Photographing interiors is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding. However, to do it well can be a challenge, as there are many things to think about. Whether it be a funky bar setting, a sophisticated lounge room or a hotel foyer or a bedroom, it can be difficult to create a photo that does the real thing justice. Not only is composition, lighting and lens choice important, but your attention to detail is also vital to ensure you are capturing the important elements of a room, or simply making sure that there isn’t something out of place.
Compose the Shot
With your camera in your hands, you should first explore different angles, compositions and positions in a room to decide on the best way to frame your photo. Then, use a tripod to set your camera in a final position. Interiors are often full of large objects such as furniture, lights and benches, so try to compose your photo with the important parts of the room as features. If there are objects that are not needed and can be removed, take them out of the shot for a more spacious appearance. Use a wide angle lens such as a 24mm to capture the entire room, or if you want to focus only on something smaller in more detail, try shooting at 50mm or 70mm.
When deciding on an angle, experiment with compositions that might not be obvious. Try shooting close to a wall, or get up on a step ladder to shoot from a higher angle.
Interior lighting is designed to create mood and effect in a room. It is often important, therefore, to use the existing light in your photos. Using the flash on the front of your camera will make your photos look flat and ruin the good work of the person who designed the lighting.
Natural light from windows or glass doors will give the scene an appealing open and airy feeling. If this is the effect you are wanting, turn off any over head lights and try to choose an angle where the light comes across the room, or towards camera. If the light is from behind the camera, the photo will look flat and uninteresting.
If the room is dark, and is lit by electric lighting (perhaps it is a fancy location), you may need to use a long shutter speed for the photo to be bright enough. Experiment with exposure times of 2 seconds or more.
Different electric light sources can produce unwanted color casts in images, but can be fixed by changing the color balance setting on your camera. You can change the setting to tungsten lighting, or fluorescent lighting depending on the lights used in the room.
There are times when using flash can improve interior shots. However, only use a flash that sits on the hot shoe atop your camera, and can be pointed in different directions.
If your image has too much contrast between light and shadows, you can use flash lighting to fill in the dark areas, adding more detail to the image. Bounce the light of your flash off the ceiling or a wall to produce a broad and soft light that will fill in the shadows. Make sure your flash power is set lower than the camera’s exposure to ensure it does not flatten the lighting too much.
A good photographer should have a good eye for the smaller details, and this can include styling the scene that you are photographing. This might mean straightening a cushion, placing a vase onto a table, dusting off a bench-top or even deciding whether to open some curtains or keep them closed before you take a photograph. Doing this can make the difference between a good interior design photo, and a great interior design photo.