Photography was one of my first true loves. The kind of love that only gets better with time and patience – and hours and hours in the darkroom! When I first started using my mom’s old Minolta, I was 15, and I was so, so careful with what I wanted to capture. After all, I only had 24 shots (quite literally) to document teenage life as I knew it. Friends. Sleepovers. My bedroom. My pets. I was still learning my way around the manual settings, and I’d mentally keep track of how many photos I had left so as not to run out when I might need that last photo the most.
Most Requested Topics: The ABCs of Using Your DSLR | Take Awesome Photos With Your Smart Phone| A Look Inside My Camera Bag | Reader Q + A
Things have changed since then, of course. Now, we can take 50 photos of the same thing, choose our favorite and delete the rest! (Please, please delete the rest for the sake of sanity.) But I find myself still practicing my old ways, doing what I can to get The Shot the first time (or at least the fourth or fifth, tbh). The same goes for photos I share on this blog, because truthfully, who has time to sift through all the ‘bad’ photos in hopes there’s a ‘good’ one? But to prevent interior photography from feeling stale, there comes a few extra steps to evoke a sense of warmth – and as we’re all home lovers here, isn’t that what we’re striving for? To share not just our home, but to share the homes we’ve poured our hearts into with how they make us feel?
Today’s post has been highly requested over the years, so I’m excited to finally share this with you!
6 Things You Can Do Today to Take Better Photos of Your Home
1| Wait for the right time of day
This will be different for every home and every room within that home. My perfect interior shooting conditions are a cloudy (but not rainy) day and when the sun is shining behind a soft haze from the south – but that’s a rare occasion, ha! You’ve probably all heard that shooting with natural light is best, and yes, there is truth in that. But don’t be afraid to wait until dusk if that’s when your space feels the most magical to you. Don’t be afraid to turn on a soft lamp. Don’t be afraid to shoot when the morning shadows are strongest. Sometimes, these are the things that breathe personality into a photo.
2| Take 1 minute to really look at the room
Clearing up the previous day’s clutter is one thing, but take an extra minute to look at the space you’ll be photographing. Like, really look at. Are the curtains pleated nicely? Are the tags and zippers on your throw pillows facing away from you? Could you smooth over your favorite couch cushion? Oh, and don’t forget about the rogue Lego under the credenza! Do not, however, strip away your personality. You do you.
3| Become BFFs with your tripod
I know, I know, getting out the tripod can feel like a hassle, but it doesn’t have to! I keep mine tucked in the corner of our home studio, so it’s never a chore to grab and go. And if you’re reading this, I assume you want to take the best photo possible, right? Your tripod will help you with that. Not only will it allow you to keep your shot level, but you can use your manual settings to get the best resolution, too. Think: A lower ISO, smaller aperture (which means a higher number, such as f/16) and a longer exposure (shutter speed). I have this tripod and absolutely love it. Note: I’d be happy to talk through the more technical stuff and why it matters, if you’re interested. Let me know in the comments!
4| Get low + square up
This step is two-fold, but they work in tandem and are so important. A common mistake I see with interior photos is taking the photo from your eye level, which is much too high! When this happens, furniture – which is typically much lower to the ground – can look dinky and disproportionate to the scale of the room. Start by setting your tripod lower, so that when you look through your lens, you’re crouching or almost down on one knee. A good rule of thumb is to position your camera right above waist level.* Furniture looks more substantial, fills the frame better and is more ‘square’ when a photo is taken below eye level. Which leads me to…
… Keep your lines square. A room is filled with lines – the walls, ceiling, floor, dining table, sofa – and for the most part, a photo will look more polished when the perspective is nice and straight. Imagine a grid over that the shot you see through the lens. Move your camera up/down and side-to-side until the lines of the room square up to the imaginary lines of the grid. (Post-processing helps with this, too, but more on that in a second!)
*The only exception to this would be, say, a kitchen. Standard countertops are 36″ high, and you’re likely also competing with upper cabinets (and don’t want to only see the underside!). In this case, I keep my camera around chest/neck height.
5| Add life
Fresh greenery. The cat. A flickering candle. You! These are the things that make your house a home, and they’re just as important as (if not more than) the effort you’ve put into the perfect rug and sofa.
6| Never underestimate the power of post-processing
Taking the time to edit, or post-process, your final room shot is pure magic – and it might be my favorite part! I do a quick edit through Lightroom (color balance, perspective and any cropping), and then I have a handful of favorite actions I like to run in Photoshop. If that sounds overwhelming to you, there are countless phone apps that help make this step easy, while also giving you control over the intensity of filters (hot tip: less is always more). Within these apps, you can also make edits to how you’ve framed your photo, including cropping, the removal of distortion, and horizontal and vertical perspective. Usually, an app will also overlay a grid to your photo so you can efficiently ‘square up.’ Note: The app I go to time and time again is A Color Story, both for phones and desktop!
Let’s all go forth and take better photos of our home! If you already implement these tips into your photography, I’d love to know – and I hope you’ll share your trade secrets, too.
Psst… this is how I organize, print and display my photos, and here’s a guide to creating a unique composite photo.
I would love to hear more about the technical details of photography, especially so I can take better photos of my kids. Especially: is there an online class I can take? When should I use my phone and when should I grab my DSLR? How much of great digital photos is post processing? Do I need to buy photoshop (or something else) if I’m serious about great pictures? How can I print quality digital pics?
Great questions Emily! I would also love to know more about this.
All great questions. I’ve heard great things about Skillshare, which is an online community of classes at affordable rates: https://www.skillshare.com/
I was also thinking about doing a relatively straight forward series of blog posts on the ABCs of using your camera, but our reader survey showed that photography was a so-so topic. (If there’s a larger group of people that want to learn photo basics, please speak up!) That’s why I’ve decided to shift from that and do more specific photography to where our readers are – home owners, parents of kids and pets, etc. I’m actually pulling together a post right now on how to take better photos of your kids/pets with your phone!
In the meantime, here’s a big post on how I print and display digital photos: https://yellowbrickhome.com/how-i-organize-print-display-digital-photos/
I’d be interested in the ABCs of photography!!
I’d definitely be interested in the ABCs of photography! I love to take pictures of home and family, but I’ve mostly stuck with my iPhone and left my DSLR to gather dust because I don’t know how to use it well, and everywhere I’ve looked for help makes it sound extremely complicated and overwhelming. Yikes.
Loving all this feedback, thank you!
The series of posts on ABCs of our cameras sounds great!!
I am interested in more photography content!!
Also would love the ABC’s! All I know how to do is auto mode and it’s not cutting it!
Check out Jessie Martin on Instagram for very affordable photo courses for moms! @hellojessiemartin
Thank you, Kaitlin!
Seconded! I actually do a fair amount of landscape photography using aperture priority, so I get the part about long exposures and a tripod, but I am completely lost when it comes to manual settings for anything that’s in motion! Plus I’m still not sure how to find that “sweet spot” using manual settings!
I also use Photoshop instead of Lightroom and would love to hear more about your actions you use and also just more about color balance/theory, which is not a strong area for me.
Add me to this :) I can read how to guides till the cows come home but still get flustered trying to find the sweet spot of settings :)
I’m most curious about lenses, photo sizes, cropping etc. How do you get the perfect shot that fits on the blog, in instagram and other social media and still reads as nice with all those different perspectives? Do you use wide angle lenses and if so, do you get distortion at the edges and how do you deal with that?
This is my favorite lens in the world. I almost never take it off my camera, and it is worth EVERY single penny. (I’m also planning a ‘what’s in my camera bag’ post, if that’s helpful!) That said, when it’s at the widest (24 mm), I do get distortion, and I remove that in Lightroom, although A Color Story can help to a certain extent!
For blog sizing, I’m a stickler for making images look good on Retina displays. If you have a Retina display, you know how BLURRY images can look if they’re not sized properly! I know that not everyone has a Retina display, but soon enough, it will be a standard across all computers, so I suppose I’m future-proofing, in a way. For that reason, I size all my blog images at 2500px, which is about double the width of a standard display. (Double the width is a general rule when sizing for Retina). Because that can bog things down, I use the Imagify plugin, which helps to reduce the overall file size without sacrificing quality. I use the 2500px width across the blog and all social platforms, but I use the much larger original file size if I’m making prints!
One of my biggest problems is getting green haze from grass outside reflecting on white walls inside. You can’t see it in real life, but long exposures seem to make it show up on camera. Any tips for how to combat that?
Do you have Photoshop? You could always select the white walls using the ‘quick selection tool’, go to Image > Adjustments > Selective Color, choose white, and then make adjustments to remove the reflective green.
I will try that! Thank you!
These are all awesome tips! Definitely going to try getting lower when we shoot our next room tour!
This was so helpful thank you! I would also love a basics post. What camera do I get? What lense(s)? I want to start with a used camera while I practice and learn what I want – how do I choose a good used camera?
I think it’s important to ask yourself what you’re looking for in a camera before you start shopping. If you’re ever unsure of the terminology, a quick google search will go far! Something else I’d recommend is investing in the lenses. A good camera is one thing, but a great lens is even better! Did you know you could rent lenses from camera shops?! Give it a try before the investment!
Loved the post! Thanks for all of the helpful tips! Shooting interiors is so daunting to me, but i want to show off my hard work! I need to just pull out the DSLR and experiment rather than just go with the iPhone.
Be patient with yourself. The sooner you start… well, you know!
I love this post and all the helpful tips in the comments. I’d love more technical posts@
I would also also love to know more about the technical side! Like Emily mentioned!
Why did I never think to get low?? The furniture always looked weird and I couldn’t put my finger on it. But once you spelled it out, it makes so much sense! Thank you!
It’s going to be a world of difference moving forward!
Great post! I started a blog (ourhomeobsession.com) last year and I’m finding the photography takes up most of my time!!! Already I’ve learned so much but would love to read another post about the technical side of it! Thanks so much, love your stuff!!! :)
I love this! Thank you so much. I would love to know about the technical stuff as well. Do you shoot in RAW or JPEG? I know RAW allows you to edit, but the files are HUGE. I also would love to know the process for getting photos from edited on the computer to your phone to post on Instagram. I really have no idea how thatvworks. Ha!
I used to shoot RAW, but like you said, the files were massive. Now I just shoot in large jpg, which is probably still overkill since the majority of my photos go online. But I like them to be nice and large for family photos (for books and printing purposes), and it’s easier to not have to switch back and forth. :)
Oh, and for computer to phone – I’m sure there’s a better way, but after I sharpen and resize for web, I text myself the photo (into the messages desktop app) and download it to my camera roll! Or if I’m scheduling for Instagram, I use Later and upload it through the desktop version, and then when I get an alert on my phone, Later copies it to my camera roll for me.
Oooh, I would also love to hear more about what settings you use when you export for the web! Also, what do you do for your metadata/copyright info?
I would also love to hear more technical details about your photography techniques and gear!
Coursera teaches a free photography course from Michigan State University. If you decide to pay the fee, you are able to turn in homework and take the tests as well. It will get you in the know of some basic and more advanced camera use.
Thank you for this article! An enthusiastic YES (!!) to more camera posts. I know a lot is trial and error, and I really just need to start prioritizing grabbing the camera more and playing around with it.
I would love to make large scale prints of my art work, and I’m so lost with this whole megapixel thing and the minimum requirements required by the different art print sites. I thought I had a great camera (Canon 70D) but it doesn’t seem to make the megapixel cut, and that confuses me so much? For your Etsy shop, how do you handle this for your larger prints (20×24 … I’d be going even larger). Maybe this is less of a camera question and more of a photoshop question…
As a side note, seeing Libby above made me wonder, how is she doing?
If you’re going really large, are you shooting in RAW?
Thanks for asking about Libby. She’s hanging in there, but she’s really frail and old. It seems like overnight she just became so helpless! She’s our sweet lady, and we’re hanging onto every day we have with her.
This is a great post! I would love details on shooting interiors in manual mode on a DSLR camera! Indoor lighting has always been such a challenge for me.
I’ve recently taken over the social media for the company I work for. We do home building and interior design, and it is a huge learning curve for me to take better photos! I would love all the info you could give!
This is really dumb but I struggle with actually carrying my camera around. Do you always carry your camera bag around or do you have an on the go way of carrying it? Any tips to help carrying the weight would be great!
I throw my camera in my tote bag or a backpack! I’m sharing a few other options when I share the ‘look in my camera bag’ post, but you might want to try adding a camera bag INSERT to any bag you have. It will help to protect your camera and at least one extra lens!
Thanks for the feedback! Still nervous to through it in the bag so I’ll look at those inserts!