Michael K. Wilkinson went from working for the government in the state capital to doing what he loves most, photography. Since Wilkinson realized that working for the government was not the job for him, he did what everyone wishes to do and made his hobby into his career. Still based in Washington D.C., Wilkinson has been a full-time photographer since 2001 and focuses on architectural and interior design for his photos. Michael Wilkinson keeps in touch with his supporters by using Instagram, which is updated daily with his photos.
Michael K. Wilkinson gives us an inside look at how his work is done, which involves the art of both photography and business:
I specialize in photographing residential renovation and new construction work, with a focus on small architecture and design firms where the relationship between the designer and the homeowner is very direct and personal.
I feel that when you’re working with small design firms, the result of the design engagement is a close reflection of both the designer and the homeowner. The designer is trained to ask smart questions, listen carefully, and use their specialized knowledge, skills and contacts to create a design that the homeowner would never have come up with on their own, but which reflects their tastes and needs in ways they perhaps didn’t even anticipate.
My biggest growth period as an architectural photographer came after I myself became a consumer of architectural design services. I worked with a very small design firm about 10 years ago to renovate the house I currently live in. As I went through the renovation process, I learned things about how architects and designers work, and the critically important designer-client relationship, that I never would have known otherwise. Now, when photographing spaces, I approach my shoots in much the same way as designers approach their job, asking what the space was like before the renovation, what the program and design goals were, and how the build/renovation has impacted the client’s life. Knowing a bit of the back story adds a level of depth to the shoot that doesn’t exist when you just show up at an assignment and photograph what you find.
Coming from this perspective, my creative approach definitely trends toward the natural, comfortable and light-touch as far as staging and lighting are concerned. I like to simplify and declutter the scene in front of my camera, but I don’t usually try to manufacture a whole scene from scratch. Rather than setting up a whole dinner party in a formal dining room, I like to set a few items up on the table or a sideboard that suggest dinner planning. If the family has children, I love leaving a couple of the kids’ actual toys in strategic places in one or a couple of the scenes, rather than scrubbing all signs of “real life” from the shoot. After all, real people with real kids live in the space. And, ultimately, I think showing how comfortable that space is for the homeowner is the best thing I could do for my client, especially when their ultimate goal for my photographs is to attract more of the exact same kinds of clients who live in the house I’m photographing.