Inspiration from a master: Robert Polidori’s Questel Staircase, Chateau de Versailles, 1985.
Over the last few years, Instagram has gradually become the unofficial portfolio for all manner of lifestyle savant; From fashion bloggers and adventurous home cooks, to professional interior designers and DIY-home decorators. For the latter, it’s a place to show off completed designs, perfectly placed vignettes, and latest antiquing acquisitions in a neat, filtered highlight reel.
But, if you’ve ever taken a few dozen photos to get a single decent shot — that still might not live up to the ones you find while scrolling your feed — you know that getting a worthy image isn’t always as simple as point-and-shoot.
Eager to improve our own skills, we went straight to the source and tapped a few top Instagrammers from the design world for their expert advice on how to take interiors images that are perfectly lit, perfectly composed and perfectly reflect your beautiful home.
Use natural light. When photographing interior spaces, natural light is always the best option. “Snap when the natural light is at its peak, “ says Mandy Kellogg Rye, the blogger behind Waiting on Martha (@WaitingOnMartha). “Artificial lighting can turn your space yellow or blue, not allowing the true design and coloring to shine through.”
Get to know the tools on your phone. Most smartphones come pre-loaded with useful photography tools. “On your iPhone, you can select which area you want to be in focus, as well as adjust the exposure,” says lifestyle photographer Nicole Franzen (@Nicole_Franzen). “For a lighter, brighter interior, I tend to want to make it even brighter by overexposing slightly. If it’s a moody, darker space I will often underexpose. You can do that by tapping your screen to focus the camera, and you’ll see a little sun. You then can slide your finger up and down to change the exposure.”
Don’t over-style. Instead of rearranging sofa pillows for 10 minutes in anticipation of their photo-op, sit down and make yourself comfortable. “Sometimes the best way to style a bed, or a throw on the sofa is to actually use it. Get into bed, get cozy, move things around, and see the results,” suggests Franzen. “Styling occurs best when natural and not too forced feeling.”
Hold your phone flat. “Whether you’re taking a room shot or a quick overhead of your dinner, make sure you hold you phone flat to your subject,” says Susan Brinson, one half of @HouseofBrinson, a husband-and-wife interiors photography team. “We don’t even realize we do this! If you are photographing a room, make sure your phone is flat to the wall. This helps with distortion.”
Allow for negative space. Instagram is primarily a mobile app, which means most users are looking at your pictures from a tiny device. Cramming too much into one photo can make your feed look busy. Instead, suggests Kellog Rye, allow your photos to have ample negative space, or try narrowing down the focus of your shot. “A whole room often gets lost in one shot, so I try to capture a piece of the room rather than the room in its entirety,” she says.
- Make edits. One of the best parts of mobile phone photography is the ease and availability of editing apps that will fix common photography mistakes. “If you shoot with interior lights turned on, and not natural daylight, you might get a yellow cast to your photo, “ says Brinson. “But, you can color correct it by adjusting the color temperature in an app (we like VSCO) to a cooler tone.”