5 Tips on Photographing Your Home

 

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So you have a house you're proud of and would love to share on online but you find yourself putting it off because… A. You don't have a nice camera or a photo editing system. B. There are homes out there that are much prettier than yours. C. It's usually not that clean and you don't want to feel like a phony. D. (insert your excuse here).

 

 

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Here are five tips that have helped me take better photos of my own home and given me the confidence to share them online. 

 

Tip #1 One room at a time.

If you want to share these photos as a house tour you're probably going to want to tidy up any space that is going to be photographed. Think of it as the equivalent to taking family portraits. Sure, your home probably doesn't stay that clean all the time but you wouldn't show up to a portrait studio wearing your yoga pants and yesterday's make-up.

Kids, pets, or messy roommates may thwart your plans to keep your place spotless for more than twenty minutes so I suggest photographing one room, or even one wall, at a time. If your studio is a dump but you want to showcase your favorite corner, de-clutter and style it to your heart's content. You may even keep it that way!

I usually spread house tour photos out between two or three consecutive afternoons. It helps me feel less overwhelmed and works better with our family's schedule. It's also a short enough time frame that nothing gets rearranged.

 

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Tip #2: Look at your home through your lens.

 

Make a list of all the spaces you want to photograph. As you go through your home, casually take a photograph of the space you want to feature and then see how it looks in your camera.

Do you like the composition of things? Would a vertical shot look better than a horizontal shot? Are there cords poking out of things that might distract from the rest of the shot? Do you need to edit any clutter?

Looking through your camera may help you to notice these things and change them before you take photos. Once I'm happy with the set up of things and have moved the hand weights from under the sideboard, etc., I like to experiment with angles and distances. Just like taking self-portraits or outfit photos, you may have to take a lot before you find the most flattering one.

 

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Tip #3 Shoot in natural light.

 

My studio has giant windows but they don't let a lot of light in being at the back of the house. If I want to take photos in there I have to pull all the shades up, move the curtains back, and shoot before 4 p.m. so the sun isn't too low. I took all of my photos on one side of the studio with the curtain showing in it's rightful place and all others twisted up. Then I switched. Tricky, huh?

I'm still learning how to use my DSLR so most of my shots are in automatic mode. I did recently learn that changing my ISO to a higher number helps when taking photos in low light. You can also change your shutter speed but if you're like me and haven't gotten that far, experiment with your ISO. It's amazing how much brighter your photos will be set at 800 than 200.

Note: On my Canon I make sure my dial (the part where you choose portrait, landscape, up close, sports, or no flash settings, etc.) is set to AV, go to my menu, and then hit the ISO button on the top of my camera near the dial. This pulls up my ISO settings and I can choose how high or low. Low is better for bright, natural light such as outside on a sunny day and high is better for your dark rooms inside. You're welcome.

 

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Tip #4 Bend over and watch out.

 

Unless you're about 4' 5" you're probably not taking photos of your space at an optimal angle. I had Brett (6'1") take the photo above to show how different a vignette can look when you're standing upright to how it can look when you're at eye level (see below). When taking wider room shots, getting a bit lower can make your room look bigger and keep things focused on what's interesting.

Watch out for mirrors or other reflective surfaces when shooting. Stand a little to one side or bend down enough that you're shooting up at an angle. If you're looking especially cute that day, disregard.

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Tip #5 There's a time to shoot wide and a time to shoot vignette.

When photographing a room take some wide shots that share a whole space, or chunks of a space that are well-defined, and then take some vignette shots. A vignette is a focused grouping such as the items on the top of the shelf above. You can tell it's there in the first photo but it's lost in space and I'm not really sharing anything else worthwhile. Above, I've taken a wide shot but should've taken a vignette.

Below, I've relocated myself in front of the items on display but at an angle so that I can also share the print located on the wall next to it. Not only can you see my items better, but the composition is stronger with fewer distractions.

Whether you're shooting wide shots or vignettes, try to avoid eye sores such as ceiling fans or cords. You can always edit out nail holes in Photoshop or another editing service. If you're looking for something to start with, check out Picnik. It's free and covers a lot of territory.

 

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Your home is unique because it's yours so think about your favorite elements as you plan your home tour. You may not be the only one in the world with a collection of vintage globes but the way you've displayed them may inspire someone. Your use of color in your living room may be exactly what another home owner was imagining for their space but couldn't quite execute the first time around.

 

You're out of excuses now! Pick a date to share your space online and then plan in time to get it tidied, shot, edited, and written up. I can't wait to see! xo. Rachel

  • You have such great style, I’m not sure my house would make for such a pretty photo shoot but it gives me something to aim for. (pun intended) 🙂

  • This is something I’ve been considering doing for a while now but wasn’t really sure how to go about it – some brilliant tips, especially snapping at eye level and vignettes. One thing at a time too – must remember that when I’m getting overenthused!

    Jem xXx

  • This is a great post! No one knows that you didn’t take those pics on the same day which I love! I think for most of us it’s the ‘in your head’ deal were you know that your own home isn’t spotless and sparkling 24-7 and we all wish that it was magazine ready all day every day but hey it’s just a nice little secret that no one else knows! Makes me feel so much better about snapping house shots on a room-by-room basis since I have the lovely room mates -> a messy husband and tornado dog.

    Thanks for the great post & tips Elsie! Even though I am such a fresh new reader you’ve become one of my most favorite morning reads. Always a burst of sunshine!

    <3 Have a great day!

  • thanks for sharing this! I totally want to get good pictures of how cute our home is but they never turn out right! Now I know what to do. Perhaps it is time to break out the camera again!

    Thank you!

  • great tips!!!
    thank you so much…rachel!!!

    *****

    by the way…elsie…i love love love your new “old” blog!!!!
    it´s great wonderful…and such “a beautiful mess”…;D

    liebgruss from germany
    eni

  • Such a great post, Elsie! I am in the middle of setting up my first home, so this is most inspiring! Also, just a note on your DSLR, depending on the camera you have, check what the highest ISO suggested is. Usually the higher quality the camera, the higher ISO it can handle without making a grainy photo. The higher the ISO the more light “noise” (or graininess) there will be in the finished photo. It’s all about the balance between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO… oh the joys of digital photography 🙂

  • awesome tips just before doing a house tour of my own on my blog. it surely had been a challenge,now I know better! Thanks Rachel! your home is lovely!

  • Yes! I discovered Picnik a few months ago and I love it! It’s also really great for compressing photos – good for uploading onto a blog etc 🙂

    Thank you for all the tips!

  • really helpful tips, thanks rachel! my biggest roadblock is the “not clean/done enough” excuse. need to get past that and go for it! thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  • I just got my first “proper” camera, a Panasonic Lumix and so I’m really hungry for any kind of photo tips at the moment so thank you for these, especially as I’m not at all confident taking indoor shots,

    Thank you Rachel and congrats on your new role as Decor Editor!

    http://www.fly-away-birdie.blogspot.com

  • Awesome tips! I’m so going to bear them in mind the next time I take pics in my house. Thanks for sharing! 😉

  • Definitely helpful info! Makes me want to clean my room and make it pretty to photograph haha!

    The only thing I’d like to correct is regarding the iso. As a tip, you generally want to avoid cranking the ISO to 1600 as this can make your images VERY grainy! If need be, the highest you should ever go is 800, which reduces risk of compromising the photo quality, and still getting a better exposed image. I usually go to 1600 only when I REALLY need a good image at a barely lit concert.

    Ideally though, if your shooting rooms, you can easily set up your tripod so you can program your camera to expose for longer if the room is too dark. This avoids camera shake during the long exposure, and gives you a great quality image at a low ISO =)

  • My wife and I live in a 8×12 space (her childhood bedroom,) yet… This tutorial is still perfect. Our room is SO US. Despite being small. There’s plenty around us that is customized, etc. I may just have to do a mini room tour sometime soon…

    You rock. <3

  • This is super helpful! My almost-husband (wedding in 2 months!) and our 1 1/2 year old son share a 1 bedroom apartment and I have a had a hard time finding creative ways to organize and style our modest space. After almost 3 years of living here I am finally getting the hang of it and making it ours, even though we’ll probably be house hunting next summer. These tips are awesome! By the way, I love the new layout on A Beautiful Mess!

  • Inspiring! I’ve felt constrained by the off-white walls and glossy white trim in my apartment, and now I see so many ways to make it pretty, show it off, and I can’t wait to get started!

  • Great Tips!! I’ve been considering doing this for a while… but wasn’t really sure how to begin.

    Do you have any recomendations for taking pictures in a basement where there isn’t very much natural light??

    Also… I love the new look of your blog 🙂

    much love

    http://www.thelifeofanie.blogspot.com

  • Good tips!

    Things to artfully omit from my interior shots:
    husband’s nerf hoop (nerfoop)
    chin-up bar
    electro ball

    ….Yeah. It’s like that. Hehe!

  • Thank you so so much, I was just waiting for this type of post hahaha really, I need something to encourage me to make photos of my home and post it to my blog, and I really didn`t know where to start so this is so useful,
    thank you Rachel your advises are very appreciated

  • Hey.. thanks a lot… You should be way more famous… because I think you are one of the best out there.

    Love the tips!!

    Do I need or… or do you recommend any special lenses?

  • Awesome tips. Thanks for the advice, this will come in handy when I finish renovating. I look forward to reading some more of you blog. Newbie Follower.

  • great advice. i’ve tried to do a home tour before but my house is so dark. i was always jealous that everyone who shows their house on their seemed to have such great light! i’m definitely going to play with my iso now.

  • i am definitely doing this soon. i have a new home and just ordered a new camera.

    thanks rachel!

    peppermintvintage.blogspot.com

  • elsie I really miss your music playlists and your photography. We have been fans for 6 years now and miss those aspects! We need some music inspiration! Also love th epaintings and scrapping we havent seen in a while. MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC!

  • Thank you, Rachel!
    I always hang out for your home-tour posts…But I have to admit that the most inspiring thing about this one was the fact that you think of yourself as a DSL novice. You always take such incredible pictures, and I felt pretty self-conscious about the fact that I rely so heavily on the auto segment of camera’s settings dial as a newbie! Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you Elsie! Your lovely home has really inspired me to sort out my sewing space.

    I love the new blog layout too 🙂

  • Thank you so much for those tips! My house is in no shape to have a tour anytime in the immediate future, but when I’m ready for it I’ll definitely be looking back here to make sure they are the best pics possible.

  • Rae Veda,

    Hey, thanks for your comment. This post may be a little similar to part of the SYS e-course but not the same post. I’ve used three of the same photos of my home that were used in the e-course but the rest are new.

    I can see how you thought that, though. 😉

  • Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I really appreciated this post. I’m a newbie blogger and usually find the whole photography side so intimidating. But I was inspired by your lovely photos and encouraged by the straight forward instructions. (If you have any tips for photographing people/self portraits I’d be really interested in that too).
    And I really like your site’s new style. (Especially the banner and page tabs). Super cute!

  • i’ve got this feature on my blog where i write ‘home tours’ of other people’s homes, so maybe now i’ll try to share my own room…maybe!

  • Love your style and really like your tips.

    One thing I did notice though, was your instruction to raise your ISO to get brigther photos. While this is true, the higher your ISO the more “noise” and lower quality the image. There are other ways to let more light into your photograph:

    If you are in AV on cannon or A on nikon mode (aperture priority) like you had mentioned in your post, try turning your dial to give yourself a lower aperture number (this is the number followed by “f” on your camera). This will allow more light in (think the lower the aperture number the larger the hole is to let light in). In most cases, your goal should be to shoot with the lowest ISO possible. Another way to let more light in would be to have a slower/ lower number for shutter speed (the amount of time that the shutter is open). This can be adjusted in manual mode or in shutter priority mode. Note that anything lower than about 60 may require you to use a tripod due to camera shake/blurriness.

    I would try just these two simple adjustments (aperture and shutter speed) before raising the ISO. If your photo is still too dark, then think about increasing the ISO – but in most cases raising the ISO should be your last resort to increasing brightness.

    Hope this helps! Sorry for being so wordy 🙂

  • Thanks for this! We have a lovely old house but I have been really struggling with sharing vignettes because I feel it is not being truthful to how the house looks as a whole. Just showing a few things here and there would make my readers ooh and aah, but that’s not how it looks every day! I feel a sense of hypocrisy here and I really want to sort this out in my head!

  • Thanks for sharing these tips! I don’t have a fancy camera, and my house is under construction, but I do have areas that might make for nice photo’s. Thanks for the inspiration and the tips!

  • Tip #2 has really helped me. I also borrowed your idea of using a clipboard as a frame (mine holds a calendar next to my desk). Thanks for the vision!

  • Your home is where your heart is. So you should always make it beautiful and homey by cleaning and remodeling it regularly. BTW, how many times do you remodel your nest?

  • I think you are right on with tip #5 vignettes. It’s good advice and gives the photo so much more flavor. You should also focus on focal features and any interesting architecture. On the lighting, first turn on every light (even in the day) and I prefer a diffused light, which means overcast days,really early morning or through window sheers. It scares away the shadows that can poorly effect your shot. If you have a flash that can be adjusted point it at the ceiling and let the light bounce off and flood the room with light. Hope this helps

  • http://www.guccibagsjapan.com/ 札幌管区気象台によると、当時、現場付近は雪で、陸上でも風速7.6メートルの強風だった。沢田さんらを救助した登別市の「いぶり中央漁協」所属の漁船「第18幸峰丸」(4.9トン)の飯島弘孝船長は「海が急に荒れ、当時約4メートルの波が立っていた。5人の姿を確認したが、4人を引き上げるのが精いっぱいだった」と話している。

  • I am absolutely IN LOVE with that pink floral quilt/blanket. Can you tell me where you found it?!

  • #26 and #32 This is the stuff the media needs to show! Real men and women with good hearts triyng to do good for people they don’t even know and real deaths. Don’t hide the good and for god’s sake don’t hide the deaths! Our soldiers and our allies soldiers deserve so much more respect than they are getting!

  • I could be wrong, but it looks less like a humanitarian eforft than it does a nice recreation of a strike zone. One probably involving both infantry and air but maybe I play too many video games.

  • You’ve changed from jpeg mode to RAW.Don’t panic.Download Adobe DNG coeorntvr. Convert your CR2s to DNG and open them with your usual software.You don’t say what model of camera you are using. If its a DSLR then the image qualty control is usally in the first menu with a L M or S prefix.

  • Magkasama kami nung pumunta kanmig Akita City! =)) May cliche Japanese photobooth stickers nga kami eh hahaha, post ko siguro today sa Facebook =)) Pero di kami nagkakasama all the time kasi magkaiba kami ng dorm room )

  • Too bad there wasn’t any pictures of the girl in the bagrckound she was the hottest costume, hottest legs just the best of everything all around! She was a firegirl! smokin hot! sorry dear i didnt mean to rain all over your picture youre cute too!

  • I am a board member of the McCurdy School Board of Trustees, cuternrly a private school but will go charter next year (now a public school and we will be able to serve 584 students- over twice the current school population). We will keep the McCurdy ministries to do counseling, pre-school, volunteers in mission, community service, etc. We are needing prayer to help our board manifest the funds and personnel to make this school a success in the Espanola Valley of Northern New Mexico. We have much need for our children. Thanks for your help and prayers everyone. Thank you Rebecca for your divine intervention. I appreciate your help.

  • Ruego que mis hijos sean bendecidos con prsaderipod economica.Ruego que ambos logren prosperar, conseguir un excelente trabajo y poder comprar su casa. Ruego que el corazon de mi esposo y el mio sanen de el dolor que nos causa la injusticia y la falta de respuesta por tantos af1os a nuestras oraciones nos han alejado de dios y de la virgen.Nos sentimos muy impotentes y desepcionados. Con dolor y bronca.Gracias Rebecca

  • Kylberg Feb 16, 2012 – Adobe can lag two-three months dpedneing the cooperation manufacturer Adobe. What I do is to convert to 16 bit TIF in the RAW converter that comes with the camera and then import to Lightroom. When support is added I check file quality vs direct imported RAW. No difference.I will be very interesting to see tests evaluations of this camera, not least at Reid Reviews. The testshots we see are really more random shots than relevant tests of camera IQ.

  • Thanks so much for the tips! I’ve photographed different rooms in my house several times and have made almost all of the mistakes you listed! Noted!

  • I just had a “bonk why didn’t think of that” moment – one room at a time?! genius (kami from thebluekazoo)

  • I love these tips! Thanks so much for sharing! AND I love the new layout of your blog and that your sister and you are BOTH contributing now.

    Thanks!

    Lindsay

  • Lovely photos! I will definitely use some of these tips when we move into our new place next month. I shoot in AV, too, but rather than change the ISO (the higher you go, the grainer the photo can get) I change the exposure preference. That little bar on the camera screen with the dot in the center? Move it a couple notches to the right and your photo will be a little overexposed! Brighter! I also change a lot of brightness etc. in Picasa, free post-processing software =)

  • We just finished a remodel and massive redecoration and I have totally been meaning to photograph it for sometime now and have just used “d. insert excuses here” over and over! What a GREAT article! Thanks for all the great tips and the motivation!!

  • Thanks for the great tips! I will be attempting to shoot my next room once I find a few more perfect pieces to add to it.

  • My place is pretty blah. Because it’s an apartment I can’t paint and hanging too many things makes me feel like my house is crowded. I’d love to see some tutorials on how to spruce up a plain room using minimal decor.

    http://saraivy.org

  • Perfect! Just what I need! I’m about to start a home photo project and your tip for doing one room at a time really helped me feel less overwhelmed! Thank you:)

  • I have that bedding too! Thanks for sharing these great tips! Natural light is a great one, since there is usually no need to color balance.

  • A few more tips

    1. Turn on the lights. Makes the room feel more alive and you can lower your ISO.
    2. Use a tripod. Always the same height for every photo and you can use longer shutter speeds for more light.
    3. Try to line up all verticle and horizontal lines. The lines near the border of the image should be parallel with image border. (can also be done in post-processing (Guide: http://kmcgrailphotography.com/content/how-straighten-buildings-using-photoshop-or-gimp))
    4. Use the HDR technique to balance the bright light from outside and the dark from the interior. (Google for ‘HDR Tutorial’). Don’t over do it. Here are 3 examples of what you can achieve (http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=673383)