Photographing Interiors: My Revised Approach

Several months ago I shared two photographs of a kitchen to highlight the value of professional real estate photography. I now want to share a third photograph of the same kitchen.

Kitchen photographed using my new techniques for interior design photography

I am working on developing my expertise in architectural and interior design photography. In this photograph I employed my new workflow for this kind of photography. Here is the image I made previously for comparison.

Old photograph

New photograph

It’s not perfect, and there are some things I would still change, but my new photograph is very different from the previous version and is an improvement in several ways. First, I used a longer focal length to avoid some of the wide angle distortion in the old photograph. The longer focal length produces a more realistic feel for the space. Second, I adjusted my perspective to avoid converging horizontal lines. This perspective creates a simpler composition. Next, I used some light to fill in the big, black void outside the kitchen in the old photograph, which had always bothered me. That change gives the image a better flow. Finally, by controlling the light artificially in my new photograph, I created an image that I think has a lighter, cleaner feel to it, and that’s the feel you want from a kitchen. The light in the old photograph felt a little heavy to me, if that makes sense. It was too dramatic for that kind of space. The light in the new photograph is less complex but better suits the space. It also more accurately reproduces the color in the room.

Some spaces do benefit from more dramatic light. For example, check out this photograph of a penthouse room in Las Vegas.

Penthouse room with Las Vegas Strip view

The more dramatic lighting works here. (Look below for a view of the Strip from the balcony outside this room.)

As a fine art landscape photographer, I am trying to transfer a high level of artistry to my architectural and interior design work. I have added some new tools and techniques to my workflow to allow me to do that. I used to approach this type of photography exactly the way I do landscape photography from a technical perspective. Essentially, that means using available light only. That works great for landscape photography, but architectural and interior design photography requires something different.

In my interior design photography, I used to make several exposures to capture the ambient light in the scene at different levels, and then I would blend those exposures together to create an optimum final photograph. Software exists to perform this blending automatically--you may have heard of HDR software, which stands for high dynamic range. I do not use HDR software in any of my work--landscape or architectural--because it can result in unrealistic effects and usually introduces undesirable qualities to the photograph. Instead, I manually blend the photographs together so I have full control over what the final image looks like. That was the technique I used to create the older kitchen photograph.

I am now using off-camera flash to perform as much of this work in camera as possible. Not only do I avoid some of the post-processing work, I also have full control over the quality and direction of the light throughout the scene. Using only ambient light does not afford this level of control. In landscape photography I often wait for the right light to make my photograph--I control the light through patience over time. In architectural and interior design photography, not only do I not have the luxury of waiting for the right light, but it is also completely unnecessary because I can create the light I want artificially.

Fine art landscape photography and architectural photography complement each other well from my perspective, and my interest in architectural and interior design photography provides a way to expand my artistic capabilities. (It can also give me an opportunity to make a photograph of the Strip from a great perspective, as in the photograph below.) I really enjoy this kind of photography, and I’m looking forward to building my portfolio and my business in this area. Stay tuned for more updates on how I’m doing.

The Las Vegas Strip (click to enlarge)