Design*Sponge Photo Guidelines
Welcome! We are so excited to work with you on a home tour at Design*Sponge. The majority of our readers photograph their homes on their own and we created this guide to help produce images that put your home’s best foot forward.
I. What We Need:
- We’ll need between at least 20 photos for your home story:
- The home photos we need are: an exterior shot, entryway, living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, back yard/outdoor space (if applicable).
- We’ll also need one family portrait (and pet portrait, if you have pets!)
- We’ll also need an illustrated photo of what you love most about your home.
- We need at least one full room photo (or as close as possible to full room) of each room and we’d love a mix of details and half-room photos for each space as well, focusing on any interesting design or historic details.
- All photos should be sized to be 1700 pixels wide. We prefer a mix of horizontal, square and vertical shots.
- Please take photos with natural light only. Nighttime, overhead or table lighting makes photographs too yellow. We suggest taking photos in soft early morning light.
- We prefer images shot straight-on with a strong central focal point. Often the best shots are taken when the photographer is crouching down slightly. Please read our guide to shooting interiors (and how to take straight-on/grid photos) for more tips and tricks.
II. Camera, Lighting and Framing Details
- Cameras: we encourage home owners to use whatever cameras they feel most comfortable with. Regular point and shoot cameras are great, but most current generation smart phones have excellent cameras, too. We ask home owners not to buy/rent any equipment or professional services for their shoot. Our audience responds most strongly to homes that feel relatable and real.
- The goal is photographing interiors is to find the best way to frame a room. You should make sure to keep all of the vertical and horizontal lines as straight as possible (see our guide to shooting gridded interiors, above).
- To aid in your framing, keep your camera/phone as level as possible. Many tripods and phone attachments have a bubble level, which is a great place to start when trying to level a camera. One other feature many cameras have is a built in digital level when you turn on live view shooting. Both are great options in keeping the vertical and horizontal lines straight. If you can’t quite get these lines straight in camera, programs like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop have tools to straighten photos.
- Interior photography should be photographed at eye level in most situations. Think about how you tour a house by walking which means we are most accustomed to seeing homes at eye level.
- Symmetry is also an important idea to keep in mind while shooting interiors. Make sure that you are placing the camera in the correct spot to properly capture elements of the room. Symmetry and keeping vertical and horizontal lines straight go hand in hand.
- Taking both vertical and horizontally oriented photos is very important. Depending on the room, you will need to decide which orientation best highlights the whole space. Typically in smaller rooms, i.e. a bathroom, you’ll use a vertical orientation. Larger rooms are often shot horizontally.
- Capturing the flow of a home
- Make sure to have full room shots, half room shots and detail shots for the home tours.
- Typically working though a room in that order is a great way to make sure you’re covering all of the bases. Seeing all of the design elements together is extremely important, and a proper full room shot is the best way to convey the overall design.
- Make sure to include angles that allow you to see into other rooms, see how spaces flow and see how everything works together. This will establish the flow of a home.
- Once you’ve seen the whole room, focus on the half room shots that highlight some of the most inspirational or unique parts of the room. After that, find the small details that make it personal and unique. Have the overall shot highlighted with a close up so that the reader can understand the design more.
- Natural light is the best light source for interior photography. Since there are so many variable with natural light (sunny, cloudy, rainy, morning, noon, evening) it’s important to keep an eye on when the best light appears in your home. Look for a sunny day so you will have the most light to work with.
- With window light, try not to shoot directly into windows if you do not have windows behind you. Shooting directly into a window can wash out a photo and make it difficult to edit.
- Sometimes you may need to use a flash or some other light source to properly light a room. If you’re using a flash attachment, point it at the ceiling or the wall behind/beside you to make the lighting look more natural.
- Different light sources can be difficult to deal with in shooting interiors. The temperature of light coming from a window is much different than a warm color light bulb inside. Try to shut lights off, partially close blinds and try different light combinations to obtain a balanced light color in the room (not too cool, not too warm). Many times the best option is to turn off most interior lights and use only window.
III. Notes on Camera Settings
Shutter Speed– Determines how long light is allowed to enter the camera
Aperture– Determines how big the opening in the lens is that let’s light into the camera
ISO– Determines how sensitive the camera is to light
- Shutter Speed Tips– Shutter speeds can range from 30 seconds to 1/8000 of a second. For interiors, you want to make sure that you have a fast enough shutter speed to prevent camera shake, but a low enough shutter speed to let in the most light. A handy tip for preventing hand held camera shake is the never let the shutter speed drop below the focal length of the lens you are using. If you’re using a 24mm lens, keep your shutter speed at 1/25 of a second or faster. If you’re using a 50mm lens, keep your shutter speed at 1/50 of a second or faster. For hand held photos, try to keep your shutter speed at 1/60 of a second or higher as a rule of thumb.
- Aperture– The aperture number determines how much of the photo will be in focus. It controls your depth of field. The higher the number, the more in focus everything can potentially be. A photo at f2.8 won’t have as much in focus as a photo taken at f/8. Typically when taking photos of interiors we want to have the aperture set so that as much can be in focus as possible. Try to keep your aperture at f/4 or higher for the best results.
- ISO– ISO Sensitivity to light increase as the number gets larger. Unfortunately the more you increase your ISO, the more “noise” comes through which causes the photo to feel grainy and can cause unwanted color shifts. Newer digital cameras can easily go up to ISO 800 or even 1600 before the noise starts to become overbearing.
The relationship between these three settings is the most important part of figuring out how to photograph interiors. We want to keep our shutter speed high enough to prevent camera shake, but as low as possible to let the most light in. We want to have our aperture high enough to get everything in focus, but low enough to let as much light in as possible. We want to keep our ISO low enough to prevent noise, but high enough to make a proper exposure.
White Balance is very important to make sure that all of the colors are correct in the end photo. Your camera will have white balance settings including sunny, cloudy, shade, auto and a few more. To determine the best white balance, look at the space and decide what the main light source is. If it’s a room with large windows, sunny or shade might be your best choice. Take a few test shots with different white balance settings to determine which is best. Modern cameras have a wonderful auto white balance setting that can help pinpoint what it should be. Don’t be afraid to use this auto setting on your camera.
Shooting your photos in RAW can be very helpful in the post processing. RAW files record more information than a jpeg image captured in the camera. RAW files can more easily be fixed and changed in the computer if you need to make any major adjustments. Typically the most compelling reason to shoot RAW is that you can fine tune your white balance in post processing much much better than with a jpeg image.
One accessory that can help in making a proper exposure is a tripod. A tripod allows adjustments to camera setting that can aid in many ways. A tripod allows to to use almost any shutter speed you want. A tripod allows you to use shutter speeds much lower than you could if you were trying to hand hold the camera. It also allow you to properly frame the photo keeping the vertical and horizontal lines square in camera.