Top 10 interior photography tips

Chris Humphreys

Pro architecture photographer Chris Humphreys ( shares his top tips on photographing indoors

1. Square it up. Create impact by shooting square onto a room or furniture and turning the photograph into a one-point perspective. This effect draws the viewer into the image and works best when there is a strong focal point. For maximum impact, take time to ensure that the vertical and horizontal lines are parallel to the plane of the photograph.

Interior image of people sat in a room
Image copyright: Chris Humphreys

2. Look down. In large public spaces, look for opportunities to shoot from high looking down. This will often add layers and give depth to an image, and including people will give scale. Try shooting in both landscape and portrait format to see what works best. A tripod with a horizontal centre column is useful, otherwise increase the ISO and hand hold (tightly!).

3. Let there be light. In some interior spaces the lighting is the main feature, so look for it and use it – exposure is critical to a successful image. Use a tripod and take two shots, exposing one for the feature lighting and the other for the ambient light. Using the ambient light exposure as the main image, add the feature lighting exposure using a mask layer.

4. Stairway to heaven. Shot from above or below, spiral stairs will give a classic and very pleasing composition close to the Fibonacci spiral. The taller the stair the better – try to place the vanishing point of the stair on the intersection of thirds. Spiral stairs show this effect off the best, but almost any stair will give a pleasing and dynamic composition.

Spiral staircase
Image copyright: Chris Humphreys

5. Small spaces. In small rooms, go for a wide angle lens to make the space feel bigger. In really confined spaces back the camera and tripod into a corner with just enough room to see the LCD, Live View is a distinct advantage here. Use a cheap hotshoe spirit level to help level the camera, compose the shot, set the self timer and leave the room.

6. Devil’s in the detail. Look for an eye-catching detail to complement a set of images. It might be an abstract from a larger composition, an entire object or just something that catches your eye, but think about what it says and how it relates to the set.

7. Bright white. Correctly exposing brightly decorated spaces can be tricky, as the camera’s metering will assume you want the white walls to read as a midtone (much the same when shooting in snow). Shoot in manual and overexpose around two thirds of a stop, checking the histogram to make sure the white walls are appearing close to the right-hand edge.

Abstract view
Image copyright: Chris Humphreys

8. High contrast. Many interior scenes will include bright daylight shinning through a window and deep shadows; these can be dealt with by taking multiple exposures and combining in post-processing. If using Photomatix, for example, combine with exposure fusion rather than HDR tone mapping for a more natural appearance. Views through windows can be brought back by using a layer mask.

9. Add movement. Not only do people give scale to a scene, but they can also be used to add movement and drama to an image. An otherwise static scene can be transformed with people moving through the space. Use a tripod and set a shutter speed of 1/2sec – 1sec- people in the foreground will blur more then people in the distance.

10. Look for the unexpected. Great abstract shots are often created by looking for an unusual angle. When you’ve spotted the shot think about what you’re trying to achieve with the final result.

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