Learn How To Get those Magazine-Worthy Pics with Photographer Nick Glimenakis
When my husband and I bought our first home in Providence several years ago, my family back in Chicago was clamoring for photos of the place. I quickly set to work to oblige their requests. Low and behold…the pictures looked awful. Anyone who’s had a similar experience knows photographing an interior is no easy feat. Those glossy shots we “oh” and “ah” over in design magazines are only achieved after much study and practice by a professional. My amateur hour as an interior photographer quickly dispelled any illusions I had. Since then, I have a renewed sense of admiration for those who are able to accurately capture not only the best angles of a room, but something of its essence to boot.
Nick Glimenakis is one such individual. His work combines a technical understanding of photography with an innate sense of proportion and space. I was first introduced to Nick’s work when he was tapped to shoot a residence designed by Jen and Roy Leone in which they had utilized DUNN’s Sorenthia 3-Arm Light. At Studio DUNN, we fell in love with his images of the space and reached out to learn more.
In the following interview, Nick was so kind as to share details about how he got his start, his favorite shoots (I don’t often say OMG, but OMG!), and his insights on capturing interiors through photography.
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
A: I grew up in the woods of southwest New Hampshire before setting up camp in New York in 2011. Before photography, I studied outdoor education in Colorado with hopes of becoming a park ranger. My course load looked like something out of a Jon Krakauer novel. Along with all the outdoor orienteering classes, I had a handful of photography electives with a wonderful teacher who taught me the importance of observation and how to see without a camera. As a textbook introvert, I loved this approach and still practice it today. The more I photographed, the less I cared about which river we were running or which couloir we were ascending and as a result, shifted gears in the classroom to be a fine art major. I was fascinated with photojournalism and storytelling, so I packed up my tent, Capilene, and compass, traded them in for 250 square feet, skinny jeans, and a camera and moved to New York to pursue documentary photography.
I kind of stumbled into interiors about four years ago. I got a job as a freelance stylist for a hospitality company in New York that focused on blending luxury hotel experiences with curated homestays. I got weirdly comfortable being in strangers' homes. I'd snap some pictures on my phone to show friends who didn't believe my stories of exorbitant design sightings. Those images became a pretty sad portfolio. But when the company decided to hire an in-house photographer, I told the editor I thought I should do it.
I very quickly gained access to some of the best real estate without having any actual experience shooting interiors. I was exposed to just about every environment imaginable and learned how to work through each one. I saw everything from new penthouse lofts to early townhouse renovations, original Picassos to swimming pools beneath retracting kitchen floors. I joke that little surprises me anymore.
I always like to make interiors feel approachable, even when the kitchen floor retracts. I like my work to showcase the design and architecture of the space in a way that allows viewers to picture themselves physically there. My photography style is derived from the look and feel of film and draws inspiration from nostalgia, mood, and the everyday. My goal has always been to make work that transports an audience.
Q: How do you approach photographing an interior space? What are some of the considerations you need to take into account?
A: I try to imagine every home as my own. That can be fairly difficult when the design choices aren't necessarily my personal taste, but I make an honest attempt to envision myself in the space before shooting. I take my shoes off, sit on all the furniture, and make myself at home.
Interior and architectural photography can be a fairly technical game but my artistic approach has always been the same: to shoot with as little interference as possible. I’ll make a shot list in my head when steering a walkthrough of the home and make little notes in regard to certain points of interest, changing light, or how the space makes me feel.
Q: What were some of your favorite spaces to photograph, and why did they stand out?
A: My favorite spaces to shoot are ones that feel considered yet approachable. It’s easy for homes to feel overly decorated and sterile, so I appreciate spaces that feel collected and have a story. I like when everything looks expensive but I can still touch it all.
One of my more memorable assignments was a 2,000-square-foot modern home designed by Keith Anding in Glen Ellen, CA. I was given two days to photograph, which allowed me to see how light moved in the home throughout the day, a privilege I’m not always afforded. The homeowner wanted to be engaged with nature, so Anding had designed large retracting walls on either side of the sitting room, an outdoor shower, and a bedroom only accessible from the outside. Everything felt so well integrated; I loved the contrast of materials in the build to the surrounding landscape, especially the clean lines of the architecture to the knotted and twisting trees on the property. I’d have to say my favorite aspect, though, was how far removed the home felt from everything.
Another honorable mention was a standalone home in Brooklyn I photographed a few years back. It was a beautiful day early in the summer, and we had incredible light. The architecture reminded me of the historic mansions of New Orleans. It had been through some renovations, but the bones were still very prominent. The interior furnishings were a blend of mid-century modern and some other weathered pieces, creating a very eclectic feel. The art and decor were a storied showcase of the family's travels and interests, and the whole home felt effortlessly cool. It was one of those assignments where each room looked completely different every hour, making the creative process so engaging. Choosing selects in the post edit was a painstaking effort – I felt physical heartache when specific images were cut from the story.
Q: What were your most challenging spaces to photograph? How did you overcome those challenges to get a successful shot?
A: It usually comes down to available light. Obviously, spaces with plenty of ambient light are much easier to work with than those with none. Once you bring in additional lighting or utilize the overheads, not only do you increase your time setting up compositions, you also increase your time sitting at a computer editing afterward. I work only with a camera and a tripod and use the existing light whenever possible, even if that means bumping the ISO or shooting long exposures. I'm not afraid of a little grain – it's actually preferred.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice about photographing an interior, what would it be?
A: Shoot barefoot. I think you make better pictures when you feel like you live in the space and are comfortable enough to walk around without socks and shoes. All the technical verbiage you need to photograph interiors exists in a YouTube video or web forum, but connecting with a space is much more than what lens you should be working on. Don't be afraid to explore and utilize the space as your own: move around; sit on the furniture; observe the light – that's where you'll find the most interesting photographs.
Q: Whom do you admire today in the architecture and/or design fields, and what are they doing that you admire?
A: I don't follow any one particular designer or architectural firm that closely, but I'm constantly looking at design ideas and interior imagery, studying how other photographers see space. Pinterest is a really great tool for this. I take Pinterest very seriously.
That being said, my favorite kind of design aesthetic is something modernized in an older, preserved building. I've photographed a few projects for Jen and Roy Leone, and I think they do an excellent job combining these two elements. Give me a townhouse with beautiful bones and fill it with a curation of modern pieces, and I'm a very happy camper.
A special thank you to Nick for his delightful, witty, and sincere responses to my questions. I, for one, feel inspired to retackle my own interior photography projects – this time, shoes off.