Camera settings to Improve your Indoor & Interior Real Estate Agent Property Photography

Take Professional looking interior photographs of any room.

Hopefully I can help explain some of the camera settings for your indoor and interior property photography. With a little time and thought you can improve your photography and take Professional looking interior photographs of any room.

-Exposure for Indoor and Interior Photography

Camera setting for Indoor PhotographyThe important thing to remember is camera’s are not as good as our eyes are at seeing and recording light. For example, you can stand in a dull room and see details in the shadows and still see out of the window. This is called a wide dynamic range. By comparison even the best cameras have a narrow dynamic range.

The result of the narrow dynamic range results in details in the highlights such as windows or details in the shadows being lost. If you are an inexperienced photographer you will have to decide what is more important to show. Unless you have stunning views I would expose for the room and accept that nothing can be seen through the window.

If you have more experience then there are a couple of options available.

  • Use a off camera flash
  • Shoot a series of 5 to 6 photographs for HDR (High Dynamic Range)
  • Shoot a series of photographs using the ambient light and off camera flash and merge the photographs together. This is my preferred option.

I’ll look further into these in future blogs.

-White Balance for Indoor and Interior Photography

As you would expect our eyes are much better at compensating for white balance than the camera is. White balance is the way the camera or our eyes compensates for the colour white under different lighting conditions. For example, a white car being lit by street lights will still appear to our eyes to be white, but to the camera it will appear to be orange, or whatever colour the street lights are.

Camera setting for Interior Property Photography
White Balance

Without adjusting the white balance settings on the camera or in post-production a room in which the lights are on may look orange or on a cloudy day the light coming through the window will look blue. White balance is measured in Kelvin (K) for example normal daylight is around 5500K.

On some camera’s the white balance can be set for for the specific colour of the lighting conditions in the room at that time. The colours will be accurately shown providing the colour of the light does not change. Any change in the colour of the light illuminating the room will mean a new white balance will have to be taken. For example if you turn lights on or off.

Most cameras have a generic setting for different light sources. These are normally Tungsten, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade and Flash. It’s also possible to adjust the white balance in post-production using software such at Lightroom or Photoshop. With a correct white balance, white’s look white and colours are accurately shown.

Should I shoot in JPEG or RAW?

Most camera’s today offer a choice of file formats to shoot in. These are Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) or RAW, the raw data (digital Negative). As with most things, each have advantages and disadvantages. For those old enough to remember, I think of a JPEG as a Polaroid photograph, and a RAW file as a photograph which has been sent of to be developed.

When you shoot in JPEG you ask the camera to do most of the developing work for you, and things like exposure, white balance and sharpening are all done when the image is captured. Then the file is compressed and a lot of data is lost, This results in a small file size, which requires no editing. As a lot of date is removed only limited editing can be done as there isn’t much information in the photograph left to work with. The major benefit is JPEG is a standard format which can be viewed on almost anything with a display.

When shooting in RAW the camera sends all the data from the sensor to the memory card, no data is lost. This results in a very large file size. The resulting image will need to be processed with suitable software such as Lightroom or Photoshop. When you buy a camera software is usually provided to work with that make of camera. Using the software does require some knowledge, but the basics are not too difficult. Once you have the basics you can get photographs of much better quality than getting the camera to do all the work. The RAW image will need to be converted into JPEG when you are happy with your photograph.

Shooting in RAW saves much more information, this means the photograph is fully editable and more information in the highlights and shadows is saved than shooting in JPEG. There is no need to worry too much about the white balance settings as this is fully changeable in post-processing. More colour information is available.

What's the best equipment?

There are 3 must have items of photography you will need, and they don’t have to be expensive. The Camera, The Lens and a tripod. Nice to have photography equipment would be a remote shutter release, off camera flash and remote flash triggers on a stand.

RAW

Advantages

  • Higher Bit depth (More colour information)
  • More Dynamic Range
  • Lossless Compression
  • All metadata is kept

Disadvantages

  • Large file size
  • Post-production is needed
  • No RAW file standard

JPEG

Advantages

  • Small file size
  • More flexible – JPEG standard
  • Usable from the camera

Disadvantages

  • Compression – data is lost
  • Low bit depth
  • Irreversible processing
  • Low dynamic range.

I always shoot in RAW. It doesn’t take much more effort and the results are much more rewarding than shooting in JPEG.

The Best type of Camera for Property Photography

You will need a camera which has a FULL FRAME sensor. This is equivalent to the old 35mm film. Many of the entry level cameras have what is know as a cropped sensor, called APS-C. This has the effect of zooming in and narrowing the field of view. This means you won’t fit as much of a room with a cropped sensor as you would with a full frame sensor. There is a crop factor of around 1.5 to 1.6 depending on the make a camera. For example I use a lens which has a focal length of 17mm – 40mm on my full frame canon camera. On a crop sensor this would be the same a using a focal length of 27mm – 64mm, a crop factor of 1.6 on a canon camera, so it would be as if I had zoomed in a little.

The Best type of Lens for Property Photography

This is probably the item which takes the most thinking about. You’ll be told that you will need a wide angle lens, But, What is a wide angel lens anyway? How much of a scene can be seen by the lens is determined by the Focal length. The shorter the focal length the wider the field of view. So, with my 17mm to 40mm lens, the 17mm gets more of the scene into the photograph than the 40mm which has a narrower field of view. Typically on a camera with a full frame sensor anything below 35mm is considered wide angle. But, don’t go too wide. There is no defined definition, but if the focal length becomes too small, say below 15mm then the lens starts to become what’s called a Fish Eye Lens. A fish eye lens has distortions we don’t want in Property Photography.

You'll need a Tripod!

Normally when taking indoor and interior photographs the shutter speed will be quite slow and you will need to keep the camera very steady.  Tripods are really just a way to hold your camera steady. The quality of tripods varies from cheap and nasty plastic to seriously expensive carbon fiber. With tripods the only advise is get the best you can afford. As a minimum I would recommend one which is constructed in Aluminium and is sturdy. Taking photographs indoors will require a very long shutter speed, meaning the shutter will be open for a long time. Also, you may want to take a series of photographs with different settings and merge them together later in Photoshop to make a better exposure.

The last thing you need is for the camera to move even slightly while the shutter is open or in between shots. Also, If the floor you are on is carpeted you’ll need to limit your movements as movement on the carpet may move the tripod.

What Camera Settings should I use for Indoor or Interior Real Estate Agent Property Photography?

For some reason people get fixated on camera settings, I’m often asked what setting were used to take that photograph? And I can tell them, but the information is really useless, unless you are taking the photograph in the exactly the same location in exactly the same conditions. The photograph you want to take dictates the camera settings not the other way around. There are 3 main setting on the camera you will need to understand. ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. These 3 are interconnected and changing one will probably have an effect on the others.

Shooting in Semi-Manual Modes

I never shoot in fully automatic or, unless using flash rarely shoot in full manual, but somewhere in-between the two in a semi-automatic mode. I normally shoot in a mode where I can set the Aperture, and let the camera work out the shutter speed.

In Photography what's ISO and how do you use it?

In the days of film photography the ISO number was an indication of how sensitive to light the film is, the higher the ISO number the more sensitive to light the film is. But, as the film became more sensitive to light the quality of the photograph reduced becoming grainy. It’s similar today, increasing the ISO makes the sensor more sensitive to light, however, the quality photograph is reduced as digital noise in introduced, particularity in the dark areas and shadows. As rule of thumb a keep the ISO as low as possible, normally a ISO of 100.

What is the Aperture on a camera?

The aperture on a camera controls how much light is let into the lens and onto the sensor. The aperture is measured in f stops. The smaller the f number the wider open the Aperture is and more light is let onto the sensor. The aperture and the focal length have an effect on the depth of field, which is the area if the photograph in focus. In brief, the lower the f stop the shallower the depth of field. In property photography you’ll need the whole photograph to be in sharp focus. I set the my lens to f8 is this is called the sweet spot for most lenses.

Overview of my initial camera settings for Real Estate Agent Interior Property Photography

  • Mode – Aperture Priority
  • ISO – 100
  • f Stop – f8
  • Shutter speed – set by camera

Using these settings I take a couple of test shots and use the histogram to decide to to adjust the shutter speed using the + or – exposure compensation.

In Summary

I hope I have given you some thoughts regarding the camera settings for your Indoor or Interior Real Estate Agent Property Photography and a guide to the thought process even before you get your camera set up.

Leave a comment