Photographing interior spaces can be a new challenge for any photographer. While many photographers learn to use natural light to illuminate their images, shooting inside requires a completely different set of skills.
The markings of quality interior images are clean compositions, a focus on design and creating bright, highlighting features. If you are starting off in the world of interior photography, you may have a few questions regarding how to adjust your camera settings and create the perfect shot.
To help you get started in shooting beautiful interiors, here is a guide to understanding interior photography camera settings.
The Gear for Interior Photography
When photographing interiors, you will need to use a DSLR camera. Since DSLR cameras are made to function in low-lighting situations, you can effectively adjust your settings as needed to compensate for different values of available light.
While film cameras can create some interesting interior compositions, these types of tools were mainly made for functioning in overexposed sunlight. Shooting interior spaces with a film camera would require adding external lighting sources such as a strobe or continuous light. Yet, in order to maintain the level of quality expected as an interior photographer, your best move is to use a DSLR for these types of projects.
Creating the perfect shot of interior spaces all comes down to a combination of the proper camera settings and understanding composition. Composition pertains to the way you frame yourself within the space and determine how to capture the visual, design details. To obtain the perfect interior shot, shoot with multiple perspectives to give the viewer a complete, 360 degree look.
Use a Tripod
The best tool an interior photographer can utilize is a tripod. Because you will be shooting inside with your settings adjusted for minimal light access, the shake of your camera can increase. When your camera shakes from being handheld, you are more likely to have an image that is blurry and lacking detail.
Additionally, shooting your camera handheld increases the probability that your images will come out a bit crooked and out of alignment. Using a tripod will allow you to stabilize your camera and create a solid plane of shooting to create images that are straight and balanced.
For interior photography, you can use any type of tripod that fits your camera. If you are starting out, find something simple to get used to this process of shooting.
Set a High Aperture Value
The first interior photography camera setting that you will need to adjust is your aperture. Depending on the interior setting you are capturing will determine how you need to adjust your aperture. For most interiors, you will have a lack of natural light that leaks in through a window. With this, your main source of light will be overhead, artificial lighting.
Some photographers suggest turning off artificial lighting when shooting interiors. Yet, doing this in some situations will result in a room that is completely dark. Assess your area and determine if the artificial lighting is conflicting with other sources of light present.
Interior photography calls for an aperture with a high value in order to retain the most crisp, in focus details. Because you want each detail to be in focus, without a blurred background, you will want your aperture to be anywhere around f/7 or higher. This allows for the camera to capture each detail with precision and show everything in focus, which is highly important for interior, designed focused photography.
If you are shooting in Aperture Priority Mode, your camera will adjust the other settings based on the value you have chosen for your aperture. I suggest that you shoot in Manual Mode to retain full control of all of your settings.
Adjust Your Shutter Speed for Low Lighting
Once you have adjusted your aperture to around f/7, you will need to adjust your shutter speed. Shutter speed values for interior photography are very low, which is why a tripod is neccessary in these types of photographic settings.
Establishing a high aperture value to retain detail, means that your shutter speed will need to be bumped down to let in the most amount of light for your image. The best shutter speed values for interior photography start at around 1/60 and go down to 1/2. These are very low values that require your camera to maintain absolute stillness in order to avoid blurry, out of focus images.
Depending on the light available in your space will determine the shutter speed value. The more available light, the higher the shutter speed value such as 1/60. The less amount of light, the lower the shutter speed value such as 1/2.
Increase the Value of Your ISO
To complete the rules of the exposure triangle, you will need to adjust your ISO to match the settings of your aperture and shutter speed. For interior photography, your camera’s ISO settings will need to be increased to add more light to your image.
As a general rule, shooting inside will require an ISO of at least 500. Depending on your distance from a light source, such as a window, will determine whether you need to continue to increase the value.
For example, if you are photographing an interior space far from a window your ISO will read around 800. If you have no available light other than artificial, you may use an ISO of 1000 or more. Be careful of adjusting your ISO too much as it will cause loss of detail and noise in your image. Bumping up the value to 1600 should only be done in a situation such as photographing a completely dark room.
Change Your White Balance
The final interior camera setting you will need to adjust is your white balance. White balance or color balance determines how warm or cold your image will appear.
If you shooting in RAW mode for your images, you can change the white balance during post production. Yet, for good practice changing your white balance before the shooting will allow you to have a realistic depiction of your final images.
You can change the preset of your white balance to match the lighting options. For example, you can change it to Fluorescent or Tungsten depending on the types of artificial lighting present. You can also manually adjust the white balance value to around 3000-4000 K which will give your images a more cool, blue tone. This color adjustment allows your photographs to look clean and bright.
As you can see, photographing interior spaces can be done effectively once you fully understand the neccessary camera settings and gear setup. Utilizing a tripod, changing your white balance and understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO will allow you to create clean, design focused and well composed interior images.