Pulling out the stops for Design NJ Magazine
It can be surprising to see what sometimes goes into a photo session. The following show-and-tell describes a holiday shoot that made the cover and editorial for Design NJ magazine, despite some bumps in the road.
Design NJ Magazine, Dec/Jan ‘18
Original Dining Room Shot:
The dining room featured was designed by Alyson Sugar and decorated with holiday fare by Joanna Policastro, as appears in the editorial. It was magical, captivating, and colorful. Now, why didn’t I see a cover here? I guess that’s why I’m not an editor.
I thought the foyer probably represented my best cover chances. Joanna decorations were wonderful and even the chandelier’s orbs seemed like dangling tree ornaments. The architectural lines were amazing, allowing for a nice composition. The picture ran full page vertical in the editorial. It may not be a cover, but it still fits a magazine page nicely with only minor cropping from top and bottom.
Stepping outside …
There was no mention of how beautiful the exterior of this magical home was, let alone that it was replete with more of Joanna’s holiday decorations. I shot it, but originally there was one thing sorely missing… Snow! (Photoshopping in snow would be awful). However, it was January and snowing practically every week, so a well timed reshoot was already on my mind. Luck was with me, and the homeowner was infinitely cooperative, so the final shot was made during a re-shoot several days later.
The full width shot of the dining room was originally photographed with simplified place settings obscured by the chairs. I wanted to do close-ups of the table and settings, but they needed something. The homeowner produced salad plates and bowls. Excellent! I took the shots and we were all content. During post processing a frightful thought took hold … What about soup spoons?! OMG, how post processing can elevate I.Q. I called Joanna and told her close-up photos of the table needed to be reshot and along with the front because we needed snow. Picky, picky, picky …
Alyson’s living room design was just stunning. Additionally, I’ve never seen a more beautiful Christmas tree than Joanna’s… After composing the shot I tweaked coffee table books, brown orbs and the throw. (Perfect after only 20 tries, LOL). Normally a tiny fraction of the couch, such as appears on the right, wouldn’t work compositionally, but its arc echoed the window tops and coffee table curves nicely. I was obsessed with assuring the curves and circles the shot balanced-out. The tree had 100 tiny white lights and the room had a few lamps on. It was a traditional, warm and cozy look without any tampering. I shot it a few ways but as beautiful as it was in real life, on the laptop there were real lighting problems to grapple with.
Humbug. The first issue with having tree lights on was the bright tree just dominated the shot, which isn’t solely about the tree. After all, the whole room was decorated with holiday flair and to my eye Alyson’s entire Christmas design demanded equal billing. With tree lights off, a more balanced room presentation became possible. Also, the unavoidable yellow light of the clear tungsten bulbs produced a strong yellow glow surrounding the tree. Was that a “warm golden glow” or an unattractive yellow cast? Similarly, the room had tungsten (more yellow) lamp lighting.
After some test shots with room and tree lights off, and just subtle illumination of my own, I liked what I saw on the monitor. I also had prior permutations, allowing for some aesthetic change-of-heart if necessary. In post, it became clear that with the tree lights turned off, Alyson and Joanna’s work looked wonderful. And the tree? Equally so.
Opportunities for thorough creative expression in remarkable environments are rare, as they are so often limited by available time, access, or other constraints. My thanks to Alyson, Joanna, and the team at Design NJ for giving me this opportunity and making it happen.