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Photographing Interiors and Products Part 6: 8 Essential Tips for Photographing Interiors

This is part 6 of my Photographing Interiors and Products series. This series is designed to help you get your DSLR camera off automatic mode and start taking beautiful photos! Part 6 covers my essential tips for photographing interiors and builds on everything we’ve learned so far. This post contains affiliate links, which helps me provide great free content for you all! You can read more about that here. Thank you!

Photographing Interiors and Products Part 6:

8 Essential Tips for Photographing Interiors

Alright, so we’ve covered the nuts and bolts of exposure and aperture, shutter speed and ISO, my most valued gear, composition basics, DSLR shooting modes, and more. Today we’re building on everything we’ve talked about to go over my essential tips for photographing interiors. Let’s jump in, shall we?

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graphic about photographing products and interiors part 6 tips for shooting interiors

1. Shoot in Raw

“Raw” is simply a file format that includes all of the data your camera’s sensor captured when you took a photo. You’ve probably heard of “JPEG,” which is a format that compresses the file, resulting in losing some that data. Shooting in raw allows you to retain all information and produce higher quality images

Shooting in raw gives you the highest quality possible and allows you to do the processing after shooting. Not your camera. Raw also gives you more data, and therefore more flexibility to correct over- or under-exposed images, white balance, and colors after the fact.

screencap of a browser window
.NEF is the raw file format for Nikon cameras.

There are some things that could be considered downsides to shooting in raw, though. Raw files are massive, for one. They can take up a lot of space on your computer. They also have to be processed. I process my raw files in Adobe Lightroom and export them as JPEGs (more on that in part 8).

2. Turn off all Interior Lights

While this may seem counter-intuitive, the warm glow your home’s lighting can give off—or the sometimes greenish lighting some bulbs give off—can give your images an unprofessional look.

Turning off all of the lights—even lights all the way across the room or under the oven—forces you work with available natural light only. This will help your images look more like what you’re seeing in person, as well as make them look more authentic, polished, and professional. If you’re shooting in darker spaces, you’ll probably need to use a tripod and a remote (see part 3 for more).

Which of the following images do you think looks best—with the interior lights turned on or off?

picture with warm light
With interior lights on.
picture with neutral light
Interior lights off, shot manually with long exposure.
picture with warm light
With interior lights on.
picture with neutral light
Interior lights off, shot manually with long exposure.

3. Shoot at the Right Time of Day

…and this will depend on how your home is positioned, your windows and the direction they face, how many windows you have, and countless other factors. Generally, I like to shoot most of my rooms in the late morning because the lighting coming through the windows is bright enough without being harsh. I like to avoid shots with harsh shadows coming in through windows or doors, like this:

picture with harsh shadows

If I have to shoot during a time when there are harsh shadows, I generally pull down the cordless cellulose shades we have, which has the added bonus of blocking neighborhood clutter outside the windows. You could also filter the light with a piece of sheer fabric.

4. Use a Tripod and Remote

As we discussed in part 3, a good tripod and remote are critical to photographing interiors. You can take near-complete control of your lighting situation by shooting using a much slower shutter speed with the camera fixed on a tripod. The remote also helps prevent you from introducing even the tiniest of handshakes or motion when clicking the shutter release button.


5. Shoot a Variety of Orientations

I usually prefer vertical shots for rooms, especially if they have taller ceilings. Vertical images are also probably your best best for capturing as much detail as possible, from the flooring or rugs to the ceiling fan or lighting. They also look great if you’re a blogger—a lot of blog templates tend to have content width settings that give vertical images more real estate on the page. Finally, vertical images are generally easier to crop down to a square without messing with the image’s composition too much. This is critical for some feature sites and social networks that require square images.

But with all of my fanfare for vertical images, I always shoot a variety of horizontal images as well. Some wider spaces require it, and it’s good to mix things up in a blog post, for example. My blog’s template also requires a horizontal image as the feature image, so that’s always in the back of my head.

Here are comparisons of horizontal and vertical/square images of the same area:

owl picture in a baby's room
white nightstand in a nursery
modern baby nursery
modern baby nursery
modern baby nursery
modern baby nursery
modern baby nursery
modern baby nursery

6. Choose the right lens

I use a wide-angle lens for full-room shots and a portrait lens for details. (I discussed wide-angle and portrait lenses in part 3.) A wide-angle lens will give you the best vantage point to shoot a room, while a portrait lens will help you get crisp, beautiful detail shots.

example of a wide angle shot
Wide-Angle Shot
candles on a table
Portrait Lens Shot
example of a wide angle shot
Wide-Angle Shot
cat in a backyard
Portrait Lens Shot
example of a wide angle shot
Wide-Angle Shot
flowers with a shallow depth of field
Portrait Lens Shot
example of a wide angle shot
Wide-Angle Shot
pine sprigs in a vase
Portrait Lens Shot

7. Position the camera about halfway up the room

Positioning the camera about halfway between the floor and the ceiling will likely give you the most flattering vantage point, at least for wide-angle shots of a room. It will also help you shoot with grids in mind—that is, ensuring the horizontal and vertical “lines” of the furniture and walls create 90-degree angles.

Even if your room doesn’t lend itself well to grids—like if you’re shooting from a corner—shooting halfway between the floor and ceiling will help you capture great shots. Any distortion can easily be corrected in post-processing, which I’ll go over in detail in part 8 of this series.

modern bathroom with a round mirror
fence and plants outside

8. Go Clean and Uncluttered—or at the very least, curated

My style is minimalist, so my rooms are typically clean and uncluttered overall—but before you shoot a room, pay attention to the details. It will save you a lot of headaches. Most of these can be removed in post-processing, but it’s always easier to get it right first.

Always check for the following things before shooting (unless, of course, you want these items in your photos):

  • Remotes
  • Cell phones
  • Stray cords like laptop/cell chargers
  • Random pet or baby toys
  • Purses/wallets
  • Reflections that highlight dust or smudges
  • Dirt built up on ceiling fans
  • Ugly bunches of cords
  • Seasonal items (if it isn’t a seasonal shoot)

Additionally, here are a few details to keep in mind when setting up a room to shoot:

  • Consider everything in the photo. Does each item contribute to or detract from the overall look?
  • Check fabric. Fluff and/or smooth out pillows, blankets, and upholstered furniture.
  • If you have a minimalist style, apply the Coco Chanel rule for accessories: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” When shooting interiors, I tend to remove one thing from a table (or whatever) that might otherwise look fantastic in person. Keep it clean.

If you’re a maximalist, never fear! There are some lovely bloggers who do it very well. And almost all of the above advice still applies. To avoid shooting rooms that look cluttered, every item should be curated to achieve the look you’re going for.  Here are two examples of maximalist images jam-packed with colors and things. These are from Ariel at PMQ for Two’s Toasted Marshmallow Salted Caramel Coffee post:

beautiful display using colors for a party setup
beautiful display using colors for a party setup

Next up…

Photographing Interiors and Products Part 7:

Tips for Photographing Products and Flat Lays.

Next we’ll chat about shooting products, including tips for shooting flat lays. Cya then!

Check out the previous posts in this series:

1: Exposure Basics and Aperture

2: Shutter Speed and ISO

3: Essential Photography Tools

4: Focus, Composition, and Cropping

5: DSLR Shooting Modes

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