The inside scoop on photographing interiors

Making pictures with John Enman

Architectural interior photography can be creative and fun

Architectural interior photography can be creative and fun

As I leafed through one of my wife’s house and home fashion magazines I could easily select out those interior photographs that were made by professionals and those that I’m sure were snapped by home owners themselves, or maybe their friends.

So much of the poorly produced pictures we see in newspaper ads, or even online, are obviously made by ambitious amateurs with new digital cameras, pointing and shooting inside the building, using the camera’s pop-up flash (or no additional light at all).

Budgets may be tight, or homeowners or sellers either don’t understand how important quality photography is, or ignorantly believe that anyone with a camera (any camera) should be capable of making good pictures.

The majority of people now search online for business or vacation lodging, rental accommodation, or dream homes, spending only seconds on each as they quickly browse the multitude of advertisements or listings. So it is essential that the photographs quickly viewed by potential customers make a strong immediate impact and suggest that a second look is warranted.  There is no doubt that good photography will improve the marketing odds no matter the final goal.

Just like doing scenics or portraits, photographers must take into account how light affects their subjects and the need to identify technical challenges.  Examples include over exposed windows, cross shadows on fixtures or furniture caused by existing light, or dark under exposed spaces like a far bedroom doorway, or under-lit hallways.

Mounting a camera on a tripod and exposing for natural light or placing a flash on a camera isn’t the answer to those problems. Similar to when I give advice to those wanting to learn how to do scenic photography or portraits, I begin by suggesting to those that intend to photograph interiors that they do some research by looking at successful photographers’ work. The magazine racks are packed with home type magazines, and I suggest picking up a couple of issues and going through them.

The beginning of learning how to make an interior photograph comes when one can pick out the deficiencies in a picture.

Appropriate and creative arrangement of a building’s interior is important, of course. A crowded jumble of furniture and fixtures never looks good, so the first thing a photographer needs to do is some cohesive interior design, looking through the camera’s viewfinder constantly to make sure everything important in the room is visible, and paring the view of extraneous knick knacks.

Special attention needs to be on the distortion caused by wide angle lenses. I move the lens up and down until walls, furniture, and fixtures, appear to be proper, and as I do that items in the room may have to be moved so they can be seen. All of that takes time, but is worthwhile because everything – walls, furniture, and fixtures – all need to look good if one is to have a beautiful photograph.

Scenic photographers agonize over the angle of light and how the landscape will look corner to corner, and portrait photographers must learn to control how to set up a face with pleasing light. Photographing an interior is no less daunting when it comes to lighting, and the techniques employed in scenic and portrait photography are valuable for photographers making indoor images.

It is important for those shooting inside a building to add multiple, artificial light sources to visually exploit a room’s appearance; not flood lights, or lots of little light bulbs, as those get very hot, use lots of electricity, and usually don’t produce a colour-balanced light. And photographers definitely won’t get as good a result using a single flash mounted top of a camera as they would if they were using proper lighting equipment such as studio lights, reflectors, softboxes, umbrellas, and other diffusion devices that create balanced illumination throughout a building’s interior.

Architectural interior photography, in my opinion, is creative and fun, however, the set up is time consuming, but problem solving a photograph to a successful end is very satisfying and well worth the effort.

These are my thoughts this week.

Contact me at or Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. And if you want an experienced professional wedding or event photographer please call me. I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.