Many photographers approach shooting interiors as if they were in a studio or outside. But whether photographing models, landscapes or interiors, there is a methodology which needs to be learned. This article will address those techniques in order help you make better interior photographs.
It’s not as much about camera choice as the lens you shoot with. Good glass on a mediocre camera will take much better pictures than mediocre glass on a great camera. When choosing lenses, always buy the best quality you can afford. The other part of lens selection is focal length. For interior photography, you need a wide angle lens.
For interiors, you will want a lens in the 15-20mm range on a crop sensor camera and 20-25mm on a full frame. This will give you the widest angle you can get for those tight interior shots without getting the fish-eye look of ultra-wide angle lenses. While prime lenses (those that don’t zoom) may give slightly sharper images, a zoom gives you the greatest flexibility in framing your shot. This will help with composition.
Full frame sensor refers to cameras with approx. 24×36 mm sensor size. Crop sensor cameras use a smaller sensor, usually around 15mm x 22.5mm.
The next consideration in photography is tripod or hand held. While you can get away with hand holding the camera using studio strobes or bright daylight, for interior shots, you will want to utilize a good quality, sturdy tripod. Without setting up a lot of strobes and flashes, you will be using available light for interior shots and this means a slow shutter speed. If you use a tripod and learn how to meter the light, you can get great results with available light without the added expense and trouble of strobes. The other advantage to using a tripod is it makes you take the time to think through the framing and composition of the shot.
The final aspect of preparing for your interior shoot is the light. As with any photography, it’s all about the light. You may think that it doesn’t matter what the light outside is like since you are shooting inside, but that is not true. First, always shoot during the day if possible. Any light coming through the windows will help illuminate the scene and looks better than reflections on black night-time windows. Next, if you can, shoot on an overcast day to reduce harsh light and shadows. If not, try to shoot facing north as much as possible and mask the windows with sheers or even a thin bed sheet. The final consideration in lighting is turn on every lamp and light in the house. This will not only provide as much light as possible, but can give a nice warm glow to the interiors.
Note: Various light sources that emit light at different color temperatures may cause undesirable color cast.
It’s a good time of day; you have your wide angle lens on the camera which is firmly sitting on a tripod. You have turned on all the lights and are ready to shoot. What’s next? Like any other photograph, you need to choose your aperture and shutter speed. For interior shots, you should use aperture priority set at about f8 to f11 to get a good depth of field. With the aperture set, meter different parts of the room to determine a shutter speed that will give you a good exposure throughout the scene. Finally, bracket the shot. This means besides taking the picture at your chosen shutter speed, you should also take one slightly faster and another slightly slower. This will ensure that you have a good exposure on one of the three shots with tricky interior lighting.
Get a good lens and a steady tripod. Take your time with composition and meter the light and get great interior photographs.