While there are some occasions where bringing in a light source will greatly help you build a balanced exposure, I almost always recommend using ambient light when photographing interiors. You want the most natural looking scene so let the light from windows and doorways be the main source of illumination.
If the room doesn't have a lot of light coming in, you can open up your exposure by using a tripod and a longer shutter speed (more on that below). You'll also want to turn off most of the artificial lighting in the room. This helps keep your color temperature consistent and let's the focus stay on the room itself.
Tip: If you like the look of a few lights on, you can shoot a few frames with some smaller lamps turned on and then blend them together in a layered Photoshop file to give you the best of both worlds.
Get A Perfect Exposure
To Shoot Longer Exposures: As I mentioned above, using natural light in your interior photography will often require a long shutter speed to get a proper exposure. If you're shooting slower than a 60th of a second, you're going to need a tripod to avoid any camera shake that will result in a blurry image.
To Bracket: In addition to allowing you to take longer exposures, tripods are an essential tool for doing any kind of bracketing or exposure stacking. There are times when you'll want to merge several frames together to create a well balanced image and the only way to do that is with images that are absolutely identical. A tripod will allow you to capture multiple frames without any shift in perspective thus allowing you easily merge them in Photoshop to create a composite image.
Perspective Is Key
I'm a stickler for this one. Nothing stands out more to me than when vertical lines aren't straight in an interior photo. It is so important to take the time and align your camera so that the vertical elements in a scene are as straight up and down as possible. Try to avoid pointing your lens up or down and shoot straight on so that the camera sensor is parallel to the wall you're shooting towards. Many architectural photographers employ the use of special tilt/shift lenses to help combat this but with most interior photography, you can get away with just being careful setting up your shot with a tripod or using the grid feature on your DSLR.
A little Help From Tech: Now, chances are that you're going to capture a few frames that aren't exactly on point and if you're shooting with a wide angle lens, you're going to end up with some vertical distortion. Luckily, these days, there are a lot of geometric corrections you can make within Lightroom and Photoshop so you can edit these imperfections in post production. Just about every image I shoot has been run through a corrective software to ensure my verticals are dead on. In the example below, you can see that the unedited photo on the left has the vertical lines of the window leaning in towards the top of the frame where the edited photo on the left has been corrected.
Make Good Images Great
Going the extra mile when editing can make a huge difference when presenting your interior photographs. This is especially important if your images are being sent for consideration in a publication. Make sure you edit out any distracting outlets, fixtures, signs or blemishes from your photos. In the image below, you can see how the unsightly outlet was removed in Photoshop to create an image that didn't distract the viewer from the product being presented.
Take The Time To Get It Perfect
As an interior photographer, I know that going back to a location is almost never an option so I've got to nail the shot right then and there. Overlooking small details in styling or compostion can result an an unuseable image and some major heartbreak for both myself and my clients. To avoid this, I always try to pay extra special attention to the styling of elements in the room I'm shooting.
Making sure cords are out of sight or tucked away, taking time to fluff the pillows or straighten the sheets on a bed can really save you from "Almost" getting a great picture. Not to mention the time it will save you in post production later.
If you have an assistant or a stylist on site looking after these details, it can be so helpful. If that isn't in the cards, I find that shooting teathered into my laptop is a great way to really study an image as I'm shooting so I can make adjustments before moving on to the next room.
To Sum Up
Getting great photos of your interiors is possible for anyone. Just remember to take your time and really give each image the attention it deserves from styling to post production.
Use Natural Light- It has a beautiful quality and keeps your images looking efortless and uniform.
Use A Tripod- Use it to take multiple exposures and blend them together in post production.
Straight Vertical Lines- Make sure your vertical lines are straight by positioning the camera properly or using a correcting software.
Edit Out Distracting Fixtures- Make sure your images looked polished by editiong out any outlets or fixtures.
Pay Attention To Styling Details- Take your time and adjust the elements of your shot so they are perfect.
That's It! Have fun shooting!
Still not getting the results you want?
Hi, I'm Lauren! I'm a San Diego based photographer specializing in product and interior photography and I would love to help you up your image game.