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5 things you need to know about styling photos for print

Have you ever noticed just what it is that makes a photo feel special? 

What exactly it is that fills it with ambiance and charm, 
that makes you stop thumbing through pages to take a closer look?
Today it is all about 'The What' and 5 things to know- and what it has to do with real estate.

In the next part in this photography and styling series- we are talking about 
The What. 

The What is something funny.
 It isn't necessarily an all around flat answer. 
The What can be something different for everyone as different things inspired different folks. 
But one thing that all the What's have in common when it comes to magazines- is that they are something special that catches an editors eye and that makes them want to see more.

In stylings and photos that speak to me, 
my eye goes over every little detail and notices the intricate elements and how they all play together to create something beautiful.

The way the books lean on the shelf. 
The architectural salvage piece that has intricate details and chippy old paint. The grids on the window, old bench and of course- perfect blooms in a vintage glass jar. 
All of those elements together tell a story. 
A story about this home. This room. 
The person who lives here and how they appreciate pieces that have history and tell a story.

And with a photo for a magazine- the editors look for those same things. 
To break it down more simply: 

Tell a story.

#1. Photos that tell a story.
The best photos are the ones that tell a story.  
Whether it is a photo of a room, an outdoor dining area or a vignette. 

In this photo of the living room at Christmas, each small element tells a part of the 'story'. 
The twinkle of the tree, the glow from the fireplace- you can almost feel the warmth and hear Christmas music playing in the background. It feels as if you just walked into the room.

#2. Photos that have a lived in look, a personality and that have ‘movement’ in the photo.
The best rooms and photos of rooms are ones that have some 'ooomph' to them. 
Personality. Character.  A lived in look. 

Remember that photos don't have to show a spotless room with 
a place for everything and everything in its place like no one lives there look.
The best photos show 'life' happening and show you a slice of what that life is like.

#3.  Real estate style vs editorial style

Ahh... that all important Real Estate style that I mentioned. 

Someone told me a story recently about a designer who had created this amazingly 
beautiful design in a house renovation.
Layers of gorgeous fabrics, expensive furniture, pretty flowers on the coffee table, etc.
 They had designed and styled this home for their client and loved it so much they wanted to submit the project for print. 
The magazine loved the project and was interested- and asked them to send some photos over. 

So the designers cleaned and polished everything and then 
walked into the living room- and snapped a photo from the doorway 
so as to capture the amazingness as a whole. 
And then did the same thing in each of the other rooms 
and sent them off for consideration.

The photos were not chosen for print.
They looked like they were 'selling' a polished, finished, staged and not lived in home. 
Though they were beautiful- and may have been filled with pretty- the photos didn't tell a story. 
They were 'real estate' style photos.

Real Estate style is much different than Editorial style.  
Think about a real estate listing photos.
Crisp, clean, from one corner of the room to the other showing the WHOLE shebang and there is.
  The kitchen shows the amazing appliances and not a spot of anything on the counters. 
And that is the key. 
Not a spot of 'life' happening.

Again, Editorial Style tells the story. 

That lemon being sliced on an old breadboard on the counter.  
Clippings of the roses as they are being cut a 'messy' blanket at the foot of the bed. 
And slices of a room- rather than corner to corner get it ALL in the photo.

#4.  Photos that makes you stop scrolling on Instagram for example- 
or not turn the page 
until your eye captures all the little details.

You want to style and capture something that evokes a feeling and makes someone stop and take a closer look so you need to remember to think about details.

For example- in this photo:
It is a photo of a Christmas tree in a living room- yes.
But if it was just the tree and not much else- it might be a little on the boring side.
Here is a 'before' photo of the tree

Eh... not doing much for me.
So a few additions.

Presents in pretty boxes under the tree.
A chair adds interest.
The hint of the glow from the fire 'feels' warm.
The reflection of the Christmas tree lights in the mirror creates storybook charm
while the blurred out crystals at the front of the photo show the depth of the room.
Each small details plays together to create a photo that as a whole 
is inviting and interesting.
Details are key in story telling.

The Nitty Gritty

But what about the nitty gritty details? 
The ones that don't have to do with styling- and have to do with exposure? 
(and not on your camera settings)  
In the world of print- photos that are special and unique are a requirement- but they also need to be something fresh and new.

#5.  Something that has not appeared on your instagram, your blog or in another magazine 

This is really important. 
Don't submit the same story with the same photos to 25 different magazines. 
Or even 2 different magazines. 
Editors don't want that photo that has been seen by 10,000 people 10,000 times. They want photos that will sell THEIR magazines because someone has to have a copy of THAT photo or feature. 
Makes sense right? Kind of like reading blogs. You wouldn't read this exact same blog post at 2 different blogs- it would be boring. And you definitely wouldn't pay to read a different magazine that had the exact same content inside as another one did.

So if you are a blogger- be careful with sharing too much online. Don't share every photo, every detail, everything everything if you are submitting those photos for print.  Same with instagram. Don't instagram the 'money shot' if it has a shot at being in print. 

And if you are trying to submit to several magazines- and several magazines come to you and love your work and want to run the photos....remember that while you might think it would be amazing to have that photo of your gorgeous living room in XYZ and in 123 at the same time- it is a no no- and a pretty quick way to get yourself on the list to not work with again.

Did I lose you on any of these? 
I know that the basics can be boring- but these are important things to know if you want to style your photos for print- and you want to be published. 

And up next- 
so many of you have emailed and asked me for info about HOW 
to submit photos to a magazine editor.

And so I am going to delve into that just a bit.
And I would love to know if any of you have been playing around with room and photo stylings 
or different settings on their cameras, etc? 

Coming your way - a few inspirations
and simple diy.

Happy Wednesday everyone.


  1. very interesting, and excited to learn more!

  2. This is so helpful. I'm more of a writer than a photographer, but when we took photos of our beautiful, newly renovated 17th century apartments in the south of France, the results were disappointing. I am going to try again with your advice. I guess they are "real estate" photos, aiming to show a maximum without getting across the wonderful atmosphere.

    1. Let me know how they turn out! Think of the room photos as a 'slice' -even with a larger 'slice' showing more of the room. You can show the room as a whole- but try it from different areas for a different look and more interest. The most important thing is to evoke an emotional response with the photo that makes you feel like you stepped into that amazing space and want to see more. :)

  3. Thank you so much for sharing some of your techniques. You have inspired me and given me a lot to think about!

  4. I am enjoying your series about photography. I have a question - what camera lenses do you use? You probably have multiple, but I am sure you have a favorite!

    1. Hi Angelina! I do have an array of lenses- but my absolute favorite is actually a 100mm macro lens. It makes some shots a bit ore difficult to get since it is a close up and fixed lens but I love the quality it has. Hope that helps!

  5. This is a very helpful walk through photo staging. I love to design rooms and often changing rooms. Love texture, color, depth, and then mirror that all together. Warmth is what I am missing! Thank You

  6. A lot of great info.., I have not played with my camra lately... But I going to start and see what I can do, Thank you for sharing... I so love your photos.
    Quick question about your blush quilt is that the name of the quilt. I m thinking they might be out of that particular choice.

    1. Hi Pamela! The color is pink- it is a very soft color so I called it blush. Sorry about that!!

    2. oh ok,thank you so much.... I agree in your photos it looks like blush... my treat to me...:)

  7. Bonjour chère amie,

    Il faut savoir aimer et aimer partager pour parler du bonheur de photographier... de capturer et de mettre en scène... Et vous y parvenez si bien !

    Très joli billet.

    Gros bisous 🌸

  8. Thanks for sharing this valuable advice!

  9. Beautiful photos. Thank you very much for the guidance. You helped me and my little blog very very much. I subscribed to learn more.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to write and share this post. I have been stumped about creating vignettes for my product photos. I tried googling for answers, but kept running across information about the "vignette" effect in photography instead of how to style for awesome photos.

  11. Thank you for sharing this beautifully. This all makes perfect sense. I have gotten more reaction from photos where I have items from our life left here and there. Your photos are always gorgeous - I imagine that you thoroughly enjoy the process - and that comes through. Have a blessed weekend!

  12. Hello Courtney,

    I loved reading your post today... Very informative and with lots of helpful tips. I am looking to improve my photo skills and I thank you for speaking about this subject. My goals is to do a bit of editorial photography. I have a few rooms in our home that I would love to have feature in a magazine so this comes at the perfect time.

    I look forward to your next post in this regard. Perhaps someday, you can have a class or seminar about your photography. Your photos are always magical to me. I respect your work and admire your incredible talent.


  13. Love, love this said it in a nutshell....the photo has to show "life" ... I shouted "ah ha!" and my hubby ran out of the room saying, "what's happening?" .... I told him that the light bulb moment just happened! I won't tell you what he said! :) Thanks Courtney for sharing your expertise!!!