Home owners and property agents are in a position to pick only the best interior photographers. Therefore, you need to ensure you’re ticking all of the boxes when it comes to taking your shots. Here is a list of the top five common mistakes interior photographers make and how to avoid them.
1. Not Dressing The Room
Presentation is the key. Simply walking in to a room without getting hands-on is one of the most common mistakes with interior photography. Before you’ve even set up your equipment, walk around the room and dress it. This means straightening curtains, plumping up and positioning cushions, turning on all lights and removing all clutter. Clutter can range from personal items such as family photographs and appliances, to magazines and even furniture. Is there anything in the room which you wouldn’t find in a show home? If so, remove it. Is there an extra armchair stuck in the middle of the floor which ruins the sense of space? Take it out. Do this for every room in the house. To give another example, a property agent client of mine doesn’t like any appliances to be visible in kitchens. This means removing toasters, microwaves, blenders etc. A step too far perhaps, but it sets a benchmark to work towards with other rooms.
2. Poor Composition
On many occasions I’ve been asked to re-shoot a house because the vendor or the agent didn’t like how the rooms were shot by the original photographer. The key to successful composition is to walk around the room and visualise which angles work best in terms of showcasing the key features. Those features may include windows, fireplaces, a striking view, open space, or the flow from one room to another. If you are unable to capture all the main selling points of a room in one single shot, you will need to take shots from various perspectives, thus giving your client a choice.
Another aspect of composition involves the height from which you are taking the shot. For kitchens, you generally want to shoot from chest height to ensure you show the tops of work surfaces. For living rooms and bathrooms, where the majority of furniture and fittings are below waist-height, you will want to shoot closer to the hip.
3. Over-Exposed Windows
The amount of light inside a room will be around 2 to 10 times less than outside – depending on the weather and time of day. Therefore setting your camera to exposure for the room will result in the windows becoming a blown out mess of over-exposed light. Professional real-estate photography (less so with interior design photography) involves getting a perfect exposure for the room coupled with being able to see out through the windows.
The trick to achieve this is to set your camera to expose correctly for the windows and then use flash or fill light to increase the light level inside the room. As a general rule, a faster shutter speed will reduce the exposure of the sunlight through the windows without reducing the exposure of your flash. More on this technique can be found in my article here.
Some photographers take multiple shots of varying exposures and simply cut out and drop in the window view using Photoshop, but this rarely produces natural-looking results. Another technique is, again, to take multiple shots of varying exposure and merge them to create an HDR blend. This technique requires careful retouching in order to create a natural-looking result. Check out my tutorial on producing natural-looking HDR interior photos.
The important thing to remember is to keep the room looking naturally lit. Using too much flash to over-power the window exposure will result in very unnatural-looking light. If you look at the work of top interior design photographers, you will notice that they often use only natural ambient light and simply don’t worry about over-exposed windows. My rule is to only worry about the windows if the view is worth seeing, or if the windows feature prominently in the frame. If it’s a choice between correct window exposure or a natural-looking interior, I pick the natural-looking interior every time.
4. Flash Shadows and Reflections
Using a flash to light a room does come with its own challenges – namely harsh shadows and reflections. Beamed ceilings, mirrors, furniture, windows, partition walls and pretty much everything else in the room is a hurdle. Trying to light a large room from a single source of light is a skill and may take several shots to ensure you’re not casting harsh shadows in the room or illuminating your own face in a glass-fronted display case.
Using a diffuser, bouncing the flash light off a wall or ceiling, or using multiple flashes at a lower power can all help soften and spread the light.
5. Converging Verticals
The first rule of interior photography is that all vertical lines should be perfectly vertical. This is achieved by keeping the camera facing straight ahead and not tilted up or down. If you need to capture something higher up or lower down in the room, use your tripod to adjust the height of the camera – don’t tilt if you don’t have to! There are times when converging verticals can’t be avoided, such as photographing from an elevated position in to a room below, or when shooting the exterior of the property. When it’s necessary, use Photoshop or Lightroom to correct the aspect.
Overcoming these common mistakes will greatly improve your interior photography and increase your appeal to vendors and agents.
To view a selection of my interior photography, head over to my property portfolio gallery.
Author – Oliver Pohlmann