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    Catching up With Photographer Tracey Ayton

    Tracey Ayton is a Vancouver-based photographer specializing in interiors, lifestyle and food photography. Over the past 25 years she has built a reputation as one of the city’s most sought after interior photographers. In addition to her photography, Tracey holds styling workshops to inspire others to harness their creative passions. Tracey’s work has been featured in many of the industry’s leading publications, such as Martha Stewart, Domain Home, Rue, Kinfolk, Canadian House and Home, Style At Home, and the Globe and Mail. We caught up with Tracey to learn more about her philosophy on photographing homes and her top tips on preparing for a photoshoot.

    Take us back to where it all started. Tell us about your background and how you began your career in photography

    About 25 years ago, I signed up for a course in Graphic Design. Within the first week of attending, I found that it was hard to keep up with the class. I remember a fellow student informed me that she noticed that I was struggling but she was quick to mention that she also recognized that I was creative. She suggested that I check out some photography courses because they would allow me to use a tool in order to create my vision.


    I followed up on her suggestion, quit the Graphic Design course, received a refund and put the money towards photography classes. I took part-time photography classes onwards for about 5 years and I absolutely loved it! To this day, I have no idea who this fellow student was, I can’t remember her name but she made such an impact on the direction of my life that day, I am forever thankful to her.


    After attending a few photography courses, a friend talked me into shooting her wedding. From there, my wedding photography career was set. It expanded into a full-blown wedding and family portrait business for me. In addition to that, I worked at London Drugs for about 10 years and continued with portrait photography for 15 years. Around the same time, I found another passion: Interior Design. I ended up taking a few part-time classes and loved it. But my day job and photography business kept me too busy to pursue it.


    After so many years of shooting weddings, I had reached a point in my career as a wedding photographer where I had enough of working on weekends. Around the same time, I was flipping through an interior design magazine (I still have that particular issue) and had my “Ah ha” moment. “Why was I not photographing beautiful interiors????” From then on, I weaned down my wedding/portrait business and quit London Drugs.  


    In order to get photos of beautiful homes for my website, I knocked on a few doors and it turns out that the homeowners recognized me as the “photo girl” at London Drugs, and allowed me to photograph their homes. From then on, I started blogging, gaining clients and contacting the same interior design publications I had been pouring over all of those years, and where I am now published in.

    How would you describe your photography style? What are you trying to capture in each photo?

    I’ve been told by many people that my photography evokes emotion (this sounds so corny) but the images that I shoot tell a story, whether it’s an interior or a flower, my photos seem to make you want to see more and bring you into the space. Your eye catches whatever is in the foreground but you want to see past that and know what else is in the frame. Every photo seems to tell a story and keeps you wanting to see more. I’ve been told it’s my “brand” so I’ll go with that!

    "When people look at the photos, you want them to feel like they could just jump into that space and live there."

    What’s your number one piece of advice for designers preparing for a photoshoot, to ensure the day goes smoothly?

    My top advice for designers is to (1) communicate what they want to get out of the photoshoot, and make sure to review what is being captured on the camera in order to confirm they are getting everything they need photographed. (2) Make sure to style the space before the shoot, even if it means adding some flowers, books and a throw, you’ve just got to make the space more captivating by propping. (3) Lastly, add life to the photoshoot!!!! Have someone, whether it’s the homeowner or even just the designer, walking through a shot to create the blur of movement. We want to know who lives in the home and how they spend time there.

    What are your top three secrets or must-haves for a successful photo shoot (i.e. specific props, weather, etc)?

    The top three secrets for a successful photoshoot would be a perfect weather day. For me, that would consist of a bright summer day with an overcast of clouds. It emulates a big soft box in order to light up the space perfectly!!! Propping and styling a shoot is a huge factor, again, you want the space to look inviting and somewhat lived in. When people look at the photos, you want them to feel like they could just jump into that space and live there. Lastly, the photographer and designer need to have excellent communication skills in order to end up with beautiful images, capturing exactly what the designer needs.

    How do you suggest clients prepare their homes for a photoshoot? Is a big purge required most of the time?

    Clients can prepare for a photoshoot by purging (if they need it) but otherwise, they should clear out any “personal items” i.e. photos of family, shoes at the door, jackets, clothing on beds etc. Perhaps vacuum and dust the home, this also includes cleaning all of the powder/bathrooms. Lastly, try to purge most things on both shelves and surfaces because a good photoshoot requires minimal clutter in order to really show off the actual space.

    "I think when it comes down to it for me, if you have the three main styling props which are: Florals/greenery, books and throws, you can style any room."

    You’re very well known for your keen eye for design and your knack for effortless styling. Any photography styling tips that everyone should know?

    I think some simple photography styling tips to share would be to keep the styling simple, my favourite styling tip for the kitchen is to make it look as if someone is in the middle of doing something. For instance, make it look like someone is in the middle of putting flowers in a vase by placing the flowers in the sink, with a vase on the counter nearby. Place a market bag on the ground to give the impression the homeowner just came home from the farm market. I think when it comes down to it for me, if you have the three main styling props which are: Florals/greenery, books and throws, you can style any room.

    What’s your best advice for designers looking to build a relationship with a photographer?

    My best advice for building a relationship with a designer would be simply, communication!!!! If the designer and photographer don’t communicate, they may end up with a completely different vision of what they see when shooting a space. The designer needs to know what the photographer can offer and the photographer needs to listen to what the designer needs to get out of the shoot. There are so many details in a space, the photographer HAS TO capture them, it’s up to us to make a carbon copy of what the designer has created. I take it a bit further and add that feeling of a lifestyle that the viewer wants to be a part of.

    "To make a living at what you do and be recognized is one of life’s greatest gifts! I wish that for everyone in our community."

    What’s your favourite thing about being a part of the creative community?

    Being a part of a creative community enables me to work with like-minded people. We are all visual and we enjoy taking on the challenge of making spaces more livable, whether it’s by designing them or photographing them. Our eyes see the beauty in a space, even before it’s been built or styled. Our passion is to create beauty. It’s exciting to see what everyone is up to and be inspired by the entire community. Supporting each other is so important. To make a living at what you do and be recognized is one of life’s greatest gifts! I wish that for everyone in our community.

    You’ve been hosting photography workshops for a while now. What can one expect to learn from one of your workshops? Who is the ideal participant?

    I love holding my styling workshops, it enables me to share “my eye” and what I do to create a pretty photo or vignette and then inspire the attendees to find their own “eye”. Just to watch the participants get inspiration from just a few tools that I give them and see them get excited about it is a true reward. The people that come to my workshops are creative and very visual individuals so many of them recognize that they are creative, they just need a place to go and create that particular “vignette” and take photos of it. It’s a place and a time where people can leave their busy lives for a few hours and just concentrate on creation. As artists, we all need to express our creativity.