Composition.  The art of getting everything that you want in the picture and nothing that you don’t.  Planning ahead to make sure that all your vertical lines in a scene are vertical.  Creating an image that is clearly showing what the house “is” without goofing up and creating an image that has a buyer looking at the photo set getting that quizzical look and going, “Huh?  What is this picture even of?”
 
This whole pro-grade photography workflow I am showing you here is designed in such a way that you pretty much only have to spend time thinking and focusing on composition.  The camera settings, getting color correct, making sure that the light from your windows is balanced and proportional to the lighting of your main interior of the room….
 
…All of that stuff is pretty much taken care of for you in the set-it-and-forget-it camera and lens setup process.  This means that you can simply focus all your attention on:
 

Composition

And here’s the cool thing.  In order to create pro-grade real estate photos, you just need to get two things right where composition is concerned:
 
1) The Proper Camera Height
 
2) Shoot from the Corner of the Room
 
Let’s touch on those right now…
 
 

Proper Camera Height

One of the MOST important things to get right when shooting interior interiors photography is to get your “verticals” to actually be “vertical”.  It is pretty much the one thing that differentiates those who know what they are doing with those who do not.  It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you use, if you produce images where the vertical lines of door frames, window panes, and cabinetry are slanting off of one edge of the screen or another…you’re going to get a failing grade in your Architectural Photography 101 class.  Here are few images that show what I mean by “slanted verticals”:
 




 
 
The secret to getting straight up-and-down verticals is to always have your camera level.  If the camera is level, things will come out properly.  If it is pointed up or down…you will get the effect shown above.
 
Of course, pretty much ALL people who have never had a class in architectural photography (that includes pretty much ALL professional portrait photographers) make one key mistake when they start taking real estate photos:
 

They shoot from eye level.

 
Shooting from eye level seems natural.  Just walk around, point, and shoot.  But the problem with this is that everyone is naturally displeased with the overbearingly large amount of ceiling that fills the frame when doing this if the camera is level….so they do the next thing that comes naturally:
 
They tip the camera down in order to get more of the room into the picture.
 
Seeing this is like a dagger through the heart of every real estate photographer.  The only sin that is greater is leaving the toilet seat up when photographing the bathroom.  Tipping the camera down means it will not be level and thus the verticals will be off.  Which creates the types of images we saw before.
 
If there is one rule I wish I could teach to everyone out there it would be this:
 
NEVER EVER EVER…
…Shoot from Eye Level
 
But if you are NOT going to shoot at eye level, then where SHOULD you position the camera?
 
Answer:  About 12″ to 18″ above the most prominent surface in the scene.  Here’s what I mean:
 
Q: Are you taking a bedroom Shot?
A: Then set the camera about 12″ above the level of the mattress of the bed.
 
Q: Are you taking a bathroom shot?
A: Then go for a camera heigh about 12″ above the level of the bathroom counter.
 
Q: How about a Traditional Living Room Shot?
A: Well then 12″ above the level of the sofa or cocktail table will be best.
 
Q: What about a Great Room Shot?
A: Try a little higher at 18″ above the sofa or cocktail table instead of 12″ so as to shift more of the upper portion of the room into the shot.
 
Q: What do you do when shooting a kitchen?
A: Easy.  Go with 12″ above the kitchen counter.
 
Q: And how about the Dining Room?
A: Again, go with 12″ above the level of the dining room table.
 
(The exception to this rule is going to be for vacant rooms which have no furniture or counter tops.  In such situation, it is best to shoot at “chest level” or about the same level you would take in a kitchen shot.  This will provide more balance between the ceiling at the top of the frame and the floor at the bottom.)
 
Now listen close….
 
This whole “keeping the camera level” thing….it is the BIGGEST reason to get the Sony a6000 camera.  Think about it.  Remember how it has the tilting screen on the back?  In light of everything we just went over, this ONE FEATURE ALONE becomes enormously important.
 
If you are shooting photos with your point-n-shoot camera, or your cell phone, it is almost a guarantee that you are not going to be able to properly see the screen when lowering the camera to that 12″ above the cocktail table point in the living room, great room, sitting room, or family room.  Most people are not going to take a knee to get the shot lined up properly.  And they WOULD need to take a knee if they wanted to see the screen of their camera when it was lowered to that just-above-sofa-height level.
 
Instead they will just roll their eyes and choose to skip out on doing things the right way and just shoot from eye level and accept the distortion that comes with it.
 
The tilt screen of the Sony a6000 camera fixes this problem FOR you.  You can lower the camera to whatever point you want and tilt the screen out so you can see what you’re photographing when you push the button.  And remember this little gizmo here?
 
 
When you put the bubble level in the hot shoe on top of your camera you are able to look down from above and see if the camera is level or not.
 
 

Shoot From the Corner of the Room

 
Now that you have a firm grip on the proper height that interiors photos should be taken from, you need only solve the question about where in the room you should stand to take that picture.  A good rule of thumb is to:
 
Shoot from the corner of the room.
 
In most bedrooms, the door leading into them is situated at the corner of the room.  So shoot right through that doorway.  In kitchens, there are usually three corners that you can shoot from and one that is taken up by cabinet…shoot from the three corners that are free.  Dining rooms and living rooms often have one or two corners open that you can easily stand in.  Use them.  If there are extra chairs in the corner…move them.
 
Here are some examples of how shots turn out if you remember to shoot from the corner of the room:
 
 
 
 Most of the time you’ll want to wedge yourself rather tight into the corner so as to get as much of the room in your picture as possible.  But if you want a tighter shot, just move forward a step or two.  This is how you “zoom” with a fixed prime lens like the Rokinon 12mm that doesn’t have zoom capabilities built in.
 

In Review

As long as you pay attention and make sure that your camera is at the proper height, is leveled out, and you are shooting from the corners of the room, you have a 99% chance that your whole set of interior photos will come out with the pro-grade look where composition is concerned.
 

 
 

 

 


Lessons:

Introduction

Lesson 1) The Mindset

Lesson 2) The Gear

Lesson 3) Composition

Lesson 4) Balanced Lighting

Lesson 5) Correct Color

Lesson 6) Real World Workflow

Lesson 7) Camera Setup