Interior Design Blog

How to: Photograph Real Interiors

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A question we get asked a lot is how to take beautiful photographs in the home. And who better to ask than our beta member and interiors photographer extraordinaire Emma Lewis? Here Emma answers some of our beta communities most frequently asked questions on how to take magazine worthy interiors shots whatever your budget!

  What are your Top 3 tips for taking a good interiors shot?

1 – Turn the lights off.  We are blessed with beautiful daylight all through the year and I find it is ruined by turning on orange florescent lights which casts unnatural shadows and distorts the real colours of the beautiful paint colours, furniture and fabrics you are photographing.  I also often prefer overcast days to sunny as you get such beautiful soft shadows being cast rather than very harsh contrast of dark interiors and bright sunlight. (have a look at my website and you will see all my pictures are with the lights off!)

2 – Use a tripod.  It means that you can take longer exposures at a higher aperture and then you are able to get every detail in focus and get a lovely clear, crisp image.

3 – Think about the composition.  Don’t just stand in the doorway and snap a picture, think about what it is you are photographing and what the best angle would be, the best height, which is often from about waist height, if there are any unsightly things in the image, used mugs, paperwork, extension leads. It is best to often clear the clutter away and let the furniture and room sing on their own.

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How do I add some interest and let the picture “tell my story”? 

I think it is hard to see ‘your story’ in your own house, although it will most definitely be there, whatever kind of home you live in.  You could get some friends over and ask them what they like in your house, it will really help to see your home through a different pair of eyes and you will suddenly find yourself seeing your house in a different light and noticing lots of lovely details that you may not even realise you had created!  Think about what your style is and what you wanted your home to be – modern, bright and colourful or clean, light and calm – and look for the pieces you have that will bring that out in the pictures. Adding interest can also be achieved with propping with fruit, veg, flowers, beautiful bowls, ceramics and also having good art work on the walls helps too.

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What if I don’t have a whole home fit for Elle Decor? Can I still make a picture look good?

YES! Anyone can make their home look good – within reason obviously but you are all interior fans so I would think you all have some awareness of your home decoration.  Interior photography takes much longer than one thinks, so put aside a day for doing a “shoot” in your home. Think about what you want to photograph, and what props you have that you could feature in the images.  Clear away the clutter that is in every home, every shoot you see in a magazine, behind the camera is piles of all the everyday clutter that has been moved out! Fresh flowers are wonderful at bringing together the colours of the room and bringing a fresh, colourful feel to the pictures. Do some wide shots of the room and then come in to do some details of the different features of the room.  And at{mine} is not necessarily looking for whole houses but the rooms that you are proud of and want to share with others. Also don’t delay because it isn’t ready, I hear this all the time, people don’t want their house photographed as it isn’t ready, but in truth a house is never ready – it is always changing and updating as you go.  So no more excuses – just go for it!

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Do I need expensive equipment?

No.  A simple SLR (single lens reflex camera) with the 18-24 lens would be perfect.  Put it on a tripod (you can get one for as cheap as £20) and try shooting on AV priority at f/22, ISO 200 and manually focus the picture – you will be amazed!  But if you don’t have access to a camera it is also amazing how great smart phones are too, so think about the tips above and put them into practice and hopefully you will get some great results. And you get the added joy of being able to play around with the filters phones have to offer that can make pictures look amazing.

My pictures often look a bit dark and grainy – are there any tricks to get the lighting right?

First of all turn all the lights off! I still believe daylight is better than artificial light. If it is a dark room make sure that you are getting as much light as you can into the room, open curtains and blinds and doors to let in the light. Also if it is dark make sure you shoot when that room is at its lightest – the light will change throughout the day – so be aware of when it looks its best and shoot at the that time of day. Though beware of bright sunshine streaming through as that will create a lot of contrast which the camera may struggle to deal with, in which case you may want to pull the blind down a bit, or wait for a cloud to come (I often spend time waiting for the light to be right!). And try not shooting directly into the light, change your angles around a bit. It definitely helps to put your camera on a tripod and do a longer exposure and you can also try using a higher ISO to help with this.

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What are your favourite editing tools or apps? 

I love Lightroom by Adobe.  It is a miracle software in my eyes and can work magic with RAW images.  It can transform a very dark image into a beautiful perfectly lit image, and there are lots of simple tools you can use to tweak the contrast, brightness, colours and make it look great. But this requires a bit of investment financially so it is definitely worth trying out Picasa which you can adjust lightness, contrast etc and just make the image a bit punchier and brighter. There is a Photographers package with Adobe giving lightroom and photoshop for £8.78 a month.

Emma Lewis Photography

www.emmalewisphotography.co.uk

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Pictures: Emma Lewis Photography

Location: Family home of Emma’s sister, textile designer Molly Mahon

Read an interview with Molly and discover more pictures of her beautiful home on fine art photography site Lumitrix

2 Comments

  1. Very interenting and inspiring photos…Take will take note

  2. Some really great tips and such a gorgeous home Molly!

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