trade tales | Feb 28, 2020 |
Picture perfect: How does your firm handle photography?

Design is a visual medium, so it’s crucial to document your work. We asked seven designers—Nina Barnieh-Blair, Marie Burgos, Christian Ladd, Allison Mattison, Sara Noble, Amanda Reynal and Melody Vaughn​​​​​—about their firms’ photography policies and how they handle clients who don’t want their homes photographed.

Melody Vaughn
Melody VaughnCourtesy of Melody Vaughn

Dealer’s choice
“Early in my career, one of my residential clients who had previously agreed to having their space photographed for my website changed her mind. They felt the transformation of their home was extremely personal and didn’t want to share it. I completely understood that. However, we were able to compromise, and they agreed I could take photos of the process and a few intimate shots upon completion. From that moment on with my residential clients, I decided to only take photos of the process, and if the client suggests a photo shoot upon completion, then I’m all in! As for my commercial projects, my contract clearly states that we have the option of photographing before, during and after.” —Melody Vaughn, Melody Vaughn Interiors, New York

Nina Blair
Nina Barnieh-BlairCourtesy of Nina Barnieh-Blair

Offer options
“I always try to arrange for professional photography at the close of a project and make sure to budget for it. A photography clause is included in our standard contract, and we discuss it together in the very early stages of the project. We try to reassure clients that it’s evidence of our work, it will not be published without their consent, and they have the right to [omit] name or location. We offer the option to photograph just for our portfolio with no intent to publish, and at times, we’ve simply concentrated on details of the project rather than the overall space. It gives the client their privacy and still allows us to have something in our portfolio. Of course, we’ve had clients who are very private and have in some cases walked back their agreement, but a clear discussion up front makes this unlikely.” —Nina Barnieh-Blair, NinaBDesign, New York

Amanda Reynal
Amanda ReynalCourtesy of Amanda Reynal

In writing

“We always have our projects professionally photographed soon after installation. Whether we are shooting a whole house or just one room, imagery is invaluable in documenting everything we do, as well as the evolution of our work. Generally, our clients are extremely gracious in allowing us to shoot their homes, but there have been those that said no. When a client feels uncomfortable, I explain how images of our work are vital to document the original and beautiful spaces we have created for them. We try to be discreet and respectful of our clients’ privacy while sharing images of their homes in the media. Because we have been denied in the past, we now have a clause in our letter of agreement explaining how we intend to photograph the finished project for our portfolio and possible publication. This has been helpful in providing visibility to the client, and hopefully shows that we care deeply about our work and creating a fantastic home for them.” —Amanda Reynal, Amanda Reynal Interiors, Des Moines, Iowa

Allison Mattison
Allison MattisonCourtesy of Allison Mattison

Talk it out
“Ideally, I like to photograph as many projects as I can, since each has unique elements that show our style in various ways. I have standard language in every client contract stating that we be given the right to photograph the project upon completion. Most clients are fine with that, but every once in a while I do come across a client who does not want their home photographed. This is usually discussed in the beginning phase, so that there are no misunderstandings. Generally, when this happens, it is a privacy issue, and often the client is OK with us just photographing details. We make sure to discuss the parameters of photo usage with the client, such as social media and print, to make sure they are comfortable with the exposure of their project images.” —Allison Mattison, Trellis Home, Hingham, Massachusetts

Sara Noble
Sara NobleCourtesy of Sara Noble

Flower power

“Photography has become so important to our marketing efforts, so we try to photograph as many projects as we can. We are proud of our design work and want to show it off. We have an honest conversation with our clients about our desire to bring in a photographer. The vast majority of clients are happy to let us photograph. On occasion, they may request to not have their name published, but they are kind enough to let us showcase our work. We always leave an arrangement of flowers as a thank-you. We also print the photos on quality paper to give to the client. A mutual respect allows us to make that last step fun for all.” —Sara Noble, Noble Designs, Leawood, Kansas

Christian Ladd
Christian LaddCourtesy of Christian Ladd

Clients anonymous

“Once I begin the initial planning, I discuss photography with the client. Once it is agreed upon and the project is completed, I bring in the photographer and we work together to stage and style [the space] with florals. Should the client prefer to remain anonymous, the images will only be used for my portfolio upon their approval. While we have had many clients opt out of their home being photographed, my relationship with clients takes precedence over the access to images. We also sometimes have clients set parameters regarding photography, including removing family photos or monograms, which we obviously abide if requested.” —Christian Ladd, Christian Ladd Interiors, Amarillo, Texas

Marie Burgos
Marie BurgosCourtesy of Marie Burgos

Profile pic
“The right to photograph projects is included in my contract. My firm reserves the right to photograph and publish all work performed for the client and to maintain the same for archival, advertising and promotional purposes. Images are how clients find me in the first place, so this is really a crucial point. Despite the contract and the precautions taken, it has happened a few times that some of my high-profile clients did not want to have their home photographed, despite signing the terms and conditions. This can be heartbreaking after all the work you have put into their home. But these are the same clients who have brought us the most revenue and the most valuable referrals.” —Marie Burgos, Marie Burgos Design, New York and Los Angeles

Homepage photo: A project by Christian Ladd | Courtesy of Christian Ladd

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