Interviewer: I have with me Stephani Buchman of Stephani Buchman Photography. Stephani specializes in architectural and interior photography, as well as food photography. Stephani, welcome.
Stephani: Thank you.
Interviewer: Stephani, I wonder how did you get your start in photography?
Stephani: Well, really I think that it was when I was younger my father did photography as a hobby, and then as I was older I also noticed more people who did photography. And I really admired it. It was not my original job desire. I actually went to school for psychology, and then later on philosophy. When I graduated from philosophy I worked in an area that had nothing to do with that. I kind of realized that there wasn’t really much I could do with philosophy.
I kind of wondered what I would do. And so, I thought about what I really admired, and what would make me happy. I always knew that being creative was very important to me, so I thought I should start photography. Anyway, I went back to school at Ryerson. After I went to school I worked as an assistant, and then as a producer for one of the top commercial advertising photographers in Toronto.
One of my professors was also one of the best architectural photographers at the time, Robert Burley. His company at that time was called Design Archives. After I graduated I worked with him as well, as an assistant, and as an administrator. Back then we were still working with four by five cameras, and four by five transparency and negative film. Then after that I raised a family for a while, and then started back on my own, freelance.
Ever since I was at school I always wanted to do food, and interior architectural photography. And so that’s still my specialization.
Interviewer: How many years have you been doing architectural photography?
Stephani: Right now, well, the long answer is, actually, since I graduated from Ryerson, and even before that since my minor involved architectural photography. That was back in 1998. Really, as I said, because I took time off, and then started full-time freelance, I’ve been working with architectural photography, I’d say, for the last three years.
Interviewer: What is your favorite project that you’ve done?
Stephani: I would say so far my favorite architectural photography project was I photographed full archives of photography for a company called Interfaceware. The space they occupied was furnished with a bunch of modern furniture, and the space was designed by Nick Goddard of Montage Design Group. It’s a beautiful space, and I was directed to go and capture whatever I felt was important to represent their story. That’s what I did. I worked there for about three days, completing complete archives that they could access at a later date.
Of course, I also loved working with Incite Design photographing the newly built bungalow in Toronto. That was a beautiful job because it was one of the most recent times that I’ve worked with an architect, and the project was just absolutely gorgeous. There was lots of material to photograph.
Interviewer: We really enjoyed working on that, as well. It was a pretty unique project, and a really great site. It was a fantastic opportunity, as well. Now, thinking about your architectural photography, how do you get the best out of your setting and the specific location that you’re shooting?
Stephani: Well, first to get the best it’s very important to have a good camera, and the best and sharpest wide angle lenses that you can have. Next, it’s about finding an angle within the viewfinder that is an overall very good composition, but also tells a story or an aspect of the story of the project.
Part of that is understanding what the key elements were when the architect or designers were thinking about their project, and understanding what story they want to tell, what’s important to them. Part of it is just seeing what’s there, and understanding composition, and how the elements of the photograph are well organized within the four frames, or within the frame.
Interviewer: Nice. And finally, what are some tips and techniques that amateur photographers, like me, could use to get better photography?
Stephani: Number one, one of the things that a lot of people don’t do is you need to think of, like, I’m talking about the four sides of the frame. You need to think about the entire landscape of that space when you look through the viewfinder. You need to look at all the edges and the whole thing as a whole. Think about that. Basically, you’re composing within those four walls, those four sides. You need to really think about what is in that space, and ask yourself how well am I using the real estate within that space?
Secondly, you need to get lines straight, especially in architecture. For the most part it’s about straight lines. It’s about geometry. And so you should hold your camera in such a way, or have it on a tripod in such a way that the planes are parallel, and that ensures that your lines are straight for the most part. You think about that, that’s going to help you a lot.
Number three, I would say, use a tripod if you can. In order to get good exposure, you should be using most of the time a long time period that you’re capturing the photograph. I would say kind of just read up on exposure, and make sure you get the best exposure. The good thing is that with digital photography you can kind of just keep trying until you get it because you’re not wasting film.
Then the other thing, I think it’s important also to think about styling. When you’re shooting interiors, and even exteriors you need to think about what do you need to add that’s going to help enhance the space. What do you need to add that’s going to help tell a story, or what do you need to take away that might be distracting from the real focus of the photograph which is, of course, the architecture, or the interior, or the exterior.
Interviewer: Great. Thanks, Stephani. You had some fantastic tips for everyone listening, and thanks again for coming on the interview with us today.
Stephani: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.