From elegant shots of living rooms to close-ups of end tables, interior photography is a common feature of design magazines, real estate sites, and home rental platforms. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take great indoor shots. All you need is the right equipment, patience, and creativity.
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What Is Interior Photography?
Interior photography is the practice of taking photos of indoor spaces—from rooms to pieces of furniture. Knowing how to shoot an interior is essential for a wide number of fields, including real estate photography, architectural photography, and interior design photography.
What Equipment Do You Need for Interior Photography?
There is an assortment of photography equipment available to help you capture spectacular interior shots:
Camera. Digital cameras, especially mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, provide freedom in experimentation with lenses and lots of control in manual mode for camera settings like exposure, shutter speed, focal length, and ISO. For the casual or beginner architecture photographer, a DSLR camera will provide all the necessary modes and settings you need to shoot interior images. Smartphones are capable of taking surprisingly good interior photos as well, when paired with manual camera apps.
Tripod. Whether you’re using a heavy telephoto lens or need help keeping a room’s lines matched up in your viewfinder, a tripod will steady your camera and lead to crisper, sharper final images.
Flash. For interior shoots, equip your camera with a flash attachment to get brighter, more vivid images. You can also expand your kit to include speed lights, bounces, and shoot-through umbrellas for even more lighting help.
Standard camera lens. A standard zoom lens or prime lens will suffice for capturing detail shots in interior close-ups. A wide-angle lens can help you photograph an entire room all at once—especially useful if you’re in real estate photography.
Tips for Shooting Interiors
Here are a few photography tips to help you out during your next photo shoot:
Turn off the lights.
Photography is all about light. It may seem counterintuitive to turn off the lights in a room before you shoot, but artificial interior lighting is the least flattering type of light in a photograph. It can throw off your white balance, cast distracting shadows, and make the room look dim and uninviting. Instead of artificial light, focus on bringing as much natural light into the space as you can—open the doors, draw back the curtains, open the blinds. Supplemental lighting—like a flash—can help brighten up the space as you shoot.
Pay attention to the lines.
While nature is characterized by organic lines and wide-open spaces, interior photography is full of horizontal and vertical lines in tight spaces. If the lines in your interior photo are slightly off-kilter (for instance, the corner of the room is at a slight angle), this will disrupt the balance of your photo and distract viewers from the composition. When shooting an interior space (and when photo editing in post-production), make sure that the lines of walls, lamps, and windows look straight and balanced.
Nothing’s more distracting in an interior photo than untidiness. While interior design often incorporates artful and carefully placed clutter, a room full of junk is going to look unappealing. Think like an interior designer, and spend a bit of time styling a room before you start: unplug and remove tangles of electrical cords, hide things like remotes and shoes, and take the time to dust furniture, walls, countertops, and window frames to make sure the room looks its best.
Be creative with the space.
Sometimes, the room you’re trying to shoot is simply too small to adequately capture in a photo. When you find yourself in this situation, try capturing the shot from an adjoining hallway or room that offers a different perspective. Photographing with these details in mind provides an additional layer of complexity and interest to interior photography.
Don’t overlook the power of natural light.
As you design the space, pay attention to how the light looks at different times of day and file that info away for future photo shoots, advises photographer Alanna Hale. “Capturing something in its best light is more than just a metaphor,” she says. “Slowing down and observing and watching the light is also a really big component of interior photography.”
Don’t expect your photographer to also be a stylist.
Designers should let their photographer focus on getting the shot, not styling the space, notes photographer Genevieve Garruppo. “I need you to own most of the styling,” she says. “If I think that something should move for the composition, that’s one thing, but I’m not designing the room for you.”
Don’t count on your stylist to be a personal shopper or finish the project.
Shorthouse has encountered jobs where designers want her to style the space and add the finishing touches to the project. “That can really make it difficult because then you’re shopping for a photo shoot, but also shopping for a real space,” she explains. “Sometimes it can be very different in terms of how things read on camera versus how they read in real life.”
Don’t wait until the last minute to clean.
There’s lots to do on shoot days, so make sure the space is cleaned and ready to go before the photographer arrives, advises Neustadt. That includes vacuuming, steaming curtains, cleaning windows, and if the clients are living there, making sure that personal items like remotes, baby gear, and tissue boxes are all out of sight. “Otherwise, I get there and absolutely nothing’s ready for me to shoot,” she says. “Then the whole day we’re kind of playing catch-up.”
Don’t neglect the small moments.
It’s understandable that you want an image to capture every aspect of the room, but make sure you capture some intimate vignettes as well. “A lot of designers are looking at the bigger-picture elements of the room, and they want to get it all,” says King. “But I think there’s an intimacy created in the smaller moments that a lot of times will be overlooked. Those are really important to capture on set as well.”