How to Shoot Interior Design Photography in 2023, by Matthew Anderson

The video provides 7 tips for shooting interior design photography:

Tip 1 is to do a walkthrough with the client first and listen to the story of the space, taking notes on what they focus on.

Tip 2 is to avoid heavily relying on ‘flambient’ lighting that blends flash and ambient.

Tip 3 is to convey the appropriate mood of the space through lighting.

Tip 4 is to carefully place all furniture and items in the shot.

Tip 5 is to slow down and don’t rush.

Tip 6 is to shoot with a narrower focal length, usually 24-50mm.

Tip 7 is to manually focus and double check sharpness at 100%.

Other notes are that interior design photography is about showcasing elements in a space rather than showing the whole space like in real estate photography. Overall, work collaboratively with the designer, customize lighting per shot, carefully compose shots, slow down, and refine technical details like focus and perspective to achieve a high-end editorial look.


Yeah, the photo and the thumbnail looks nice and all, but unfortunately when I shot it, I made a pretty big mistake related to tip number seven on this list. This video is my list of seven tips for shooting interior design photography.

Hey everyone, my name is Matthew and I am an architecture and design photographer based in Kansas City. Now I apologize if you are 100% new to the genre of architecture and design photography because I’m going to skip some of the elemental basics.

We’re going to skip past, use a tripod, get the camera at the right height, use a narrow aperture. We are moving on past that. If you need to start out with some of those basics, I suggest checking out my other video, the five basics of architecture photography.

We’re going to go over what I would consider maybe more of an intermediate list of suggestions and technical tips for shooting a set of images intended for an interior designer. Okay, tip number one, before you take a single shot, do a walkthrough of a project with your interior design client and listen as they tell you the story of a project or space.

And when I say listen, I mean actively listen. As your interior design client talks, take mental or even physical notes about the things they tend to focus on or they repeatedly mention. If they mention something as an interesting or unique feature, that’s a hint.

They really want to show it off. If they talk about a really specific space, even within a room, that’s a hint. They may want a vignette shot of that space. If they talk about how open and airy they wanted a space to feel, well, that’s a hint.

They may want a wider than normal shot or maybe a composition that shows some of the open negative space. Interior designers put their blood, sweat and tears into their projects to look and feel just right for their clients.

So you better believe there’s a story to tell behind each and every one. And if you’re able to shoot what’s important to them and make their work look amazing, you’ll be a rock star of a photographer.

Tip number two, don’t don’t rely heavily on shooting flambient. For those who are unfamiliar, flambient is this shooting style of mixing flash with natural ambient light all within one exposure or perhaps blending them together in post processing.

It’s a go to technique for many real estate photographers. Now I know this topic stirs the pot a bit and there’s a lot of strong opinions around it. I swear it’s almost as divisive as pineapple on pizza, but for the most part you’re going to want to steer clear of it when shooting for interior design clients.

Now you might say, well, wait a minute, Matthew, you talk about using flash all the time in your photography and you’d be right. What I mean specifically is delivering images with that flambient look.

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly. but you know it when you see it. You see when I use flash, my goal is to either emphasize, mimic, or recreate a natural light look. I’m not going for that flambient look.

This shot looks pretty natural, but I used a flash as well as this one and this one too. Most interior spaces are not naturally lit with a light shot up into the ceiling or have weird windows that make the outside look the same brightness or even darker than the interior.

You generally want things to look pretty close to the way they look in real life, which leads me into tip number three. Focus on conveying the appropriate mood of a space. Was an area intended to be bright and airy?

Was it intended to be energetic and vibrant, dark and moody or clean and luxurious? Your job as a photographer is to accurately represent that mood in a photo. And if your go -to technique is to always shoot a flash up into a white ceiling, your interior design clients may not be happy with the end results.

When it comes to representing mood in a photo, that doesn’t always mean adding light. Sometimes it means taking some away. More often than not, you’re gonna hear advice to turn the lights off, use natural window light, and I agree.

But sometimes you may need to close a window or a door because the lighting from that area is making the image look too flat. It’s not accurately representing the correct mood an interior designer intended for that space.

Customize the lighting for each shot and composition. And again, you’re gonna be perceived as an elite professional. Tip number four, be mindful of the placement of furniture and all items within a shot.

Now I know this sounds a bit nitpicky, but in the eyes of your interior design clients, this can make or break a photo. I highly recommend doing this collaboratively with your interior design clients on site.

Take a shot, review it on the back of the camera or maybe even your iPad or laptop, whatever you might be tethered to and pick it apart. Analyze the placement of everything. Now I don’t think that’s a good idea.

I have to give you much instruction on how to place things. If you’re going over the placement of furniture and items on site with your interior design clients, they’ll know what to do. But this is going to take some patience on your part.

You may think a composition is good to go, it’s ready to shoot, but your clients are still rotating items, swapping things out, nudging things just by merely inches. The shot has to be perfect. Your photo, this photo you’re taking, is going to be a representation of their work.

The last thing that you want as a photographer is to shoot something and then after the fact your client reaches out to make some wild borderline impossible editing requests when the fix could have been done on site, had you taken just a little extra time with this tip, which takes me into tip number five, which is kind of a very quick bonus and it’s to slow down.

If you are trying to move from mostly shooting real estate to working with interior design, clients or architects, pretty much anything that’s not real estate, this may be a struggle for you. Many real estate photographers pride themselves on how quick they can shoot a property, and that’s great.

That’s the nature of the business. Not so much though, when it comes to working with interior designers. In fact, if you follow the work of any well -established photographers shooting, mostly architecture and design, they almost brag about how long some shots took to photograph and edit.

It’s the complete opposite. For example, this simple shot of a bathroom. Fairly straightforward composition, but my client and I were examining the shot. We were wondering what we could do about the reflections in the glass.

Yeah, I was thinking of ways I could possibly edit it out in post. Then I figured out the solution. It took me some extra time to run back out to the car, grab a gigantic plastic sheet, get the painter’s tape, tape it above the vanity in the toilet, and eventually block out those reflections.

So slow down, take a breath, and your quality of work will improve. Okay, let’s get to some technical things. Tip number six, back up and shoot with a more narrow focal length on your lens. I’m gonna make a broad brush of a statement here.

If you have your composition in mind, try not to shoot any wider than 24 millimeters. Now, I don’t know this as a fact, but I would guesstimate that most images shot for interior designers are shot anywhere between maybe 24 millimeters to 50.

It might even be more narrow. It might be closer to 35 to 50, and here’s why. Again, many photographers in this genre start off in real estate photography, and within real estate, within that category, almost every single shot is wide.

A real estate photographer’s job is to try to show off as much of a space as possible within a single frame, or at least that’s what real estate agents want. That’s not necessarily the case with interior designers, though.

I would say, on one hand, real estate photography is more about showing a space, and interior design. design photography is more about showcasing the elements within a space. Yes, there’s exceptions to this and you may flat out disagree entirely.

I’m talking in broad generalizations here. Shooting with a narrow focal length compresses the image and gives it more of a professional refined look. Elements within the frame are much more even as opposed to shooting wide where things can look very stretched, distorted and unproportionate.

I’ll say this, I’ll put it this way. Open an issue of architectural digest or dwell magazine and there may be some, but you’re not going to see a whole lot of interior images shot at these ultra wide focal lengths.

And this leads me to tip number seven, double check your focus. Now, this may seem like a no brainer, but let me explain. While shooting at a narrow focal length. Yes, it does give the image a more refined look.

The tradeoff is your focal range becomes extremely narrow in relation to what it would be had you shot that same space at a ultra wide focal length. And yes, this can happen even when shooting at apertures like F8 to F11.

Case in point, the thumbnail image. Yeah, at first glance, the image may seem perfectly fine. That photo was shot at 40 millimeters and at F10. But as you can see, I didn’t quite nail the focus. The images on the back counter are slightly blurry.

And I’ll fully admit, the reason I messed up on tip number seven was because I neglected tip number five. I was rushing too much on this shoot. In order to do it right, I highly recommend shooting manual focus and using the focus peaking setting on your camera.

This is your camera’s way of visually telling you this object is in focus. But on top of that, I still recommend zooming in on the image and double checking the focus while viewing the whole shot, maybe on the back of your camera.

It may imply that your image is in focus. Upon further inspection by zooming in, you may realize it’s still not quite as sharp as it could be. And in some instances, unfocused objects in a single shot may be unavoidable.

So you might have to do some form of focus stacking or aka blend the different parts that are in focus onto a single image. So that’s my list of tips and suggestions for when shooting interior design.

No, it doesn’t cover everything. It’s just some things I wanted to throw out there that I wish I would have known when I was venturing into this subgenre of architecture photography. I hope it helped if you have questions or feedback in general, feel free to leave them in the comments.

You’re more than welcome to follow me on Instagram at Matthew a photo. If some of this went over your head and might have seemed a little bit too advanced. Again, I highly recommend checking out my other video, the five basics of architecture photography.

Hopefully you got something out of this one and we’ll see you on the next video.