Ten years ago, I started my entrepreneurial career as a home stager. As a drop out interior design student, I never could let go of the feeling to do something with interior once and when I finally decided to quit my day job, being a home stager felt like a career that could pay the bills and give me a jump start towards the design business. Instead of that, I ended making interior photos every single day! Back in the day before the crisis hit the real estate market, I did find agents that wanted to work with a professional stager. But to keep down the expenses, they took their photos.
My first interior photos (…)
Boy, I made lovely interiors from scratch, and when I saw the pictures on the Dutch MLS, they still looked like crap. So I decided that I’d better take the pictures myself. With just the knowledge of the few photography classes that I attended in art school, I set my first steps into photography.My pictures looked crap! Better than the photos of the realtors but “Better” was not enough! There were no courses on interior photography in the Netherlands, so it has been a lot of trial and error before I was finally satisfied with my work. I took years before I dared to call myself a photographer by profession.
So what are my expert tips for creating good interior photos?
First of all, in photography, there are no rules, just guidelines that you can follow until you discover your style. I love bright and airy shots; others prefer dark and moody. But when you use my tips, you will have a good start in interior photography:
1. Use natural light whenever possible!
So turn all the lights off. I repeat OFF! Light bulbs cause terrible shadows and color casts. As human beings, we are very capable of interpreting the yellow color cast of incandescent bulbs or the dull green of fluorescent lights as white light, but the camera has no brain to understand colors as we can. The other day to a client wondered why I did not want her to switch on the light. It was a dark and rainy day (hello fall!), so I showed her both photos on the back of my camera. She was easily convinced to keep the lights off:
Quite a difference isn’t it? Of course, there are situations when there is no light entering a room, many bathrooms in the Netherlands don’t have any windows, but as soon as there is some daylight entering, I use that. Oh, and flash is a big no-no to me! Light has to come from natural directions and flash disturbs that feeling.
2. Use a tripod
The light conditions are rarely good enough to shoot handheld indoors. So a tripod is a must! I prefer to keep my aperture between F/9 and F/11 and my ISO as low as possible (100 yes!) to create an overall sharp image. And with your camera mounted on a tripod, the shutter speed is no longer an issue. Invest in a sturdy one with bubble levels, and it will last you a lifetime. You’ll find an overview of the gear I use and recommend on this page.
3. Keep your lines straight
Keep you verticals vertical and, when shooting a one-point perspective, your horizontals horizontal too! Our brain is capable of realizing that doors are vertical even if we see them from an angled view, but the camera is not. Using a tripod and a tripod head with bubble levels makes it easier to keep the lines straight
4. Stay in line
When you are doing a series of photos in one single interior, shoot them from the same height. It creates a more balanced overview of the space, and that’s a lot easier on the eye going through the photos. Otherwise, the viewer will feel like he or she is hopping up and down through the room when looking at the pictures. I prefer to hold my camera at chest height, between the ceiling and the floor. That way, you will look over the table and countertops.
5. Overcast days are the best
When I am shooting real estate, I prefer to work on a sunny day, but that’s just for the outdoor shots! Every house in its surroundings looks better when the sun is shining, and the sky is blue. But the sunlight creates a very sharp difference between lights and darks indoors especially when it is shining straight through the windows. So when I am shooting interiors, I prefer an overcast day. The clouds function as a large softbox creating lovely soft shadows.Interior photography isn't easy, but with these 11 tips, you will make a great start to create breathtaking interior photos.Click To Tweet
6. Stage, stage, stage!
The best interior photos are carefully styled. First of all, get out all the clutter like cords, cables, mail, etc. Basically, anything that is not intended for decoration purposes. Don’t be afraid to remove or reposition accessories and furniture to create a better composition. Depending on the goal, you can always remove things like light switches and outlets in Photoshop too unless you are shooting real estate: therefore you need to keep things real!
7. Create space
The hardest part of interior photography (besides the light) is the lack of space. So don’t be afraid to move furniture when it is standing in the way of creating a beautiful shot. Or shoot from the hallway into the room at the point where you won’t see the doorposts in the viewfinder anymore.
8. Don’t abuse your wide angle
A wide angle lens is a must in interior photography, but I see many photographers that tend to use it as broadly as possible. I hardly shoot wider than 22-24 mm. (13-14mm on a crop camera). You won’t be able to capture a room in one shot, but it does show it most naturally without distortions. And why not take another photo from a different angle
9. Go closer
Create overviews of the rooms but don’t forget to shoot vignettes and close-ups too. In those, you can capture the mood of the space. Change your aperture: Make the hole of light that enters your camera as big as possible because it is also responsible for the depth of field. A close up from a vase looks so much better with a blurry background. Don’t forget to crank up your aperture when you are reshooting a broader view!
10. Change your camera settings to RAW.
RAW files contain all the data that you capture, unlike jpegs that are compressed and ‘edited’ in the camera. You do need Photoshop’s camera raw processor or Lightroom so you can retrieve a lot of information in blown out or underexposed area’s without loss of quality. Besides, you can adjust the white balance more accurately so:
11. Edit every-single-photo!
Editing software is a must to enhance your pictures and retrieve the best results. It’s where you can create real magic! Take a look at the unedited RAW file below and the final result; yes the result indeed is the same shot! I use it as an example for my interior photography students to show them how they can recover a seemingly failed picture into something that is still usable when taking the plunge and switch from shooting in jpeg to RAW.
There is so much more to tell about creating interior photos. I have shared my knowledge with a lot of students over the past years in my courses. From all the content that I have developed over the years, I am creating an online class right now. I am planning to launch it this fall, but I am a perfectionist, so there is no deadline yet.
Leave your name and email below, and I will keep you posted, and I will send you my Epic Photographers Business Plan!
In case you wonder what happened to my career as a home stager: I use my knowledge in that field to style every single interior that I shoot, not by swapping entire interiors but by decluttering and re-adjusting things. By making interior photos, I have the best of both worlds!
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Hi! I really enjoyed your post. Do you ever use lights for your interiors? Or always aim for natural light? If so, what’s your lighting setup?
Thank you, it’s always great to hear that people enjoy my posts! I only use artificial lights from available lamps when necessary, for instance, for basements and bathrooms without windows. Because I always use my tripod, the shutter speed can be pretty long at times but, in my 14 years as an interior photographer, I’ve never used flash or another setup.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, this is very helpful!
Nicki Geigert says
I am so glad for sharing your article. All the content of your blog helps me a lot regarding the interior photos. Thank you so much for sharing!
Clipping Path View says
This is excellent tutorial please carry on. Thank you so much for it fromecommerce photo editing service provider
I was wondering if you could explain how to photograph a walk-in closet that has absolutely no natural light and no room for an external light source like a soft box. Do I use the overhead light source (turn on the lights) and rely solely on editing my photo after the fact?
Buy Coastal Lamps says
Oh My God!!! This is a great blog, I am happy that I have come across this one. It’s an amazing blog to read, so many things about tips interior photos. Thanks for this wonderful content.
Thanks! I glad to year you like it!
Stefan Robert says
I also agree with that for using a wide-angle lens for interior photography. When we will try to use it broadly as possible. I think this is not fair.
I know! It doesn’t make any sense does it?
I loved your work. thanks for sharing with us .
Dear Nicolet, thank you for these inspirational tips I would like to ask you about permission to translate these tips to my native language with mention your site and name all rights are preserved to let more photographer get benefit from it.
شكرا in my language
Thank you for your compliments, but I cannot allow translating my content. You can, of course, mention this resource and add a link to the article. Your readers can translate the content with Google translate.
Alison | So Chic Life says
Great tips! I always use a tripod, 100-200 ISO and F8-F10. You didn’t mention shutter speed. I usually try at least shots – in the center, 2 above and 2 below. I recently shot a kitchen and even with all the lights off, the photos were very yellow. I was able to fix in Lightroom but even doing that I didn’t like how they turned out. I did use F 8, 100 ISO. Wondering if I had taken up the F stop if that would have helped? There we so many shadows because of the light coming through the windows.
Thanks! Shutter speed doesn’t matter since you are using a tripod! You can correct the white balance quickly in Camera RAW or Lightroom, so that’s no issue. Another aperture would not have solved the problem. Sometimes photos turn out with an incorrect white balance. Perhaps the lens has focussed on something blue?
I will share some editing secrets 🙂 I always push my shadows and blacks in Lightroom (or Camera RAW) to plus 70, add extra contrast to plus 70 as well and reduce the highlights even to minus 100 to get a more even image.
In Photoshop, I use the dodge tool on middle tones (15%) with a huge brush to lighten up the darker areas. When I still have some color casting, I use the sponge tool (desaturation, strm. 15%).
Adedotun Ajibade says
Thanks for this post. The tips are all i need for a interior archi shoot soon.
Please, I’d appreciate if you could shed more light on these 2 lines from point 9 – Get Closer
“…but don’t forget to shoot vignettes and close-ups too.”
“Don’t forget to crank up your aperture when you are reshooting a broader view!”
When I shoot vignettes (styled parts in an interior) or close-ups, I often use a smaller aperture for a more shallow depth of field. When I am shooting a broader view next, I need to shoot with a larger aperture to make sure the entire photo is sharp. When I am in a flow, I sometimes forget to change my lens settings; you won’t notice it on the LCD screen on the camera, so it will catch you by surprise in Photoshop that the photo isn’t sharp over the whole range.
I hope this will clarify your questions!
Kristy Jones says
I love the tips provided here. Well, if you really wanna take interior photos like a pro, these tips are the answer. I like the way you explained about the importance of natural lights in taking pictures. Good job Nicolet!
Thanks, Kristy! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!
This is very informative. Thanks for sharing your informative article with us. Keep up the fantastic work.
Thanks so much!
Adam Golightly says
Thanks for your tips about how sunlight creates a really sharp look while softer light is created by overcast days. My cousin has been thinking about taking some more pictures because she is stuck inside. She would really like to get a digital camera from a professional so that she can learn the controls.
Thanks, Adam. I hope this article will be helpful to your cousin!
Thank you for the tips and love your presentation!
Oh thank you, Cameron, that is so kind of you!
Elina Gomez says
11 tips are much helpful instruction for me. But (11. Edit every-single-photo) number tips are best.
Yes! Interior photography with natural light is almost impossible without editing!
I occasionally take pictures for a flooring company in Vegas and just upgraded to a better camera (Canon Rebel) that of course don’t know how to use… this is about my hundredth read post and is finally a little clearer, a lot of post say easy and then after googling half of the camera jargon I’m still lost but your post really has common sense, can’t wait to give it another try with this advice … thank you
I am so sorry for my late response. Things have been hectic over here while I am wrapping up the decade. Thank you for letting me know that my post was so helpful, there’s nothing more satisfying than to know I was able to help someone with their work. I hope you were able to take better pictures already.
Fantastic! What a fabulous post. Your tips and tricks are just amazing. The Pictures are so eye-catching and attractive. These tips are very helpful for others. Thank you for all the great information. Most of the point I have already tried apart from turning the light off. Great Post. Thank you once again for shaing. Keep Posting.
Nicolet Groen says
Sorry for my late response Akshay! Thank you so much for your enthusiasm, I am happy to hear my tips are helpful. And yes, I will keep posting!
Thank you for all the great information! While I’m certainly no professional and leave the real shots to a real estate photographer, they aren’t always incentivized to capture the vignettes that we create as home stagers. Your tips will definitely help me to capture more quality photos of my work!
Thank you, Kelcie! I hope it will indeed help to capture beautiful vignettes. Those are so important for your portfolio, aren’t they?
Hello Nicolet! I love your pictures and the idea to work with natural light. Is the course you were planning ready? Looking forward!
I am sorry but I can’t give you an estimate. It is in its final stages, but I have to admit it has been there for a while. This summer and fall have been so unexpectedly busy with home staging and photography assignments. Sometimes, I wish I could just pause those jobs for a while to write and create content. But on the other hand, I want to stay active in the field. Without actually working as a stager and photographer, I don’t feel I can serve my students in the best possible way; I have to evolve because the market does so too. I haven’t had time to record editing in Photoshop yet. Too many plans, too little time.
Well done explained. I was wondering how you make perfectly white balance and all photo looks with same presets.
I open all the images I want to edit at once in Camera RAW so it is easy to switch from one picture to another and adjust the white balance to be the same. (sorry for my late response by the way, I was in America for a home stagers conference!)
Thanks Nicholet for such such great tips and a fab very informative and structured handbook also. I love re-visiting your website, I always feel inspired!
I was wondering have you gone into detail anywhere about workflow, pricing and how this part works? Im starting out and this part I really struggle with.
I would also love some tips on post production, editing and how to really make my images look professional!
Any advice would be great!
Wow, I am blushing here! Thank you so much for your compliments. I have been teaching interior photography, entrepreneurship, branding and marketing to dozens of students in the Netherlands. And everything you are asking is work in progress: translating my content, my books and create an online course.
Not regular online training but one with physical books shipped to you combined with a membership program where you can me ask questions, get feedback from other members and me. I am not the kind of person that throws content online and have people figure out everything themselves. I know the tricky part to grow is actually to do the work and to get honest feedback on your work.
My wish is to create a hub for everyone starting, running and building their photography business! A group of colleagues that help and stimulate each other to grow, recurring Q&A’s, webinars, live chats.
Another thing I am planning is a 4-5 day retreat for international students: Learning how to shoot and edit with natural light only, how I approach interior and RE photography and diving deep into the business part in a group of max 6-8 persons. In July, I will announce it on my website to see if there is an interest.
Problem: Time! Thankfully, in summer, interior photography slows down because I am in desperate need of time to write, record videos etc. And it takes more time than I want because English is not my native language.
And yes, I will start writing regular newsletters with my stories, tips & tricks. So keep watching for my newsletters, they will come!
Atul chauhan says
What a fantastic post Nicolet! Most of the point I have already tried apart from turning the light off. I will be going to experiment this on my next assignment. A quick question what ISO you keep when there is little to no light in the room? Thanks for all wonderfull point. here some more resources I found out, hope You will like it.
How to Excel in Real Estate Photography
Thanks for your compliments and I am sorry for the late response; I was on vacation for the past couple of weeks.
I always keep my ISO at 100 or 200 no matter how dark the interior: Choose your prefered aperture and ISO and control the light with the shutter speed. When you are shooting with your camera mounted on a tripod, the length of the shutter doesn’t matter!
Atul chauhan says
Elsa Anderson says
I appreciate that you provided some tips on how to take interior photos like a pro. What interested me in your post was your #1 tip and that is to use natural lighting from daylight while taking pictures of the home. This means no to flashes or light bulbs that might distort the color and drama of the place. I have just refurbished my house and was looking to have pictures taken from the interior of the house in case I have plans of selling it in the future, though your tips were absolutely helpful and creative, I feel I will still be needing the help of an interior photographer to set a theme and put a portfolio altogether. Thank you!
Hi Elsa, First of all: I love your work, it feels so natural compared to most of the real estate photography I see.
Indeed, I never use flash or lightbulbs. But when you know how to handle flash correctly, it is no problem at all! But the bulbs create a terrible yellow glow and ugly shadows unless you can dim the lights. Try it on your next shoot; take a shot with and without the lights on.
It’s also the psychological aspect; usually, in the daytime, the lights are off. Having the lights on implicates that there might not be sufficient ambient light during the day! Just keep the daylight flowing into those rooms and add some lights in the shadows using Camera Raw or Lightroom. As long as you shoot in RAW, you can enhance an image tremendously without loss of quality and you still keep those natural shadows.
Thanks for the efforts of sharing the tips of Interior Designs.! This article is more impressive to follow these tips.
Thanks for sharing.!
Thank you Joseph, it is always my pleasure to share good content!