoor shots earlier today :)

Suzy said...

What a great post - and great advice from a fab photographer! Thanks Decorno!

Rebecca said...

This is awesome! Very cool to share.

Rascallion said...

Thank you so very much for this post.

I am photographically challenged so anything helps! Great tips. said...

Does anyone know what symbol on the little round thingee on the back of digital cameras will adjust the aperture? Or how to open aperture on a digital camera? I have a SONY Cyber Shot 7.2 I would love an answer, so I can take some photos inside the house using low natural light. Thanks!

Anonymous said...


Instruction manual.

The Paris Apartment said...

Thanks for the insights. I have a few cameras and they're all so complicated! Your post is making me rethink playing around with it. What's the worst that can happen? Well I did sit in a museum in Paris for about an hour trying to adjust that redlight and the flash one time, it was so frustrating! It's such a science!

Things That Inspire said...

Great post. I wish all of the realtors in Atlanta would read this before taking pictures of homes for sale!

Teal Chic said...

I am so thankful you posted this blog. I constantly struggle with taking photos. Love your blog, I've added you to my blog roll.

Thanks again!!!

Mary said...

Wow, found this through a comment on houzz. Great advice!

The Wife of an Artist said...

I love this post. I photograph interiors for Apartment Therapy and reread this before every shoot. I'm off now to do a house tour...

Dress My Room said...

I love the name of your blog! I tell my husband HGTV is my ESPN!

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