6 tips for better indoor shots – Fstoppers | Ad On Picture

Over the past four months I’ve stayed in many Airbnbs and hotels while touring around Portugal, Costa Rica and Panama. What struck me when looking for places to stay was the often unprofessional photos these places use for their listings. Some were so bad I jumped straight to the next listing without looking at the reviews. And it’s so easy to create better real estate photos, even just with a cell phone, which I’m going to show you in this article.

Now, I’m not saying you should go to a professional real estate photo shoot with just your phone. I use it here for simplicity and to show that equipment is often not the limiting factor. More important are the right preparation, the right light, a good eye and some compositional considerations.

I also prefer my cell phone for this type of photography as I am currently taking real estate photos to document the places I am staying for my travel blog. This means that when I arrive at a place tired from my travels, I don’t have to spend hours walking around with my tripod and Canon R5 to document it. I usually take these photos in less than 10 minutes before unpacking my bags. Keep that in mind as you look at the photos in this article – apart from some minor color, contrast and perspective corrections, they come straight out of my Google Pixel 5. I’ll also point out what worked in the photos and what I would have could have done better. After all, mistakes are a great way to learn when they are spotted.

Ingredients for a solid interior photo

For example, the photo above shows the porch of one of the accommodations I’ve stayed in in Costa Rica. I immediately loved this area because it’s very open, bathed in nice soft light, there’s a hammock in the background, and most importantly, lots of greenery and vegetation nearby. Consequently, I wanted to show a lot of it in the photo.

Now ideally I would have closed the doors in the background and shot a darker exposure for the white spot in the sky. The first solution would have been easy if I had taken a little more time and prepared the shoot properly. And that’s something you should do in real estate photography in general. Before you start taking photos, do a full tour of the place you want to photograph and make the necessary adjustments right away so that later, when you go to the different rooms with your camera, you can focus solely on the photography can concentrate.

Speaking of the sky, well, I didn’t want to include a tripod in my cell phone photography, but you should definitely bracket for a more professional result.

Now let’s compare this photo to another interior photo I took in Vietnam a few years ago, back then with professional equipment, since I was on assignment. Although the second photo looks more professional due to the way the room was prepared and lit for the shoot, as well as the post-production applied, there are similarities. And identifying them will give you the right tools to create solid real estate and interior photography.

Go far

It might sound a bit cliché, but in my opinion interior shots, and also many exterior property shots, look better when shot with a wide-angle lens. While in other types of photography I regularly use normal and longer focal lengths to compress a scene for more interest, in real estate photography my goal is to create space and allow the elements in the photo space to breathe. And with a wide-angle lens like the Canon RF 15-35 f/2.8, I can do just that. There’s certainly room for detail photos taken at longer focal lengths, but you’ll set the right foundation for the ones in your series by going wide first.

The great thing is that even with most modern cell phones this sense of space can be achieved as they often include a wide angle lens. The widest width my Google Pixel 5 can reach, for example, is 15mm.

This helped me a lot when I was photographing the bedroom of one of my Airbnbs in Costa Rica. There’s often little room to walk around and position the camera in these spots, so the width allowed me to still fit the important elements in the frame.

With the photo above, I would also like to point out a defect that could easily have been remedied before taking the photo. I should have taken a minute to undo some of the creases on the pillows on the bed and smooth out the little rug next to the bed. But as I wrote above, these shots happen fast and I was tired after a long drive. So for a professional shoot you definitely want to be rested.

What you’ll also notice in the photo above is that it wasn’t taken from eye level. Typically, when shooting indoors, choosing a perspective somewhere between waist-high and chest-high helps to create a good balance between the floor and ceiling in your photos. But be sure to avoid the worm’s-eye view. You still want to see the top of the furniture in the frame.

Stay true to the place

Sometimes I would like to go even wider than 15mm, but caution is advised. Although I want the places I photograph to look big, I don’t want to create photos that are completely removed from reality. This is a problem I sometimes see with hotel photos where the photographer has gone a little too far to make a 10sqm room look like a loft.

Finding the sweet spot is important and for me it’s usually somewhere between 15mm and 18mm. For some rooms 14mm or even 12mm would be nice to avoid cutting furniture as you see in the photo below. But as I said at the beginning, equipment isn’t usually the limiting factor. Sometimes it can even boost your creativity when you have to work within certain limits. You’ll be forced to find different perspectives to get your gear working, and this can result in more interesting photos.

And if furniture cropping is required, do it intentionally and avoid the cropping with few pixels. When trimmed correctly, you can give the viewer the impression of standing in the room instead of looking in from the outside.

Avoid keystone errors

There is one thing that makes most architecture photos look unprofessional and that is keystoning. While there are exceptions where it can create very dynamic perspective and add a more artistic look to the photos, I don’t think there is any room for perspective distortion in professional real estate photography. So to create professional-looking photos, make sure you either avoid or correct them.

My main camera has a meter, so I use that to avoid perspective distortion. On my phone, I use the edges of the frame and a 3×3 grid to guide me when composing my photos, making sure the lines coming through the walls, windows, doors, and furniture are straight. In the feature video I show you how I do it.

Occasionally, however, the perspective I want to photograph doesn’t allow me to get everything in the camera without distortion. If I can manage to keep the distortions minimal, it’s usually not a problem to correct them in post-production.

As a side note, there are lenses that give you more flexibility in the perspectives you can create in architectural and real estate photography. And these are tilt-shift lenses such as the Canon TS-e 17mm. The translation mechanism of these lenses can be used to change perspective while keeping the camera straight and therefore the image free from perspective distortion.

Use the right light

Light is a great tool for real estate photographers and I like to use natural light for my shots or if I use artificial light I work with available light installations to keep it realistic. You can also do light painting to take it to the next level. But that depends on the type of shoot.

For the cellphone examples, where I wanted to keep it simple, that wasn’t an option. Instead, despite my sometimes tight travel schedule, I tried to wait for proper natural light as much as possible. As a rule of thumb, if the goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere, early morning or late afternoon light usually offers the most flattering conditions. For a clean, minimalist look, however, you may not want directional light, and an overcast sky could provide the right softbox for your shoot.

But once you know what your style is, you should plan your shots accordingly, which is what I did for the following photo. In such light situations, you can often see the technical limits of a mobile phone due to the enormous dynamic range. The Google Pixel uses an HDR algorithm in its camera app, but it does a pretty good job.

Prepare the room

Remember the photo above where I didn’t remove the creases from the pillows and rug. These little things make a difference and often only take a few minutes to fix. If you’ve read my article on retouching, you know that this falls into the category of things you can do to either avoid retouching altogether, or at least make it easier.

In the photo of the kitchen below, I made sure to prepare the counters properly and arrange the items so that it doesn’t look too cramped. This didn’t take long and makes the photo more balanced. For some objects, you might even want to rearrange some furniture, like chairs, to position them properly in your frame. But if you’re on a commission basis, check out the owner or real estate agent first. It’s possible that they want the furniture arranged in a certain way, so you need to photograph it that way.

In the feature video of the article, I show you how I finished the shoot for this apartment. It’s a walk-through of the points I mentioned above.

Mix it up

By confused I mean two things. First, you should get a good mix of perspectives that show the rooms you’re photographing from different angles. You can also go closer into the rooms for certain photos while shooting from the door for others. While you’re there, every minute counts and don’t be afraid to take lots of photos, of which you may end up using only a small selection.

In addition to the different perspectives, I usually mix in some vertical frames as well. I take most of my photos horizontally, but since I love making small collages of my real estate photos for my blog, it’s good to include vertical photos as well. Depending on the shoot, this may even be something you need to do. Just think of a magazine shoot where you will surely need some variety for your layout and maybe even a cover. And yes, editorial photos are better off with a proper camera and tripod. For my travel items, however, the mobile phone is sufficient.

Leave a Comment