• Photographing Interiors Like a Pro

    Whether showcasing a restaurant or hotel, marketing a house or flat, photographing for an interior designer or simply taking pictures for your home decor blog, interior photography is playing an increasingly important role online and in print.  But today’s audience is sophisticated.  The bar is set high.  It takes a creative blend of camera craft, design and professionalism to catch the viewer’s eye these days.  So here are some tips on just how to do that.

    Choose Your Kit:

    Quick “snappies” with a smartphone just don’t cut it.  But stunning interior photography doesn’t mean an expensive “Flag Ship” camera and a multitude of lenses, either.

    However, you will need a few basics.  For starters, a wide angle lens in the 16mm – 24mm range will enable you to capture an expansive perspective from the corners of whatever space you’re working in. Slipping a 50mm or 55mm “Standard” lens into your bag is a good idea, too.  You’ll want to include close-ups of details in your layout, so this and even a macro lens for still finer details, will be definitely to your advantage.

    Make a Plan:

    Even before the camera is pulled from the bag, there are few important things to consider – like who is the client (not dismissing that it could be you, either)?  What is the end goal of the interior shoot?  What market is being aimed at? 

    Keep in mind too that each client has his or her own set of requirements.  Say, for example, you’ll be photographing for an interior designer’s portfolio.  You will want to know exactly what kinds of images are needed.  Should you focus on decorative elements in the room or is it a particular ambience that is most important?  In which case “lighting” will play a major role.  You may even want to add decorative items to a room to create a certain atmosphere.  Carefully positioned cushions or a stack of magazines, for example, can bring much needed character to the overall interior scene.

    Or let’s say it’s a restaurant shoot, whereby your aim would be to capture both atmosphere and decor details, along with people in the images.  The goal such approach, of course, being to entice customers to come and dine in a friendly or romantic surrounding.

    Whenever appropriate too, try to tell a story through your images.  Focus on interesting details that make the place unique.  Involve people as models to create a congenial mood. And reassess your styling.  Even the smallest of details can make a difference.

    Take a Walk Around:

    Now walk slowly through your project space, just to get its dimensions – its “personality” firmly in your creative mind.  Once you’ve done that, position yourself in a corner of the room, back firmly against the wall to gain the broadest perspective possible.

    Do the same from each corner and you’ll have a good overall feel for what the space has to offer.  Look at all the angles, the high and low vantage points to choose which will be best for the images you want to make.

    Light is Everything:

    As with all genres of photography, its all about light.  We’re familiar with this from outdoor scenes on a cloudy day.  They’re flat, dull and largely uninteresting.  Bring on warm afternoon sunlight and the scene is transformed.  It’s the same indoors.  In fact, it’s so important to interiors photography, that it’s almost a speciality field unto itself.

    The main advice here is to always strive for soft lighting and an even balance of it – no extremely bright highlights and no deep, dark shadow areas.  Use the light available to you within the room – overhead lights, table and standing lamps, fireplaces and of course, natural window light filtering in during photography’s “golden hours” of early morning and late afternoon.  Spend time trying different combinations of lights in each area of the room to achieve the best overall effect.

    Use a Tripod:

    Professional interior photographers know that using a tripod is a “given.”  The result is sharp, clear and professional images – right down to the smallest detail.  One blurred photograph hurts both client and photographer.

    Keeping things level is all important for impressive interior photos.  Avoid pointing the camera either up or down.  Perfectly level is just where it should be.  Once that’s done, be sure all vertical lines in your viewfinder are running straight up and down and not converging at the top and bottom of the frame.

    A tripod with a spirit level will help you to keep the lines of features – doors, windows, bookcases, tables, etc. – parallel within the frame.  
    If the lens is tilted slightly up or down, lines will be running diagonally, resulting in an unwanted distraction for the viewer. That is, the interior will appear to be falling away or tipping towards the viewer, both of which will diminish the aesthetic and impact of your photo.  
    A few other things to pay attention to include:

    • Ensuring that each of your interior views is set 90 degrees to the wall.
    • Your camera is at eye-level to produce more natural views.
    • Your photos maintain symmetry, which is generally more pleasing to the human eye.
    • A balance exists between the right and left sides of each frame.
    • That floors and ceilings are captured in equal proportions.
    • That head-on photographs allot equal amounts of space to each side of an interior feature (e.g. a fireplace).

    Pay Attention to What’s in Focus:

    Aperture is an important item in every interior photographer’s “tool kit.”  Depth-of-field can mean the difference between unwanted background clutter and an image whose background is reduced to a pleasant blur (i.e. “bokeh”).  If the background doesn’t add to an interior photo’s aesthetic, set a wide aperture (i.e.low f-stop number) to lessen its impact. Alternatively, if you’re shooting a large space you might want a smaller aperture setting (i.e. high f-stop number) to insure that the whole scene is sharp from immediate foreground to its furtherest element.  And be sure to include thematically appropriate and sharply-in-focus foreground elements to create a sense of depth in your interior photographs.

    To add a sense of “grandeur” to your interior images, try mounting a wide angle lens to your camera and photographing from a high vantage point in the corner of the room.  A staircase will work fine for this, so too will a step ladder that you’ve brought with you.  Just remember to keep your camera straight and to not crop out half the frame.


    Interior photography can benefit greatly from the post-production process. Rarely is it that an interior image is captured in the exact way it was first envisioned by the photographer.  Step number one here is to make certain the composition is right to begin with, in order to eliminate the need for large amounts of vertical correction.  And,  keep post-production alterations to a minimum – minimal cropping and just slight adjustments of contrast,  highlights and shadows.


    Interested in giving interiors photography a try – or improving what you already know of it?  Why not enroll on Joanna Maclennan’s, “Interior Photography,” four-lesson online photography course at The Compelling Image.  You’ll receive excellent instruction, hands-on assignments and timely feedback from an internationally published photographer who has made interior photography her speciality.

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