Ideally, once a design project is complete a professional photographer is hired to photograph. However, what if the budget doesn’t allow for a professional or the room is not of the quality to make it worth the expense? Sometimes we just need to get the best shots possible on our own. If you have been following my iPhone photography tips then you already know some helpful camera tips but what else do you need to know when taking your own room photos?
Here are seven tips to get better interior room photos
1. Determine the best time of day to photograph. Professional architectural photographers often visit the site before the shoot to determine the best time of day to shoot. Ideal they want to shoot when the natural light coming through the windows is bright but indirect. Neither the pros nor you want to have to deal with harsh streaks of sunlight or “hot spots” streaming across furniture or the floor. On the other hand, for rooms that face north or into dark woods, try and steer clear of photographing on dark dreary days. North facing rooms should be photographed when the outside ambient light is at the brightest.
2. Think and ask questions before you take a single shot. Before a professional even sets up their equipment they will walk around the space to be photographed and study the room. They want to determine what the photo should convey. They want to know what is the focus of the room? Is it an architectural feature? Is it the view? Is it the use of color or materials? All of these questions will determine where they choose to set up the camera. They don’t just walk in and start shooting willy nilly and you should not do that either.
3. Turn off the camera flash. The on-camera flash is not your friend and should never be used in interior photography. If the room is too dark to get a photo without using the camera flash then a tripod is required. The tripod will allow for a longer exposure while keeping the image in focus. The pros will bring additional lighting but use it only when necessary and never…ever… do they use on-camera flash.
4. Turn off the room lights. This one is a little subjective because sometimes a specific light (like a chandelier) can add a touch of ambiance that warms up the room. However, having said that, I work with some of the top architectural photographers in Boston when we shoot the featured homes for the magazine I work for. They always turn off the room lights. The problem is, artificial lights are different temperatures and causes discoloration and can be very distracting in the final photo. They also can cause hot spots on the wall as well as harsh reflections.
The image above was taken at a show house where all the lights are on all day. Had this been a client’s house I would have turned off the two table lamps that are casting a bright amber colored light that distracts from the photo.
5. Take photos from different angles. Where you position the camera can make or break a photo. Too far back and the room can look busy or cluttered with too much to look at. If the camera angle is too high or too low the furniture might look distorted. The best advice if you are a novice is to try different angles and camera positions and try your best to keep the camera level. Be sure to photograph room vignettes and areas of the room that are well styled as they add to the overall story of the room.
6. Use the longest lens you can. I have seen some really distorted images, especially with small rooms where designers have resorted to using a super wide angle lens to get the shot. The professionals I know use a 50mm or longer and will only use a wider lens as a last resort.
7. Use an editing app to make final corrections. All pros use some kind of editing program. If you are a DSLR photographer then you most likely use Photoshop, Gimp or something similar. If you are using the iphone as I do, then Snapseed and VSCO are my go to editing apps. Both of these will allow you to crop and to get the lighting, contrast and colors how you want. More advanced options such as fixing architectural lines, removing ugly cords and switches, or tweaking just one small part of the image is also very easy once you take the time to learn the app’s functions.
The image on the left was snapped with my iphone during High Point Market while walking by one of the show room windows. I don’t know if I even stopped walking because I simply wanted to remember the wallpaper and didn’t give any thought to the photo composition. The image on the left is exactly how my iphone exposed the shot. The image on the right is the same image edited using the Snapseed app. I cropped in tighter, lightened the image and then boosted the contrast just a bit. It took of all of maybe 60 seconds but what a difference…right?
No matter if you are a seasoned professional or an amateur with a cell phone camera, almost all photos can be improved through editing.
One final note: For those of you that think your iPhone is no match for a professional with a DSLR you will want to read this post. The iPhone vs the Canon 5D DSLR
I hope these tips are helpful!