Not many people are invited into the homes of Jessica Chastain, Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Wang, Naomi Watts, Melania Trump (pre-White House) et al. But there’s one man who is – photographer Douglas Friedman, the man behind the lens of those celebrity glossy magazine shoots.
As a mainstay of the LA and NYC social circuit, the charming photographer really needs no introduction. Racking up countless magazine covers, being in Martha Stewart’s squad and being a permanent fixture of the awards and fashion show seasons will do that for a person.
Take notes from the multi-published photographer as he chats his first steps, compositions and the key interior shots.
What is the first thing you do when you see the space you’re shooting?
I love the first moment I walk into a space (it’s even more exciting if i have never seen a scouting photo of it). I walk through each room rather quickly to get a sense of the whole. Then I’ll have a second walk through a bit slower and I’ll very quickly identify how I want to shoot each room. Years ago, when I was first starting out, I would second guess my first instinct and try a few different approaches. Now I trust my gut. I usually see the shot immediately and I stick with it.
What kind of compositions work best for interior shots?
I’m not sure that I have a formula for composing a shot. It’s a feeling. Things in the image “feel” right to me or they don’t. I’ll constantly adjust frame until it feels right, and then I’ll start adjusting and editing everything that’s in the shot until they all feel right. I can spend an hour making tiny adjustments.
How important is balance in interior design photography?
Balance is important to every successful photograph and, for me, the balance and symmetry in an interior image can so easily be thrown off. It’s why I spend so much time working on the composition. I try and balance my photographs by keeping your eye spinning around the image; I’m trying to hold your attention, I’m trying to tell a narrative, I’m trying to engage and [circle] around the picture. I don’t want to give you an exit.
What are some tips for lighting interiors? How do you deal with bad lighting?
I try and work with existing light when I shoot. I love natural light and if I don’t have any, I work really hard to recreate natural light. I usually turn off all the lights when I shoot (lightbulbs can add an ugly colour cast to natural light). There are occasions where I love a light bulb on, but it’s not often and, when it happens, it has to continue the narrative of the photograph.
If you had to to pick a project’s three key interior shots, what would they be?
Hmmmm, always a tough question. If you only had three images to tell the story of a home, I think it would have to be the living room, the kitchen and the bedroom. You can tell a lot about a person from these three spaces.
How does a space’s colour palette affect the way you shoot?
Colour, like light, plays a huge role but you have to use the colour that’s there – the light can be manipulated and changed. The colour is also the designer’s intention, and my job is to capture this intention in its most beautiful form.
For photography, what is the secret to getting a project featured in a glossy?
Well, now that's a trade secret that I won’t reveal.
See more of Doug’s work in our exclusive at-home shoot with Jeff Leatham, renowned florist and Artistic Director of the Four Seasons George V.