Shooting Empty Spaces

BdN-1 Photographing home interiors is not something that we normally do, so when we were approached late last year for doing just that we were cautiously interested. We agreed with the client to go have a look at the property  but were completely unprepared for what we found!…

The home was located in an upmarket neighbourhood, situated high up a hill with a beautiful view stretching from  surrounding suburbia to the distant mountains east of Cape Town. The house was brand-new, double-storey, and big –  really big! It was lovingly  built with tremendous attention to detail and a lot of forethought – squarely aimed at technology-savvy and demanding owners that love space and clean, modern lines. It was enormously spacious, very stylish, and completely wired for computer networks, audio and visual entertainment throughout, central air conditioning, and even boasting it’s own movie theatre! I will not bore you with listing  all the living spaces and features, just take my word that it had everything you could possibly want in a modern home – and a lovely place to take photographs of.

However there was a problem….. in fact, two problems….. two huge problems, at least from a photographic point of view.

The house was empty….. and unfinished.

The reason for being empty and unfinished was a simple and valid one – it has never been lived in before (brand new, remember) and the intention was that the new owner will want to select his/her own finishings such as cupboards, kitchen worktops and appliances, etc. All very valid and logical reasons, but definitely not a source of comfort for a photographer needing to creates images of a home for marketing purposes!

If you look at marketing material for homes you will see that these dwellings are normally fully furnished, beautifully decorated, spotless and complete, and surrounded by well-manicured gardens. Aside from having to consider lighting and other relatively minor considerations, these homes are normally quite ready for being photographed.

All of these were not options open to us, we were asked to prepare a photography proposal and quote for shooting the property as is. Our job was clearly cut out for us and presented a considerable challenge. How do you create images of an empty, unfinished home that will give some indication as to it’s size, purpose of the various spaces, and make it’s appeal apparent enough for a prospective buyer to want to go take a closer look?

After some vigorous head-scratching Jaunine was the first to come up with a possible solution. We took some time to fine-tune her idea and then proposed this concept to the client: Let’s use one or two models and some simple props to create the illusion of a relatively young couple that has just bought the property and are now planning on how to furnish it, complete the missing features, and tailor it to become their dream home in which they can start a family and build their future. Doing this should add some life to the images, create some indication of size and perspective, and add some interest to the images.

After seeing my initial proof shots of the property the client was enthusiastic for us to proceed, and what follows are some of the images that we came up with during two shooting sessions – the initial proof session during daytime, and the second during early and late evening, shot about a week ago.

Off-centre view from the street.

Off-centre view from the street with the couple ready for a night on the town.

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Rear view of the home.

Rear view with swimming pool lit up.

Rear view with swimming pool lit up and the lady of the house enjoying an early evening swim.

Inside view from front door during daytime.

Inside view from front door during daytime.

Daytime view of staircase leading  from the front door to upper landing.

Daytime view of staircase leading from the front door (out of view to the right) to upper landing, and another leading down to the living areas.

View from top of the staircase, across landing (TV area) with study at the back.

View from top of the staircase, across landing (TV area) with study at the back.

Daytime view from study, across upper landing/TV area towards front door.

Daytime view from study, across upper landing/TV area towards front door.

Inside daytime view of front door.

Inside daytime view of front door.

Daytime view of the lounge area with our happy couple having a quiet chat.

Daytime view of the lounge area with our happy couple having a quiet chat.

Our couple watching home movies in the theatre, just round the corner from the lounge.

Our couple watching home movies in the theatre, just round the corner from the lounge.

View from the open-plan kitchen towards the braai room, the couple getting ready for a light dinner before going out for the evening.

View from the open-plan kitchen towards the braai room, the couple getting ready for a light dinner before going out for the evening.

Dinner for two in the dining area.

Dinner for two in the dining area.

View from the dining area towards the indoor braai (barbecue) area.

View from the dining area towards the indoor braai (barbecue) area.

The couple relaxing in the braai (barbeque) area.

The couple relaxing in the braai (barbeque) area.

The couple enjoying the early evening view from the balcony adjoining the study.

The couple enjoying the early evening view from the balcony adjoining the study.

View across the TV area, into one of the bedrooms leading off from the TV area.

View across the TV area, into one of the bedrooms leading off from the TV area, with the study to the left.

Bedroom with a view.

Bedroom with a view.

Another bedroom.

Another bedroom.

Splendid bathroom en-suite to the main bedroom. Ideal for relaxing in the spa-bath after a long day!

Splendid bathroom en-suite to the main bedroom. Ideal for relaxing in the spa-bath with the lights dimmed , candles lit, flowers, and some bubbly after a long day!

Downstairs section of an apartment that is annexed to the main house.

Downstairs section of an apartment that is annexed to the main house.

Another view of the downstairs section of the apartment, showing staircase leading to the upper section.

Another view of the downstairs section of the apartment, showing staircase leading to the upper section.

Upper section of the annexed apartment, with en-suite bathroom on the left.

Upper section of the annexed apartment, with en-suite bathroom on the left. Can also be used as a home gym if needed.

Evening view of the upper landing/TV area with the study in the background.

Late afternoon view of the upper landing/TV area with the study in the background.

Our couple planning the placement of some artwork.

Our couple planning the placement of some artwork.

 

Although this was a somewhat unusual assignment for us, we thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of  solving the difficulties facing us. Our models for the shoot played along cheerfully and we had tremendous fun doing the shoot even though it took much longer than anticipated due to particularly difficult lighting conditions. Our respect for architectural and home interior photographers has grown by quite a margin!

The final product was delivered to the client earlier today and his response to it was a real pat on the back for us – he was over the moon and could not stop looking at the images, even asking “Is this really my house? Does it really look that good?” Well, what more can a photographer ask for – a happy client makes a happy photographer!

Finally, for the technically minded – all images were shot using a Nikon D700 body and a 16mm f/2.8 lens in raw, with the images processed using Lightroom and Photoshop.

As always – feel free to post your comments, thoughts, or suggestions below.

 

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  8 comments for “Shooting Empty Spaces

  1. January 8, 2014 at 02:19

    Great work !! I am contemplating a D600 and was doing some research on the performance of the Tokina 11-16 on an full frame because I did not want to have to replace it immediately. Judging by this gallery it takes incredible photos on a full frame… and I can live with keeping it at 15 or 16 mm in the near term.

  2. Derick Botha
    February 13, 2013 at 20:01

    Abosuluut stunning!!!! Deur van modelle en props gebruik te maak, gee dit “lewe” in die leë huis…mens mis nie eers die meubels ens. nie, inteendeel dit lyk “less cluttered”, en met die perfekte beligting binne en buite…..’n wen kombinasie! Well done!!

  3. Theresa
    February 7, 2013 at 08:01

    Well done you 2! Bringing out everything that is nice! And that in an empty house! Great job!

  4. rene
    January 18, 2013 at 10:35

    soos altyd, julle 2, spot on in die oortreffende trap, hoop die nuwe eienaar van hierdie prag woning gaan baie pret en plesier uit dit kry, soos die foto’s getuig Well done

  5. Isabel
    January 18, 2013 at 08:47

    Al wat ek kan sê 100 x 100 is WOW julle het julle self oortref. Baie mooi julle twee.

  6. Johan
    January 18, 2013 at 07:17

    Dit het baie goed uitgekom, ek is sommer jaloers.

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