9 Quick and Essential Tips for Interior Photography

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9 essential tips for interior photography

While there are many times when you’re taking photographs indoors, when the pros are talking about interior photography, they are usually talking about those beautiful, detail-oriented images of interior design spaces. It’s different from real estate photography, because the focus is about the interior of homes or other spaces. But, as with many other photographic shoots that may take place indoors, there are several challenges to think about.

We have created a quick video with some tips on how to shoot interior photography:

Let’s take a look at 9 essential tips that will help you create beautiful interior space images. These tips are presented under some general challenges that the interior photographer typically faces: 

What Type of Light Should an Interior Photographer Use?

1. One of the biggest challenges for any kind of indoor photography is what type of light you should use, so let’s discuss how to approach that particular problem. The experts agree that you want to use natural light for interior photography.

Even with interior photography, you want to use natural light to avoid shadows and unwanted color casts, so open the windows to let as much light in as possible, as seen in this living room image.
Even with interior photography, you want to use natural light to avoid shadows and unwanted color casts, so open the windows to let as much light in as possible.

Light bulbs cause shadows and color casts that will give your images an unpleasant, yellow hue. If at all possible, you want to turn off any indoor lighting, and open all the shades to let in as much natural light as possible. But, sometimes that’s not enough, or you might need to photograph the lighting options in the interior space.

2. If you have to use artificial sources of light, then use LED bulbs. Fluorescent lighting will give you the most trouble, but LEDs are able to mimic natural sunlight. Most architects and designers are already using LED lighting because of this feature, but you should be sure to bring your own bulbs in case you have to replace a dud.

For interior photographs of darker spaces, you can use tools to bounce the light and shape it for the kinds of shadows you want, as seen in this kitchen.
For interior photographs of darker spaces, you can use tools to bounce the light and shape it for the kinds of shadows you want.

3. Bounce the light using shoot-through umbrellas, reflectors, and bounce cards, to both direct the light and shape it so that it lights the interior and creates the types of shadows you want. 

What Camera Settings Should an Interior Photographer Use?

4. Shoot in RAW–This is one of the best tips for most types of photographic shoots, because shooting in RAW gives you the most flexibility in post-production processing. This gives you much more control over your final image. 

5. Aperture settings–Because you’re shooting interiors, you’ll likely want a more open aperture, and that means a smaller f stop number. But, it also depends on what you’re shooting since the aperture setting also controls your depth of field.

So, if you’re shooting a whole room, and you want everything in the shot to be in sharp focus, you have to have a more closed aperture (higher f stop number) to achieve the focus, but you still need it to be open enough (lower f stop number) to let in enough light. That’s a delicate balancing act, and that means you’ll need to practice with your particular camera.

As any good photographer knows, you have to have a strong understanding of your own camera’s settings and how they affect the images, but to help you out, you should know that most interior photographs are shot in the f/8 to f/16 range.

By adjusting your camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings, you can get great low light images, as seen in this image of a computer desk bathed in soft, purple light.
By adjusting your camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings, you can get great low light images.

It’s also helpful to bracket your images. Bracketing is where you take a series of shots at slightly different exposures. For example, you want 3 – 4 shots at varying exposures for any image with a window in it. This allows you to not only select the best exposure, but to actually layer the various exposures together in one image in order to create a perfectly exposed photograph. 

6. Shutter Speed and ISO settings are also important considerations in lower light settings as is typical for interior photography. A slower shutter speed lets more light in, but it also makes the image more sensitive to motion blur. Thus, if you want everything to be in focus, you usually want a faster shutter speed. But, low light conditions necessitate a slower shutter speed.

It’s a balancing act with your aperture and ISO settings. For aperture settings between f/8 and f/16, your shutter speed will typically be between 2 and 8 seconds. Again, by bracketing your shots, you can vary the settings to get the best exposure or layer the exposures for the perfect image. 

The ISO is another setting that determines your camera’s sensitivity to the available light. In low light settings, you want a higher ISO, but the problem with higher ISOs is that it dramatically increases the image noise–that is, the pixelated effect on the image. Noise can be reduced in post-production, but only so much, so it’s better to use a lower ISO settings for most images.

There is, however, a little room to play with–the most common ISO settings are 100, 200, 400, and 800, but if you have a compact camera, ISO settings of 50-200 usually produce an acceptable level of image noise. For digital SLR cameras, the range is 50-800, and sometimes even higher. Again, you should practice with your camera so that you know how these settings will affect your images. 

How Do You Stage the Scene?

7. Shoot Straight–You don’t want to introduce odd angles, so you should make sure you’re shooting straight. Point your camera so that it aligns perfectly with one of the walls to make sure you’re shooting straight on. You can use a grid on your viewfinder to make sure the wall’s horizontal and vertical lines are lining up; that will ensure you’re not creating an angle in the image. This allows for a more harmonious composition, and it gives you better options for cropping the image in post-production.

For the best interior photographs, you want to shoot straight and from waist level, as can be seen in this image of a kitchen.
For the best interior photographs, you want to shoot straight and from waist level.

It’s also helpful to shoot from waist level. If you shoot from a standing position, that will result in a downward angle, and if you’re emphasizing furniture and decor, you won’t want that angled perspective. 

8. Create Depth in the Room--Creating depth in the room can add interest and give the space a luxurious feel. One of the best tips is to remove any clutter in the room. Think carefully about what you want to include to give the image the feel you want it to have.

Next, as you set up your shot, think about where you want the viewer’s eye to land, and are there items that lead the eye to where you want it to land, or is there something that distracts the eye. For example, something on the edge of the photograph that is sneaking into the foreground can be a distracting feature if it is too brightly colored, or maybe, if it’s too in-focus, or if there’s too much of it.

You want to have the decorative items that appear in the image lead the viewer’s eye toward the main focus of the photograph–that might be in the foreground, the middle, or the background. So, remove anything that’s distracting and try to capture the leading lines that will take the viewer where you want them to go.

For interior photography, you want the lines of the space to lead the viewer’s eye to the main focus, as seen in this image of bookshelves and a person taking a book from the highest shelf.
For interior photography, you want the lines of the space to lead the viewer’s eye to the main focus.

9. Don’t Go Too Wide–With real estate photography, you want to show the size of the space by utilizing dramatic wide shots, but with interior photography, it’s all about the design. So, you want to have tighter compositions, and add to those with lots of vignettes and detail. For that reason, for interior photography, you don’t want a wide angle lens that is any wider than 24mm.

The experts agree that you don’t want to go too wide for interior photographs--most are more narrowly framed, as seen in this dining room.
The experts agree that you don’t want to go too wide for interior photographs–most are more narrowly framed.

By using these tips, you can create some stunning interior photos that show the beauty and flow of the space. With a little creativity and a good understanding of your camera, you can capture the features that make the space unique.

If you have a good grasp of aperture, shutter speed,and ISO settings and how they affect your camera’s images, you can use those settings to capture enough natural light to flood the space without the use of artificial light sources. You can also bounce the light to fill in areas with deep shadows, and if you must use an artificial light source, LED bulbs are good because they mimic sunlight. But, it’s still likely you’ll do some post-production processing, and shooting in RAW will make that much easier.

Of course, key to beautiful interior photos is the way the scene is set up. You want to remove clutter, and arrange the scene so that it is free of distracting objects and the lines created by the decor lead the viewer’s eye to where you intend it to go. It helps to shoot straight on rather than at an angle, and shooting from the waist can help eliminate angles created by shooting in a standing position.

Remember that unlike real estate photography, you don’t want to shoot too wide. The experts recommend going no wider than 24mm. By using these 9 interior photography tips, and experimenting/practicing just a little, you’ll find that you’ll be able to capture some stunning interior images that will bring out the story of the space, and in doing so, bring it to life for the viewer. 

Finally, if you are looking to simplify editing your images, you may want to download our Lightroom presets for real estate. These easy to use interior presets help you to effortlessly edit your photos and make properties pop off any page in one click. You can try them for free here.

Interior photography involves shooting images that emphasize interior spaces, like the colorful living room in this photo.
Interior photography involves shooting images that emphasize interior spaces.

Frequently Asked Questions about Interior Photography

What is the best aperture for indoor photography?

Again, it depends on the indoor situation, but if you’re talking about interior design photography, the aperture will likely be set somewhere between f/8 and f/16, and even more ideally between f/8 and f/11. But, if the lighting is lower and you need to open the aperture more, you can also adjust the shutter speed and ISO settings to get similar results. This is why it is important to understand the way your camera works and how its settings impact the image. 

What is the best ISO setting for indoor photography?

This is another question where it depends on the lighting situation. Typically, an ISO setting between 200 – 400 should work well without introducing too much noise, but depending on your camera, you may be able to go even higher with an acceptable level of noise. That’s why it’s important to practice with your specific camera–by experimenting, you’ll know how high you can go.

What is the best camera for interior photography?

Again, there are various choices, but one camera that is consistently rated highly is the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR. It has an incredible dynamic range that allows for the megapixels to be distributed over a larger area–that means less noise and greater sharpness. 

What is the best lens for interior photography?

As is often the case, there are many options out there, but among those consistently rated highly are the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L, and the less expensive Sigma 10-20 mm F4-5.6 EX DC. Both produce sharp, high quality images. The Canon lens is the gold standard, but if your budget is a consideration, the Sigma lens works well too. 

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Catherine Gaither<span class="bp-verified-badge"></span>
Catherine Gaither
Catherine Gaither is a professional bioarchaeologist. She has traveled the world photographing archaeological sites and artifacts, and studying human physical remains. She has written numerous professional publications. She continues to work as a forensic consultant and author.

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