A How To Guide on Interior Photography Settings
So what are my expert tips for creating good interior photos?
First of all, in photography, there are no rules, just guidelines that you can follow until you discover your style. I love bright and airy shots; others prefer dark and moody. So this is a template for a good start in interior photography that you can tweak to express your style:
Before we dive into the art and techniques, let's lay down guidelines on camera settings:
SHUTTER SPEED Depending on how much natural light you have available, your shutter speed will generally be between 1/60 and 1/3 of a second.
APERTURE Keep your aperture set to f/7.1 to f/11 unless you want shallow depth of field to highlight a particular subject within the room.
ISO In order to use a faster shutter speed, you’ll need to raise your ISO, but make sure you’re not introducing too much digital noise by trying to keep ISO below 400. Test out different ISO settings on your camera before the shoot to determine how far you can go without reducing picture quality.
CAMERA STABILITY Because you’ll probably be shooting under low light conditions and long exposure times when you photograph interiors, use a tripod and a remote trigger to eliminate any camera shake that could cause your photos to be blurred.
1. Use natural light whenever possible!
So turn all the lights off. I repeat OFF! Light bulbs cause terrible shadows and color casts. As human beings, we are very capable of interpreting the yellow color cast of incandescent bulbs or the dull green of fluorescent lights as white light, but the camera has no brain to understand colors as we can. If your Client asks why the interior lights should be off, do a test shot with and without so they can decide for themselves
Why the Lights Should Be Off This helps to create a natural feel and an even light temperature, meaning better photos.Having interior lights on also creates all sorts of shadows. These will appear on walls, floors, and furniture. It’s distracting and takes away from the actual interior design elements. Is there a lighting feature that you want to show in photos, such as recessed lighting? That’s the only time that you’ll want to consider having lights on for interior design photography. In this case, make sure you bracket at least a second exposure that’s a bit darker. Like that, you can soften the brightness of the light and keep the lighting looking even.
2. Working With Layers
You’ll want to do several bracketed shots at varying exposures. That way, you can layer them for a subtle natural-feeling HDR final image when photo editing.
You’ll want to bracket 3-4 exposures for any shots that include windows or a space with lots of lights. This gives you darker frames that you can use for showing the space highlights or exterior views if there are any. And middle exposures that help to balance out the bright highlights.
In another post I'll go over in-depth HDR post production for interiors but below is a good example of Raw and Finished image using the process.
3. Use a tripod
The light conditions are rarely good enough to shoot handheld indoors. So a tripod is a must! I prefer to keep my aperture between F/9 and F/11 and my ISO as low as possible (100 yes!) to create an overall sharp image. And with your camera mounted on a tripod, the shutter speed is no longer an issue. Invest in a sturdy one with bubble levels, and it will last you a lifetime. You’ll find an overview of the gear I use and recommend on this page.
4. Don’t Go Too Wide
It’s easy to think that wide angle lens shots rule. Especially if you begin photographing interiors for real estate clients.
But if you flip through an interior design magazine you’ll realise that this isn’t the case.
In real estate, you want to emphasize how large a space is by showing dramatic wide shots. But in interior design photography, it’s all about the design. All the various beautiful visual moments in the space should stand out.
5. Keep your lines straight
Keep you verticals vertical and, when shooting a one-point perspective, your horizontals horizontal too! Our brain is capable of realizing that doors are vertical even if we see them from an angled view, but the camera is not.
Using a tripod and a tripod head with bubble levels makes it easier to keep the lines straight!
6. Get Rid of Any Clutter
It may seem obvious, but clearing the clutter is an absolute must.
We want to see that gorgeous counter-top marble. Or see how the light hits the custom alcove with only one stunning sculpture in it.
As an interior photographer, it’s part of your job to tell your client how to prepare the space for photos. Relay the value of a clean space before the photo shoot.
7. Cloudy days are the best for Interiors
When I am shooting real estate, I prefer to work on a sunny day, but that’s just for the outdoor shots!
Every house in its surroundings looks better when the sun is shining, and the sky is blue but the sunlight creates a very sharp difference between lights and darks indoors especially when it is shining straight through the windows.
So when I am shooting interiors, I prefer an overcast day. The clouds function as a large softbox creating lovely soft shadows.
8. Stage Every Shot.
The best interior photos are carefully styled. First of all, get out all the clutter like cords, cables, mail, etc.
Basically, anything that is not intended for decoration purposes. Don’t be afraid to remove or re-position accessories and furniture to create a better composition.
Depending on the goal, you can always remove things like light switches and outlets in Photoshop too unless you are shooting real estate: therefore you need to keep things real!
9. Shoot in RAW File Format.
RAW files contain all the data that you capture, unlike jpegs that are compressed and ‘edited’ in the camera.
You do need Photoshop’s camera raw processor or Lightroom so you can retrieve a lot of information in blown out or underexposed areas without loss of quality. Besides, you can adjust the white balance more accurately so:
Creating those flashy interior photographs for magazines may seem out of reach. But keeping these tips in mind will get you on your way!
Begin with basics and continue to add layers of depth and precision. Interior design photography clients are looking for a final product that speaks of luxury and warmth. And they’ll most likely want to be involved in the process with you.