A Guest Post by Spencer J. Fisher Photography. They specialize in architectural and commercial photography here in Orlando.
Good real estate photography does not come along serendipitously. There are many factors which will cause a photograph to be poor or mediocre. Let’s briefly go over some of the elements that make an interior shot either fail or succeed.
Lines: Crooked lines fail; straight lines succeed. Slanted walls and crooked lines suggest the photographer did not care enough about the room and the client to take the time to make sure everything is level. A tripod is mandatory. Occasionally, even using a tripod will produce an image with a slight slant. If this is the case, it can be corrected post processing. The rule of thumb is use a tripod; keep it straight, keep it level and you will be heading in the direction of a good image.
Distortion: This is caused by using a wide angle lens and a 35mm camera. When using a wide angle it is very important to keep your lines as straight as possible. By squaring up the room and keeping your camera level you can limit some of the distortion caused by a wide angle lens and a 35mm camera. Again, use a tripod; keep it straight; keep it level. It is tempting to shoot as wide as possible with the idea to make a room appear overly large. But this urge needs to be tempered if overt distortion is occurring. If shooting 35mm consider using a perspective control lens such as a Nikor PC-E 24mm or a Canon TS/E 24mm.
Angles: When photographing a room try to not to immediately get in a mindset of which angle you want to shoot the room from. Walk around the room. Look at it from all sides. Shoot it from all sides! Do a straight on shot, a diagonal shot, a side shot. Determine what you think a focal point is in the room and play with different angles leading to this focal point. Even if you believe you have the perfect angle on the first shot take other angles. Do not be lazy. The better angle might be on the other side. Work the room.
Camera Height: If you want to keep your photographs from looking bland or like a point and shoot MLS listing then try not to shoot at eye level. Most interiors are better served by shooting at around the chest height. This is easily accomplished by shooting on a tripod. Play with different heights. The height of the ceiling often comes into play. Do you want to show the chandelier or ceiling fan in the shot? Adjust your height of the camera accordingly.
Less is more: This old adage works very well for interiors. If the room appears cluttered and you have authority to do so by all means remove the clutter. Clutter could be the extra chair in the family room. It could be a planter. It could be any element which prevents the room from opening up and breathing.
Creative is nice: It is easy to focus just on the wide view when shooting an interior. A good practice is after all overalls have been photographed then to walk around the interiors looking for interesting angles and elements. You do not need to use a tripod. The idea is to create interesting free flowing angles that tell a story. For example, you can get close and eye level with a plate or a glass on a dining table. You will focus closely on the dining ware but with an angle that allows you to see other elements across the room. If you shoot fairly wide open (aperture set to a smaller number) you can create a nice blur of the elements in the background. This type of creative photography is not always needed but it is easy and fast to accomplish and provides your client with additional photos they may not have anticipated.
Lighting: Lighting is the bane of all interior photographers. Here is a little secret. Most photographic assignments do not occur over the course of the whole day. Most assignments are time sensitive and limited to a set of hours. Interior photographers need to be skilled enough to handle any time of day and any lighting situation. For example, let’s say you are at client’s home in the afternoon when the sun is very bright. They are proud of their custom pool, deck and landscaping and would like to have a photograph from the perspective of looking outside to their gorgeous property. This is where you need to be prepared to balance the light of the outside with the light on the inside. If the light is not balanced the interior portion of the photograph will be grossly underexposed.
One method to balance the lighting is to use studio lighting or strobe lights. To read some more thoughts on lighting please visit: http://spencerjfisher.com/lighting.html. Another method is to expose for the exterior and then expose for the interior and merge the two exposures in post processing using software such as Photoshop. This is quite an effective method but it is not one hundred percent. Caution should be used if you are relying on post processing to correct exposure issues.
Every photographer has their own style and technique. It’s important to nurture that style but remain true to the assignment. When shooting interiors for real estate it is most important to think of what the end product is. Keep your lines straight, limit distortion, adjust your camera height, find the focus point, remove clutter, get the lighting correct and you will be well on your way to being a better interior photographer.