How to take better interior photos

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.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

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.

Hampton Show House 2014

Hampton Show House 2014  Linda Holt Photo

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.

Hampton show house 2014 room vignette

Hampton show house 2014 room vignette Linda Holt Photo

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?

Before and after editing

Before and after editing Linda Holt Photo

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!

20 Responses to How to take better interior photos
  1. Allyson Paris Reply

    Thank you, Linda, these tips are great and I can’t wait to try them out! Next post perhaps you can address how to store all your images. My iPhone is getting pretty full!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Allyson. That is a great topic because it’s a huge problem. I will definitely write a post on that. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Linda Pakravan Reply

    VERY helpful, Linda! Thanks!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      You are so welcome Linda and thanks for commenting!

  3. Susan Silverman Reply

    Such wonderful information as usual. I’m supposed to be getting the iPhone 7 on Sept. 16 just in time for my trip to Europe. I hope there isn’t too much of a learning curve from the 6.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Susan, I am so jealous! I hear the camera on the new iPhone 7 is amazing! Please let me know what you think.

      • Susan Silverman Reply

        I read on one of your comments that you will be in London. I will be too (at the end of Sept.) I hope you post your photos, there is so much to see there. It is definitely one of my favourite cities!

        • Linda Holt Reply

          Susan, I leave Saturday for London. I will be gone a week and taking tons of photos. I will post as often as possible. I can’t wait to see your photos from your new iPhone7!

  4. Maureen Reply

    Thanks, Linda. Very helpful!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      You are welcome Maureen!

  5. Carla Aston Reply

    Great post, Linda. Very helpful. Love your images too. I have a problem being myopic. I can work on my image, thinking it’s pretty amazing, upload to Instagram and all of a sudden, it looks dull and dark or too washed out, compared to others. I guess that means I need to train my eye? 😬

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Carla. What you experience is common even among pros. I have two good friends who are both professional photographers and their photos always look either too light or too saturated to me. It’s just that everyone’s eye as well as computer screen is different. Did you know we all see both color and light a little differently?

  6. Anne Reply

    I’m amazed that you keep coming up with awesome things to teach us-thank you! Are you editing on a Mac? I have a PC, so I have to use my iPad if I want to learn those apps. I always feel like I have more control on the laptop-probably because I’m more comfortable on it.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Anne, I do all my editing right on my iPhone. I do have an iPad but 99% of the time I edit right on my phone. I find it easier and more convenient that way.

  7. Karen Germond Reply

    Love this Linda! Thanks so much for sharing!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you for commenting Karen!

  8. Julie Reply

    Linda thank you for your generosity in sharing your expertise and knowledge especially about an iPhone. Kudos to you!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      You are welcome Julie and thank you for taking the time to comment!

  9. Teresa Tullio Reply

    Great post Linda! Great advice as I’m photographically challenged. I would love to share this with our ColorIQ group if you dont mind 😊

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Just seeing this now Teresa but please feel free to share!

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