Round Rock Home Inspector Shares How To Take Home Pictures

How to Take Beautiful Home Photos (8 comments)

4 Professional Photographers Share Tips for Making Home Interiors Shine

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Photography is one of those fine art forms that most people think is easy to do … until they give it a try. If you have a home design blog or website, you know how difficult it can be to truly portray how gorgeous your new office is on a dinky digital camera with three flash settings. Even if you do invest in great equipment, it really won’t make a difference unless you know how to use it. Want to understand why your shots aren’t turning out like the pages of Elle Decor? Odds are, you’re making a few errors that are fairly common among novice photographers.

Luckily, four talented photographers on Houzz have provided us with examples of their gorgeous work, along with their tips on how to improve your home photography in terms of:

1. Light
2. Focus and Exposure
3. Staging
4. Composition.

Make sure to check out their photos and profiles to learn more about these exceptional photographers.

1. Light
David Livingston: The best times to shoot an interior and an exterior are eastside in the morning, and westside in the afternoon. The north and south sides can simply be shot whenever the light is bright. For your lighting, try to limit the extreme areas that are too dark or too bright. You might need to add light to the dark areas, and pull the drapes in for some bright areas, or just wait around until the light is more even in that room.

by David Livingston

Michal Venera: Shoot at dusk, or at dawn. You want the light to be soft — it makes the shots more flattering, and it softens the exterior. You want to try to match the exterior and interior light as much as possible. Early evening or late afternoon is the ideal time to shoot an interior or exterior. After sunset can also be fun for an exterior if you’re shooting an area with porch lights or other outdoor lighting.

by michal venera

David Churchill: For me, there are no rules for when to shoot an interior. Often with a project there is a tiny window to shoot it. This is usually just after completion. Sometimes I get to choose a day with great weather, which can make a real difference to the quality of the images. Dusk is always a great time to capture good interiors, as you can easily balance the interior and exterior light level. I would say that good weather is more important when shooting exteriors. If there is no sun, the light is very flat. I mainly use available light with interiors. I only use additional lighting to control contrast. If an area is too dark compared to the rest of the shot, I may add some. I try to do this so you can’t tell I have used lighting so it feels natural. I find I use this much less these days as many contrast issues can be sorted out in Photoshop.

by David Churchill

Matthew Millman: It’s always best to try and wait for good light. Generally, there is a time in the day when most every room in a house gets “good light.” Usually, this is when the sun is coming in and the space is more luminous than when there is no sunlight. Sunlight infuses a shot with energy and warmth, telling a more compelling story. This may mean you have to wait a few hours to get a better shot. If you have the time, it’s always worth it.

by Matthew Millman

2. Focus and Exposure
David Livingston: When choosing an exposure, make sure to avoid over- or under-exposing a photo. Depth of field can be a difficult concept to grasp and execute. Have a tripod, and take a long exposure. Use the preview function on your camera, study what depth of field is, have a bigger f-stop. I’d recommend f16 or f22.

by David Livingston

Michal Venera: The better the lens, the better the shot. No matter how good you are, it’ll never be its best if you don’t have a great piece of equipment. If you want to emphasize depth of field, use a tripod and set the lens somewhere in the middle — around 11. That’s ideal. The sharpness of the lens will be at its best.

by michal venera

David Churchill: The exposure is all dependent on the amount of light available. With interiors, I usually shoot between about 1 to 20 seconds at f16. With sunlit exteriors, I shoot at about 1/60th at f16. Depth of field is basically what is in focus in a given image from front to back. Generally I try to have as much as possible, but if I want to emphasize a particular element within an interior, I might make the depth shallower so that only that element is in focus while the rest is more blurred. Finding the best shot takes a lot of experience, and there really are no hard and fast rules.

by David Churchill

Matthew Millman: Take lots of photos. Every project I shoot, I carry an extra camera around with me all day and I take tons of photos as tests. I shoot them at a high ISO on a low-resolution setting, and I never use them for anything beyond checking what looks good and how the light is playing through a space. And when we set up for a photo, if I don’t feel like it is as good as it could be, I try the shot from a different angle. Sometimes I’ll do it again and again until I get it right. It takes a lot of shots to get one good one. Keep shooting and never settle for just okay.

by Matthew Millman

3. Staging
David Livingston: Really look at the compositions of each spot, and see if you like what is in and out of the frame, as well as how/where things are placed within the frame. When staging, work with one color direction, and layer that color throughout the photo to add richness and depth.

by David Livingston

Michal Venera: When it comes to staging, I personally don’t do it, since most of my clients [such as Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, and Meredith Publishing] will do the staging ahead of time. However, a lot of photographers do. My general belief is that simpler is better.

by michal venera

David Churchill: For staging, I try to keep things fairly natural looking and not too staged, as I find it easy for things to look corny when overdone. Probably the best advice I have been given with staging is: “If in doubt leave it out.” I do like to have people in shots too, again, where it feels natural and not too staged. I think this adds another dimension to the image and gives scale and depth. As much as possible, I will try to catch people unawares. This particular photo was an area of Santa Monica with many tracks into the hills, which is ideal for horse riding. So I waited until someone came by, and captured them just at the right moment.

by David Churchill

Matthew Millman: While the eye can handle complexity well, the photo is more democratic and does not respond to clutter as gracefully. Your photos should be ambitious, trying to tell as much of a story as possible, but the styling or staging should be simple. Let the project speak for itself. Do not add too much.  And if a space is cluttered, pare it down. Remember that your viewer is building their own story about the space through your images. If the images are messy, the viewer will figuratively trip on the things in a space and miss the design. However, if the space is crisp (not sterile), then the viewer has room to imagine what they would feel like if they were there.

by Matthew Millman

4. Framing and Composition
David Livingston: Both wide frames and tight frames work well for interiors. I’d recommend tearing apart magazines and studying the photos you like, and then trying to recreate them. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is to try to keep things straight up and down — keep your camera plumb, and and don’t tip it up or down to get your shot. Instead, move the whole camera higher or lower to get what you want in the frame. In order to get an interesting shot, I think about whether or not I like the composition, or if I would want to walk into the space. The shot is interesting if it draws you in.

by David Livingston

Michal Venera: You really want to have a wide selection of shots, so take more than you normally would. Experiment with all sorts of angles and frames so there are a lot to choose from. When you’re shooting an interior, deciding whether or not to include people or animals is usually the decision of the client. If you do opt to include people in your shots, it always looks better and is easier if you’re not shooting them straight on. If you get a side or profile view, it’s a bit better, and doesn’t draw attention to the person. You want the focus to be on the interiors. If you don’t want to include people, or if the client doesn’t want you to, it’s always nice to create the illusion that the space is lived in — even if it isn’t. A half glass of water or something similar can help you do that without adding people.

by michal venera

David Churchill: When shooting a project I am very aware of giving a full range of images from wide-angled general shots to tighter details. It makes a project much more interesting to be able to see how a space works as a whole but also the design, detail, and materials involved. As I walk through an interior certain elements will rise up to me, and I will use my hands to make a frame to see how I could compose it and make it into the image that I want to portray. Sometimes a composition will work really easily, but often I will have to struggle a bit with it until it says what I want it to say.

by David Churchill

Matthew Millman: Shoot lower to the ground — at about the height of light switches (or your belly button) in a room.  Shooting from standing height can often make the furniture look funny or distorted, as if you are looking down on it. Getting a lower camera angle can allow you images to feel more intimate to the objects in the room and make the viewer feel more a part of the shot. Bring the viewer into the shot. Generally, people shoot too far away from their subject.  This implies a distance that the viewer will have to travel to get to their destination. Instead, try to frame the shot with an element in the space. This way the viewer will feel more like they are already in the shot. Sometimes a detail can be as compelling, or more, than an overall shot.  Details often describe the essence of a space rather than literally depicting it. Look for sweet details that capture feeling through things like texture, light, and color.

by Matthew Millman

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