Hello friends! Happy Wednesday. You guys asked for more tutorials, home projects, and activities or educational posts to help fill lots of hours spent sequestered at home. I already had this particular post on the calendar this week and felt it was still very fitting. This is the perfect time to grab your camera and practice your photography skills! Over the years, my camera, shooting, and editing skillset has vastly improved and continues to improve the more time I spend behind the lens. Perfecting your craft takes time and it’s no different with photography. Lots of people are surprised to learn that I shoot all of my own photos found here on the blog. Lots of home and interior bloggers hire their photography out, but I’ve always really liked shooting my own imagery. Therefore, I kept at it, kept practicing, and remain open to learning and improving. I wanted to share my 10 best tips for shooting professional looking interior photos in today’s post. Click through to see how I use my camera to capture quality images of my house.
#1 // Always Use a Tripod
The first rule of shooting interiors is to ALWAYS use a tripod. It’s much easier to snap the room to a grid with minor tripod adjustments. A tripod is also necessary for slowing the shutter speed to make rooms nice and bright. Shooting a light-filled room is always the goal, and the only away to achieve that is by using a tripod. I’ve used this Manfrotto tripod for years and it’s my absolute favorite.
#2 // Use an SLR Camera
An SLR (single lens reflex) camera is a camera that is capable of switching lenses. I know technology has come a lonnng way, but if you want your interior photos to look professional, a phone camera isn’t going to cut it. Sorry for the tough love, but it’s true! My advice? Invest in an SLR camera… even if you start with a small body style that is less expensive. That’s exactly what I did. My first SLR was tiny and here we are 4 upgrades (12 years) later, with my current larger setup.
#3 // Use the Right Lens for the Shot (and Keep it Clean)
I’ve narrowed my camera bag to include four lenses. You can see them and get links in this post, but it’s important to know which lens to use for the shot. I’d recommend buying a good wide angle and a 50mm, if you’re just starting out. In addition to using nice lenses (which are probably even more important than the camera body itself), keep your lenses clean and air dust them before shooting. This handy tool comes out before any photoshoot for lens cleaning. There is nothing worse than removing dust specks from an image in post production!
#4 // Shoot in Manual Mode
If you’re an SLR newbie, I know it seems intuitive and comfortable to set your camera on auto and beginning shooting. Please, please, please resist the urge and put that baby into manual mode and just start practicing! There are lots of online photo classes that can get you up and running in no time at all. If you’re going to own an SLR, the only way to reap the benefits is by shooting in manual mode. My general rule for shooting medium or wide interior shots is to keep the f-stop at 5.6 or higher. I like a nice, crisp image where everything is in focus. My exception is if I’m shooting close-ups of products, then I’ll bring it down to around 3.0. Next, I’ll adjust my shutter speed accordingly, but this is where the tripod comes in handy. If you’re shooting at 125 or lower, you NEED a tripod or your images will be blurry and out-of-focus. I like to stay below that range anyway for bright images.
#5 // Style The Space For The Photo
This is especially important for interior and decor photography because things might not look as great through the lens as they look in person. For example, in the above image… I’m styling the dining table under our previous carport. Imagine if I shot the image from straight on, from the end of the table. The tapered candles would overlap, creating a white blob in the center of the photo, and that wouldn’t look great. Instead… style through the lens, shifting objects as needed until they feel balanced for the photo. It might not look amazing in person (from all angles), but you have to work from a specific photographic angle, if that makes sense?
#6 // Shoot in RAW
Ever since my first camera course in art school, I’ve been shooting in Camera RAW. Shooting in RAW means that your files will be large and each photograph contains more data than the typical file type. Essentially that gives you better editing capabilities in post production because there is more data per pixel. Most cameras are set to capture images in a JPG format, but toggle down to RAW for the best quality available. This will make your life much easier when editing and give you better results.
#7 // Use Natural Light
Notice how I don’t have any lights switched on? I prefer to shoot in natural light for the cleanest, most balanced look (in terms of color). You’ll find by turning multiple light sources on and trying to photograph, sections will appear blown out (hot spots) and vary in color temperature. The easiest way to achieve crisp, bright, even images it to shoot with natural light. Even if a room doesn’t receive a lot of natural light, turn your shutter speed wayyyy down and use what is available. You’ll be surprised how bright a room photographs.
#8 // Line Everything Up on a Grid
This is one of my biggest pet peeves when viewing interior photos. I like everything to align perfectly. I try to frame my shot in the viewfinder to make sure angles are snapped to a grid and the image looks perfectly level and balanced. The first sign a rookie photographer took an image is seeing wonky lines and angles. It’s not a good look! Keep your images balanced by using a grid system.
#9 // Use the Rule of Thirds
For interior images to look their best, try using the rule of thirds. If you’re not familiar with this creative “rule”, mentally divide your image equally using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Then position the main elements in the shot along the lines or at the points in which they meet. This is when the image feels most balanced and creative. It’s a trick that has been around forever!
#10 // Don’t Skip Post Production
Last, but certainly not least- don’t skip editing in post production. No matter how amazing of a photographer you are, there is always something to touch up after the image is pulled from the camera. From lens distortion to color correction, editing is an essential part of the photography process. With a background in graphic design, I rely heavily on post production… straightening images, correcting lens flare, adjusting the temperature, etc. I could spend hours picking apart a single photo, but I try to allow myself only so many minutes per image to stay on track. If you’re looking for a full editing tutorial, I have a post for it: How I Edit Interior Photos in Photoshop.
A lot of work goes into styling, shooting, and editing interior photos, but it’s really a fun and rewarding process! I love that I’m able to control the entire creative process from start to finish, and the end result is sharing a beautiful blog post with you guys. Every time a magazine asks me to submit images for printed publications, they of course give me design credit, but always ask which photographer to credit. I feel really proud of myself when I get to tell them that I’m both the designer and photographer. I’m equally as passionate about both creative endeavors and I hope this post was helpful and encouraging for those of you on a similar path! Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below. I challenge you all to take an interior photo in your home today (with an SLR or just your phone) and tag me on IG! I’ll share my favorites. This will be fun!
PeggiMarch 18, 2020 at 7:11 am
Gulp. Talk about out of my depth! You truly are so talented, friend. And such a great teacher. Even though I know zero about photography, I could digest these tips… and probably implement them if I had a camera. (Ok, I got a little lost on #4, but…) I certainly understand why my interior photos always look terrible! Gads, hopefully Joe is so cute that he distracts from the quality of my Insta pics!😱🤣 I’ve got lots of time on my hands; I could at least figure out the editing features on my phone. I’m hilariously intimidated by it!
Thanks for being a beautiful, bright spot in my day, friend. I so appreciate you.💖
SarahMarch 18, 2020 at 11:10 am
Haha, thank you Peggi! If it weren’t my job and passion, I’d be totally content with my phone camera. I think your images look great! I love how you capture everyday life and those cute pets of yours. Hope you have a good day! xo
LaurenMarch 18, 2020 at 8:54 am
I really love the info you’ve shared here! I’ve always wondered how you capture your photos and now I know! What an amazing resource! It is incredibly overwhelming to look at the list of things other bloggers use to make their blogs happen, but it is such key information if you’re interested in starting one of your own (like me). Thank you for sharing! I’m going to get lost in your other posts about the tech you use…brb! Haha!!
SarahMarch 18, 2020 at 11:08 am
Thank you, Lauren! It is a lot of information, and a lot goes into it behind-the-scenes, but it’s so much fun and worth it if you’re passionate about it. I feel so lucky to be doing what I love and am really happy to share the info to help others on a similar path! Happy learning :) xo
DannaMarch 18, 2020 at 9:59 am
You explain and walk us through topics so well. For me to truly understand new things, I want it really dumbied down version until I get the concept. Again, you have done a good job of how you use your camera inside. I have a SLR camera and always say I am going to learn to use it in manual mode but alas I put it in auto because its someone’s birthday or event. No better time than now…while being stuck inside!
My daughter is so good with her camera. She plans to take a couple of classes next spring on photography.
I am going to have her read your post because you give such good points!
Have a good Wednesday!
SarahMarch 18, 2020 at 10:49 am
I’m so happy to hear that, Danna! I’m a visual learner, and I often learning by doing (trial and error), so I think the best thing you can do it just practice. Pull your camera out and just start playing with it. Don’t take it too seriously and eventually you’ll learn your away around in manual. I know it can be intimidating at first! What a fun hobby to share with your daughter. This really is the perfect time to practice. Have a good day!! xo
jenMarch 18, 2020 at 1:54 pm
I changed my setting to shoot in RAW. Thanks for that!
SarahMarch 18, 2020 at 4:55 pm
Amazing!! So happy to hear that, Jen :)
Becky ReedMarch 18, 2020 at 2:07 pm
I’m really new to “glamour shots” of my little house. Shooting with an iPhone 10. Amazing how difficult it is, especially compared to the awesome shots you and other great designers post. BUT! The tips on thirds and lighting are great. I appreciate the information and your inspiring Insta pics. Don’t know if I have the nerve to tag you in a post. 🙃 On several levels 😊
SarahMarch 18, 2020 at 4:55 pm
So happy some of those tips were helpful, Becky! Everybody starts somewhere – would love to see your space :) xo
Anne HMarch 29, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Fantastic tips, Sarah, especially your verbal and visual explanation of the Rule of Thirds! I was wondering if you don’t mind me asking, I’ve often wondered why you shoot most of your home photos vertically? Generally horizontal images tend to better convey a sense of space, since that’s how we naturally see, but certainly cropping vertically can allow the viewer to focus more directly within a scene. I think both work depending so perhaps it’s just your personal preference? Thank you, as always for sharing so much of your process with us all!
SarahMarch 30, 2020 at 1:55 pm
Thank you, Anne! Amazing question… I shoot ALL of my interior images in a portrait / vertical orientation unless asked to photograph it otherwise (if I’m working with a brand on a collab, etc). The sole reason is performance. Sadly, landscape / horizontal images do terrible on the internet and social media (think Pinterest, Instagram, Blogs, etc). Vertical images take up more real estate and are more likely to stop people mid scroll and attract likes & comments. Statistics show the way you shoot and crop matters when sharing your imagery and work online… it definitely has an impact on how imagery and content performs. The exception to this is video… true mp4 video content (not IGTV) is always shot in a landscape orientation. Check out the designers you follow… their blogs and social channels- I bet you’ll start noticing this more often :) Interesting, right?! xo
Anne HMarch 31, 2020 at 11:29 am
Oh, that’s so interesting, Sarah. Would imagine verticals works better in magazines, catalogues, etc., as well. Guess I hadn’t really thought about it, but it definitely makes sense and I’m now I’m curious to see how much more I see them on Insta, etc. Thanks!
SarahApril 1, 2020 at 9:19 am
Another good question, Anne! When I work with press for print publications (magazines mostly) they often request vertical images to better fit the page. I suppose it depends on the magazine layout, the size of the feature (full page, full spread, tiny clipping, etc). Overall, I think to sum up interior photography… it’s more about WHERE it will be presented / displayed and less about getting creative with cropping or flipping the camera while shooting. At least, that’s my perspective. Have a great day! xo