How to Style Your Property to Achieve Stunning Photographs

During the course of our work we have visited and photographed many, many properties. Some have been private homes with exquisite interiors that we have had the pleasure to visit and talk about in magazine articles. Most are places we have stayed or holiday accommodation that we are reviewing either for our own website or on behalf of others. Whether it be a chambre d’hôtes or self-catering accommodation, we are often invited to style and photograph the properties for magazine features, advertisements, websites and brochures. Whatever the purpose you intend for your photographs, you should make sure the results reflect the properties at their best. Below are some guidance notes drawn from our experience to help make your property stand out from the rest.

Interior styling
Interior styling, private home, Perpignan, France

Plan your photo shoot carefully. Decide what pictures you require for your project(s) making a note of when the views will be at their best. Make a note of the times when the interiors get the most sunlight, and when the exterior looks best. This is the time to take your pictures. It may take more than one session to complete your shoot. Interiors can be shot on an overcast day whereas only blue sky and sunshine is acceptable for exterior views.

Clean and tidy the rooms and put an extra bit of shine on surfaces and chrome fittings. Pay extra attention to bed linen and towels. They must be a matching set and make sure that any cover / counterpane is absolutely spotless.

Remove from sight any dishcloths, cleaning products, plastic bin liners, waste bins – in fact anything that detracts from the “perfect” look. A good way to check is to look through the camera lens and the eye will be drawn to items that look out of place. Also look out for imperfections such as curtains that are not hanging correctly, cushions at the wrong angle, crooked pictures and so on.

Rooms often look a bit bare when unoccupied by guests. Make them look more homely with a few styling props. Keep looking through the camera lens and don’t be afraid to move tables etc. to close up spaces and create a better picture though guard against making a room look smaller.
Living area – place one or two matching cushions on the chairs or use a cosy throw combined with an up-market magazine and a tray of tea to give a relaxing mood. See how switching a table lamp on changes the mood and fresh flowers in an attractive vase can be moved around the property to enhance an empty window sill or side table. If there are French doors opening on to the garden – try opening them and see what effect it creates. Are there any interesting features, if so, take detail shots for your portfolio.

Kitchen
Kitchen in large open plan gite, La Vieille Fromagerie, Brux, France

Kitchen – it’s important to show all the best features, and include the dining table if at all possible. If you offer a welcome basket, have one ready to display and make it look really special. A bottle of wine and some glasses often works well and conveys the French holiday feel. A large dining table can be improved by adding a colourful table runner and some place settings. Always keep your options open on future uses by taking pictures with and without added props.

Bedroom – Lighting is very important in the bedroom as people like light and airy rooms but also want to feel cosy. Therefore, always take shots with and without artificial lighting. Detail shots are successful if you have particularly nice bed linen. It creates a luxury feel when combined with a simple flower arrangement on the bedside table.

Bathroom
Give the viewer more information about a guest room by showing the bathroom in relation to the bedroom. La Vieille Fromagerie Chambre d’Hôte, Brux, France

Bathroom – Probably one of the trickiest rooms to take effective pictures, not least because it is usually quite compact and the photographer can find him/herself in some very odd positions. Look through the lens and check that all the surfaces look especially clean. Include a set of towels if it enhances the look. Having some luxury bathroom items in your props bag helps. Try a bottle of French liquid soap or a block of huile d’olive savon combined with a fluffy white hand towel for a detail shot.

Private garden
Place yourself in an elevated position to make the most of a formal setting. Private garden in Provence, France.

Garden – whatever time of year you take the pictures, the garden has to look exceptional. Spend an afternoon cutting the grass, tidying the borders, raking the gravel – whatever it takes to make it look its best. A spray with a hosepipe just before you take your pictures will give a sparkle to a flower border. If it lacks colour, go to the Garden Centre and buy pots of flowering plants and place them in the borders.
Remove any plastic play items (unless being used to illustrate a play area), but do include seating with a table and a parasol. Place a tray with glasses and drinks or coffee pot and cups, plus an arrangement of flowers from the garden if this improves the picture. A colourful table runner looks good on a rectangular wooden table and plastic tables can be improved with a colourful plastic cloth though avoid anything too striking.
If you are taking an exterior view of the property, make sure any plants are in good condition, and again, add one or two pots for form (Box balls or small standard Bay or olive trees), or colour (pelargoniums, lavender).

swimming pool
Always photograph the pool in perfect weather. La Vieille Fromagerie, Brux, France

Swimming pool – it goes without saying that any imperfection in the pool or the surrounding area will show on a photograph so do everything you can to present a tidy, clean and safe environment around your pool. Sun loungers should be in perfect condition and placed in line or in groups determined by the space. Include any desirable features such as a shower, shady seating, changing area etc.

Using models
Some areas of your property may benefit from people in shot – in particular the play area, the pool, and the garden. If you think this might be the case, it is advisable to make a written contract called a model release between the photographer and the model. In France, this is known as an autorisation de publication or autorisations modèles. They can take various forms depending on the proposed usage, and should detail all subsequent possible uses for the photograph including various print and internet use. If someone offers to pose in their bikini at the poolside, this is almost certainly a case where a model release form would protect both the photographer and the model from any misuse of the images. A few example model release forms in French can be found on http://www.jpphotographie.com/page1autorisation.htm
When taking general shots of people, for example children playing in the garden, a group enjoying a meal al fresco, or even a scene from a local visitor attraction, it is not usually practical to get written permission from everyone appearing in your photos. In cases like this, don’t take close-ups, and avoid full face exposures.
It is always advisable to get the model to pose so tell them what you want them to do to get your picture. Think carefully about what they are wearing and how they look. If they feel awkward, give them a prop to use – carrying something, using something, or stroking a pet will help them to relax.

Roger Moss Photography & Features
Based in Poitou-Charentes, Western France, Roger Moss is an experienced photographer creating stylish images of holiday accommodation and period homes for all applications. Contact him on roger.moss@rogermoss.com to see sample images and quotations.

History Lives in the Buildings

We believe our house was built around 1850. Back then, rural France was much more densely populated. Balandière, had over 50 people living here within the memory of our oldest neighbours. It is now only 28 full time residents in 12 households. We had some cottages to the rear which were occupied by farm workers and pre-dates our house. Our neighbour Christine, can remember visiting her grandmother there, who apparently kept a moped in her living room!
Most people would have worked the land, and as we find out from photos and from clearing out cottages and outbuildings, it would have been a poor and hardworking life. However, Henry Marsac wasn’t an agricultural worker. He became a policeman and ultimately had a distinguished career.

Tucked behind our wonderful “marronnier” (Horse Chestnut) the house has had an interesting history. Fondly referred to as “la belle maison” by some locals, in its recent past, it had been divided in two by the Marsac brothers, Henry and Emile. Their names and other scribbles are etched into stone doorways and lintels around the property. Thanks to our neighbour John-Paul, who was born in the village, we have some wonderful photos of the Marsac family.

Marriage of Henry Marsac and Germaine, Balandière
Marriage of Henry Marsac and Germaine, Balandière. The wedding photo was taken in front of the barn.

The house underwent its most drastic transformation when the previous owners converted it back into a single family home. Unfortunately, circumstances changed for them and we turned up at just the right time to rescue it from its state of despair. Here is the house in an old picture showing a mysterious central chimney and no bathroom window. Most of the transformation was carried out by our predecessors, an English family, who brought the house back to life.

An old black & white photo of our house before it was converted back into a single family home
An old black & white photo of our house before it was converted back into a single family home

We have continued the restoration work, albeit slowly. The ivy has been replaced by a climbing rose and wysteria and the garden is no longer a jungle. However, It wasn’t until October 2005, that the facade finally had it’s facelift when the mason M. Moreau and his son arrived and worked solidly for one week and gave the house a new lease of life.

The house as it is in 2009.
The house, 2009.