Embarking on Your First Kitchen Shoot
I recently was commissioned to take this set of images by a kitchen manufacturer after they had installed a beautiful new kitchen at the home of some close relatives. Having never photographed a kitchen before, I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare for the shoot, but they placed trust in my ability as a photographer and so after a bit of research I went along to take some shots, here’s how I got on!
Before you head in and start taking images, it’s important that you know what the images are intended for. The images that I was taking were to be used for a general portfolio, but if they were to be used in print for a brochure, then I would have needed to think about the orientation of the images and considered leaving space for text.
Be sure to ask whether the client needs images of any specific features within the kitchen, for example the taps or tiling. For instance, electrical appliance manufacturers will often supply their own images, so you often won't need to shoot those.
In my case, they simply required a general view of the kitchen, but I arranged for the client to be present at the shoot so I could ask questions and run ideas by them to ensure I was getting the results that they were after.
Clinical or Lived In?
The other requirement before you start shooting is to dress the kitchen appropriately. The company that I was working for commented that the current trend was to move away from empty and clinical kitchen shots, customers would rather see a kitchen that appeared more lived in.
Now it may be that for your client, they would prefer to have a set of clean and crisp shots of the kitchen’s features without any distractions, for which we’ll talk about wide angles, composition and angles later on.
Each approach will give a very different feel to your images and it depends on whether you want to win over customers with a warm homely feel or wow them with stunning design and features.
Dressing the Kitchen
When we arrived, it was evident that the home owner had spent a long time cleaning and tidying the kitchen, which saved us a lot of work, but also meant that some of the homeliness had gone. Handily, the client from the kitchen manufacturer had come prepared with a selection of items in order to dress the kitchen appropriately.
We carefully laid out a selection of vegetables on a rustic chopping board, arranged some fruit in some trendy fruit baskets and placed a pan on the stove! They may seem like small additions, but they didn't want the large surfaces to be bare. It also gave a focal point for detail and close up shots, adding interest to the overall portfolio.
We also ensured that all the shiny surfaces were wiped totally clean, any grease or smudges would have shown up in the shots due to the light reflecting off the surfaces, not the look you’re after when photographing a new kitchen!
Getting an Initial Wide Shot
I wanted to try and get a range of images for the portfolio, including some close ups of features and details, but my first task was to try and capture the space and feel of the room in one shot. I needed to include all the key features and appliances, as well as demonstrate the use of space and the size of the worktops.
I chose to shoot from the doorway to give the impression of entering the room, and got myself up nice and high in order to give a good view of all the key features. The pan on the stove and fruit baskets that I mentioned earlier added a sense of scale.
The client also requested some shots that included the doorways to show routes for entering and exiting the room. This isn’t something I would have thought of, but makes a lot of sense in demonstrating the use of space to customers.
The only real stress that I had on the day was dealing with reflections in windows and on glass surfaces such as microwave and oven doors (such as in the top right hand corner of the image below). I would occasionally catch a glimpse of my reflection within a shot, which can be easily amended by alter the angle at which I was shooting.
However, a bigger issue was the burst of light from my flashgun reflecting in the windows. As I was shooting in the evening and had no studio lights on me, I had no option but to use my flashgun. In hindsight, I could have solved this problem by pulling down the blinds over the windows.
This really affected my shooting angles. I feel that the best option would be continuous lighting. This would allow you to see how everything is reacting to your lights. Since most the these shots can be made on a tripod, you can use a slow shutter speed to make up for the lack of brightness.
Use The Lines
In a similar way to architectural photography, taking images in a kitchen is all about getting the lines right. There are many things with which to frame or divide your shots, such as door ways, windows, work tops and tables. Compositional techniques such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, converging lines and repeating patterns are all worth considering, especially in a brand new kitchen such as this.
You also have to watch out for the same pitfalls as architectural photography. Distortion and curvature of lines will kill your photos! You have to try to keep your lines straight. If this is something you come across regularly, you can purchase speciality lenses to solve this problem. For the occasional job, you can use Lightroom or Photoshop to correct slight distortion, but it's important to have good technique. Keeping your camera level will help more than anything.
You must have variety in your shooting angles when working in a confined space such as a kitchen. Angles provide the viewer a range of perspectives from which to view the same subject matter. So my first tip is to stop shooting everything from eye level.
Crouch down low to get a nice wide shot that includes the lighting fittings, or get up high on a chair or table to get a birds eye view of the abundant work top space. Try sitting at the table and shooting from there, or get down to the level of the worktops and shoot across them with the rest of the kitchen in the background.
Angles add interest and can often be the difference between an average portfolio of shots and engaging imagery.
Getting a User Friendly Feel
After I’d shot all of the angles, wide shots and close ups I could think of, I still had in my mind that the client wanted the images to have a ‘lived in’ feel, so they made the suggestion that we ask the home owners to sit in on some of the shots to make the kitchen feel user friendly.
I simply asked them to make a cup of tea and chat together at the breakfast bar. This avoided the stress of having to "pose" as they could talk together very naturally and forget that I was there. It was also a chance to show of some of the features of the kitchen such as the boiling water tap.
What Can You Take Away?
Why not give this a try in your own kitchen? You might not have the shiny new features and fittings, polished work surfaces or modern appliances, but it’s a challenge worth taking on as you’ll be forced to think about lighting the space, finding interesting angles, demonstrating the space and highlighting key features. Maybe ask a friend with a fancy kitchen if you can head over to take some shots.
Use the tips that you’ve learned here and see what you can come up with. You could even combine it with some food photography and before you know it you’ll have all sorts of new images to add to your portfolio!