Do your photos need a little (or a lot) of help?

One of the most important things a designer can do for their career is to have great photography of their projects. A good photographer can work wonders with any space and a great space will truly sing if documented well. But professional photo shoots are expensive and simply not an option for many new designers, or even worth the expense for every project we might undertake. So, we resort to taking our own photos and doing the best we can. Early on in my career, I was certainly in this position – taking all my own photos.  One of my favorite projects – for many reasons – was an ocean front home in Scituate, Massachusetts. The owners, who actually planned to sell the house, wanted to update their master suite and use it as the showcase for the sales process. The house, built in 1900, was all stucco inside and in many ways was very old and dated for a seaside house – but it had a great location and a lot of old-timey character. The whole master suite was designed to highlight the ocean views with a monochromatic color palette that mimicked the ocean outside the window. The entire bathroom was gutted and rebuilt and the bedroom was swathed in new fabrics and upholstery. Everything was installed just the week before the first open house and the property went in a bidding war in that first weekend. The client’s were completely moved out in six weeks.

Needless to say, I didn’t have much time to take really good photos. Some I took with my old print Nikon SLR and others were taken with my then new low-end digital camera. The photos were never very good, but I kept them on my site because I felt the project had a story to tell, I looooved all the fabrics and it’s all about location, location, location.  But I knew the photos didn’t really highlight the work very well. So, when my friend, kitchen designer and amazing photographer Susan Serra launched a new side business called Susan’s View, I knew I needed to hire her! Susan’s photography skills are amazing and she knows a lot about photo retouching as well as how important good photography is to showcasing a space. Her new services offer amazingly low-priced services for retouching – from between $12-$25 per image with small upcharges for fast turnaround. She turned around my photos very quickly and also offered several different “versions” for review.

This first image was taken with my digital camera – which I think was about 2 mega pixels. I was just snapping shots and managed to get two versions of the photo from the exact same spot – one that showed the inside with the outside blown out and the other showing the ocean view while the inside was too dark. In photoshop, I managed to marry the photos together – which I was very proud of! However, the quality was very grainy, the photo was tilted (note above the valance treatment) and the ocean looked fake with the left and right sides of the door not really matching. Susan straightened the image, smoothed and color corrected the the fabrics and walls and cropped it a bit to clean up the sides. What she had to work with was a very low quality image – so I think the change, while subtle, is quite impressive!

The rest of the images were taken with my print SLR camera and were not much more than snapshots with no special lighting. I’ve lost the negatives and so what I sent Susan was a scan of the printed photo. Again, Susan corrected for color and light balance, smoothed everything and cropped it in a bit.


The master bathroom definitely needed better lighting to capture it. I never photographed the bathtub – which was fabulous. Susan brighened the overall image, straightened it up and got rid of some smudging on the walls that was on the print image.

Finally, the bathroom chair was also color corrected and brightened. There was a huge smudgy thing on the right side of the image and a dark shadow on the left, which she got rid of.

These changes took Susan many steps each and I know she uses several different software programs to get the best versions of less than ideal photographs.

If you’d like to see the large final versions of these photos, click on over here

Susan’s rates are very reasonable because as a well-known professional kitchen and bath designer she understands how important good photography is to a project. And she gets the Catch-22 that newbie designers find themselves in: without good photos it’s hard to get work, but how does one afford a professional photographer without having projects?

So, whether you’re a new designer who is still taking your own photos and could use a little (or a lot) of back-end help, or you have older images you still want to show – it’s Susan Serra to the rescue! Her services are also great for blogger’s whose photos need some TLC too!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks! Subscribe to ::Surroundings::

xoxo Linda Would you like my Favorite Tips for a Well-Decorated Home? Click here!

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