Interior Property Photography Tips
Updated: Mar 15
So here are a few of my photography tips for any other would-be professional property interior photographers out there.
Honestly it drives me mad that so many estate agents still turn up to properties and just snap their house pictures in a few minutes. So much more can be achieved with a patient approach, and doesn't your house deserve that?
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If you don't have the time or desire to take your own property photos, feel free to contact me for a quote. I carry ten years expertise working in the property industry as a property photographer and I also make cinematic property videos too.
Choice of camera & lenses
A high-resolution DSLR camera combined with a wide-angle lens (up to 14mm equivalent on full-frame sensor) is a great investment if you want to fit as much of the room in shot as possible. It's essential for those smaller spaces and bathrooms.
A pro camera body will allow you easier manual control of important settings such as ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance.
Another advantage of a pro DSLR or mirrorless camera is the ability to shoot in RAW. This picture mode saves far more colour information and dynamic range allowing more editing flexibility in post. We'll get on to exactly why this is an advantage later.
A note on using very wide angle lenses
Be wary that you won't always create the most attractive image by shooting using the widest angle setting possible. Extreme wide angle lenses will stretch the perspective of the image, making the room look bigger than it is, which can be overly misleading to the viewer.
A stretched perspective also pulls more ceiling/floor into the frame creating visually boring spaces in the image. You will really notice this effect on large rooms, such as the example below;
Wider angles will also increase distortion requiring more correction in post.
Smartphone property photography
Even without RAW and wide angle capabilities, you can shoot with a modern smartphone or entry level camera and still get good results, by sticking to some of the additional tips later in this article.
If you're in the market for a new phone in 2022 and want to use it for property photography too, look for a wide angle lens with an angle of view of up to 114 degrees (14mm equivalent). Some of the very latest mobile phones can also shoot photos in RAW mode. Check out this useful article: Can I shoot RAW on my phone?
Staging your home
More than simply visiting your home to snap images, as a photographer I will start by making sure the staging (presentation) of every room in your house is as good as it can be before any photos are taken. It makes a world of difference to the final images.
Start by asking your home owner to prepare the home, clean and declutter best they can before you arrive. This will give you a head start. With the owner's permission, further tweak positions of home décor and hide additional clutter once you're on site. Remember to check the view through your camera's viewfinder when adjusting the room as the framing always looks different on camera.
I tend to switch all interior lights on before taking any pictures. This is not so much because I need the extra light, but because it creates a homely, lived-in feel in the rooms.
Be wary however that interior lights tend to be warm white (3500K) which contrasts with cool daylight (5900K) through the windows. Sometimes you might want to have all interior lights off to make setting the white balance easier.
Finding the best angles
Don't simply squash yourself in to the corner of each room and snap a picture. Invest additional time and care to frame the most photogenic angles of every room. Think about leading lines of walls/edges/features running in to the corner of your frames and consider the 'rule of thirds' to help you frame your subject better. It's amazing what a few degrees of adjustment can make to the appeal of your photo!
Using a tripod
I tend to shoot all property interior photos on a tripod, as it delivers a few extra advantages over shooting freehand.
Firstly, as your subject isn't moving you can shoot at very slow shutter speeds yet retain a sharp image. Slower shutter speeds allow more light in to the camera so you can shoot with a lower ISO (reducing noise for a cleaner image) and a higher aperture (F10 or higher) which keeps more of your room in crisp focus.
Another advantage of using a tripod is that you can fine tune the camera angle incrementally using a specialist tripod head. This way you can dial in those essential geometric and vertical lines in the image.
On the odd occasion I'll still shoot freehand such as in tight spaces in bathrooms.
Flash or Flambient Photography
Flash photography is a quick and easy way of balancing out the high contrast found between bright windows and relatively dark room interiors. Dramatically boosting the amount of light in the room using a flash will reduce the contrast between the windows and room to great effect. This is one approach to achieve something known as 'window pull'. The result of a successful window pull is that you can see the view through the window rather than an overexposed (bleached white) window area.
Flambient photography is a hybrid shooting technique where you work with at least one 'ambient' photo and at least one 'flash' photo of the same room. You'll then gel these two or more images together in post using software to create a hybrid HDR 'flambient' image. This creates a more natural looking image whilst also achieving some window pull from the flash photo. Note you will have to shoot on a tripod to do this so that all of your photos of the same scene match up in layers.
TIP: For all HDR shooting; keep your ISO and F-stop settings the same so your photo layers match up more accurately.
I tend to avoid using either flambient or flash photography for property as the light produced by flashes are very unnatural, cold, and tend to leave an undesirable shadow cast. Instead my preference is to always take the 'hard route' and work only with natural lighting.
If like me you're not using a flash you must work in raw to capture a high dynamic range. Allow however for some very time-consuming editing processes in post to achieve clean window pulls and lighting balance in your images.
A quick case study
You wouldn't think the property below started life as an old two bed Georgian terrace in the heart of Altrincham, Manchester. Well it hasn't changed locations, but the extension work and standard of renovation throughout was stunning!
Moving on to the pictures below we have a grand seven month renovation project by RPD Manchester on a large property in Cheshire.
This property was a challenge to get the staging right for the photos and video. Believe it or not there were also a dozen contractors on site finishing jobs off at the time I was there. You'll have to use your imagination to picture the decorators, plasterers and electricians hiding behind doors and the camera.
These are challenges you'll likely face from time to time, so it helps to have good people and time management skills for these situations.
Editing out objects in post
Of course some issues like unfinished paint, plaster or wiring may be unavoidable on the day as was the case with the RPD property below. Good photo editing software allows you to magically erase some of these unsightly items from the pictures. Just make sure from a legal viewpoint you're not mis-representing the property by over-editing. Remember it's always easier to hide or move items on the day than editing them out later in post.
Image grading in post
There's no magic answer to say how you should grade your images in post as this is subjective, but needless to say, a lot of editing will be required to get the best out of your photos here. I tend to find property interior photos take far, far longer for me to edit and grade than any other type of photo. This is simply down to the challenges of the light sources.
My preference is to grade images carefully so room interiors look bright and inviting but still natural to the eye. Don't be tempted to push those software sliders all the way to the limits!
Balancing exposure and contrast levels are the most critical aspect in property photography. The natural lighting is rarely in your favour. The brightest light source tends to be from from the sunlight through your windows, which is far brighter than your room interior.
If you've shot in raw mode with a wide dynamic range, you'll be able to pull the exposure of your windows down in post allowing you to then boost the brightness of the room. Rarely is an under-exposed, dark interior attractive to the eye, but it shouldn't be brightened at the cost of an over-exposed (bleached out) window.
For that professional look I like to make sure all vertical lines in walls and door frames run perfectly true to the Y-axis of the photo. Shooting on a tripod if possible will help you achieve greater accuracy here. Photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom has automatic tools to help you align your walls further in post.
The colour saturation of an image will increase the more you boost the contrast. That's right... other adjustments can and will affect saturation inadvertently. Factor this in and tweak the colour saturation up or down AFTER you've fine tuned your contrast levels and other settings to colour correct your image.
Do your colours look a bit unnatural? It's probably because your white balance is off. Fine tune the temperature and tint settings to find the most natural hue and warmth levels. Remember that most interior photos will have cool white daylight sources from the windows contrasting with warm white light fittings inside the room. Strike a balance between the two temperatures prioritising towards the interior temperature.
Hire a professional property photographer
Be it through videos or photographs, I care about helping you present your property to its full potential so maximise your return on investment and give me a call.
This is just some examples of the many sets of photos I produce for estate agents and developers every month. If you need a great property photographer for your estate agency or just some beautiful house photos for your Airbnb holiday home then get in touch today.
I also produce cinematic video tours of both commercial and residential property, find out more about my property videos.
Thanks for looking and I'll see you at the next blog!