• Alan Carville


Updated: Jan 18, 2019

Have you ever been inside a household where a picture frame is not horizontally level or where you see a lampshade that is lopped sided? Paying attention to detail is one of the first essential photographic skills that is required way before you press the shutter.

When you are about to photograph a room, the usual procedure is to start by decluttering it – removing any items that are not supposed to be there or removing items that make the room look too full.

Once that is complete, the room will sometimes require a bit of styling and dressing up, by adding soft furnishings and accessories.

But the final stage in the room preparation is the alignment of furniture and accessories. Making sure things are straight and in order, can make the difference between appearing sloppy or professional.

In today's shoot, we were photographing an upmarket coffee and cake shop. To avoid customer foot traffic, we decided on a start time of 6.30am so that we could be finished by the time the outlet opens. Upon arrival, the cleaners had already washed the floors and wiped down tables. However, all of the tables and chairs were out of alignment, due to the cleaning preparations. When I was a child, I was always taught to push my chair back in once I’ve left the table. So can you imagine photographing where the chairs are left all over the place?

When you have rows of furniture such as tables and chairs, it is essential that these are aligned correctly. This is especially true in restaurants, where you are most likely to find an abundance of these furniture pieces.

Rows of tables should always be checked that they are neatly aligned with each other

One tool that I always carry in my camera bag is a tape measure. This can be useful for measuring precisely how far away tables are from walls, as well as chairs from tables.

Always carry a tape measure in your bag

When the tables have items placed onto them such as menus, table numbers, flowers or salt and pepper shakers, it is crucial that they are always facing the camera viewpoint. If you change your perspective, then you should rearrange the items so that they face the camera.

When you change the camera viewpoint make sure that the items placed on the table are turned to face the camera

Chairs can be angled in a few different ways, either symmetrical or angled, depending on the number of chairs.

Where there are round tables with three chairs, it is essential to form an equilateral triangle so that they are evenly spaced around the table.

Where there are three chairs use an equilateral triangle for positioning

If there are four chairs on round tables, place them so that they are facing opposite each other in a square format.

When you have four chairs, position them directly opposite each other

Aligning the scene also applies to many other items in a room such as blinds, curtains, bed quilts, shower taps and cushions on a sofa. It also means checking details such as draws or doors being correctly closed, wires dangling from appliances, or towels on a sunbed.

Other items in a scene such as blinds should also be checked for alignment

Getting these simple things right, in the eyes of the client, shows that you are paying attention to detail and that you are switched on. When you fuss over little things (as long as it doesn't take you all day), it really does impress, because it builds trust – if you pay attention to the little details, then it is likely that you will pay attention to the finishing.

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Copyright © 2019 Alan Carville

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