There was no getting around it. For the best view of the magnificent swimming pool and pool house and the stunning countryside around it, Jane Beiles was just going to have to climb to a neighboring rooftop to shoot it.
She was on location in North Salem, N.Y., with a photo editor and a client, she recalls. “They said, ‘The best view is from up here.’ I said, ‘I’m afraid of heights,’ and two minutes later I was on the roof with all my gear.” Of course she got the shot.
The New Canaan-based architectural photographer doesn’t always have to scale rooftops to get the perfect angle, but she does take pains to make each shot as good as it can be. She opened her niche photography business in 2011 and since then has worked for architects and designers, as well as publications ranging from Hersam Acorn’s Home Monthly to The New York Times. In a few short years she has earned a reputation for a painterly way with light and a flair for composition.
“Architectural photography is a whole discipline,” she says. “You can’t do it with an iPhone.” Special equipment, plus expertise in leveraging natural and artificial light and composing a shot, are vital to her work.
Her clients appreciate her talent and skill. “Whether it’s shooting a broad exterior view or a very detailed interior view, she possesses a very keen eye for capturing the essence of a place,” says Michael Smith, of Wilton-based Michael Smith Architects.
Indeed, you wouldn’t know from looking at Beiles’ photographs that she’s been in business for less than three years. She credits her success, in part, to a lifelong interest in art.
“My mother painted as a hobby; my interest in visual arts began early,” she says. “My earliest memories are of attending the Mother-Daughter Afternoon of Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts.” Later, at the University of Michigan, she majored in business but always worked art history into her schedule, even staying on campus for spring and summer breaks to satisfy her passion. “I loved art, but I didn’t have a medium,” she says.
Light, camera, action
After college, she worked in fashion marketing before getting married (to Paul Beiles, a Norwalk anesthesiologist) and having three children. A nine-year mommy hiatus followed, but she planned to return to work when her children were ready. The family’s move to New Canaan coincided with the rise of digital photography; Beiles enrolled in a class at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, where Elyse Shapiro became her instructor-mentor. From there, Beiles won a spot in a small class with Bruce Katz, a well-known architectural photographer. “He trained me in composition, lighting and retouching,” says Beiles. “I feel so fortunate; it’s a very specialized niche and business has taken off.”
Besides The Times and Home Monthly, Beiles’ work has appeared in HGTV Magazine, Luxe, Architectural Digest (online), Connecticut Cottages & Gardens, New England Home, athome in Fairfield County, Serendipity, East Coast Home + Design, and others. She also shoots for commercial clients and was official photographer of the New Canaan Cares Kitchen & Home Tour in 2012 and 2013 and the New Canaan Newcomers Holiday House Tour in 2013.
Every cloud has a silver lining
When Beiles begins a shoot, she assesses the light. “An ideal day is high, thin clouds,” she says. “Most people think the photographer likes a sunny day, but thin clouds diffuse the light,” she explains. When necessary, she uses hot lights and umbrellas to supplement or direct the light in a space.
Beiles also notes the shapes in a space. “I love the relationship of geometric space and composition,” she says. She assesses how individual objects will affect a shot. “A room might be absolutely perfect, but you might have to take something away for a photograph,” she explains. “I always say, ‘Have you ever seen a photograph where a telephone pole is sticking out of someone’s head?’ When you flatten a room into two dimensions, a vase might need to be removed.” She often shoots through a doorway or window. “It makes you feel like you’re tiptoeing or peeking in.”
Outdoor photography presents a greater challenge. “With an exterior, you’re working with a fixed subject matter. You can’t pick up a bush and move it,” she says. Nor can she have total control over the light. “We figure out the best photograph on the day we’re given,” she says. She plans ahead to catch the light at various times of day. For sunset shots, she consults sunset charts and sets up well before the magic 10 minutes of perfect light. “There is no lighting that can do what the sun can do,” she says.
Whatever the conditions, Beiles says, “I like my photos to look as good as or better than the real thing. We always know we’ve succeeded when we look at the screen and say, ‘We wish we were there’ — and we are, but we’ve manipulated the light … to make it look ethereal and magical.”
To learn more about Jane Beiles Photography, visit www.janebeiles.com or phone 203-858-6841.
All photos courtesy of Jane Beiles