In the age of Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok, it’s not an overstatement to say that killer interior design photography is a requisite for a savvy design business. “Quality imagery of your work is a must,” affirms Summer Thornton, owner of Chicago-based Summer Thornton Interiors, which is listed on the AD PRO Directory. “Without it, how can future clients see the caliber of your craft, your creativity, or your attention to detail?”
New York–based designer Crystal Sinclair, another AD PRO Directory listee, also calls photography a key to success. “Hiring a professional photographer has one hundred percent changed my business, and I one hundred percent recommend getting projects photographed,” she says. “It’s your portfolio, so it’s what people look at when they’re deciding whether to hire you. Good photographs help generate business.”
So what does it take to get the kind of photos that attract clients in droves? We asked Thornton, Sinclair, and three other industry experts for the secrets to their best shots. Here’s what they had to say.
Shoot for social
John Stoffer, of Chicago-based Stoffer Photography, started shooting interiors when his mother, kitchen designer Jean Stoffer, asked him to photograph her work. In the years since, both Stoffers have seen their stars rise—in no small part due to the matriarch’s Instagram account, which to date has 459,000 followers. “We’ve been very intentional about photographing her work, and all of our clients’ work, for Instagram,” John says.
His advice for Instagram-friendly photos? Use bright, airy images, brand your content with a consistent photography style, and take up as much real estate as possible. “Post as many things as you can in portrait orientation, or using the 4×5 crop, so it takes up more space on people’s phones,” he says. “If you shoot landscape, it takes up half the amount of space and makes less of an impact.”
As for content, John finds that full-room shots and wide angles outperform close-ups or vignettes.
Find a photographer you click with
Amber Lewis, founder of Amber Interior Design, Shoppe Amber Interiors, and the blog All Sorts Of, regularly shares photos of her work with more than a million fans across her three Instagram accounts. Key to her success has been finding a photographer she’s simpatico with. “I started using professional photographers pretty early on, and I’ve actually been working with the same photographer on almost all my projects over the last five years,” Lewis says. “She kind of just gets my aesthetic, and her photography style and my general vibe work well together.”
Thornton agrees. “When you’re choosing a photographer, you want to make sure you share an aesthetic vision, and that the work they create is the style that you’d like yours to be captured in,” she says. “Is it light and bright, or is it dark and moody? Do they shoot head-on at the subject most often, which is more graphic, or at angles, which feels softer?”
Hire a stylist
Interior styling might seem like an art that should come naturally to designers, but that’s not necessarily the case.