In just a few years, photographer Meagan Larsen has quickly built a reputation for her photography of architecture and interiors. Since graduating from Brigham Young University in 2016, Larsen’s striking, light-filled photos have been favorites of local designers and featured in publications throughout the country, including Dwell, Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles and Oregon Home. We have proudly published her photos numerous times, most recently in a Park City home tour by Ezra Lee Design & Build. Utah Style chatted with Larsen about her career origins, a favorite project in Oregon and whether she ever gets sick of shooting houses. (The answer is a resounding no!)
USD: How did you get started as an interior and architecture photographer? Have you ever worked on other kinds of photography?
I fell in love with photography in high school and for a long time I actually wanted to be a sports photographer. I volunteered to shoot nearly every event for my school and was hired by BYU Photo in college to do the same. I loved being on the sidelines and seeing the action up close. In college I studied photography and explored a lot of different genres, and I had one single assignment to photograph the inside and outside of a home. My professor was impressed with my first shoot and encouraged me to do more with it, so I did! I actually wanted to study interior design at one point and I quickly realized that interior and architectural photography was the perfect match for me. Working with talented designers is a dream and I’ve been able to learn so much from my clients while doing what I love!
USD: Do you have a favorite or most memorable project?
Picking a favorite is really hard, but I will always remember a shoot that I did on Cannon Beach in Oregon with Melanie Gaither Interiors. It was on one of my first business trips and I was completely blown away when I walked into the home and saw a perfect, unobstructed view of Haystack Rock through the living room windows! I still feel so lucky to have photographed such an incredible space at that unbeatable location.
USD: You have worked on both commercial and residential projects. What do you like about photographing these different spaces?
I love that it changes things up. People ask me if shooting homes all the time ever gets boring, and the answer is “no!” Each space is so different and shooting both commercial and residential spaces adds a lot of variety to my job, which I love.
USD: We love both your exterior and interior photos. What do you do differently when shooting interiors versus taking photos of architecture?
Shooting interiors is so different than exteriors, but I love them both! One key difference is the time of day in which I do the shoot. With interiors I usually prefer to do it in the middle of the day when there isn’t harsh sunlight coming in through the windows. I like the lighting to be even and that’s best achieved when the sun is high in the sky. In contrast, while I do sometimes shoot exteriors during the day, I prefer to shoot them in the evening around sunset. When the sun goes down, there’s a short window of perfect lighting where there isn’t harsh shadows or bright highlights, and this really helps the exteriors shine.
Another key difference when I shoot interiors and exteriors is if I have the lights turned on or off. It depends on the space, but I often prefer lights to be off for interiors to help the white balance be even across the room. If you have interior lights on, they can create a warm color cast that clashes with the cooler light coming in from windows. In order to keep colors in the space looking the most accurate, I find that it’s best to focus on one light source if you can, and that’s usually from the window. In contrast, I tell people to turn all the lights on when I shoot exteriors. The warm glow of the windows adds a nice element of depth to the image and really brings the exterior to life!
USD: Take me through what steps you take on a typical shoot. Is there a normal routine you follow on the day of?
When I show up to a shoot, the first thing I do is walk through the space with the designer. It helps to see the space as a whole and to have an understanding of each space we will be photographing. This also gives the designer a chance to point out any specific vignettes or details they want me to capture when I’m shooting, and we are able to identify any gaps in styling that might need more attention.
While I’m shooting, I connect wirelessly to an iPad. This allows me to show my clients the shots I’m getting on a bigger screen and it helps us adjust anything in the shot if needed. I find that this also helps the client feel confident that we are capturing what they had in mind.
For each shot, I take multiple exposures that I then combine together by hand in photoshop later. This usually consists of two to five natural light exposures and one to two exposures with flash. I spend a lot of time in post-production blending the exposures together to get details in the highlights and shadows across each image.
USD: What is it like to see your photos published in a magazine?
Seeing my photos published feels like a big pay day! There’s nothing like working so hard on something and seeing it printed and displayed in beautiful spreads in a magazine. It’s so validating and it never gets old!
USD: Do you have any pointers for designers on how to prep their rooms for a shoot?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to bring lots of options for styling! You never know until you get into the space what objects will work and what won’t. Most people that I work with will bring cars full of different items to stage the space, even if we only end up using a few things. It’s better to have too many options than not enough! I also love when designers bring fresh flowers or plants—they really help bring the space to life and can add the perfect touch of color.
USD: What are your favorite spaces to shoot?
I love shooting kitchens and bedrooms! Homes are often designed around the kitchen and I almost always spend the most time shooting there. I also love shooting bedrooms—particularly vignettes that show the bedding and nightstand together. I know a home is well-designed when the detail and vignette shots are just as good as capturing the whole space!
USD: What equipment do you use?
All of my equipment is Canon! I use a high-end DLSR with a variety of lenses. I most often shoot with a 16-35mm wide lens that allows me to capture the space as a whole, and then I’ll use lenses like a 24-70mm or 70-200mm for vignettes and details. I always shoot on a tripod to allow me to take multiple exposures of the same shot, and I also bring a couple speedlites to pump in some flash if needed.
USD: What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is hands down the people I work with! I’ve been lucky enough to become great friends with my clients and they are relationships that I will always cherish! There’s something so special about collaborating together as creatives. Some of the best moments are showing the designers the shot I get and seeing them light up with excitement. I love being able to capture their hard work in a way that shows off the space as they imagined it.