Photographers are, by default, outdoor creatures. Whether it’s in the mountains, the sea, or a studio, their shooting time nearly always takes place outside of the house. In fact, for many of them the only professional practices that take place at home are making secure copies of their projects, creating a photography website, and planning their next endeavor. One of the main reasons behind this is the fact that indoor photography presents unique challenges for professionals and amateurs alike.
From redefining your creative approach to dealing with suboptimal lighting conditions, conducting an indoor photoshoot might have you feeling like Mulan training under Li Shang (minus the epic musical montage). To help you succeed in this newfound territory and emerge a skilled master of the genre, we have put together a list of 10 indoor photography tips. You’ll also find a collection of beautiful indoor photos captured by the finalists of the Wix Home Studio Challenge, which offered photographers a chance to win professional gear for their home photography studio.
Indoor photography tips to capture unique pictures:
Know your camera
Choose the right lenses
Find the best indoor photography lighting
Select the correct settings
Enhance the scene with accessories
Pay attention to composition
Tell your subject’s story
Mind the background
Make the most of windows and doors
Explore creative ideas
01. Know your camera
They say that “the best camera is the one that's with you.” However, that’s only partly true. In fact, the best type of camera is the one you know like the back of your hand. This is why reading your camera manual and getting familiar with its different features is one of the most popular photography tips for beginners.
When it comes to indoor photography, having full control of your camera will allow you to overcome the challenges of this new environment and bring your vision to life. In addition to being able to rapidly enter the right settings, knowing your gear will allow you to understand its limitations and know how far you can push it without ruining the shot.
02. Choose the right lenses
Just like in other types of photography, there isn’t a single best camera lens for indoor photography. There are several factors to take into account when selecting the best glass for your images, such as creative aspects like the depth of field and perspective you want to achieve. However, in most cases, the deciding factor will be the speed of your camera lenses - that is, the widest aperture it offers.
One of the most important indoor photography tips to keep in mind is that getting the right exposure is crucial for capturing outstanding shots. More often than not, this will require wide apertures in order to avoid underexposed images. Thus, the speed of your chosen camera lens will play a huge role in determining the quality of your images. As for the rest of the factors we mentioned, indoor photography usually provides nearly full control of the scene, which means you’ll be able to modify object placements and perspective to achieve the desired creative outcome.
03. Find the best indoor photography lighting
The word “photography” derives from the Greek words photos (light) and graphe (drawing), meaning “drawing with light.” To put it bluntly, without light there is no photography. Considering that the average house has much less light than an open outdoor location, it’s easy to see how indoor photography lighting may pose a significant challenge.
Choosing between natural and artificial light for your indoor photography will primarily depend on what you have available and your photography style. If you are looking for a soft look and have access to a good natural light source, that will probably be your safest best. On the other hand, artificial light will allow you to play with different temperature hues and intensities.
In reality, you will likely end up using a combination of both natural and artificial lighting in order to balance their qualities and make the most of every scene.
04. Select the correct settings
By “correct settings” we mean, of course, the most appropriate camera settings for each individual scene. While there isn’t a combination of indoor photography settings that will make all your images look perfect, it’s highly recommended to shoot in manual mode. This mode, paired with the highest ISO your camera supports without producing too much noise, will allow you to make the most of every ray of light.
In most occasions you’ll want your camera aperture to be as wide as possible, at least F/4 or F/2.8, and the slowest shutter speed you can manage. If you’re using a tripod to capture a still subject, you can set your camera on aperture priority mode instead and let it calculate the best shutter speed.
Another factor to take into account with indoor photography settings is white balance. The temperature of the light you use to illuminate your scenes will give your images a certain hue. With color theory playing such a major role in how your images are perceived, it’s important to select the proper WB in order to remove unrealistic color casts.
05. Enhance the scene with accessories
Much like with your wardrobe, accessorizing can completely change the look of your images. This applies not only to props that help reflect your unique perspective, but also to the different camera accessories that will bring your scene to life.
A tripod is probably the main piece of gear that comes to mind when you think about indoor photography accessories. After all, pretty much any scene in suboptimal lighting conditions will require a long exposure that will be hard to shoot without a tripod. But there are many more pieces of equipment your images can highly benefit from.
One of the most common indoor photography tips is to use a reflector to modify and direct light to your liking. Reflectors are useful both with natural and artificial light, and will help you achieve a more natural and balanced look on your indoor photos. Other highly popular accessories for indoor photography include remote shutter releases, which will come in handy for your self-portrait ideas, and external flashes that you can use to illuminate your scenes.
06. Pay attention to composition
When it comes to capturing remarkable images, composition is just as important as lighting, exposure, and coloring. Unlike most of those, however, composition is not something that can be fixed afterwards with some technical skills and photo editing software.
Before setting up your scene, take a look at the different photography composition rules and see how you can use them to frame the shot in a way that guides the viewer through the image. However, remember that rules are there to be broken, so don't be afraid to try out new things and get creative with your own compositions.
Dedicate some time to fueling your photography inspiration and expanding your compositional horizons by looking at the work of other media creators, watching photography movies, and even reviewing traditional art pieces. Take for example this outstanding shot by Clara Orozco, winner of the Wix Home Studio Challenge, which holds a striking resemblance to the work of realist painter Edward Hopper.
07. Tell your subject’s story
Storytelling in photography is one of the most important creative skills to master. Done right, it can transform any picture into an image that is worth not a thousand, but a million words. But conveying a story within a still frame is far from easy. You’ll need not only a great idea but also a strong set of skills to help it bring it to life.
This challenge only intensifies as you take your photography indoors, as your subjects will be much more limited and probably less exciting than if you were shooting travel or landscape photography. To make up for this, you’ll need to place much more emphasis on the creative part of your shots.
Start by putting together a plan on how you’ll bring your concept to life. This can be based on the character and narrative of an existing subject or a creative story you want to capture. Use props and lighting to strengthen your narrative, and don’t be afraid to push some boundaries during the post-processing stage.
08. Mind the background
This indoor photography tip will take you back to your teenage years when you were told over and over again to tidy your room. Background clutter is one of the biggest threats of any composition, as it diverts attention away from your subject and can end up ruining an otherwise great image. Taking into account how crowded houses are in comparison to open spaces, you can understand how backgrounds might pose a significant challenge.
While knowing how to edit photos can help you get rid of those small imperfections you didn’t notice while shooting, it’s always recommended to get the original image as close to the end result as possible. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and before pressing the shutter, remove anything that doesn’t spark joy within your composition.
09. Make the most of windows and doors
Let’s start by stating the obvious: windows are the best source of indoor photography lighting. Also obvious: doors allow light to travel between different rooms and spaces. This means that these two architectural elements will be your best friends when shooting indoors.
Pay attention to how light travels through your house throughout the day, and identify the best spots where you can utilize unique lighting opportunities such as the photography golden hour. Additionally, see how you can play around with blocking certain elements to introduce shadows in your compositions.
You can also use these elements as a setup for your shot, whether you employ a window sill in your food photography or a door frame to, well, frame your subject in a natural manner.
10. Explore creative ideas
Now that you’re familiar with the most common indoor photography tips and have seen some beautiful images of what you can do, it’s time to put it all into practice and come up with your own creative photography ideas.
One of the best things about shooting indoors is that you’re not bound to the limits of any genre. You can start the day capturing a self-portrait as you brush your teeth and end it by shooting some fine art photography stills of your dog playing poker.
Make the most of this opportunity by testing your limits and photographing subjects you never considered before, such as kitchen utensils or that bird that always visits your balcony. Keep up with the latest photography trends and see how you can integrate them into your space. Think outside the box, even if you're feeling a little boxed-in. This is your chance to explore your creativity and break through your limitations.