My approach to photographing interiors began with the brand and product shoots I’d perform in a variety of locations, such as offices, restaurants, and residences. Designers, architects, chefs and bloggers would request shoots that included their newly designed kitchen or professionally organized pantry and closet. The various locations ranged from beautifully styled Airbnbs, to gourmet kitchens and hotel patios. As I worked, I was honing my eye for the design and the architectural aspects of location shooting.
Being a freelancer, I’m often seeing the locations for the first time when I arrive for the shoot. The need for every shoot is different, but the basics of shooting interiors with an architectural consideration are no longer daunting to me. Whether I’m shooting for a designer, realtor, builder or even a mom wanting to show off her kitchen, there are a few things I consider before I snap my first shot. I’d like to share a few starter tips for anyone journeying into the great indoors.
1. Have an adequate pre-shoot discussion with the client.
Ask for a list of the spaces to be photographed and the specific details about them that need attention. Find out how the images will be used, which will help guide you on composing the frames and orienting yourself for each image.
Will the clients will be using “before” images they’d like mirrored with the “afters”? Specific angles they prefer? Do they need you to bring any styling items, such as florals? (Occasionally, clients prefer to hire a stylist to furnish the props and assist with the staging.) Ask for times of day when the space has abundant but not harsh light.
Turning off fans, removing clutter, and putting down toilet seats: These are things you don’t want to deal with when you arrive, so furnish a list of tasks for the client to perform so the scene is ready for its closeup.
2. Shoot for the specific client and space.
A blogger, designer, realtor and architect all have different needs for photography. Also bear in mind that design and photography trends differ in various parts of the world, so know whom you’re shooting for, and try to get the feel for the space: Who would stay in this space, and what feelings does or should the space evoke (comfort, cool efficiency, grandeur, quietude, sensual stimulation, for example)? How is the space to be used?
Designers often like a head-on wide shot, and adore closeups of the details. Upon arrival, note the shelf styling, fabrics, colors, etc. Designers carefully planned each detail and they often like variety, while realtors care more about the“bones” and expanses of space than the décor.
What would be the goals for a flooring company shoot? You’ll be looking for angles that highlight the flooring’s patina and color and pattern detail. Knowing your clients’ needs keeps you from overshooting and focused on the essentials.
3. Settings are situational.
The direction the structure faces, the location of the windows, and the weather on shoot day can completely rule your settings for the shoot. Every time you alter your angle or move to another area, your settings need reevaluating. Depending on your lens, to start, I’d recommend experimenting with an aperture in the f/4 to f/9 range (and adjusting your shutter speed and ISO accordingly). I’ve found these apertures optimal for getting a balance between sharpness and depth of field.
4. Lines and angles are more important.
Keeping your camera level and not tilting to the left, right, front or back is imperative! You want the horizon lines and verticals of the walls and floors to be straight. It’s amazing how skewed lines can throw off the attractiveness of a space. Use a tripod with an adjustable three-way gear head to help you with fine-tuning adjustments.
Don’t shoot too high or too low; we shouldn’t see the underside of cabinets or countertops. Consider flat lays: Tabletop views of design elements, coffee tables, flooring; these can be so aesthetically pleasing.
5. Gear to bring.
The gear you prefer will develop as your skill grows. To any interiors novice, I say do consider using a tripod, and at first, go all-in with natural light. My style leans toward shooting with the available natural light, and I often recommend my clients turn off as many artificial light sources as we can. You will almost always need to use a large diffuser. You never know when harsh light might decide to shine through a window, ruining a perfect shot of that kitchen island.
As you advance, ask your clients if they’d prefer you shoot tethered to a screen for quick feedback and accuracy checks. A wide lens is always great for those tight spaces, but bring along a solid prime lens for detail shots too.
For photographing interiors, Stephanie brings sturdy tripod, a wide angle lens: 16-35mm f/2.8 or 17-40mmf/4.0, and a prime lens such as the 50mm f/1.4.
6. Finishing details.
Take care of the small details while you shoot, and it will save you in the end! Watch for crumbs or dust, pillows that need fluffing, wrinkles on the bedding, crooked tassels and carpet edges. Notice if the chairs or barstools are tucked in unevenly, and the position of the faucets. Are items under the beds visible, are all of the doors closed and not oddly reflected in the mirrors? Take your time and thoroughly think about each space on its own, and you’ll make your job so much easier, and your images so marketable!
Photos by Stephanie Studer