Tower Rooms Victorian 01 XL >The Recipe for a Great Interior Photo...Valuable Tips and Techniques
The Victorian Room at Tower Cottage B&B

Earlier this week we photographed Tower Cottage B&B in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. It is a recently and BEAUTIFULLY renovated Victorian, a couple of blocks from the beach. Innkeepers Maureen and Tony have done an exquisite job restoring this mansion and loading it with amenities and special services. Honestly, it is one of the nicest inns we’ve visited on the Jersey Shore. (You won’t find Snookie at this classy inn!)

We get questions all the time from photographers and innkeepers alike inquiring about how we light and put together a typical Jumping Rocks interior photo. Although we do our best to make spaces look NATURAL the process is anything but. Composition, lighting and styling are the main “ingredients”for this recipe and we will cover these points in this post.

MG9677 Edit XL >The Recipe for a Great Interior Photo...Valuable Tips and Techniques
CLICK TO ENLARGE..notes on lighting. Exposure info 1/10 sec @ f 9 400 ISO, 28mm, Canon 5d Mark II

Composition Notes
The rooms at Tower Cottage, in typical Victorian fashion, are not large (but they are beautifully appointed). This room was a challenge as a canopy can make a room seem claustrophobic, especially in a photo. We chose to get closer–and under–the canopy to open up the photo and make it more intimate, inviting and romantic. We also chose to include a peek through to the bathroom, which gives the photo more depth and interest. Another device for creating depth in a photo is a strong foreground/middle ground/background, in this case wine/bedside lamp&flowers/bathroom.
Showing just a part of a small room is a good device for making it more enticing, without being deceptive. In a smaller room, a wide angle view is almost always a BAD idea (see what happens to the bed post in the above photo? Yuck!)

Styling Notes
The innkeeper had several more pillows on this bed–great for comfort and style, but not so great for taking photos. We asked permission to remove some of them. The golden rule in styling is…EDIT! The bed became a little “vast” so Mark added the wine and used a napkin to soften the silver tray.  Both flower arrangements were placed to reinforce the foreground/middleground/background routine,  discussed in the composition notes. The arrangements were designed to match the scale of both the lamp and the bath fixtures. (People often ask why we ask for UN-arranged flowers on our props list–this is why!)

Lighting Notes
To keep the lighting natural and real-looking, our main goal was to balance the ambient lighting conditions with the artificial lights we bring in. We want lamps to glow just enough and windows to emit a natural, pleasant glow. The main light or “key light” in this room is strobe “A” as well as the natural window light. The windows create a soft glow and “A” opens up the shadows  and removes the “gloom” factor from a pure ambient exposure. The key light in the bathroom is a small top-of-camera-type flash bouncing off a wall. Strobe “B” is a strobe fitted with a grid-spot to throw a focused beam on the pillow on the bed. All strobes were set off from a pocket wizard radio control from my camera.

There was some strong direct afternoon sun on the right, so we added a large white reflector to reflect light back on the wine and give a highlight to the right of the front pillow.

We choose to overexpose the windows a bit to white-out the windows, because the view from this window was a house next door. The rule is only show a view if it contributes to the story you are telling. Lastly we added a diffusion panel at the end of the bed to soften the light on foot of the bed.

We have shot literally thousands of guestrooms in the last 7 years, but every room has a different set of problems to solve and features to highlight. This collective experience helps us solve the various challenges we encounter while we are shooting on location.  People ask what we do…the real answer is that we solve visual problems. Hopefully some of these tips will help you if you attempt to shoot your own rooms or improve your photography. It can be a lot of trial and error, but it is a rewarding and valuable talent to have.


  1. Erin says:

    >Thanks for sharing your wisdom with aspiring amateurs like me. Very helpful.

  2. scrumpto says:

    >Having been on set with you I can attest to all the hard work you put in every shot. You guys are simply amazing!Scott Crumpton,White Stone Marketing