We had the privilege to chat with Interior and architecture photographer Jason Strong. He has long been one of my go-to photographers for inspiration when looking for clean-cut spaces’. There is something so perfect with his photos; the light, the colors that comes through and the crispness in the whites. Remember Skype’s office or the school that I wrote about a while back? That is all his photos! So you see, my curiosity and fascination for his photography work runs awhile back.
With a background in architecture it seemed only perfect that I would ask Jason to participate in our interview series where we focused on highlighting the interior photographers.
I am chuffed he said yes! So…here he tells us about his move from US to Sweden and what benefits his architectural background has to him as a photographer in this niche.
In this Interview you will learn
- Think about these things before hiring an interior photographer
- Jason’s views on copyright and for bloggers to use photos
- Difficulties in shooting interiors
- And much more…
Hi Jason thank you for taking time to chat with us. It’s such a pleasure to have you as our first interviewee. For those who do not know, please tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I grew up in the USA. Wisconsin when I was young, then Minnesota (St. Paul) when I went to college and most of my adult life. 5 years ago I moved to Stockholm, Sweden. (My wife is Swedish, but we met in Edinburgh, Scotland… that was 15+ years ago… it’s a long story).
How did you get into photography?
I took a black and white photography class back in high school (20 years ago) and really liked it. I’ve been taking photos ever since then. It’s nice to be able to capture your own unique perspective on the world.
And what was it with interior photography that captured your interest?
A big part of it is that my background was working as an interior architect. More than that though, I realized early on that I didn’t like photographing weddings, pets, and ‘family’ style photos (although I still get pulled into doing that now and again).
Interior photography, especially commercial interiors, will always have a place in my heart because I spent so much time designing spaces myself. I appreciate the hours and hours of work that architects spend getting each and every detail right. I then try to do my best to capture those spaces in a way that gives justice to that commitment.
Do you think your knowledge in architecture makes you connect easier with spaces’?
Yes and no. Yes, of course I think that my interest and previous experience helps me to connect to a space. I instantly see what great photos can come from a project.
However, I still find it very helpful to get direct insights from the designer or design team that has spent the hours working on the project. When you talk with them you get a real feeling for what they were trying to accomplish. As well, talking with the people who use the space can also be very helpful. I can then adjust the photos I take to make sure everyones ideas come across clearly in the end photos, not just what I think is ‘good’.
Which is your favourite room to photograph and why?
I don’t think there is a specific room that I like to photograph more than another. I think the thing that pulls my interest is great design and attention to detail. Especially details. Getting something to be built just right is just as important as specifying the fixtures and finishes in a space.
And If you have the option, do you photograph a space with people in or without?
Well, architecture really attempts to be timeless. You typically don’t want something to be out of style a year or so after it’s completed.
When you add people to photos and the clothes, glasses, shoes, etc that they are wearing it really ‘dates’ a project faster than the architecture. So, it’s a hard thing to accomplish effectively. For that reason, I’d say that I prefer to take photos without. Still, several of my clients do want people in the photos in which case I then try to have them be ‘ghosts’ so you get a sense of the scale without focusing on the people.
When I see your gorgeous photographs everything just looks so effortless. But like in spaces we are sure that the effortless look comes with a lot of knowledge and preparation. Are there any difficulties in photographing interior spaces?
Yes, indeed. There is so much that goes into a successful photo shoot.
I always attempt to visit a site before I take photos if I can. This lets me do some pre-planning on where I think the best photos will be. More so though, it gives me an idea of how much cleaning and organizing I need to do to get a great photo. I joke with my assistant that half of our job is just to clean spaces up.
You also need to consider time of day, who will be on location and so much more.
It’s one thing to walk into a space and think ‘This looks great!’ it’s another thing to then take a photo of that space and see everything that isn’t so great, like the messy trash can, the cord that’s in a bunch on the floor or the coffee cup that is just out of place.
If there is such a thing as style in interior photography, how would you define your style then?
That’s a hard question. I try my best to deliver photos to my clients that have a crisp, clean feeling to them. I want the colors to read true and I really like when whites are white.
As an interior photographer you probably get a lot of exposure into the design world. Who would you say is your favourite designer/architect and why?
There are SOOOOO many great designers and architects. I’ll name three, but that really isn’t giving justice to all the great ones out there.
The first is Matti Klenell. I love glass pieces and I would buy anything that Matti produces if I had enough budget to do so. He also designs furniture, lighting, etc. which is all has a unique quality to it as well. Plus, he’s a really nice guy to talk to.
The second is Note Design Studio. The five of them are so awesome at whatever they put their minds to. If I had to go back to working as an interior architect, they would be numbers 1, 2 & 3 on the list of companies I’d want to be hired by.
Lastly, to depart from the Swedish influence that currently resides over my life I will list an architect who is not Swedish. Carlo Scarpa. Italian. He died three years after I was born, but I spent a summer during college studying his architecture. It’s very ‘brutalist’ in form, but the details he incorporates into each project are just amazing. It’s in those details that brings me so much joy.
I always say ‘Inspiration has no boundaries’, with that being said, do you have any go-to places or any ‘rituals’ for inspiration?
I like spontaneity. Trying new foods, visiting new locations, etc. You get the good and the bad that way, but I like it better than doing the same thing again and again. Those new ‘mini-adventures’ bring on a lot of inspiring ideas for me.
Since we are all about design studio talks here on the blog. We were wondering what advice do you have to design studios when hiring a photographer? Are there some things we should ask prior to hiring one?
I’ve re-written this at least 15 times now. It’s hard to answer.
I think it boils down to making sure that the photographer can deliver photos to you that show the best in what you do day in and day out.
Are they willing to visit the site with you to hear about your viewpoints on the project? Are they flexible for you or your clients needs? Do you get a sense from talking to them that they are photographing for the joy of it or for the paycheck?
Speaking of money, every photographer has different pricing. I would suggest this… When you are considering to have a project photographed think about how much your office got paid to do the project. Decide from that amount how much of that you would want to spend on marketing that project. That then determines your budget. Find a photographer who fits in that budget who can get you the photos you want who meets the criteria above.
There has been much talk about blogs and copyright. What is your opinion?
Two things. First, I’d rather my photos be circulating around the web than sitting on my computer.
Second, if the person/entity that is using my photos is using them to make money then the photographer (me) should be making money too.
You have done work to some well known Swedish architecture and design companies. Could you name one project that was specifically meaningful/fun to you?
Skype, designed by pS Arkitektur was one of my first ‘big’ projects here in Sweden. When you add great design to that, it made the project really a lot of fun to photograph. Nothing like joyful beginnings.
You recently launched a short film where you filmed a family house by Ps Arkitektur. How did this come about? And will we see more of these in the future?
I’ve been thinking about incorporating video into the still photos that I take for a while now.
When this project came up I asked the architects if they would be open to the idea of me filming the project and they agreed.
It takes a lot more planning to produce a video than it does to take photos, so without the help of some very talented people on the project it probably wouldn’t have been the success that it was. Now that the video is out in the public there have been some other potential projects that have come up as a result. So, only time will tell.
What is your dream project looking like, and what is next in line for you?
My dream project is to design and build my own home and then photograph it. That’s a long way off still though.
6 Lessons Learnt
- Photographing a space without people is more timeless as people in a photo makes a photo out of style quicker.
- Part of an interior photographers pre-planning work also involves the design and clean bit (directly or indirectly).
- There will always be bits and pieces in a room that is disturbing the photo that cannot be removed. A challenge to find a way around it.
- If you wish to photograph a room or hire one, think of the time of the day depending on the location and its setting.
- Go for a photographer that connects with your style and mission.
- Go for the one that is also willing to hear your vision and who is viewing your property before signing up for it.
Credit: Jason Strong