Behind "The Scene"


Sure, manufacturers and sellers of home furnishings and accessories send Senior Editor Phyllis Van Doren press releases and images. But Phyllis hits the streets to find out what local stores are carrying when she prepares each month’s Hot Finds & Cool Stuff.

To appreciate the work that goes into Phyllis’ monthly roundup of great design, let’s single out the Incredible Interiors shot on page 30 of the August issue.

Phyllis and photographer Gail Owens begin touring the store, looking for the right vignette. With their respective eyes for design and composition, they settle on a loveseat, chair and coffee table.

“If we use this, I want to change the accessories with something that pulls in the striped chair and pillows,” Phyllis says.

With help from store employees, they move the chair to the other side of the loveseat and remove the plant and boxes of candles from the table.

“Oh, baskets,” Phyllis says, spying a set and picking them up. “I always like baskets.” But she sets them back down. “These are too big.”

While Gail sets up her tripod, Phyllis scouts the store for a different plant and table decor, trying one and then another, finally settling on a long floral arrangement, a sculpted fish whose striped fins match the stripes in two of the loveseat pillows and a trio of candles in blue and white pots that also echo the color palette of the furnishings. Phyllis and Gail view their options through the camera lens and finally agree that they have found the right combination. A store employee removes or hides price tags.

“I’ve got to get some light in here,” Gail says. While she retrieves lights, light stands, umbrella reflectors and a battery pack from her car, Phyllis takes notes on the product lines she’s showcasing.

Once Gail has her lighting equipment strategically placed, she shoots a variety of images and she and Phyllis look at them on Gail’s laptop computer. Minor adjustments are made (i.e., moving the fish sculpture back a few inches and removing items in the background that distract from the primary setting). When everything is right, Gail looks at the vignette.

“OK, smile,” she directs the still life.

About an hour after they had arrived, everything is back in place, as though they had never been there. Next they head into a neighboring store to see what’s new there. After that, the duo has more shots scheduled for the afternoon.


Janice Kleinschmidt



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