Photographing interiors is a very challenging job. When it comes to getting top quality images for submission to a magazine or for your website, I always recommend calling in the professional. For social media postings or behind the scenes, your cell phone camera is fine as long as you follow a few basic guide lines. Since I have been offering editing services to designers, stagers, realtors and bloggers, I see the same problems over and over. Today I want to share the five biggest mistakes when photographing interiors.
1. Not turning off the lights
Not turning the lights off does two things to ruin a photo. First, the lights create “hot spots” and shadows in the photo. The second problem with keeping the lights on is that the temperature of the light bulb is going to affect the photo. A warm bulb will cast a yellow glow on the photo and a cool bulb will cast a blue glow on the image. Often times I see photos with a combination of both cool and warm lighting, all left on, and it makes for a hot mess with the lighting. I learned my lesson when I edited over a dozen room images with yellow walls. When I returned them to the designer she said the walls were actually light gray. It seems all of over head lights had been left on which were not visible in the photo but cast a yellow light over the entire room.
Sadly, no amount of editing is going to be able to fix the lighting in this photo. Had the photographer simply turned off the lights on the bedside tables it would have made for a beautiful shot. Professional architectural photographers turn off the lights. If the room is too dark with out the lights on, then supplemental flash is used. The photographer will use flash that is balanced for “day light” temperature. That will keep the colors of the walls, furniture, etc true to color.
2. Trying to get too much in the photos
Unless you are shooting a room for a real estate listing do NOT try and get every single thing in the room in one shot. The cell phone camera has a very wide lens. A big mistake I see over and over is a wide angle shot with all sorts of distortion and no clear subject. Decide what is important that you want the viewer to see and make that the subject matter of the image. It is much better to have multiple images of easily “digestible” room views than one big jumbled mess with everything in the room vying for attention.
3. Holding the camera too high
This is another common mistake that I see over and over. The camera is held too high and then pointed downward toward toward the subject.. Due to the cell phone’s wide angle lens, the lines start to converge or diverge.The photo below is an example of holding the camera up too high and tilting it down to take the photo. See the distortion in the furniture?
Now here is the same shot with the phone held at waist level. The distortion is gone.
You must hold the camera perfectly straight on your subject. This means if you are shooting an interior, then the camera should be a little above waist level. Shooting up or down on a subject is great for artistic photos but ruins an interior shot.
4. Having too many or not enough accessories
Crowding table tops, kitchen counters or mantles with too many accessories can ruin a good interior shot. I know there is an expression that says, “you can never have too many flowers”. Well actually you can. Do you really need flowers on the coffee table and on both of the side tables? Always remember less is more when styling for your interior shots. Look at your photo after you take it and see if it looks crowded. On the flip side, you don’t want bare tables or walls. If the client won’t allow you to bring the job to completion with accessories then it’s up to you to bring in your own accessories to style for the shoot.
5. Choosing the wrong time of day to photograph the room
Generally, the best time of day to photograph an interior is when the room is bright but there is no sunlight streaming through the windows. This is usually either early morning or late afternoon. Hot spots from the sun on furniture and flooring can not be easily fixed with editing. Sometimes streaks of sunlight can create a mood photo but in general, stay away from harsh sunlight streaming in the room.
Hopefully this list of the five biggest mistakes when photographing interiors was helpful. Sometimes it’s an easy change of habit to go from a good photo to a great photo.