Blog by Beebe Cline

<< back to article list

Take Great Home Photos the Easy Way — 5 Tips From a Pro

As a professional interior photographer for magazines and books, I've learned a few simple tips that can make a huge difference in helping you take better photographs of your home's interior or design project. Little things like using a tripod, shooting from straight on and avoiding wide-angle lenses can take you a long way toward standard practices that many professional photographers use every day.

Along with the tips, you'll find examples that offer inspiration for your own home photos.
1. Use a tripod. Putting whatever camera you have on a tripod allows you to steady the camera and be more deliberate in making your composition. With a digital camera, you can take a quick test shot and review it to make adjustments for the final shot. First, adjust the overall composition and what is in the frame by moving the camera or changing the lens — it really helps if your camera is on a tripod. Make the next adjustments by changing or moving the furnishings and objects in the room so they are most pleasing in the photo.
2. Take low shots. One really important compositional consideration is how high the camera is off the ground. I like to shoot with my camera about 40 inches off the floor. When your camera sits lower than eye level, your photos will look more like those you see in magazines.
3. Shoot straight on. Try to set your camera straight and not tilt it up or down. When you tilt the camera, the vertical lines in the photo get distorted, which won't look professional. For a strong composition, shoot straight onto an elevation of a room or building. To do this, you want the camera sensor to be parallel to your subject. The result is often a more pleasing photo that has a nice, graphic feeling.
If you are centered on the room or subject, the symmetrical balance will make the photo feel very grounded. This shot has a nice straight-on view and a low camera position.
This is a good example of nice movement framing the home. The camera is parallel to the house, but the center point is more to the right. The photo feels balanced by the strong vertical of the center tree.
4. Avoid wide-angle lenses. This is slightly counterintuitive. A wide-angle lens makes items close to the camera appear larger and items far away appear smaller. This distortion feels unnatural. Instead, use a normal lens and step away from your subject to get as much as you can into the shot. I often prefer getting less in a shot by using a normal lens, rather than resorting to using a wide-angle lens and getting the distortion that comes with it.
Standing back and using a lens with a normal focal length and not a wide angle puts all the items in a comfortable proportion to one another. There is no distortion that a wide-angle lens would create. Of course, the trade-off is that we do not see the whole room, but we do get a nice feeling of the room.
This shot makes use of two key tips I've mentioned so far — a low angle and showing a small part of the room without the distortion of a wide-angle lens.
5. Turn off your flash. Even basic point-and-shoot cameras are getting better at low-light situations, and your camera's flash will never be able to light a room well. With your camera on a steady tripod, you can have a long exposure and a natural-light feeling to the photo without getting a blurry shot. If you do not want the photo to be blurry during the long exposure, put the self-timer on and let the camera settle.
Shot straight on without a flash, this photo feels warm and inviting. The time for this natural light is usually about 20 minutes after the sun sets. The light level needs to be just right — from the inside light to the last bits of daylight — to get this glowing-lantern feeling.
The wonderful natural light is highlighted here without the use of the camera's flash, giving this photo a soft feeling. Stylistically, note how the chairs feel natural around the table too; each chair was carefully moved as part of the composition.

Archives