Today I’m going to share what I hope will be the first part of a multi-part series! Let’s start first with camera gear for shooting interiors.
So, I’m kind of trying to play catch up here a little bit. We’ve been asked pretty often if we could share a little bit about how we shoot interiors, especially now that we have our little interior photography business. I’ve been trying to put together the post for months, but for some reason I keep putting it off and I finally figured out the other day that it’s because we just have so so so many little tidbits here and there that we’d like to share that we think are really helpful. I just haven’t been able to figure out how to shorten all that info into a smallish, easily readable article. I decided that maybe the best way to go about it would be to split it up into a few different posts. Today I’ll start at the very beginning and go over the gear that we like to use that we think really makes a difference with how our photos turn out, as well as how easily they come together.
Important Camera Gear to Have for Shooting Interiors
First of all, I have to say this: Photography equipment matters. I’ve always had this subconscious idea in the back of my mind that if you’re really talented enough, and if you really try hard enough, you can come up with something beautiful no matter how low-end or bare-bones your camera set-up is. This is just not true. I would sometimes beat myself up for my photos not looking the way I wanted them to and for not being good enough at taking photos. When we finally started to allow ourselves to invest a little in better camera gear, we suddenly, magically became much more talented at photography. So don’t make this harder on yourself than it needs to be. Get some decent stuff and you won’t regret it.
Also, remember that you can almost always try things out and return them if they don’t do exactly what you want them to do. We test out new gear and types of lighting pretty frequently and if they don’t make our job easier, or give the look to the photos that we’re going for, we just return them and try something else when inspiration strikes. Photography is a little bit of an art, and a little bit of a science and there’s a lot of room for personal preference. Just because another photographer loves to work with a certain brand or piece of equipment, doesn’t mean that it will give you the effect that you’re looking for. You really just have to try things out for yourself and form your own opinions as you learn and grow.
What we Use Every Day for Photographing Interiors
A list of a few basics, as well as some more unusual things that we like to keep with us that you may not have though of.
Obviously your camera is your most important piece of equipment. We use a Canon R5 currently, but honestly for most applications like blogging and even a lot of commercial interior photography the Canon RP is an amazing camera and is going to be more than enough. We own both cameras and use the R5 most of the time, but have the RP as our back up camera and honestly, the difference between the two is negligible for 99% of all situations and the RP is just such a great deal when you’re comparing it to the R5.
Tripods are funny things because they’re so essential, but the best ones are usually really simple, basic models. The thing to look out for is to make sure that it can flip the camera from landscape orientation to portrait without having to remove the camera and reattach it differently to the tripod. This will make your life so much easier when shooting interiors and will allow you to continue shooting with less disruption. We’ve had our current one for quite a few years now, and every time we think about looking into a new one, we have such a hard time finding “a good one” in a camera store that has this capability to flip between orientations and we aren’t sure why that is. If you’re looking for a good, basic tripod, we think this looks like a good one.
You can spend a whole lot on good lenses and honestly, they’re worth it. For shooting interiors, you really only need to focus on two types: A wide angle lens, and a fixed lens with a low F number for those dreamy up-close details. For the wide angle, something like this lens will work well. If you’re looking to save a bit of money without sacrificing photo quality, something like this lens will be perfect. If you’re using an R5 or an RP camera, you’ll need to get an adapter for it because this type of lens uses a different mounting system, but this lens + adapter combination will cost you about half as much as the lens with the new adapter system meant for the R cameras. The other amazing thing about having an adapter is that if you started out with something like a Rebel camera and are now just upgrading to the R camera system, you can still utilize your old lenses on your new camera!
This is the cute lens that you’ll need for those detail shots. It’s simple and affordable, but creates those detail photos that everyone loves.
Lighting is so important, of course. We use mostly continuous lighting for interiors instead of relying completely on flashes like some people like to do. We started out with just a basic lighting kit like this one, then added on to our collection over time, with bigger, more powerful lights with a wider range of capabilities. We still bring our basic lights with us to use in a lot of circumstances like when we don’t have much space to work with or if we just need a little something extra to deal with a particular shadow or dark corner. The bigger type of light that we use most often now is called a COB light. You can find these ranging from fairly inexpensive to very expensive, but if you’re just starting out trying to upgrade your lighting, you’ll do well with something fairly basic and straightforward like this. If you’re going to be moving your lights around from location to location instead of just using them in one studio space, it’s super, super important that you find soft boxes that fold up quickly and easily. This is a similar one to our favorite and is available on Amazon. A lot of them aren’t really meant to be folded up and are meant more as permanent studio lighting, so this makes life so much easier. In a lot of smaller circumstances, all we need is one COB light and the round globe soft box pointed up at the ceiling and it seems to magically disperse the perfect amount of light over the entire space.
Super helpful if you’re trying to light something specific, like a dark kitchen island, but you don’t want to over-light it and create a harsh glare. This really gives you complete control over your light if you’re using a more basic light without a dimming capability. Some of our bigger lamps have dimmers and color changers built right in, but sometimes we just use a single regular bulb with a dimmer attached, if the situation calls for it.
We have an extra iPad that we use just for photography so that I can see exactly how the photos look as Chris is shooting them. This allows me to adjust styling and also catch any lighting issues easily and make changes before we take the shot, rather than waiting until later to check the photos on the big screen and hoping that one of them worked. A lot of photographers have a laptop hooked up to their camera so they can see the photos that way as they take them, but I like the mobility of an iPad, so I can watch myself move things in real time and see how they look.
To save your work! 🙂 Our camera has a spot for 2 cards and we use a regular SD card and a basic CFexpress card for backup. We really appreciate having the extra assurance that we won’t lose anything after we’ve been out on the road for a big shoot. We backup our files and format our cards before every shoot.
Light Filtering Cloths and Masking Tape
Sometimes you have a really sunny day and the light streaming in hits at just the right place to create a beautiful shot. It’s a whole mood. And sometimes, the sun is just too powerful and is obscuring some important design features and it’s ruining everything. In this case you, need to be able to control the light. We love to put thin drop cloths up over windows in cases like that to soften the light without completely blocking it. This basically turns the sunny window into a big soft box.
Air Blower, Dust Pens
You will get flecks of dust on your lens and maybe even on your camera’s sensor from time to time. Don’t panic. Having an air blower and a handy dust pen will help you gently clear them away so they don’t show up in your photos.
Another great tool for blocking and redirecting light. Ours has a white reflective side and a nice warm gold one that we often use to reflect warm light back when we’re doing photos with people in them.
Bristol Board or Other Solid Coloured Board
We use this for allowing us to capture the detail of something in a window like a faucet, so we can edit it in later if needed. This depends on lighting conditions and what technique we’re going to use to edit the window later on.
Lightroom and Photoshop
So much of what makes a photo beautiful to look at, especially with shooting interiors, happens after the actual shoot. Adjusting lighting and coloration, and fixing imperfections are a big part of what makes a photo look like it belongs in a magazine. We always think of the actual shooting process as gathering the data we need and the editing process as the part where we actually create the photos. This is the computer we use for editing right now.
Once you collect a bit of gear, it’s nice to have a way to transport it and keep it organized so you can find everything easily and keep things moving. We have several big lighting bags (this one is our favorite) that we use to hold soft boxes and lighting stands and then a big square case that holds our camera, the actual lights, and just about everything else. This is a similar, slightly more compact version, but we love these square bags for keeping everything organized and easy to find compared to a traditional camera bag or backpack.
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.