Mad About . . .

5 Tips For Photographing Interiors like a Pro

16th May 2017

I’m delighted to welcome this month’s guest blogger; the professional photographer Paul Craig. His work has appeared in numerous magazines from Conde Nast and Living Etc to Essential Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom (for which he photographed The Mad House) as well as for clients including John Lewis, Humphrey Munson kitchens and Ripples bathrooms. What he doesn’t know probably ain’t worth knowing. Having said that he knows A LOT but he has agreed to try and distill some of that knowledge into 5 key tips that will help you photograph your own interiors like a pro whether it’s for instagram or your own portfolio. And you should also know that his own house (which we will be visiting later in the year) is so amazing that’s it’s constantly being hired out for location shoots. I’ll hand you over to Paul:

STYLING STYLING STYLING

dark grey walls and twin basins bathroom by Paul Craig styled by Kate Watson-Smyth

dark grey walls and twin basins bathroom by Paul Craig

This is a key point and yes it’s true that no-one actually lives like they do in the photographs. Kate certainly doesn’t. This shot of her bathroom took a lot of organisation to get rid of her lifestyle clutter (my polite term for everyday crap). The biggest tip for anyone trying to take a decent interiors shot is to strip it right back and get rid of trailing wires and plugs and all the unnecessary stuff. You’ll be surprised how much there is once you start. I’ve seen so many shots of kitchens where the dirty dishcloth is still visible, the cushions are creased or there’s a stray item in the corner that no-one noticed.

Once you have decluttered you can gradually add in a few things that will enhance the shot and lift the empty spaces. So in the picture above the glass bottles on the shelves to the right just lift that dark corner and the flowers bring in some life between the mirrors. If you’re really like me you will then spend another 27 minutes moving things 3mm to the right, four to the left and two back again until it’s absolutely perfect.

KEEP YOUR VERTICALS VERTICAL (and your horizontals horizontal)

library reading room by Paul Craig styled by Kate Watson-Smyth

library reading room by Paul Craig

Most of us hold the camera (or the phone) at eye level and shoot down into the room which skews the verticals. Our brains will correct the verticals when we look at a room but our cameras won’t. This is why you take a picture and wonder why the pictures all seem to be crooked and when you straighten that part of the picture the door is at a weird angle.

Once you see this in your pictures you can’t un-see it and it really makes the difference between a professional looking shot and a quick snap. There are a couple of tools to help you get this right – turn on the grid on your phone – some cameras have one too. Then hold the camera much lower – try chest height or even further down. This will also help with the verticals. Then, when you are happy – and take the time to do this right – you can take the picture. Instagram also has a couple of useful tools to help you adjust perspective which can help you sort it out to some degree after you have photographed it, but it’s better to get it right first.

COMPOSITION OR THE RULE OF THIRDS

dark walls and gold mirror by Paul Craig styled by Kate Watson-Smyth

dark walls and gold mirror by Paul Craig

I’m not sure you can teach composition as it’s one of the dark arts of photography that some people can just do and some people just can’t. However, there is one trick that you can do to make your pictures stand out. The grid I mentioned above is about the best thing on your phone when it comes to photography. The key to a good picture is the rule of thirds which says that the thing you are photographing doesn’t have to go bang in the middle of the shot but can look more interesting a third, or two thirds, of the way across. That’s why your grid has nine squares. Also, if the picture isn’t working in portrait (upright rectangle) try turning the phone/camera round and shooting in landscape (long side at the bottom) The rule of thirds works in both directions – left to right and top to bottom.

THIS AIN’T REAL ESTATE BABY

navy blue kitchen by Paul Craig styled by Kate Watson-Smyth

navy blue kitchen by Paul Craig

The best shot of a room is not necessarily the whole room. Sometimes when you do that you end up with what I call the estate agent shot – i.e one that is trying to show the size of the room. When we took this shot of Kate’s kitchen from the far end it looked exactly like that so we moved in to just show part of the table in relation to the kitchen which made for a much stronger shot.

You will also hear people talking about telling a story in a picture. This can also be difficult to do as many do it by instinct but, for example, I might do a shot which includes the open door linking to another room. We took another picture in here and included the leather handles on the island and the handles on the other side under the shelves which made a link between the two spaces.

GET THE LIGHTING RIGHT

dark grey walls in sitting room by Paul Craig styled by Kate Watson-Smyth

dark grey walls in sitting room by Paul Craig

By which I mean turn it off. Natural light is always best. If you can only implement one thing from this post then that’s the one. And the verticals. Make it two… Anyway, you really need to avoid shooting directly into a window as cameras (and phones) can’t deal with the difference between a really bright light and a really dark corner of a room. If that is the shot you really need to have then switch on the HDR function – that stands for High Dynamic Range  – as this will brighten the dark areas and tone down the light ones. Once you have taken the picture use the highlights tool to bring down the light and the shadows slider to bring out the dark areas. This will help. However, for the shot above I had to work in photoshop to get it right so this is not something you can do on your phone. Because, my final tip is that if you really need professional looking photographs you need to hire a professional photographer, but these tips should help you iron out some of the most common mistakes.

Paul is going to be sharing more photographic tips on his instagram this week so do follow him over there and if you need to hire him then you can visit his website.

 

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8 Comments

  • Reply Joanna Biddolph 22nd May 2017 at 11:01 am

    Wonderful advice – not only for taking photos (which I don’t do much) but for styling. The rule of thirds is brilliant. I’m going downstairs now to have a fiddle with things in my sitting room …

    That small lump next to the grey stones on the fireplace … looks suspiciously like the small lump of lava I picked up from the ground at Vesuvius (strict instructions when I was there not to do that and I still feel guilty, 50-plus years later).

  • Reply Cristin Wills 19th May 2017 at 4:33 am

    Lighting challenges are the toughest by far, especially when your home is on the dark side (like my Spanish style). Great tips! Thank you!

  • Reply Anwar 18th May 2017 at 5:42 am

    Great set of tips. I think lighting is always key and I do agree with all those bad vertical photos. Thanks for this great post

  • Reply Nicola 16th May 2017 at 11:21 pm

    Here in Sydney selling your house is a major palaver involving employing a stylist and then living for weeks in a home where you can’t touch anything, sit down, use the bathroom etc.. However, the photos are still lacklustre and amateur. But one agent has hit on the idea of getting a professional to take beautiful photos with the home owners present drifting through the rooms – they are gorgeous photos ( perhaps they only agree to sell beautiful houses owned by beautiful people) and suddenly they seem to be completely dominating the sales market and getting crazy prices.

  • Reply Jonathon 16th May 2017 at 7:46 am

    These tips are really handy, thanks! It’s nice to know I’ve not been far off the mark with product photography and some shots of our house I’ve been working on.

  • Reply Sandra 16th May 2017 at 7:23 am

    Great tips and beautiful photographs. It does make me think about some of the terrible photos you see from some Estate Agents. If only they would invest in a good photographer, as it could make such a big difference when marketing a property. Now off to practise.

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