Timing Interior Photography
One of the most important aspects for good photography is good lighting. This is especially important when photographing interiors, where you don’t always have the best control over lighting. You can’t readily change the size of your windows or which direction a room faces. What you can do is plan accordingly and take pictures at the best time of day. That time will vary depending on which room you are photographing. I am still working to improve my photography every day, but I wanted to share what I have learned so far.
Since I work full-time, my opportunity to photograph is usually reserved for one nap-time on the weekend. Rarely is nap-time the optimal time to photograph the room I want. I have learned that more planning is necessary to get good pictures. I have to be aware of the best time of day to photograph each room in my home and plan accordingly. Now, instead of saving up all my pictures to be taken during naptime in one big 1-2 hour session, I steal 10 minutes here and there throughout the day to take photographs at the appropriate time for each room.
Photograph Interiors in Indirect Sunlight
This concept of a timing for photography first occurred to me after reading Emilie’s post on how to shoot with window light on Blue Cricket Design. In it she suggests photographing subjects in a room on the opposite side of the house from where the sun is hitting directly. Her suggestion was for photographing portraits indoors, but I think the same rule applies for photographing interiors. The idea is to avoid hard light that casts dark shadows or blares through the windows. Therefore, the best light for interior photography is indirect sunlight. This means you should not have sun directly beaming in the windows or casting sunspots on the floors and walls.
Create a Home Lighting Map
To keep timing straight for photographing my home I created lighting map for my home. Wow that sounds a lot fancier than it is. The point is to have a quick reference guide for when the best time to photograph each room is. Specific timing will vary by season, especially here in the midwest, so I stuck with just general time of day. I colored each room according to optimal time of day for photographs; AM, PM, or artificial light only (photograph anytime).
Indirect sunlight means the sun is on the opposite side of the house. In the morning when the sun is rising in the east, the best rooms to photograph are on the west side of the house, where the light is soft. In the evening when the sun is setting in the west, the light is soft on the east side of the home.
This was actually really easy to figure out and map. Using a floor plan of my home, I marked a compass showing how the home is positioned. All rooms with windows facing west are best photographed in the morning. All rooms with windows facing east are best photographed in the evening. Rooms that face north or south are generally fine anytime, as they do not receive direct sunlight. Rooms without any natural light are marked artificial only and can be photographed anytime. Here are my lighting maps for all three floors of my home:
When I complete a project and plan to photograph it, I can refer to my lighting map to determine the best time of day to photograph the project based on which room it is in. Then, I work my photography times into my weekend schedule. For projects on the west side of the house, I try to photograph them first thing Saturday or Sunday morning. During the summer months, I can sometimes even sneak these in during the week before I go to work. For rooms on the east side of the house, I wait until just before dinner time to sneak away for a few minutes and photograph. I reserve naptime for north and south facing rooms or interior rooms that can be photographed anytime.
One other thing I have learned through the seasons in the midwest is I have to take what I can get for lighting. I also have to jump when the lighting is good. When almost everyday from October to March is overcast, I can’t let a sunny day pass by without getting out the camera. When the sun does not cooperate I rely on the exposure settings on my camera and my photo editing software to improve the image. I do considerably more editing in the winter months than in the summer.
What is your best tip for interior photography? Have you ever thought about what time the light is best for each room in your house?