'Cheat sheet' for taking Insta-worthy interior design photos
In this article, I share some tips for taking Insta-worthy photos of your own home and décor. Don’t be intimidated—there’s no technical jargon here and I’m not going to recommend a $3000 camera. This is a cheat sheet of hints and shortcuts for people who, like me, don’t have the inclination to learn about ISO, lenses, apertures, exposure times etcetera, ad infinitum. I’ve provided links to a few products and apps, but only for your convenience. I’m not affiliated with these products (wish I was!) and don’t receive any kickbacks or commissions (wish I did!)
Are you an #interiordesign #instagramaddict? Yup, me too. Whether it’s global design icons, such as Architectural Digest, or local style-makers in my neighbourhood, I like seeing what people are up to. I love the fact that we have digital tools at our fingertips that allow us to peak inside other people’s homes and be inspired by different places and aesthetics. (By the way, I notice you're low on milk and your Fiddle Leaf Fig needs watering - haha!)
As a consequence of starting Stylkea, I’ve also had to put my own home out there in the digital world by using it as a backdrop for a lot of product photography.
My in-laws have kindly let me do product photography in their house, too. Finding fresh locations is a constant challenge, especially when photographing furniture.
So, I’m no photography expert but, for what it’s worth, here are some of the short-cuts that work for me!
Natural light is best
I hear that landscape and outdoor photographers prefer early morning and late afternoon light when the sun is low to the horizon. For indoor photography, I try to pick a time of day when the room is most likely to be filled with natural light.
Invest in a cheap lighting kit
If you’re dealing with a windowless room or low-light conditions, such as in winter, you may need to use an artificial light source. This is also true if you plan to do flat-lay photography where minimizing shadows is important. In that case, invest in an entry-level lighting kit with two stands, globes and umbrella diffusers. For Australian readers, they’ll set you back about $50 for a pair on eBay.
What sort of camera do you need?
Probably the one in your pocket. I started out using my husband’s digital SLR camera, but quickly got frustrated with how time-consuming it was to download the images to my computer and then edit them. “Ain’t nobody got time for that” and I quickly reverted to my trusty iPhone 6.
I like to have the camera grid turned on. This is especially handy for flat-lay photography where you can line up the cross-hairs to know that you have the phone perfectly flat. The grid guides also help to line up subjects vertically and horizontally. If your phone is not 180-degrees to the subject (as in flat against a wall), you'll get distortion where the subject looks kind of twisted out of perspective. A gimbal is another option if you want to get serious about non-distorted still-shots and stabilised video (on my wishlist.)
When it comes to focusing, tap the screen where you want the camera to focus. As you do that, you'll notice a little yellow sun symbol appear on the screen. By sliding this up or down you're able to change the image exposure (how light or dark it appears.)
I don’t have a professional tripod for my iPhone. On the odd occasion that I need it, I use a selfie stick with built-in tripod and remote Bluetooth shutter button. Like I said earlier, my aim is to get a gimbal someday.
Composing the shot
When it comes to composing the shot, everything is up for grabs. Sometimes a close up is needed to capture details. Other times, a unique angle provides better perspective or a long-shot puts the piece in context. I tend to shoot the subject from all angles and see what I come up with. With most furniture, you do need to get down on your knees to shoot the subject from its level.
When photographing inside a home, it's often hard to get the whole subject in the shot. For example, you may have wall of shelving in a room that you'd love to photograph in entirety, but you can't get far enough away from the subject to get it all in the frame. This might call for capturing a smaller vignette of the same piece.
When it comes to styling, it all comes down to your aesthetic. I think the key is to take photos of things you love and find interesting!
Photo editing in a "snap"
After identifying my favourite shots, I then use Snapseed on my iPhone (also available for Android) to edit the images. There are plenty of other photo editing apps out there, but Snapseed is free and it does everything I need. After editing the image, I then download it to my iPhone camera roll—or if you want to, you can email and post directly from the app.
The Snapseed tools that I use most often include:
- Tune Image – I use the auto white balance feature and/or I play with the other tuning aspects to achieve the look and feel I want.
- Crop – For resizing or cropping the image.
- Perspective – Great for correcting minor camera tilt issues.
- Healing – I use this to remove unwanted objects from the frame, such as light switches and power outlets or my own reflection in mirrors.
- Lens Blur – Allows you to change the focal point of the image by keeping a selected area in focus and blurring the rest.
- Text – Add overlay text to your images from a menu of text options.
- Looks – You can filter your photos by tuning them manually or select from about a dozen pre-programmed filters, such as Pop, Faded Glow and Fine Art.
'App'etite for photographic fun
There are a few more photo apps that I’m currently having a bit of fun with.
If you like sparkles, you’ll love Kirakira+ (iOS and Android - $1.49) for adding twinkle:
For dreamy, bokeh effects, try Bokehful (99 cents). Bokeh (pronounced boh-kay) means “blur” or “haze” in Japanese.
For light flares, I’m having fun with Lens Distortions (free with in-app purchases). All of these light effects are about crafting a story or capturing the emotion of the moment.
I hope these tips are helpful! If you'd like to share details of your own Insta feed, feel welcome to paste the link in the comments below. And for Stylkea customers, we'd love to see more photos of your projects!