Anyone can run around with a camera and shoot an interior – but if you want to capture well-lit, sharp, beautifully composed interior images, you’ll need to use certain techniques.
In this article, I discuss the ins and outs of interior photography, including:
How to keep your exposures looking bright and detailed
Where to stand for good results
How to avoid perspective distortion in your shots
So if you’re ready to capture amazing images for that real-estate listing, website portfolio, or simply because you think interiors look cool, then let’s get started!
1. Use a tripod
Yes, it’s basic advice. But if you want to capture sharp interior photos that are also well exposed and feature limited noise, you must use a tripod.
Some beginners are tempted to just walk around and shoot handheld. But when relying on such an approach, you’ll need to boost your ISO or lower your shutter speed, which will create noise or blur, respectively. A tripod, on the other hand, will keep your shots sharp and free of noise, even if you use slower shutter speeds!
Note: Using a tripod will slow down your shooting process, and you initially might find the deliberate pace frustrating. But deliberation can be a good thing; in my experience, it makes you really concentrate on the shot. As you set up your camera on the tripod, you can check around the frame for stray cables or clutter, and you can really dial in that composition before you hit the shutter button.
2. Try working with Live View (or an electronic viewfinder)
If you’re using a DSLR, I highly recommend checking each shot on your camera’s LCD before hitting the shutter button, which is where Live View comes in handy. It’ll let you preview the image in advance, and you won’t have to waste time capturing test shots in order to carefully dial in the exposure.
If you’re using a mirrorless camera, you can shoot via the camera LCD, but most mirrorless models – especially the higher-end models – do come with an electronic viewfinder. It’s basically a Live View mode, except that you use it by looking through the camera’s viewfinder (rather than at the back of the screen).
It’s worth noting that shooting via Live View and shooting via the electronic viewfinder offer two very different experiences, so even if you own a mirrorless camera with an EVF, I’d recommend trying out both options. You never know which you’ll prefer!
3. Go wide (but not too wide)
A wide-angle lens works great for most interior photography situations; it makes rooms look spacious (generally a good thing!), and it also helps communicate the layout of the place.
However, you don’t want to overdo it. Shooting from one corner so you can fit the other three corners into the shot just looks wrong.
As for specific focal-length recommendations: Anything in the 16-24mm range on a full-frame camera works great, though you will need to make slight adjustments depending on the type of interiors you’re shooting.
One more tip: You don’t need to show everything. Our eyes and brain will fill in gaps, so including half a cabinet and the pillows section of a bed looks fine.
4. Use one- or two-point perspective
While there are an infinite number of interior photo compositions, you can use one-point perspective and two-point perspective to guide your work.
A one-point perspective involves shooting so the sensor plane is parallel to a wall. It’s a great way to set the scene, and it can show various walls leading toward a point in the distance, like this:
A two-point perspective angle involves shooting into a corner (rather than against a flat wall):
It’s a nice way to show lots of details and emphasize the cohesiveness of a room. Note that the corner doesn’t need to be centered in the frame; just don’t try to show three walls!
5. Shoot from standing height
One of the biggest struggles interior photographers face is perspective distortion, which comes into play whenever you tilt your camera up or down (i.e., so the lens is no longer parallel to the floor).
Now, you can handle perspective distortion by using a tilt-shift lens, but these can be pretty expensive. Another option is to correct distortion in post-processing, but you’ll be forced to crop in from the corners (and you’ll lose pixels in the process).
That’s why I recommend simply avoiding distortion in the field. Shoot from standing height, point your camera straight forward, and capture distortion-free shots!
6. Use a bubble level
Many cameras come with an electronic level – and if yours does include this, then make sure you use it!
But if your camera doesn’t feature a built-in level (or if the built-in level only works for the horizon line), then I’d encourage you to purchase a hot shoe bubble level. This will simply mount on top of your camera, and it’ll let you level the camera very precisely (both up and down and side to side).
Keeping your shots straight will help prevent distortion (discussed in the previous tip!). It’ll also keep the walls straight, and it’ll prevent you from needing to do lots of leveling in post-processing.
7. Bracket, bracket, bracket!
When shooting interiors, you’ll often be faced with a huge range of light in the room – thanks to a mix of shadowy corners, artificial light, and window light. And this wide dynamic range is often more than your camera can capture in one shot, even if your exposure is absolutely spot on.
So what do you do? Bracket! I’d recommend capturing a normal exposure, a shot that’s two stops underexposed, and a shot that’s two stops overexposed. If you’re dealing with an extreme scenario or you want to show the view outside a window, you’ll want to bracket further (to four stops underexposed and four stops overexposed).
Then, when you get back home, you can blend the images together using a program such as Lightroom. The process is quick and painless, but it can save you a lot of frustration, so I encourage you to bracket whenever you have the time.
8. Use fill flash
Some interior photographers prefer to use natural light and just bracket like crazy – but if you want to bracket less and you don’t mind working with an external flash, then why not try a bounce technique?
The idea here is to expose for the brighter areas in the scene, then aim a flash at the ceiling and the walls behind you. The flash will bounce around the room and lessen the shadows in front of you; as a consequence, you won’t be faced with a huge dynamic range, and you’ll be able to shoot without needing to bracket.
Note that you can use the bounce technique by mounting a speedlight to your camera, but it works well off-camera, too. You can use a light stand, or you can just hold the flash in your left hand when you fire the camera shutter with your right.
Check out this first photo, which was taken without fill flash:
Then look at this next photo:
Notice the brighter cabinet and brighter bed spread? The difference is subtle, but it’s present, and it really does matter!
9. Go vertical for magazines
These days, most interior images are viewed on the internet. It’s caused a shift toward horizontal images, which fit well on computer monitors.
However, print magazines are still out there, not to mention smartphones, which do far better with vertical shots.
So don’t be afraid to go vertical! Verticals usually look best when they let the eye fill in gaps, so make use of composition to show hints of the room:
10. Do a bit of post-processing magic
As an interior photographer, you should always get as much right in camera as possible. Carefully set your exposures, make sure you nail focus, choose excellent compositions – but then, when you head back home, you should still edit your RAW files to make them look their best.
In particular, you’ll want to adjust your white balance for a natural look, and you’ll want to make sure the viewer can see plenty of detail throughout the frame, so don’t be afraid to tweak the exposure.
Most interior photographers like to reduce the highlights and boost the shadows to offer the viewer even more tonal detail, though it’s important that you also reduce the blacks to ensure that you don’t lose too much contrast. A little Clarity (if you use Lightroom) can also help!
Finally, make sure you apply the necessary perspective distortion corrections. If the walls appear to bend, people will notice, if only subsconsciously. Lightroom’s Auto distortion-correction option generally works great, but you can also use a program such as Photoshop if you want to make more granular adjustments.
Interior photography tips: final words
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful – and that you’re now excited to head out with your camera and capture some gorgeous interior shots.
Just remember the techniques I shared above, and your images are bound to turn out great!
Now over to you:
Do you have any additional interior photo tips that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!