The future is wild, and we’re living in it. Most of us have these insanely high powered little computers in our hands at all times, and they do 1 billion different things – they order hot food right to your door, they access instant messages sent from all over the world, and allow us to binge “Next In Fashion” without ever leaving our beds. But what’s my favorite thing to use my pocket computer (aka phone) for? Taking photos of my cats. Can you believe that I paid some insane amount for this thing and its primary function is cat photography? THE FUTURE IS AMAZING!
But I also happen to take a lot of photos of interiors. Mainly because it’s my job (wait, hire me to photograph your cats), but also because I just love interiors. Even when I’m “off duty” I’m still snapping interior photographs with my phone all the time – Pretty ones I see when I’m out and about, shots of my own home for Instagram, or truly inspiring spaces that I want to remember and share with the rest of the EHD team. Anyone else?
And while most of us have smartphones, not all of us have professional DSLR cameras at our disposal (or, you know, the energy to take it out, set it up, shoot, edit, and export photos on a Sunday afternoon). Luckily, these days you can get pretty good photos right on your own phone.
So whether you’re an interior enthusiast who just doesn’t have the funds for a DSLR camera, or you’re an up and coming interior designer who can’t afford to hire a professional to shoot your work quite yet, here are 5 tips for taking better interior photos using JUST your phone.
#1 – Clean Things Up
Before you start snapping, just stare at the space for a second. Look at it. LOOK. What is making the area look cluttered? What can you eliminate to give the shot more breathing room? There are so many times I’ll snap a phone photo only to realize later that there’s a wastebasket or pair of shoes I could have easily moved out of the way to make the shot just that much better.
#2 – Not Too High, Not Too Low…
When you take a photo you always want your viewers to feel like they’re “in” the space, or they can at least imagine themselves in it. Strangely enough, a lot of that has to do with the height you take a photo at. If you’re aiming your camera too low when you take a photo it makes the viewer feel like an ant, looking up at everything from low the ground.
But the most common issue I notice is photos taken from too high up. Eye-level through a lens is not the same as eye level for your eyes. I’ll often see someone photographing a room by holding their phone right up by their face, where their eyes are, which usually leads to the phone being tilted down in order to get all of the space in the frame. This causes the viewer to feel like a giant looking down on the room (or is this just how tall people experience the world?).
Instead, I usually take most of my photos from around mid-chest or waist height. This way I can keep my phone completely straight on to a space, and avoid the dreaded ant or giant distortions.
#3 – Get A Little More Intimate
It can be difficult to decide how much or little of a space you want to show off. For the purposes of Instagram specifically, I like to stick to medium shots. I feel that they give just the right amount of context, without feeling too pulled back. A super wide shot can serve many a purpose, but going a little tighter always make a shot feel more intimate and brings your viewer “into” the space more. Going a bit tighter with your images also helps you avoid too much ceiling or floor.
If you have to choose between getting more floor or more ceiling in a shot, I generally go for more ceiling. It'll help a room feel bigger, whereas more floor can make a room feel squashed.
#4 – Go Au Natural
Lighting can make or break a photo, I believe this to my core. Your lighting is really going to set the tone for your photograph – Dark shadows and rich tones will feel moody, blown out windows and bright light will feel happy. And unless you’re using an incredible lighting set-up, taking interior photos at night, with no natural light, can be incredibly hard.
Natural light is your friend, and what a stunning friend she is! I always shoot interior phone photos during the day, with a majority of electric lights off, and as much natural light as possible. It’s going to make photos feel more natural and warm.
Overcast days can be great for shooting interiors, as the clouds naturally soften light. But I love a warm sun dapple coming through a window if you can catch one.
“But Sara, my photos are blowing out!” Well, that’s TOO BAD. Just kidding, we can fix that (or at least most of it). If you’re using an iPhone, you can control how bright your photo is before you take a photo. While in “camera mode” on your phone, just tap on the brightest part of the shot, and your phone will auto adjust the lightness of the photo to compensate for the brightness. And once that little sun icon is up on your screen you can slide the sun up and down to manually adjust the brightness.
My preference is always to underexpose (shoot darker, so my lights aren’t blowing out), because I can bring up the dark parts a bit when editing 🙂
#5 – Take The Time To Edit
There are hundreds of editing apps out there, but our favorites are VSCO (Veronica’s favorite), AfterLight (my personal favorite), Tezza (Mallory’s favorite), or ole trusty Instagram. No Photoshop needed (though there is a free app version of that too). And to be totally fair, iPhones have really great editing capabilities now too.
My favorite editing app is AfterLight (which, I think, also happens to be Emily’s favorite). Here are a few of things I like to edit: Brightness (how light the overall image is), contrast (how black the blacks are, and how white the whites are), saturation (how saturated or desaturated all the colors in the photo are), warmth (how blue or yellow the photo is), tint (how green or magenta the photo is), spot lightening, skew (how tilted forward, back, or side to side the photos feels), straightening, and cropping.
Let’s take a closer look at two of my favorite editing capabilities in AfterLight . . . .
Say you happen to take a photo a little high, a little low, or a little too much to one side. Listen, it happens to the best of us (basically it happens to me all the time). Luckily there’s a feature called “Skew” in most photo apps which can help you adjust. If you look carefully at the window frame on the left side of the photo above you can see it angles in a bit, because I was a little too high when I took the photo. I adjusted my “skew” slightly and was able to straighten that out. The best way to understand how this tool works is to practice with it 😉
This is another subtle, yet impactful one. Afterlight has a set of “touch” tools, which are tools you can apply to selective parts of the photos with your finger (like a brush), versus having the edit applied to the whole photo. I love the “Lighten” touch tool, as it helps me bring up dark areas in an underexposed photo. If you look at the blanket area in both photos above you can see what a difference it makes.
Here are a few examples of photos I took on my phone, and then edited on my phone using Afterlight.
But if you want to keep things simple and remove the step of using an in-between editing app, Instagram has great editing tools. Here’s the full editing process I went through in Instagram:
What a difference just 2 minutes of editing can do…
Alright folks, that’s my knowledge laid bare. BUT, I’m ready and willing to answer all your phone photo and editing questions in the comments below. And if you’ve got any tips of your own, share ’em!