Q&A : On Set With Read McKendree

December 13, 2021

From start to finish, talented collaborators help us to bring our architectural and design vision to life. The final step, of course, is our marketing team’s collaboration with the talented photographers who capture the finished product. Over the last 5 years photographer Read McKendree has been a frequent collaborator, capturing some of our most iconic images, traveling the globe and dodging all kinds of curveballs. We sat down with Read to ask him how he makes the magic happen- go behind the scenes with this extraordinarily talented photographer, below.

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How did you get into architectural/design photography?

When I graduated from college and wanted to become a full time photographer, I thought that I needed to be good at a lot of different categories of commercial photography.  It was years later, while photographing surfers’ homes for a book called Surf Shacks, that I really fell in love with capturing interior spaces and the nuances of the built environment.  I focused my attention entirely on capturing built environments and how to use, shape and supplement light to best translate how the space feels in person into a two dimensional image.  I’ve been learning how to do this as efficiently and beautifully as possible ever since.

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In terms of architectural and interior photography, what makes a designer/architect a good client?

There is nothing better than a designer/architect that has a point of view and uses their work as a projection of those ideas.  They bring a passion and obsession to the work that resonates with me – it adds a sense of gravity to the process of capturing their work.

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What’s your favorite thing to shoot? Project or otherwise?

It’s important to me that I shoot a variety of architecture and design as well as spaces that represent a wide range of uses.  Residential projects, designed to fit one person’s or one families needs, are fun because I get to see some really exquisite properties that I may never be able to visit again.  Hospitality projects are for public consumption and have a wider appeal while also creating a unique experience.  I need both of these to stay inspired and energized.

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How do you prepare for a shoot? How should your clients prepare?

The wonderful thing about photographing interiors is that the location and the light is different every day.  There is always a new obstacle to overcome.  To prepare for these unknowns, I make sure I have all the equipment I might need, as well as a toolkit of learned tricks to manipulate or create light.  As helpful as scouting shots are,  I prefer to not spend much time obsessing over them.  Without fail, the plan will change as soon as we step into the space.  And it’s nice to see a project with fresh eyes and come at it without any preconceived shots.  Clients can be prepared by making sure the home has enough accessories, florals and props to make the home feel as lived in as they intended when designing it.  Snacks and coffee always help too 🙂

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What can our clients do to help ensure we get the best photos?

Feeling welcome in a space plays a big role in what the photos feel like.  This is especially true in a residential project.  If a homeowner decides to stick around for the shoot, they should be prepared to embrace the chaos (and a little bit of mess) that accompanies a photoshoot.  It will all be put back and clean when we leave!

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What’s the best part of your job?

I’ve always loved visiting new areas and often times feel a sense of nostalgia for a place after I’ve left.  My job allows me to constantly travel,  explore and revisit beautiful areas from my past.  Without fail, I spend at least a week on Nantucket each year, an island that means a lot to me (my wife and I got engaged on Cisco Beach).  This, coupled with my ability to maintain control of my own schedule, allows me a sense of freedom that I’ve always cherished.

The most challenging part?

Becoming a photographer was always my dream and I spent over a decade building my career (and a portfolio I could be proud of) in photography.  And now I’m really busy.  And endlessly thankful for that.  But being on the road 4-5 days a week is really tough, especially with a family at home.  I’m often booking hotels from a rest stop, halfway between jobs. Some people in my life say I need to say no more often – I’ll work on that next year 🙂

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How do you describe your aesthetic?

I love shadow.  I love highlights.  I try to have them come together in a balanced way, neither one overpowering the other.  It’s important for me to be true to the space and the way the light plays even when my camera isn’t looking.

What about your work style?

Hopefully relaxed!  I try to be really accommodating of my clients’ needs.  They are the ones who have spent years visualizing the space and it would be unfair of me to not take their point of view into consideration.  So maybe not always relaxed, but definitely collaborative!

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What do you like about photographing a Workshop project?

Workshop projects are imaginative.  They have ideas, oftentimes wild ones, and they explore them.  This can make them especially difficult to photograph, and their projects often challenge me to try new things and find new tricks.  We recently photographed an apartment in NYC that had a two-story climbing wall in its turret.  That was a first for me and it took some trial and error to find a way to capture it.


Any crazy stories from set?

I will never forget the shoot we had together in Florida.  You’d flown down a handful of your team, mountains of florals and accessories and me and my equipment.  The primary goal of the two-day shoot was to capture the home’s incredible view – tall glass doors and windows looked out over white sand and vibrant blue water.  There was no way of knowing this would happen, but the state had decided to do a beach replenishment project that week – the beach was loaded with heavy machinery and 15 foot tall piles of sand.  We shot all we could for a few hours and then went back to the hotel to soak in the hot tub!

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What should we bring to a shoot?

There should always be a good selection of books, throws and vessels to hold florals or branches.  These three items can be a really effective way to make a space feel lived in but not overly styled.  Snacks help too, especially when lunch gets pushed back (see next question).

Ok, but more importantly, what time is lunch?

I like to start talking about lunch at 11am. It takes a while to agree on a place, get everyone’s order and then have it delivered.  There’s nothing worse than a hangry team.

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What else are you working on?

When I have some time off, I love to work on personal projects.  One of these, the one I find most meditative, is photographing water.  I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, for both surfing and inspiration.  My clients would often commission pieces for residential or hospitality projects.  I paid attention to this need and set up an online gallery to sell my fine art prints through.  You can also sign up and get trade pricing.   readmckendreeprints.com