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. In stead 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 own photos.

My first interior photos (...)

Boy, I made lovely interiors from scratch, and when I saw the photos 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 took 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 to create good interior photos?

First of all, in photography, there are no rules, just guidelines that you can follow until you discover your own style. I love bright and airy shots, other prefer dark and moody. But when you use my tips, you will have a good start into 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:

attic with lights interior photos

attic without lights interior photos

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 life time.

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!

Living room two point perspective

Living room one point perspective

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. Other wise 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 soft box 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 purpose, 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 lens

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 shot 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 really 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 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 wider view!

close up

detailed shot

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 to you can retrieve a lot of information in blown out or under exposed area’s without loss of quality. Besides, you are able to 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 are able to create real magic! Take a look at the unedited RAW file below and the final result; yes the end result indeed is the same shot! I use it as an example for my interior photography students to show them how they are able to recover a seemingly failed picture into something that is still usable when taking the plunge and switch from shooting in jpeg to RAW.

Straight out of camera

After editing

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 course right now. I am planning to launch it this fall, but I am a perfectionist, so there is no deadline yet.

the epic photographers business plan

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 readjusting things. By making interior photos, I have the best of both worlds!

Interior photography isn't easy, but with these 11 tips, you will make a great start to create breathtaking interior photos. #interiorphotography #interior #photography
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9 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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

    Thank You

    • Hi Atul,

      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!

  • 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!
    Thank you.
    Hayley

    • Hi, Hayley
      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!

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