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How to take tasty interior shots: professional advices

13 July 2016 |

Most people think that photography is quite easy. But they’re wrong. Those who have an interior website or a blog, know that it’s hard to take a really gorgeous photo with a camera featuring only 3 flash settings. But even if you purchase professional equipment, you won’t get great photos if you don’t know how to use it. Do you wish to find out how to make truly magazine shots? You’re lucky, as four skillful photographers of Houzz gave their professional tips on how to take tasty interior shots.

As they say, there are four main aspects in taking photographs like a pro:

  1. Light
  2. Focus and Exposure
  3. Staging
  4. Composition

Light

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California-based photographer David Livingston says you’d better photograph your house on the east side in the morning and on the west side in the afternoon. As for the south and the north sides, they can be shot any time the light is bright. The photographer suggests trying to restrict too bright or too dark zones. Light up the dark areas, and curtain off the bright areas. Or simply wait until the light comes to the room.

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Michal Venera from San Francisco suggests shooting at dawn or at dusk. He says that soft light makes the photographs more beautiful and deeper. According to Venera, the best time for interior and exterior shooting is late afternoon or early evening. You can also make wonderful exterior photos after sunset if you shoot areas with illuminated porch or any other outdoor lighting.

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English photographer David Churchill says there are no definite rules concerning shooting of a house. He calls dusk a great time to shoot beautiful interiors because you can balance the interior light level. David suggests choosing a day with great weather to make good exterior photos as the lack of sun makes the light very flat. In his interior shots the photographer uses available light plus additional lighting to adjust contrast. In case an area is too dark, he adds some light but makes this so nobody can tell he had used lighting because it feels very natural.

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San Francisco-based photographer Matthew Millman sures that it is always better to wait for good light. As he says, there is a time in a day when all rooms in a house get “good light” – the sun is coming in and the space becomes brighter. Due to the sunlight, a shot is warm and vivid. So be patient and wait a couple of hours to get the best shot. “If you have the time, it’s always worth it”, – the photographer says.

Focus and Exposure

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Livingston suggests avoiding under- or over-exposing a photograph when choosing an exposure. Depth of field is a quite difficult concept to understand and apply. “Have a tripod, and take a long exposure”, – he says. – “Use the preview function on your camera, study what depth of field is, have a bigger f-stop. I’d recommend f16 or f22”.

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Michal Venera says, the better the lens, the better the photograph. Great equipment is necessary to do your best in photography, no matter how technically good you are. To emphasize depth of field, the photographer also recommends using a tripod and set the lens in the middle – around 11: this provides the best sharpness of the lens.

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As David Churchill says, the exposure completely depends on the amount of light. He shoots interiors between 1 to 20 seconds at f16. Churchill explains that depth of field is what you have in focus from front to back. And if he wishes to emphasize some element in an interior, he makes the depth shallower to get this particular element in focus while the rest remain blurred. “Finding the best shot takes a lot of experience, and there really are no hard and fast rules”, – David says.

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Matthew Millman recommends taking a lot of pictures. Carry camera around all day long and take tons of photos as tests. The photographer shoots at a high ISO on a low-resolution setting, and uses them only for checking what looks good and how the light is playing in space. Matthew also suggests trying different angles when setting up for a photo – this will allow getting the best shot. “It takes a lot of shots to get one good one. Keep shooting and never settle for just okay”, – he says.

Staging

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Before taking a picture, look at the compositions of each spot to find out if you like what is in and out of the frame, as well as how and where the elements are arranged inside the frame, says David Livingston. He suggests using one color direction when staging, and layer the color on the picture to add depth and richness.

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When it comes to staging, Michal Venera doesn’t do it, as the majority of his customers do the staging ahead of time. “My general belief is that simpler is better”, – the photographer says.

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David Churchill doesn’t like when objects look corny overdone so he tries to keep things looking natural and not too staged. In the photographer’s opinion, this adds another dimension to the picture and brings depth and scale. “If in doubt leave it out” – this is the best advice for staging, he says.

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Matthew Millman recommends making ambitious photos that tell much story, but notes that staging or styling should be simple. “Let the project speak for itself. Do not add too much. And if a space is cluttered, pare it down” – he says. If the pictures are untidy, the viewer will jump from element to element missing the general design. But if the space is tidy (but not sterile), the viewer will be able to imagine what he would feel like if he was there.

Composition 

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Both tight frames and wide frames work well for interiors, says David Livingston. The photographer recommends examining magazines and finding photos you like, and then trying to recreate them. “Try to keep things straight up and down — keep your camera plumb, and don’t tip it up or down to get your shot”, – explains Livingston. Instead, he suggests moving the camera higher or lower to get what you want in the frame. To get a great shot try to think whether or not you like the composition, or if you would want to be in that space. “The shot is interesting if it draws you in” – the photographer thinks.

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Michal Venera suggests taking as much pictures as you can and not being afraid to experiment with various angles and frames. If you plan to include people in your interior shots, try not to shoot them straight on – it will look much better and be easier. Take a side or profile view, as you don’t need a person to be a central element of the photo – you wish to focus on the interior. If you don’t include people in your pictures, it is great to create the impression of a lived in space: just put a half glass of water or something like that, Venera says.

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David Churchill likes making a full range of pictures – from wide-angled general shots to tighter details. He considers a project more interesting if it allows seeing a space as a whole, as well as the design, details, and materials used. Churchill recommends walking through an interior and note interesting elements to compose nicely and make a good shot.

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Matthew Millman recommends shooting lower to the ground, waist-high, as shooting from standing height often makes the furniture look distorted or funny because you look down on it. Use a lower camera angle to make an image more intimate and make a viewer feel himself a part of the picture. “Bring the viewer into the shot” – he says. If you shoot too far away from objects, this makes a viewer travel through the shot to get to the destination. Try to frame the photo with some space element – this will also help the viewer feel like he is inside the shot. “Sometimes a detail can be as compelling, or more, than an overall shot. Details often describe the essence of a space rather than literally depicting it. Look for sweet details that capture feeling through things like texture, light, and color” – the photographer resumes.

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