Five Important Tips for Photographing Your Home

This post on photography tips is brought to you by your fellow photo lovers at Shutterfly. They encourage you to capture your memories and share your amazing pictures the way you want with their new Custom Path photo books.

I’ve learned a lot about photographing my home over the last several years. I look back at some of my early shots of the house (like the photos in this post featuring my library), and I cringe at how bad they are. Today I’m going to share all of my tips and tricks with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did! You can make just one of these adjustments to improve your shots, or you can combine several changes to really make a difference.

Tripod vs. Handheld


Use a tripod. Always. That’s rule number one, because it’s that important. Rule number two should be to turn off your flash.

Don’t Just Stand There

A lot of people make the mistake of taking pictures from a standing position. It looks amateurish. It’s far better to crouch down just a bit and lower your tripod. (You are using a tripod, right? Rule number one!) Photographing a room from a lower angle makes the ceilings look higher and eliminates weird perspectives from above.

Depth of Field


Want that pretty effect where the subject is in focus and the background is nice and soft? You want shallow depth of field. You use a wide aperture (small F-stop number) to get it. Want everything in focus and sharp? Use a higher number F-stop for deeper depth of field.

Lights On, Lights Off

This comes down to personal preference. My library has been photographed a couple of times by professionals (here and here), and one photographer turned off every light while the other turned them all on (and brought in a few more). I like the look of the photo above with the lights on, but the one with the lights off has truer colors. (Yes, the ceiling is a soft green.)

Proper Exposure


I was focusing on the same spot (the pillow), but that window was making the whole room look backlit. When I first photographed the library in 2007, all of my pictures had this exposure problem, but I had no idea how to fix it (other than trying like mad with Photoshop, to so-so results). I got a better shot here by keeping the aperture the same (to maintain the same depth of field), and decreasing the shutter speed to keep the shutter open longer and let more light in.

Practice Makes Perfect

I’ve been blogging about my home since 2007, so I’ve had a lot of practice and a lot of time to improve. Hopefully these tips will help you get a jump on your own photos and you can avoid some of my early mistakes!

Eventually I want to reshoot some of my older pictures. I would love to make a photo book of my house, maybe featuring a bunch of before and after shots (now that I can take better “after” shots!). Or wouldn’t it be great to make a book for you or your kids to remember their home by if you were moving to a new house? I would have loved a memento like that of my childhood home.

Are any of these tips new to you? Or do you have any you’d like to add?

76 Responses to “Five Important Tips for Photographing Your Home”

  1. Rosa @ flutterflutter June 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Just started blogging in November, and just got a DSLR two weeks ago… time to start figuring this stuff out! Thanks for all your tips!!

  2. jennifer@nicolejanehome June 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks so much for the tips. You just summed up what my 10-week photography course taught. Well done!

  3. Theresa Furey June 24, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi Nicole, while I think your photo tutorial is good. I don’t gree with everything you wrote. I don’t think you should always use a tripod. If you keep your above 60 you shouldn’t have a problem with blur. If you need more light to increase your shutter spped open your aperture ass far as possible (the lower numbers are more open, higher numbers less- ie. f2.8 is more open than a f11). Second on this point, is that if you do need to use assistance, you don’t need to run out and buy a tripod, a table and some books will do just fine or just as good and equally priced are monopods- much less hassle then setting up a tripod.

    I completely agree with your don’t just stand there. Often the best and most attractive images are ones taken from a different point of view, which is why are eyes are drawn to them.

    Lastly, exposure. Its always better to over expose then under by rule. This doesn’t mean white wash all your photos…that’s no good either. Blacks are harder to bring up then recovering from white. I find when shooting into the light set on manual that I always move my exposure setting to the left by four or five bars I get an accurate forground and background light representation. You definitely have to look at the images as your taking them and adjust according. If in doubt…snap it out. What I mean is take several shoots of the same thing playing with the exposure and nothing else, one will end up working and you learn from the whole process ;)

    Hope this wasn’t to critical of me. Overall you did a great job explaining for the novice x

    Best,
    Theresa

  4. Theresa Furey June 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Hi Nicole, while I think your photo tutorial is good. I don’t gree with everything you wrote. I don’t think you should always use a tripod. If you keep your shutter speed above 60 you shouldn’t have a problem with blur. If you need more light to increase your shutter speed (above 60) or open your aperture as far as possible (the lower numbers are more open, higher numbers less- ie. f2.8 is more open than a f11). Remember if you are in manual shooting and increase your aperture, you’ll effect your shutter speed. Second on this point, is that if you do need to use assistance because you can’t raise your shutter speed above 60, you don’t need to run out and buy a tripod, a table and some books will do just fine or just as good and equally priced are monopods- much less hassle then setting up a tripod.

    I completely agree with your don’t just stand there. Often the best and most attractive images are ones taken from a different point of view, which is why are eyes are drawn to them.

    Lastly, exposure. Its always better to over expose then under by rule. This doesn’t mean white wash all your photos…that’s no good either. Blacks are harder to bring up then recovering from white. I find when shooting into the light set on manual that I always move my exposure setting to the left by four or five bars I get an accurate forground and background light representation. You definitely have to look at the images as your taking them and adjust according. AS I always say, if in doubt…snap it out. What I mean is take several shots of the same thing playing with the exposure and nothing else, one will end up working and you learn from the whole process ;)

    Hope this wasn’t to critical of me. Overall you did a great job explaining for the novice x

    Best,
    Theresa

  5. kylie March 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Thank you, some great tips for us amateur photographers!!!!

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