Tag Archives: Allie Weiss

What to Do When Your Clients Don’t Want Their Space Photographed

For designers an image is worth more than1,000 words, but for some clients, so is their privacy

When Your Client Doesn't Want Interior Design Photography
Illustration by Christina Zimpel

An exceptional portfolio is key to business, allowing you to pique the interest of prospective clients or submit work to a publication for consideration. For some disciplines, this practice is straightforward: Fine artists, for instance, can typically digitize and circulate their images for portfolios with ease, as they often own the rights to their work. But interior designers and architects, who work on commissions, usually need to get their client’s approval to share images of those projects. That’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially if the project is a private residence.

Sometimes—in fact, oftentimes—you’ll end up working with clients who refuse to have their space photographed because they want to maintain their privacy. In those cases, it’s essential to arm yourself with some techniques to handle such situations, since, as New York–based designer and illustrator Jason Grimesnotes, “You’re only as good as a photograph of your last project, especially at the Instagram-sharing pace the world has adopted.”

Here are several strategies to keep in mind when trying to convince clients to have their space photographed.

Put photography in your contract from the start.

The best way to work around a no-photography situation is to avoid it completely. Lawyer Alex Ross, a partner at Ross & Katz, PLLC,who works closely with designers, highly recommends including a clause about photographing a space—both before and after the project—in your standard contract. “This way we’re able to manage expectations from the beginning, so the client knows that photography is important,” he says. Work closely with an attorney to hammer out the details—you want to be sure you’re getting the rights you need.

Negotiate. Suggest stricter terms, such as ensuring anonymity, or offer a first right of refusal.

Even if you have a clause about photography in your contract, the client may strike it out before signing. That’s the time for negotiation. If your original wording didn’t mention anonymity, it’s a great place to start. Offer your client complete privacy, ensuring that no identifying details about the home or its owners will be shared with publications, on your website, or on social channels. Work on finding a middle ground with your client that still allows you to add photographs of your project to your portfolio.

It sounds obvious, but sometimes long discussions can change your client’s mind. Again, having a lawyer in this situation would be advantageous, as he or she could help negotiate specific rights.

Ask to photograph details only.

Say that your client is standing his or her ground during negotiations. The next tactic to try is to give in, just a tiny bit. “Aside from slowly convincing the client over the course of the project, the best solution I’ve found is to focus on the details,” says Grimes. “All of my work is super-detailed and hyper-custom, so detail photos go a long way. These cropped photos may not make a publication, but they can at least be used in my portfolio.”

Go to court.

Or at least threaten to. “I haven’t any seen any designers who actually go to court about this issue, but we’ve certainly threatened it,” says Ross. Going to court is probably more expensive than it’s worth (and will also cost you a client relationship), so it’s not always advisable to do so, but the option is there.

Work with brokers if the property goes up for sale.

If you’ve lost out on negotiations and the client simply won’t budge—and you decide not to take the matter to court—it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. If the client decides to sell the home, there’s a chance the space will be photographed to woo prospective buyers. In some instances, you can negotiate a deal with the broker to retroactively add those images to your portfolio.

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10 Questions With… Oliver Haslegrave


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In the Brooklyn workspace of Home Studios, stacks of thick books and enormous pin boards speak to the process of founder and creative director Oliver Haslegrave. Culling inspiration from travel, art, literature, and film, the designer develops a rich palette for each interiors project. He spins marbles, metals, and woods into cozy bars and restaurants that populate New York City and beyond (his latest include Bibo Ergo Sum in Los Angeles, Fausto and Elsa in Brooklyn, and the Spaniard and the Loyal in Manhattan). The studio’s emphasis on using custom products resulted in Homework, a furniture and lighting outfit that launched in 2017. Noting the increased breadth of the practice and continued popularity of its hospitality projects, WantedDesign and Bernhardt Design have named Haslegrave the recipient of the American Design Honors, for which he will present an installation at WantedDesign Manhattan from May 19-22.

Interior Design: You formalized your work in lighting and furniture design by launching the Homework division. What’s it been like to focus on product?

Oliver Haslegrave: It’s somewhat familiar in that we make a lot of custom decor for our interiors. But also new in that they’re made with no set context—they’re more like mixtapes in between or as a counterpoint to the interiors.

ID: What are you planning for your installation at WantedDesign?

OH: 5 new pieces: a clothing rack, two lamps, a standing mirror, and a bench. And maybe a few surprises.

ID: You have many projects in New York, but you’re ramping up in other places around the country (with upcoming projects in Memphis, San Diego, and Philadelphia). How does it feel to work elsewhere?

OH: Diversity is at the core of our work, and visiting many different cities is really increasing our horizon and vocabulary.

The Spaniard in Manhattan. Photography courtesy of Home Studios.

ID: You mentioned that your studio does regular film nights.

OH: Every 4 or 5 weeks we watch a film and focus on the production design. Film is a big reference for us (I was a film major), and production design is a strong parallel to what we do. We started this year. We’re watching Bottle Rocket, the Graduate, In the Mood for Love, Chinatown, Band of Outsiders, There Will Be Blood—about 10 in all.

The Loyal Restaurant in Manhattan. Photography courtesy of Home Studios.

ID: Where did you grow up, and how did it influence your work? 

OH: In Connecticut, near Rhode Island. My dad’s an architect, so I grew up working on job sites, which definitely shaped my work ethic.

Bibo Ergo Sum in Los Angeles. Photography courtesy of Home Studios.

ID: Latest design obsession? 

OH: Villa Borsani in Milan. I took a tour during Salone del Mobile and it was incredible. I liked pretty much everything: the use of space and material, Borsani’s own Tecno pieces, the curation of art by Lucio Fontana and others, and the thought and intent put into every decision.

ID: Latest interiors pet peeve? 

OH: The current rents in New York for small bars and restaurants are a drag!

Elsa in Brooklyn. Photography courtesy of Home Studios.

ID: A secret source you’re willing to share? 

OH:  The Strand. My favorite place.

Rendering of the Home Studios booth at WantedDesign 2018. Photography courtesy of Home Studios.

ID: An item you couldn’t live without?

OH: Good headphones—the big noise-cancelling kind. I’m always listening to music and really care about sound quality. New York also can be quite loud, and they help balance that out.

ID: Dream commission? 

OH: A hotel in Paris.

Continue reading 10 Questions With… Oliver Haslegrave

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