Well, OK, I guess maybe Candice gets a little bit of the credit with her amazing talent and eye for design ;-) But even the best-decorated rooms need to be shown in their best light to really shine. That’s where Brandon Barré comes in.
Brandon is based in Toronto. His impressive portfolio includes photos of people, including Canadian designers…
OK, Jay Purvis isn’t Canadian and I’m not sure if he’s actually a designer, but he’s cute, so his picture made the final cut :-)
…and scrumptious-looking food & drink photos…
Want to know the secrets behind Brandon’s work and how he got the gig photographing Candice’s rooms?? Well, you’re in luck — here’s Brandon with the scoop…
I probably first picked up a camera at the age of 6 or something like that. My mother was the family "photographer", so there was always a camera filled with slide film or the giant Polaroid camera kicking around!
One of my most memorable cameras was an antique Kodak medium format of my mother's from way back in the day that that had expandable bellows — so cool, I still have it!
What camera(s) do you use now?
I shoot 90% of what I do on a Canon 1DS Mk III (22 MP), more than enough res for a 2-page spread for example (even billboards, really) and relatively quick to use. Speed and efficiency are paramount when shooting in people's homes, and I usually need to cover one room in about 4 hours max.
How has photography evolved from the days of film & darkrooms to digital? What effect has it had on your work?
I have to say I was a real holdout in the film world and reluctantly switched over to digital for the speed, ease, and control. (I used to scan every frame of film I shot so I could retouch my work digitally — talk about time consuming...) I love digital now — it's come a long way from the early days, say 8 years ago or so.
How do you achieve such amazing sharpness and richness of colour in your photos?
I am quite a perfectionist with lighting (just ask my VERY patient assistant, Gill!), and I always use state of the art lenses. These are two areas to never skimp in photography.
Your portfolio includes photos of interiors, portraits, and food — do you enjoy all three equally, or is there one subject you like best?
At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, I'd have to say I enjoy all three. I think I'd get bored just concentrating on one subject only. (Shooting people can be somewhat difficult in that they rarely do what you want. Yes, I do have control issues!)
Your food shots are amazing — is there a secret to taking good food shots? The food in the pictures I take never looks very appetizing!!
Ahh yes, food... I started in this field with a lot of inspiration coming from my heroes in this genre — the great food photographers of Australia, the UK, and France (have you seen the ELLE food and drink mag from Paris — hard to find here, but amazing photography!)
How do you prepare for a photo shoot?
Prep for a shoot really varies from client to client. It comes down to doing my best to deliver the client's vision by showing off their product in it's best light, whatever it may be — interiors, food, or themselves. There are clients I've had for years — Candice Olson, for example; I've shot every single room she's designed for the last 8 years, and together we've established a particular style that best reflects her casual take on opulence and incredible talents with lighting.
Do you do a lot of traveling for your work, or do you mainly work in Toronto?
While I've shot all over North America and have clients in New York, Chicago, Seattle, etc., the bulk of my work is right here in Toronto.
How did you get started photographing interiors?
Once again, it comes back to Candice! I had shot all of her publicity photos for her then- upcoming show, Divine Design, and the production company called me to ask if I shot interiors and would I shoot the "afters" for the show. Having always been very interested in interior design, I thought it would be a perfect fit and proceeded to mess up the first few shoots as I felt my way through very different territory than shooting people! This is where my retouching skills really came into play, as I "corrected" all the mistakes I made on those first couple of shoots!
Do you work with the designer to come up with the best shots of the room?
The shot list (choosing angles, vignettes, etc.) is generally left to my own judgement.
What’s the most challenging photo shoot you’ve done?
Ha, ha! Good question. I've crouched inside fireplaces, squatted in showers, and surely defined some new Yoga moves shooting room interiors. But the most challenging situation I think is shooting people that don't particularly enjoy having their photo taken. This can happen sometimes on a publicity shoot, and it then becomes my job to essentially trick whomever I'm shooting into an unguarded moment that doesn't in any way register their discomfort. It can be quite a feat when you're also thinking lighting, composition, f-stops, etc.!
What’s the most fun photo shoot you’ve done?
I have to say I LIVE for client's reactions, and all of the oohing and ahhing around the monitor on a food shoot is totally inspiring! Can't go wrong shooting Candice O. for a magazine cover either — always lots of laughs and high energy!
What publications have featured your work?
I've had work published in all of the shelter (decor) mags in Canada, as well as a few in the States, as well as the UK (for Colin and Justin).
Are there any books or magazines you would recommend for people who want to improve their digital photography skills?
Really study images that are out there. Define your personal likes and dislikes. For example, put an average real estate magazine next to your favourite shelter mag (I personally love Livingetc and sometimes British Homes & Gardens) and study what you like and dislike about the images and what makes the "editorial" content beautiful and the real estate photos just so so (OK, I'm being kind — they're generally pretty terrible). Big difference of course is the subject matter, but 9 times out of 10 it's also the lighting, which you'll find radically different between the two.
Five tips for how anyone can take better pictures of their homes:
1. Daylight whenever possible. Which means longish exposures on a tripod. Artificial lights yellow the environment and "scream" real estate photo. (Of course there are exceptions to the rule. I'll use multiple exposures or cinema gels on the windows to mix daylight with artificial and avoid unpleasant colour casts.)
2. Take your time to get it right. We're constantly moving "props" an inch this way and that to create more pleasing compositions. For this it helps to be tethered to a laptop if you can, so you can really see what you are doing.
3. If it's still too dark even with a time exposure, bounce a flash of the ceiling for general "fill" light. Don't worry so much about severely overexposing (blowing out) windows. It backlights the space and creates mood.
4. Try to replicate the compositions and light you see in your favourite shots. It's the best way to learn.
5. Invest in a decent camera, reasonably wide angle lens, and tripod. You need to be able to take longish (1 second or more) exposures, and handheld just won't cut it.
So there you go, the secret behind Candice’s beautiful rooms :-) Thanks so much to Brandon for sharing his photographs, work experiences, and tips with us. Be sure to check out Brandon’s web site to see more of his beautiful photography.
Photos of Colin & Justin’s rooms from Colin & Justin
Unless otherwise noted, all other photos from Brandon Barré Photography