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Interior design: Photographing high-end retail

Architectural photography is a larger genre than most people think. On the commercial side, the type of building or space matters a lot and some photographers are specialized in residential properties or hospitality, for example.

Today, I wanted to talk about photographing high-end retail. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been commissioned by luxury brands to photograph the stores opening in Toronto. It’s a pretty specific type of photography, so here are a few tips if you’re photographing a high-end store.

Bottega Veneta

Contract

Make sure you make them sign a contract and push for your terms. In my experience, large brands tend to want to own all the rights. So, make sure you send your contract and that they agree to your terms. Remember: They usually want the photos for press releases and internal documents, they rarely use them for actual advertising, so there’s room to negotiate.

Planning

Shooting a brand new store can be stressful. You often don’t have a lot of time and the deadline is tight. For example, the last store I photographed, they give me two hours on the morning of the opening. That’s pretty standard. Two years ago, Dior asked me to shoot its store the night before the opening (after 8 p.m.) and to have the proofs sent to Paris by 2 a.m. for approval before the opening of the store.

So plan accordingly. Make sure you have enough time to shoot when discussing the shoot with the client. I asked for more time on some shoots. In my experience, brands do not need a lot of images, often between five and 10 depending on the size of the store. So you don’t need too much time.

Piaget

Brand guidelines

It’s not rare for luxury brands to have specific guidelines for store photoshoots. They might send you a PDF with instructions, like types of shots, things to focus on, etc. If they don’t, ask if they have one or if they have specific instructions.

Setup

High-end brands are usually very particular about how the store looks. They flew someone from New York or California specifically for the photoshoot on more than one occasion. If you’re going to move anything, it might be good to ask the store employees beforehand. On my last photoshoot, they wouldn’t let me move anything in the store.

Dior

Lighting

Lighting is often very specific in stores and usually, it looks great in camera. I’ve learned not to bring my own lighting, as it just detracts from the design. Another mistake I used to make is making the shots too bright in post-processing, thus ruining the actual lighting of the store. As one client described it, it’s not a bright, bland office space but a store with specific lighting.

Retouching

Be prepared for a good amount of retouching. The client will likely send you a lot of instructions for the retouching, including cropping, removing distracting elements (reflections, sprinklers, lights, etc.), color correction (blue casts from outside) and more. Make sure you include enough time for retouching and that your pricing reflects that.

I love shooting high-end stores. The attention to details is impressive and the designs are just beautiful. If you can get that kind of clients, they pay well and the work is great!

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