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Artisan Spotlight: The Magic Behind Interior Photoshoots

Featuring interiors photographer Meghan Beierle-O'Brien & stylist Gena Sigala

All the elements and artistry coming together for the perfect interior design shot.

Every so often at Ulterior/Interior, I get the opportunity to feature local talent and makers in L.A. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I started this blog.

Today’s post is doubly special. First, I’m thrilled to introduce you to two key members of my A-Team here at Patrick Ediger Interior Design. I literally wouldn’t be where I am without their creative brilliance and collaboration over the years.

Secondly, I’m excited to share a behind-the-scenes look at interior photoshoots — how we get those beautiful images at the end of a design project.

Because no matter how beautiful the design is, without interior stylists and photographers, designers would never get our work published.

Interior photography is all about translating a 3D space into a 2D piece of art. One that tells a compelling story.

And while interior designers are certainly creatives, most of us don’t think that way.

I spend my time thinking about how people move through their day and how their environment supports them in real time. I don’t think about how that translates to an image.

That’s why I realized early on in my career that if I wanted to get published, I needed to collaborate with interior photography experts to get these stories told.

We’ve all seen jaw-dropping interiors photos on Pinterest, Instagram, or in the glossy pages of magazines. But I think interior design photoshoots — and all the people involved in capturing that breathtaking shot — are a complete mystery to most of the world. Not only is it a weeks-long process to discover the right shots, round up the necessary props, and make a comprehensive plan. But the work is so much more physical and collaborative than people realize.

So, without further ado, today’s post is all about the stunning work of interiors photographer Meghan Beierle-O’Brien and stylist Gena Sigala. Their work has been featured in top industry publications including Luxe, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful, and they’ve partnered with brands like Crate & Barrel, Container Store, and Bloomingdale’s.

Luckily for me, they’ve also been the geniuses behind Patrick Ediger Interior Design’s photoshoots for more than half a decade.

We hopped on a Zoom call to catch up and chat about interior design photoshoots — and the magic behind them.*

*Spoiler Alert: “magic” sometimes requires a bit of duct tape and a whole lot of chaos. Below are some snippets of our conversation.

So, Gena and Meghan, we’ve known each other for years now, but how did each of you get started in the interiors industry?

Gena: Originally, I was working at Neiman Marcus in Dallas, TX. I was in the catalog department, coordinating between buyers and photo crews. Then one day — I’ll never forget it — I saw the stylist uncovering racks and racks of props and feathers and flowers and all of this ephemera...and it was this moment where I thought, “I’m on the wrong side of this scenario. I need to be doing that.” It was just a knowing.

I went back to my cubicle and knew I had to find a way to get there. Thankfully, I had tons of support from others in the industry. They all encouraged me to just go for it!

A while later I was assisting an art director. And one day she was out sick, so I stepped in. And I never assisted again.

Left: Flower arranging is just one of dozens of talents Gena brings when styling for an interior design photoshoot. Right: Finished photo by Meghan Beierle-O'Brien.

Meghan: I became an interiors photographer sort of by accident. I’ve always been close to the industry. My stepdad owned an architecture firm, and I thought I wanted to be a designer. I actually spent a summer interning, but it just didn’t click. So I studied marketing in college and got a great job when I graduated, but didn’t love being in an office.

Then I met Grey Crawford, an incredible photographer who had shot Kelly Wearstler’s work. I actually had a background in photography. I’d always loved it as a hobby, but I didn’t understand the fine art route as a career.

I shadowed Grey for a day. It was like 12 hours, completely exhausting. But I felt more energized at the end of that day — more excited about what I had been doing — than I had ever felt at any other job before. I fell in love with it.

Rather than go to grad school and rack up all that debt, I learned from him. I was his assistant and apprentice for years, and I learned so much.

Left: Finished photo by Meghan Beierle-O'Brien. Right: It’s not rare for Meghan to cram herself into a closet or tiny corner to get the perfect angle for a shot.

I often laugh when I think about the reality of interior photoshoots and what the average person would think if they stumbled onto one — what do you think people would be most surprised to discover about a real photoshoot?

Meghan: I think people just don’t understand what it really entails. They picture real estate photography — and think we’ll bring in a few throw pillows and some flowers and take a couple of hours. But in reality, we’ll spend 2 hours in a kitchen, moving a piece of fruit one inch, half an inch, to get the shot just right. Patrick: I always laugh because in front of the camera, you’ll have this amazing, pristine, gorgeous space that belongs on the cover of a magazine.

And behind the camera, all hell has broken loose. It’s an absolute madhouse. Meghan’s perched in the closet to capture the shot, Gena’s propping up pillow flanges with duct tape while discussing the next shot with me. It's like multi-multi tasking for 10 hours straight.

Left: Finished photo by Meghan Beierle-O'Brien. Right: Gena, Meghan, Patrick and crew making final adjustments before taking the shot.

Gena: Definitely. This is an extremely physical job. That’s one thing I don’t think people have any idea about. It is physically and mentally taxing. We’ve got this long shot list and we want to make the most of each day. That requires a lot of anticipating and flexibility and changing course. And you won’t know what that looks like until you’re in it.

Meghan: I feel like you need to be MacGyver and a Girl Scout.

Gena: Exactly! It’s all smoke and mirrors, everything is basically put together with duck tape and string.

Meghan: Gena, you’ve strung oranges on a tree before! Or taped roses into a bush because it wasn’t full enough.

Patrick: That’s right! Also, there is truly an art to making a bed. And unless you’re a stylist, you don’t know it. It takes at least an hour!

Gena: It can take 4!

Endurance and expert bed-styling aside, what do you think is key for a successful interior photoshoot?

Gena: One of the things that we master is flexibility. Knowing and anticipating the potential problems, then going through plans A, B, C, takes an open mind.

You don’t know what’s gonna work. You can have this vision of the ideal color palette, but I always have other options on hand, because sometimes that initial idea doesn’t work how you thought it would.

Meghan: Organization is so important. Patrick, your photoshoots feel like a corporate shoot — but in the best way. You’re really thoughtful, and you’ve got such a clear vision for what you want.

Gena: Yes, so meticulous! I’ve never worked with anyone that’s like you in that way. It keeps us on track and keeps us accomplishing our goals — and allows room for more experimentation, more collaboration.

Meghan: I get so many fun creative shots because I’m not playing art director. When I don’t have to fill that role, I get to find creative moments.

Patrick: It’s important to be organized at the onset and then sit back and watch you two create something even better than I could have imagined. I’ve learned so much about the importance of trusting my team from working with you two.

I used to get really hung up on what my initial vision had been. I’d think “Why are you putting the dishtowel in the shot? Let’s do one without the towel.” But then I’d see the final shot and totally get why that towel was needed right there. So I just stopped asking - and followed my own advice to “trust the process”.

This seemly insignificant addition of a dish towel in the shot on the right not only dramatically improves the composition of the photo but completes the narrative, telling the story of the space and gives the image real life context.

The longer I’m in this field, the more I realize the importance of collaboration. And interiors photoshoots are certainly no exception.

Meghan: Absolutely. We did a couple of photoshoots early on without Gena, and they were beautiful, but you were smart to recognize that they felt incomplete.

Patrick: I knew my limitations. I knew there wasn’t the life that you see in the images in a magazine.

Meghan: It’s another layer. And that’s what people don’t understand. They’ll ask “Can I do this photoshoot without a stylist?” And I say, “Well, you could...but what do you want the photos to look like?” If it’s to document, sure. But if you want it to tell a story - and get published, you need a stylist for that.

And that’s not because the designs aren’t good. It’s because you’re translating a 3D beauty into a 2D story. And to do that, you need someone who knows how to look at this three-dimensional space that this designer has magically crafted, and push it to a lens and tell the story.

Left: Meghan, Gena & Patrick scrutinizing every last detail until the shot is perfect. Right: Finished photo by by Meghan Beierle-O'Brien.

It’s a collaboration. Everybody really has a role. And it’s important to have all of those roles on set, or you only get part of the story.

Gena: Yes! Patrick makes this beautiful room. Meghan captures the light and the angles. And it’s my job to create that feeling that we all want. To take these empty spaces and tell their story — to make it feel like someone just left. We want to feel like we’re in that room.

It’s finessing. If there’s one word to describe what I do all day, it’s ‘finessing’.

And you learn from everyone’s point of view. I’m always learning, and looking at that different perspective every time I work with the two of you.

It’s such a collaborative process. And without that, it wouldn’t be the same. As Gena said, interiors photoshoots are all smoke and mirrors. Nothing is quite what it seems.

And no matter how beautifully designed a room is, you’ll never get that showstopping image without a trained eye.

Which is why these two women are such an integral part of my work and my career. They transform spaces into works of art that invite you, the viewer, to experience the space for yourself.

No expensive equipment or photo filter can do that. It’s truly an art all its own. Learn more about their work and check out their incredible portfolios below.



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