How to Photograph Interiors Like a Pro


Interior photography isn't just about capturing snapshots inside a building. It is more than that and requires careful planning. Photographing interiors is all about presenting the interior as welcoming as possible, that means keeping it warm and spacious and choosing the right angle for the photographs.

Here are some tips that will help you in interior photography.

Show Warmth in Your Images

This doesn't mean cranking up the kelvins through the roof and you are set. Yes, white balance plays a decent role in creating “warmth” but it has to be used to acceptable degree and should be combined with other elements, as well. For example, if you are photographing the living room, and there is a fireplace, light the fireplace up, let some natural light in, avoid too much flash and combine warm kelvins with real room warmness. That makes everything pleasing and real estate agents love it.

Hangzhou Shanglinghu

Photo by Simon Gao

Choose the Best Angle to Photograph

You don’t have to capture every inch of the room at any cost. This means going wide angle, but at the same time choosing the right angle so there isn’t anything big and chunky blocking 1/4th of the frame. Pick the right angle while keeping some windows in frame in order to make the room look bigger, more open, and inviting. Also, keep the distortion at minimum, nobody wants curved lines.

Light it Up

This is the most important thing. Whatever kind of interior you photograph, light it up. Every single light bulb needs to be working. It would be tricky to get the right light temperature in rooms that combine tungsten with fluorescent lights, but that is the hazard of the job. Natural light is a must as well. Use the windows as light sources, mix and match the light but never, ever leave a light bulb that isn’t working. If there is a broken one, replace it. If you are shooting at night, make sure you do mixed exposures in order to have natural light through the windows, even if it is some dots of city lights.

Keep the Scene Clean and Uncluttered

This shouldn't be mentioned but still, I’ll write about it. Clean room means clean image. However, it is not always the dust that is the issue. Different surfaces react differently to different kind of light. Smooth and shiny (like glass, mirrors, polished wood and so on) reflect light pretty good if not perfect, that means every speck of dust will be lit up and it will be distracting. So make sure the room you photograph is dust free. On the other hand, clean image is achieved by removing all unnecessary things from the room, in other words making it as tidy as possible. Cables from chargers, old boxes and stuff, all that has to go. Also, if the property that is photographed is meant to be sold, replace all personal items with neutral ones. By this I mean keep the picture frames, but put in neutral images that don't represent the owners. Their privacy is not meant to be displayed all over the internet.

Avoid Using a Flashlight

If you don’t need flash, don’t use it. Seriously. You don't usually find a source of light in any house that resembles flashlight. Also, using flash will generate a light source that isn't in that room, and many agents know that, leaving the images being rejected. If you really really have to use flash, never use it on camera, always have it positioned towards some lightsource and use gels to match the color temperature of the light where you aim the flash at. Use diffusers. Most of the lights in any house aren't as hard as the flash is, so diffusion is a must.

Common Problems to be Aware Of

Sometimes the rooms are just too small to be captured, that's why you need to think outside the box. If it is required for you to fit into a closet to get the shot, then do it. I've seen photographers attaching the cameras to all sorts of things on the walls and remotely trigger them because the room is too small. Sometimes there are mirrors getting in the way, and you as the photographer can be seen in some of them. If you are visible in one mirror, that means you are directly facing it. Using the same settings as you took the first image (with you in the mirror) take a second one from the mirror location looking at where you were before. Then use that image to clone yourself out of the mirror. You’ll need to adjust for the size and possible distortions but it can be easily done.

Finally, photograph the interior as if it were your own. Make sure you get the best out of it and present it as good as possible. But have in mind that if the agents you work for have certain requests, they have to be met. You have to be flexible but still make the best out of it.

About Author

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

Interior Photography is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done for a client. Especially here in the desert, you’d think that with all the sun here that all kinds of light would be available, not the case here, I’m convinced they make the windows smaller here to keep the house utility bill low, low desert heat is not a joke. So what I’ve been left to photograph are cave like conditions, any who, thanks for the write up, I’ll try less flash with more gels and see how that works if I’m ever hired again, I doubt it though. 🙂

It’s a shame there are so few estate agents willing to pay for properly done interior photography. I’ve done a couple of interiors for homeowners, but have stopped advertising them on my website because I grew tired of conversations that went:
EA: we’ve got a house we want some really high-quality photographs of and were hoping you were available to photograph it on xxxday. It’s in xxxton.
Me: yes I certainly can do that
EA: Oh great, so how much would you charge
Me: well it depends how much you want done, I charge by the hour so more for a larger house or if you want a more thorough set of images, or if you want it done both day and night. And then that’s plus travel expenses which for that location are £40.
EA: Oh… well we were hoping that the total fee would be no more than £50.

Good article,thx. My greatest challenge in photographing interiors for real estate are the blown out windows on a sunny day. If the homeowner has no curtains that can diffuse, it is really a challenge .
Thx. Maureen

I am not an expert on interior photography, in fact I’ve done very little. But I’ve been trying to learn about that and I think the problem you have may be helped with some HDR technique.

Maureen. I usually solve your blown out windows problem by doing three exposures and using Photoshop to make an HDR. A little time consuming in post, but does the job every time.

I shoot real eatate professionaly in Dallas. Unlike this article I do shoot with an on camera flash to eliminate any and all shadows.. I use a Gary Fong with an umbrella in front of that. Nice soft diffused light. I start in AP at f22. Find the correct exposure /shutter speed. Go into M and control to that speed.. crank it down a few stops until the windows are jut slightly blown out (you can recover the rest in LR) Turn the flash on and drop to between f8-13… depending on how much light the room needs. Toss the shoot thru umbrella in front.. bam! Hits every time. If there are foreground objects within a few feet of the lens you may just want to rotate the flash to bounce of the wall behind still using the umbrella.

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