How to Take a Dwell Photo

By Kelsey Keith
Dwell architecture and interiors photographer Matthew Williams offers his expert opinion on how to frame a shot and the best time of day for a photograph.

Brooklyn-based photographer Matthew Williams is uniquely qualified to weigh in on what it means to take a "Dwell photo": he's shot a whopping 16 features for the magazine. His style is fresh, modern, and shows an honest look at the beauty (and imperfection) in a home—which mirrors the ethos behind the foundation of Dwell magazine.

"There are many different ways to take a good photograph of course, but some general rules apply across the board," says Williams. "I am actually uncomfortable saying that, as rules are meant to be broken, but we have to start somewhere." 


 The People Shot

 "Houses are meant to be lived in, thats what makes them homes. I like to capture people as they might actually be in a given moment. I frame up the shot as I would a normal room or overview image, then have a good think about what people would be doing in the frame. I tend to let people settle into a scene a bit, until they become less conscious of the camera. Just let them do their thing. The ‘in-between’ moments are the money shots since they're the most genuine. Talk to people, make them feel good. Say something weird to get laugh. Kids are great as they relax the adults. And remember: It's easy to slip into cliche! Fight that urge."


In the kitchen, designer Maca Huneeus prepares lunch with her daughters Ema, 12, and Ofelia, 7. The pendants are Jonathan Adler; the island is a custom design, inspired by a 1960s Dansk tray that belonged to Huneeus’s mother. The barstools are from Blu Dot.

In the kitchen, designer Maca Huneeus prepares lunch with her daughters Ema, 12, and Ofelia, 7. The pendants are Jonathan Adler; the island is a custom design, inspired by a 1960s Dansk tray that belonged to Huneeus’s mother. The barstools are from Blu Dot.

Kitchen &amp; Dining Room<br><br>"This room really became the heart of the space," Dawn Casale says. "If people are sitting at the dining table or in the living area, you’re able to have a really free-flowing conversation and there’s a nice dynamic happening on the entire floor."

Kitchen & Dining Room

"This room really became the heart of the space," Dawn Casale says. "If people are sitting at the dining table or in the living area, you’re able to have a really free-flowing conversation and there’s a nice dynamic happening on the entire floor."


A large metal floating mirror from Restoration Hardware seemingly doubles the 675 square feet of the Schmidt-Friedlander apartment in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. The family of three dines at an oak table from Canvas Home, with Wishbone chairs by Hans Wegner. Decorators White paint by Benjamin Moore and oiled Hakwood European oak flooring are used throughout.

A large metal floating mirror from Restoration Hardware seemingly doubles the 675 square feet of the Schmidt-Friedlander apartment in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. The family of three dines at an oak table from Canvas Home, with Wishbone chairs by Hans Wegner. Decorators White paint by Benjamin Moore and oiled Hakwood European oak flooring are used throughout.


The Room Shot 

 "A standard room shot should show the main function of the space. This can be hard as some rooms are not huge, and you have to choose which way to face. You can always shoot both ways, but keep in mind that one of the images has to tell the story best. Here I shot facing the beds as the primary shot, and facing the windows as a secondary shot, which I didn’t like as much. This is the kids' bedroom in the Windsor Terrace apartment. The bunks fold up in the day, but I put them down for this shot and put Finn in the image and waited to see what he did. Climb, Finn, climb! Some other tips:—I like to keep the images nice and bright. It cleans up the space and makes it look modern and inviting. —Shoot the room with and without people in it.—Also shoot in both vertical and horizontal formats, if possible."


The bunk bed, the Lollipop IN model from Resource Furniture, stows away flush to the wall when not in use.

The bunk bed, the Lollipop IN model from Resource Furniture, stows away flush to the wall when not in use.

More interior shot examples: