How to start interior photography
Everybody has to start somewhere and this guide will show you how to start interior photography.
So if you’re considering a career in interior photography or just want to take better pictures of your own home, read on and enjoy these simple tips to help you start your interior photography journey.
Interior photography for beginners
How often have you seen property photography ruined with wonky walls and terribly lit bathrooms?
Well the truth is, with a little practise mistakes like that can be easily avoided.
Even if you’re totally new to photography, it is possible with a little preparation and the right equipment to get great images.
Equipment for interior photography
“When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes.”
This statement is really important to understand, especially in today’s society of always needing the newest equipment because it allows you to do x, y and z.
The best camera is the one you have with you has never been truer, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got an iPhone 4 or the latest Hasselblad, if you don’t know how to use it you’re not going to get a good photograph.
So whatever equipment you have, take the time to learn the basic controls and get accustomed to where all the buttons are.
That being said, it is a good idea to have a good basic level of kit which you know you can rely on in any given situation.
Here are the the most important items that I think you will need to start your journey into interior photography:
Best tripod for interior photography
Strong bricks build good houses and it’s important to get your foundations right.
This starts with your tripod, carbon fibre and all that jazz is great and if you’re walking a long way then it’s definitely worth taking a look at, but the chances are with interior photography, that you’re not going to be moving very far.
You’re more than likely going to be using longer exposures so making sure that camera isn’t going to move is critical. Using a camera remote will help you out with this too as you won’t have to touch your camera at all, once it’s set up.
A sturdy pair of legs such as the Manfrotto 058B, shown here, will probably outlive you so investing once and correctly really is the key to the game here.
Bonus tip – if you can’t afford to go all in on a tripod then attaching a sandbag to the bottom of the centre column of your tripod is a great way to add extra stability.
Best lens for interior photography
At a minimum you want something equivalent to a 24mm lens. If your camera came packaged with something like an 18-55mm this will give you, roughly, a 24mm lens on a cropped sensor camera.
As your work grows and you make some money the next step should be something like a 16-35mm, shown here, which will allow you a little more on the wide end for when you’re really forced into a corner.
If you really want to push the boat out, a tilt-shift lens is where the action is at and is comprehensively the best lens you can use for interior photography as it allows you to correct perspective in the camera. However this does come with some drawbacks, namely, it will be a fixed focal length and are available in manual focus only (as well as the price tag which could buy you a good second hand car).
Last on our list of equipment you will need to start interior photography, is probably the most obvious but is also the least important thing to get right.
It is tempting to go out and want to buy the latest offering from Canon or Sony but in reality do you actually need all the functions which drive the price of the camera up, such as wifi and a touch screen?
I’m guessing the answer is no.
Well, in that case, looking for a cheaper camera to start interior photography then looking at second hand bodies such as the Canon 5d mk2 or even the MK1 is a great idea. They’re both full frame and won’t break the bank, meaning if you do accidentally drop it in your excitement to get started with your interior photography, it won’t be as painful to replace.
Full frame or cropped sensor for interior photography?
This question may be older than photography itself and is the staple of many keyboard warrior photography forum arguments.
In all honesty, it will all come down to what you’re comfortable paying. A cropped or APSC sized camera will, on the main, be considerably cheaper. However, you will see a slight improvement in your images due to the increased dynamic range available to a full frame camera and better low light performance on a full frame sensor.
It will also let you use the full angle of view of your lenses, meaning you can use that 16-35mm in all its glory.
One more thing to consider on the technical front is the shallower depth of field which a full frame camera will give you, not particularly important for interior photography but is worth considering if you’re going to be photographing more than just properties.
Finally, your ego.
Do you (or your clients) want the image of having “that really big camera”? Jobs can be won and lost on your image so consider how your gear looks as well as what you can do with it!
We have a full blog post dedicated to the best cameras for interior architecture, if you fancy a read, check it out here.
Camera settings for interior photography
The whole reason for getting that great new tripod was to allow you to use a longer exposure, this means you can increase the quality of your photographs by using a lower iso number.
A place to start for your interior photography shots is iso 100 and your aperture, or f-stop, somewhere around the f8-f11 mark, meaning you will get most of your subject in focus and are using the sharpest setting of your lens. From here, adjust your shutter speed to get a well exposed image through the viewfinder and it will give you a great starting point to work from.
What is the best focal length for interior photography?
As wide as possible to fit as much of the room in as possible, surely?
If you’re an estate agent, or work in “real estate” (for our friends over the pond), firstly read our dedicated blog post for your here. Secondly, it can be tempting to stick the widest lens possible on your camera, as that will make the room look as big as possible.
If you’re trying to sell a house that may seem attractive, however, it also has some major drawbacks:
It won’t look natural. The human eye has an equivalent field of view of around 53 degrees which is the equivalent focal length of 45mm on a full frame camera or 30mm if you’re using a cropped sensor.
Using a wide angle lens will also introduce a large amount of distortion to your image which, if not fixed, using techniques such as Capture One’s keystone tool will make your viewer think they have been drinking the hard stuff! Tilt-shift lenses are a great way to get around this and I’ve discussed that in more detail here.
So should I not use a super-wide angle lens for interior photography?
There are some times that you just can’t avoid having to go wide in order to fit your subject in. If you’ve backed your back against the wall and your usual choice of lens isn’t working then it’s time to pull out your wide angle. If possible try to not go over 24mm and at a maximum 16mm, anything over this and the perspective is going to be really un-natural.
Interior photography lighting
Carrying around a large lighting set up, as well as being back breaking, can be bank breaking!
Knowing when to, and when not to use artificial light is a skill which comes with time and it’s always best, especially if you’re being paid for a job, to go with what you know.
If you’re not comfortable using flash, then it’s important to use your own time to practise as if you start fumbling around in front of a client trying to get things to work, their trust in your ability is going to quickly diminish.
Interior photography with natural light
It’s always best to try and use natural light, where possible, to light your interior photography and if you are just starting out in your interior photography career it’s definitely where I would start.
The first reason for this is in the name, “natural”. If something looks natural to the eye then your viewer is going to have more of an affinity with it and their brain will process it easier than having to work out where the light is coming from.
Secondly, natural light provides a much softer light, which will give you diffused shadows and a much more even exposure. There are times when the sunlight may be too powerful and give you harsh shadows, but using simple things like curtains to diffuse the light can really help.
The key here is to experiment with what works for the room. There may be times when you want to use the long drawn out shadows at sunset to create atmosphere in your image or increase the contrast between the the mid-tones and shadows in your image. Shooting in as many different lighting conditions as possible will give you a good feel for what works for your photography style.
And finally, in most instances, as long as you have done your initial research on where the sun is going to be and where your shadows will fall in the room, it will be much quicker to work than having to set up multiple lights to try and fight against the sun.
For a more in-depth look at how to use natural light to light your interior architectural photography take a look at this post here.
Using speedlights for interior photography
Flash is scary, right?
When used correctly flash can be used to imitate natural light and avoid having to use processes like HDR and taking multiple exposures to stitch together in Photoshop afterwards, which can be time consuming and not efficient if you are working to a tight timescale.
You can start your journey off using flash for your interior architectural photography with just a single speedlight, avoiding the need to purchase expensive equipment until you have the budget to do so.
Using a wireless off camera trigger (such as the pocket wizard system) is great if your camera doesn’t have the option to trigger flash wirelessly built in. It gives you the option to place your flash anywhere in the scene and fire it from your camera.
You really want to avoid using the camera’s built in flash, as it will produce unnatural looking light source if the shadows are going in the same direction as the camera is pointing. Your camera’s built in flash is also probably not going to have enough power to light an interior scene so you will notice quite a large amount of light fall off from the centre.
For a full guide on purchasing flash for your own interior photography please visit here.
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