So, you want to know what camera I use. It is one of the most frequently asked questions, but I hesitate to share because the answer is not what you might expect. You probably expect me to say I use a Nikon or Canon, but I don’t. We own a Canon Rebel, but I struggled with it. Shooting in manual is tough and the camera was so big, I never wanted to take it anywhere.
Before you get excited thinking I must have found a magical point-and-shoot that takes great pictures, I don’t use a point-and-shoot either. Portability with a point-and-shoot is great, but I think quality suffers, especially for photographing interiors where a wide-angle lens is a must.
Side note: All the camera pictures in this post were taken with my iPhone5, which is decent. But, how I wished I could have used my camera to take pictures of my camera.
So, what do I use? I live and die by my Fujifilm FinePix X100. I often get strange looks, because people think I use a vintage camera. Nope, the X100 just has a cool, old school chassis. It is a digital camera. As you can see in the overhead shot below, it is a wonderfully compact size. I put it in my purse all the time and I am not a big-purse-type-of-girl.
My favorite feature is the manual dials on top of the camera. It gives me an easy way to adjust exposure, aperture, and shutter speed. I can even make those settings before turning the camera on. While shooting they are quick and easy adjustments to make.
Another favorite feature for me is the ISO Auto Control. If you have tried shooting in manual at all, then you know ISO is one of the settings you should be manually adjusting. The X100 let’s me cheat a little on this one. In the menu, I can set the ISO to auto control and let the camera choose which ISO to use. To make sure the camera chooses wisely, I can also set a Max Sensitivity for the ISO.
There are so many more technical advances and settings that make this camera amazing, but I don’t want to bore you with all that. If you want to learn more, the X100 has a beautiful and informative site.
My Favorite Camera Settings
What might be interesting, is sharing with you some of my typical settings. Here are the settings my camera is on most often when I photograph interiors:
I use the Auto ISO feature on my camera with Max Sensitivity set at ISO 800, which means the camera can only choose ISO 800 or lower. I only change this setting if I am in very low-light conditions. The camera sensitivity goes up to ISO 12800.
Aperture or f-stop is my most frequently changes setting. For most detailed shots of accessories I use f/2.8 which gives me a blurred background. For larger pieces, like furniture, I use f/4.0. If I want a lot of depth of field for a full room shot, I will go up to f/16 depending on my other settings. The higher the f-stop, the darker the image turns out, if no other settings changed.
I generally have the shutter speed set to auto. Although, since taking SnapShop, I am experimenting more with shutter speed.
The Trick to Capturing Moving Objects
My first time practicing was at my son’s t-ball game. The shutter speed for this shot was 1/420. It should have been even faster. You can see the bat is still blurry.
I took this shot of my son swinging with shutter speed at 1/4000. The super fast shutter speed allowed me to capture him in motion without any blur…even his hair blowing in the wind is in focus.
How to Get More Light in a Dark Room Without Resorting to Flash
I took this shot of the playroom at 1/5 on a tripod with a cable remote. It is a very dark room with only one narrow opening for natural light. The really slow shutter speed lets a lot of light in. The second picture shows how dark the room really was when I was shooting.
Playroom Mural and Rolling Toy Storage Crates
This is another frequently adjusted setting. I like my shots bright and almost always prefer to slightly over-expose interior shots. I usually set the exposure to +1. My basement is a walk out and gets lots of natural light, but I still increased the exposure to +1 to get this crisp, bright shot.
Magnetic Photo Message Boards and DIY Bar Cart
When shooting directly into a window I will put exposure up to +2 to help properly expose the room around the bright window. Here is an example from my son’s bedroom. His be sits just under a window. Without changing the exposure, the room looked very dark and the window very bright. To even it out I adjusted the exposure to +2. The window is still bright, but the room is properly exposed.
I rarely change my white balance, because I keep it set to auto. During Kristen Duke’s photography class at Haven, she recommended using the Shade setting for interiors. It tends to make my images too cool. I only adjust the white balance setting when I am not shooting in natural light, like this Haven Ballroom picture. If the lighting is artificial, I quickly scroll through the WB settings and see which one looks best.
Chris from Just A Girl and Jen from I Heart Organizing at Haven Conference 2013
Must Have Extra for Interior Photography
I used the X100 as it came for about a year, but have recently invested in a few add-ons. I was beyond excited when they released a wide-angle conversion lens (the larger silver lens attached in some of the above pictures). It screws on directly over the camera lens and with one quick menu setting allows me to shoot in wide-angle. This has been a dream come true for shooting interiors. I can get so much more of the room in one shot. The wide-angle was critical for getting some of these great images for my Be Inspires posts.
No More Blurry Photos: An Easy Solution to Camera Shake
My newest toy is a remote cable release. As my photography improves, I get obsessed with preventing blurred images, which usually are a result of camera shake. I use a tripod, but with slower shutter speeds, higher f stops, and longer exposure, depressing the button to take the picture can cause enough shake to blur the image.
The cable release screws right into the button. It has a plunger on the other end. It kind of feels like a detonator. It allows me to stand back and take the picture without touching the camera. It also allows me to get off to the side a bit if my body is blocking the light. When shooting I always focus by pressing the button down halfway first, then all the way to snap the photo. The cable release allows me to do the same thing. I can depress the plunger most of the way and hear a click from the camera when it is focused, then I can press the rest of the way to take the picture.
I LOVE my camera!!!
It gives me the control I want to shoot partly in manual and auto, and I can control how the auto works. I just can’t imagine using any other camera. This one was an investment for sure, but since I take 20-100+ photos per day in the course of running this blog, it was a worthwhile investment. Personally, we have never second-guessed taking this camera anywhere. It is compact and not very flashy, so it comes with us on all family vacations and outings. With the old DLSR I felt like we lost out on special moments, because my manual photography skills were lacking or we didn’t want to bring the big camera. I can always capture the moment with this camera.
Thanks for sharing your great tips and tricks. This post is very helpful as I embark on improving my own photography skills. Appreciate the example photos too!
Thanks, Jen. I wish I has more example photos, but I have been too good at deleting the bad examples lately :)
Thank you for sharing your camera tips! I just bought a Nikon and am playing around with the manual setting. My place is so dark that I wasn’t able to show off my interior work the way I wanted. The Nikon is a dream come true. I may even be able to start blogging again. One of the reasons I started following your blog is because of your pretty interior pictures that I know you take yourself. You’re also very talented at framing your pics which I’m learning is a skill.
Lisa, Definitely play around with a tripod and slow shutter speed. It can work miracles!
Great info, thanks! I have the Rebel and loved it at first years ago but am not loving it so much anymore. Also missing the sweet moments with the kids cuz it’s just too hard to lug around. Maybe I’ll check out the Finepix- it looks awesome!
I love the look of this camera! I’m in need of a new one, I’ll try to find a good price on this one. I looked it up and it’s a bit more than I wanted to spend,but maybe that’s just sticker shock & I’ll come around. Hehe. Reminds me of my first Camera in High school photography class!
Jesse, We got ours when it first came out. My hubby is an earl adopter :) Since it has been on the market over a year now, I would look for a refurbished one or a second hand one. They just came out with a higher end version and I am sure there are a few people looking to trade up.
Sondra @ Sondra Lyn at Home says
Hi Jackie! LOVED this post!! Photography has been one of weak-links of my blog, I feel. I’m supposed to receive my new Nikon D3100 tomorrow… and I’m SO excited! Yours looks so great, though. Shoulda read this post first ;) I think I’ll be happy, tho. Just so looking forward to being able to take great photos of projects, etc. in low light.
Thanks for the great post!
I’ve heard this camera’s manual focus isn’t very good. What has been your experience using the manual focus?
Dayle, I use the camera on manual settings, but I do not use manual focus. From all the photography classes I have taken, I have always heard that is the one thing you don’t need to worry about using manually (unless you are a serious professional). I use the autofocus and have it fixed to the center point. If I want to focus elsewhere, I move the camera to focus on my object while pressing the shutter half way down and then recompose the image (move the camera back) before pressing all the way down to take the shot.
This camera looks great, the only question I have is about zoom. It’s a 35mm lens, so it’s only good for close shots, correct? I need something for kids sports and for further away shots. What’s your experience with that?
Rebecca, That is the one downside to this camera. It is a fixed lens, no zoom :(. You are probably better off with a Canon or Nikon for your needs. I use mine for my son’s sports, but have to crop in the final photos.