A Kitchen Designer Photography Primer

by Ashley Lapin Olian

Homeowners are searching the internet for design inspiration and ideas. Whether they’re searching on Google, Instagram or Houzz, compelling images will attract them the most. As a design professional, it’s important to showcase your work in such a way that will stand out amongst the millions of other photos that homeowners are viewing daily. Showcasing your projects and progress with great photography is also one of the best ways to give potential clients an idea of what you do and how you do it.


The overhaul of a kitchen is a monumental task for all parties involved. Sharing the progress of a kitchen remodel on social media platforms and your website is a wonderful method to connect with your customers – past, current and future.

Share your progress on social media to engage your audience – start by taking photographs on the current kitchen prior to demolition. This will provide you with the opportunity to share before and after photographs. Photograph the existing kitchen from many angles so you can take the after shots from the same angles to fully demonstrate the transformation.

For the informal before shots, take them during the day when the lighting is best to fully capture the details of the space. Pictures taken at night rely solely on the lighting of the space, which may not be sufficient to capture a clear photo. The before and after pictures can be taken with a cell phone, provided the lighting is sufficient, but be sure your settings are adjusted to take high-resolution shots (ideally, photo files should be a minimum of 1 MB in size to ensure they are print quality). If your camera flash is required, the lighting is most likely not adequate.

There are wide-angle lenses designed for cell phones to expand your phone into a virtual 35mm camera. Experiment with your photographs and use the photo editing built into your phone to improve the images.


Ideally, you’ll want to hire a professional photographer to capture your final design, especially a photographer with experience in shooting kitchens. Scheduling the photo shoot as soon as the project is done will ensure that the space is captured when it’s new and pristine. In addition, it will cause the least inconvenience for your clients because you won’t have to contact them later to come back once the project is complete.

Choosing a photographer is a personal experience. Each photographer has his or her own method of styling, lighting, composition and scheduling. Read magazines and take note of the photographer credentials. If you consistently see a designer with photos you absolutely love, reach out to them for the photographer’s contact info. Interior spaces often require lighting equipment and special consideration for reflective surfaces, so it’s a good idea to choose a photographer with experience in shooting kitchen and bath interiors.

Communicate your goals for the photo shoot to the photographer in advance so they can capture your project the way you want potential clients to see it. Identify specific design details that you want the photographer to shoot. Be sure to get a variety of shots, from close-ups to wide shots, so that the entire space is captured.


A thorough understanding of photography contracts will assure you know all the costs for use of the photographs taken. Photographers charge a fee to take the photographs, but some charge additional fees, depending upon the use.

You’ll want to consider what you’re planning to do with the photos to ensure your contract provides you with all the necessary permissions. Will you be using them on your website only, or will you be entering them in design competitions, or submitting them for possible publication?

Below is a summary of some of the basic contracts commonly needed.

First off, have the homeowner sign a Property Release to ensure you have full legal rights to photograph the space. Many designers include this in the initial design contract.

Next, you will sign a License of Rights for Photography with the photographer. The license determines how you can use the photography. For example, an agreement might allow use of the photographs on your website, but require you to pay an additional fee to use them in print advertising or to submit them for publication or enter them in design contests.

Photographers’ license agreements can vary greatly in what rights you are granted, and you’ll want to be sure you negotiate for all the rights you need up front. The ideal photography license to negotiate is Full Rights, which permits you to use photographs without any restrictions whatsoever. Full Rights means you can post on your website, use in social media and submit to contests or magazines without paying an additional fee to the photographer. The phrase Unlimited Use is a term also used to describe Full Rights.

Licensing agreements are generally negotiable, so it’s best to let the photographer know up front what rights you’ll need; if the photographer is not open to this, consider another photographer.

Finally, if your photographs include people, you will need a Model Release form signed. This expresses that the individual is granting you permission to use their image in the photographs.


Proper staging of the kitchen space can make a huge difference in the appeal of the kitchen in photographs. Staging can be executed with a little effort. A simple bowl of lemons, a knife block and a cutting board can dramatically increase the visual appeal of the photos.

The best way to figure out how to stage a kitchen is to first take a picture of the space unstaged and note the areas that look empty or those that could use a pop of color. Staging should be done minimally so as not to detract from the cabinetry or design details that you have created.

DO: Experiment with photographing from your cell phone.

DON’T: Try to take photos at night. Great lighting plays a key role in the clarity of the shot.

DO: Take the time to fully understand your permissions to use the photography taken by a professional photographer you hire.

DON’T: Hire a photographer without an agreement in writing stating usage rights.

DO: Stage your kitchen with minimal props that accent the space.

DON’T: Rely on your naked eye. Look at the pictures to determine if your staged items are proper to enhance the kitchen. The look of a space can vary from your naked eye to a one-
dimensional picture.

Photography that captures your work perfectly makes a big difference to potential clients who are looking to hire you. A well-crafted photography strategy will bring your work and design sensibility to the world. ▪

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