If you have read my previous blog post on the different lenses I use for interior photography, you may have been left wondering why I carry so many different lenses for each job?
Well, each of the lenses in my bag has a different focal length ranging from 16mm all the way up to 105mm.
So, which is the best focal length for interior photography?
Before I go into how I use each focal length, here’s a brief overview of what we’re actually talking about when discussing focal length in photography:
What is focal length?
First off, it’s probably a good idea to go over what focal length is to give you a good idea how to choose the best focal length for interior photography.
You will probably recognise it as the numbers measured in mm on the side of your lenses. For example, if you’ve bought a camera with a lens included it will be something like 18-55mm.
What these numbers describe is the distance between the lens and the image sensor, when the subject is in focus.
I’ve prepared an in-depth post what focal length is or check out this video for a brief overview on how changing the focal length will affect your image.
Are focal length and angle of view different?
You may have also heard this referred to as angle of view and many of the older generation of photographers who worked on large format cameras often referred to the angle of view of a lens rather than its focal length.
When somebody says angle of view, they mean the extent of the scene captured by the camera.
So, as a simple example, if somebody said they had an angle of view of 180 degrees, imagine drawing a line parallel through the camera and you would be able to see everything in front of that line through the lens.
The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view.
The wider the angle of view, the more physical area you are going to be capturing in the image.
The smaller the angle of view, the longer the focal length.
Using different focal lengths in interior design
If you have read my best lenses for interior photography post you will know I recommend a variety of different lenses.
Here is an example of how using different lenses and focal lengths in the same scene can give you dramatically different results.
It’s worth pointing out that all of these are small J-PEGS straight out of the camera, so I haven’t corrected any of the little issues with each lens.
16mm for interior photography
This is the Canon EF 16-35 mm f/2.8L III USM Lens at the short end. It fits a lot of the room in with a diagonal field of view of 107 degrees.
There are wider lenses available but I wouldn’t personally ever go wider than this because of the obvious vignetting at the side of the image and the distortion.
You can correct this in post-production, but it is something to be aware of when choosing the focal length you want to use for interior photography.
17mm TS-E for interior photography
The Canon 17mm TS-E is the widest tilt-shift lens available.
You can see it eliminates the barrel distortion and vignette issues from the slightly wider 16mm but also has an issue with flare – easily controlled, but another thing to think about.
24m TS-E for interior photography
Another specialist interior photography lens. The 24mm TS-E gets a lot less of the space in the shot but then also removes any issues of it looking too wide and also of objects close to the camera looking too large.
35mm focal length for interior photography
The Canon 16-35mm makes another appearance, this time at the longest focal length it is capable of.
You can see it gets rid of any of the technical issues at the wider end of this lens and creates a really nice focal length to use for interior photography.
50mm for interior photography
The Canon EF 50 mm-f/1.4 USM Lens gives a similar field of view to the human eye. Obviously, the position of the camera would need to change, but it’s a very useful focal length for this situation.
70mm for interior photography
The is the Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4L IS II USM Lens at 70mm.
105mm for interior photography
The Canon 24-105mm is super versatile and just creeping into what I would class as a telephoto lens. You can see it would be pretty unusable at this focal length for this shot.
It would make a great lens for some detail shots though!
So what is the best focal length for interior photography?
Onto the main event.
As you have probably worked out from the above description of using different focal lengths for your interior photography, there is no single best focal length for interior photography.
It all depends on the situation you are in and what you are shooting.
Obviously, if you’re shooting a small house, you’re not going to pull out your 400mm telephoto lens and start taking close-ups of the plug sockets.
As you get a better understanding of focal length, you will start to develop a sixth sense of which lens you want to get out of the bag as soon as you start composing a shot.
It’s always a good idea, especially if you’re shooting for a paying client, to cover a variety of focal lengths on an area too.
So take a nice wide shot – something around the 16-24mm range, get a shot which will look like a natural human eye’s view (somewhere around 50mm) and then get in nice and close and capture some detail shots and vignettes, using something in the telephoto range of 105-200mm.
Hopefully, this post has given you a little bit to think about when choosing the best focal length for interior photography.
If you have any questions or tips for other interior photographers, then please pop them in the comments below.