Chateau Gudanes - Tips On How To Shoot A Chateau - Carla Coulson
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Chateau Gudanes – Tips On How To Shoot A Chateau

Chateau Gudanes, karina waters, Carla Coulson, France, French Chateau

All photos Chateau Gudanes Copyright Carla Coulson

A while back I was asked by Harper’s Bazaar to shoot the beautiful Chateau Gudanes and the Water’s family, the wonderful family that fell in love with this place and have taken on the massive job of renovating it.

While it’s awfully exciting to be asked to shoot a Chateau (I blogged about it here) it’s also daunting. The sheer size of this place makes it a photographic challenge in the taking and in the planning. You see we are talking about a place that has 70 rooms and is perched on an exquisite piece of land surrounded by mountains.

I thought it would be fun today to give you some inside tips on how I shot it.

1. Scout It

Chateau Gudanes, carla coulson, karina waters, french chateau, france

I Shot the exterior and interior in one day but I was never going to be able to shoot everything. I had the luxury of seeing the Chateau months earlier which made me realise I would need to rent special long lenses to be able to shoot it from up on the mountain.  I made a list of my favourite things and started with number 1!

2. Hero Shot

Chateau Gudanes, Carla Coulson, Karina Waters, French Chateau

Ok, so on a place like this there are probably only going to be a couple of hero shots (the one the magazine will use to open the story). I felt it would be a shot of the Chateau or the gates because both of them a breathtaking. So I shot the Chateau from as many angles as possible. I was up at sunrise and it was a day that changed every five minutes so I was lucky to catch fog, sunshine and rain in a space of an hour.

french ironwork, french chateau, chateau gudanes, Carla coulson, karina waters,

So I am like a dog with a hamshank! I am not walking away from a shoot without the shot so I will shoot from as many angles as I can to make sure I have what the magazine needs. These are just half a dozen of maybe 16 options I handed in of the Chateau and the gates giving horizontal and vertical options.French ironwork, gates, chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters,

The gates were such an amazing subject to shoot..

3. Get Up High Or Shoot It In It’s Context

Chateau Gudanes, Carla Coulson, french chateau, Karina Waters,

chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters,

So we all want to know where is this Chateau and what’s around it! The only way to do this is to go for a drive and see what you can find. Fortunately I had the lovely Karina Waters as a guide who knows this little baby’s best angles and she kindly showed me her favourite spots.

4. Shooting Interiors

interior staircase, french ironwork, carla coulson, chateau gudanes, karina waters,

I am super excited by interiors like this, I love the patina, the architecture and the light. There is only one difficulty the proportions are huge so you really need to be careful from where you shoot or you end up with very distorted lines. I shot all the interiors on a tripod on approx 400 ISO..

In the case of the staircase I centred myself between the staircase and the door on the right and put my tripod up as high as it would go and then stood on a little stool.

Chateau Gudanes, Carla Coulson, french chateau

As you can see I loved the staircase and didn’t want to miss a shot of this beautiful balustrade. I rarely use a wide angle lens but this is one case where it was the only way to get the whole perspective. When using a wide angle lens on architecture I often find it is better when you are on top of the subject as opposed to being far away. When you are far away it looks distorted.

chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau, france,

To shoot this pic I paid careful attention the lines and distortion. I had my tripod as high as it would go and used a ladder to shoot from so that I was as close as possible to the middle of the distance from floor to ceiling. The closer I am to the floor with a height like this the more the vertical lines will be distorted..

carla coulson, chateau gudanes, french chateau, karina waters,

I adored how Karina had little still lifes happening in many of the rooms, I wandered around the rooms looking at them from all angles taking hand held snaps till I liked something I saw and then I would set up my tripod.

chateau gudanes, carla coulson, karina waters, french chateau, tapestry,

As I was conscious of shooting a whole series of portraits the following day, I wanted to be careful that I had many different angles and wasn’t presenting the same room over and over again shot from the same perspective for the interior shots and the portraits.

stairwell, carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters, chateau gudanes,

I love playing with lines and shapes when shooting interiors and this one was fun but a challenge. I had recently bought a super tripod with a central column that lies horizontally (I could have got a pair of Louboutins for the same price) but this is where it out performs any other tripod. I set the camera up with the lens pointing straight up through the stairwell and I crawled under my camera to check focus, composition and exposure.

chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau,

This too was shot from a ladder and I centred myself in the middle of the shot.

5. Details

details chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau,

I shot as many details as I could of the architecture. Detail shots give you a sense of intimacy and are great combination for an art director to work with with general interiors (of course we managed to squeeze a cat into our pic – thanks Karina).

6. Exterior Landscapes and Grounds

chateau gudanes, carla coulson, french chateau, karina waters,

We are almost done! I shot scenes from the Chateau windows down onto the village below, shot from the front of the house looking back towards the mountains, in the park and played with the light.

Unfortunately I can’t show you all the shots as my blog will blow up but I hope this helps and gives you an idea of what a wonderful place Chateau Gudanes is and if you ever stumble across a Chateau to shoot  these tips might help.

Check out the fabulous Chateau Gudanes cause it’s marvellous.. A huge thank-you to the Walter’s family and the lovely Karina for making this shoot a dream. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook.

You can see the Harper’s Bazaar final shoot here.

“For me, every day is a new thing. I approach each project with a new insecurity, almost like the first project I ever did. And I get the sweats. I go in and start working, I’m not sure where I’m going. If I knew where I was going I wouldn’t do it.” Architect Frank Gehry




PS: Love you to share.. xx

Check out my Portrait Lightroom Presets here.

  • Scott Gould

    Hi Carla,

    A great insight on how you went about photographing a fantastic location.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Scott Gould

    November 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm
  • Tom

    Hi Carla,
    Thanks for your blog, what a treat. Found it while looking for some references on Paris camera stores. Having a little trip to Paris in a couple of weeks, and am very excited…have been before, but with kids in tow, on New Years Day, exhausted from on overnight train from Rome.
    This time it’s just with my darling, she’s working, and I’m exploring. Can’t wait!
    Looking forward to reading your blog further, great little tutorials. Thank you.
    Cheers, Tom

    November 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm
  • Amazing photos Carla, I fell in love with that staircase too. Thanks so much for sharing.

    November 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm
  • YOU KNOW I LOVED THIS!I even called AUSTRALIA To my friend JANE to get me the MAGAZINE and she sent it to me in the STATES!!!!Can’t believe you did all that in ONE DAY!!!!!!!!THOSE GATES SPEAK TO ME TOO!!!!!A gorgeous family…………….doing a GORGEOUS project!I suggest WE all meet up there one day for a coffee!!!!!!!!YOU IN?XO

    November 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm
  • Gorgeous post! I am inspired!

    November 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm
  • Glorious Glorious Glorious and again just Glorious, completely in awe and in love with your vision and this incredible home, what incredible owners and it’s a joy to follow this project xx

    November 6, 2014 at 9:28 pm
  • Carolyn

    Breathtakingly incredible! C xx

    November 6, 2014 at 11:03 pm
  • Carla,
    Loved your run through of the processes involved shooting this gorgeous subject.
    Being so large it really is quite a specialised job and I thought you gave very succinct and clear direction.
    K x

    November 7, 2014 at 12:13 am
  • Mike

    Hi Carla,
    Love your work!
    Did you use HDR with your Chateau portfolio?
    And do you use HDR where appropriate?
    Blairgowrie Australia

    November 7, 2014 at 6:51 am
  • Love! Great job!

    November 7, 2014 at 11:18 am
  • These are lovely! I’ve been following the Chateau on Instagram and have enjoyed seeing its progress. Thank you for sharing some tips! 🙂

    November 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm
  • Rhonda

    Incredible place, whimsical story, and delightfully rich is truth! Love your art, as well!

    ( … tho, it is Water, not Walters .. uh oh 😉 )

    November 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm
  • Simply amazing! You took beautiful pictures of this incredible place! Very nice work! Thanks for sharing!

    November 7, 2014 at 7:30 pm
  • Have been following the renovation tales of the Chateau so was excited to see you photos of it as you captured it so intimately. The patinas are magic- the photos incredible. Thanks for sharing Carla.

    November 8, 2014 at 6:36 am
  • Stumbled on this online. Incredible, heartbreakingly gorgeous work. Makes my heart beat faster. Going to follow you!!

    November 9, 2014 at 4:50 am
  • So beautiful! And thanks for that wonderful tip on positioning yourself as close as possible to the middle between floor and ceiling to avoid distortion. VERY helpful! Have ladder, will travel…I suppose one could say. Love you Carla x

    November 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm
  • Hello Carla

    A challenging project.

    You mastered it with a creative eye and a good plan. Thanks for sharing


    November 12, 2014 at 1:18 am
  • Meg Bever

    Your pictures are amazing! My favorite is “Paris, Paris Garden, Place Des Vosges Snow, Paris Streets, Paris Decor, French Décor”. I love gardens in the snow!

    November 14, 2014 at 1:58 am
  • julia daveyho

    Your photos r incredible,I felt I was there with u,please post more if u can or email to me thank u from south africa

    January 9, 2015 at 2:09 pm
  • These are breathtaking images and so artfully, carefully captures. Well done! I would love to know what camera body and lenses you used if you don’t mind sharing. This was so insightful about the lines/distortion. I’m so happy I stumbled up this today! Thank you! You are very talented with a fantastic eye and approach to your subjects.

    January 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm