ORC™: Week Five – Taking Amazing Interior Photos for Your Blog and Instagram

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Hey guys! I’m back with another round of updates for my One Room Challenge dining room project. If you missed the last four weeks, 1. What are you doing with your life? and 2. I forgive you. You can check them out here.

Also, if you’d like to get caught up on what everyone else is doing, and I highly recommend you do because there’s some amazing talent on display this season, you can see the most recent posts on the ORC™ official website here

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This past week, I’ve been busy assembling the chairs and sewing the curtain panels you see in the above photo. My plan for this week’s blog post was to tell you all about how you can save money by creating pieces for your home that are inspired by designer products. And then the internet went down. So I posted a photo of my friend Patrick Sheehan, a professional photographer in Nashville, taking interior shots of my home on Instagram and the response was overwhelming. There was an outcry from my fellow One Room Challenge™ Guest Participant friends. They all wanted a professional photographer to come showcase their rooms, but it wasn’t in the budgets. Truthfully, I hadn’t initially planned to have professional photos taken. I don’t like to spend money on, well, anything. But when a mutual friend suggested that I reach out to Patrick, with whom I grew up, I remembered the stunning shots I’d seen on his website and gave him a call. 

this is Pat. we go way back.
this is Pat. we go way back.

Not only did he have availability in his schedule to shoot my room (which is unheard of because he’s a seriously legit af local artist), when he got here, he pulled out my DSLR and gave me the rundown on taking interior photos! So, my friends, it’s your lucky day. I took amazing notes and I want nothing more than for you all to have pictures that are truly reflective of your talents and beautiful rooms. So I’m sharing everything I learned today with you! It should be noted that I shoot with a Nikon D3400 with an 18 – 50mm lens. I think. Again, I’m very new to this as well. THIS IS A VERY STOCK PRODUCT. If you bought a Nikon D3400 and it came with a lens, it was this lens.

You’ve heard of it. Everyone has. But do you know what it means? I always thought exposure was a single setting on your camera that you could use to lighten the rooms. Now, where was this setting? No clue. Turns out, exposure is not a single setting. Nor is it a reference to that one time at the beach when I drank a little too much Champagne and fell asleep on my towel. IT’S A WHOLE SERIOUS OF SETTINGS. That’s right. There are three things that all go together to comprise the term “exposure” and they’re not Recent Weight Loss, Last Year’s Swim Suit, and Brut Rosé! 

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1. Shutter Speed
Shutter speed, as it was dumbed down to be explained to me, is the amount of time the shutter of the camera (or the camera’s eyelid) is open. This number is a fraction of a second. That amount of time is important because it correlates to the amount of time the iris of the camera is exposed to light. The longer the shutter speed, the more light the iris receives, thereby increasing the lightness of your photo. For interiors, you’ll want to keep the Shutter Speed somewhere between 1/60 and 1/2. The higher the bottom number in that fraction, the brighter the photos will be. For instance, the top photo above was taken with a shutter speed of 1/2 while the bottom was 1/35. With my camera, once I removed the default “Auto” settings, the shutter speed was able to be manipulated by spinning the little wheel on the backside.

2. Aperture or F Stop
There’s a band from the 90s called F Stop 7. Also, there’s a photography publication called Aperture. That is all of the information my brain held about these two terms, prior to today. So if you have never heard of either, don’t feel bad. I was mostly lost on this one too. The aperture, again dumbed down for me, is the size of the camera’s iris. This seems like it would be the shutter speed, but remember, that’s the length of time the iris is exposed. Think of it as your eye’s iris. When you enter a dark room, you have initial challenges seeing in that room. However, the longer you’re in the dark, the better your vision becomes. That’s because your pupils dilate, or become enlarged, allowing better vision. So, if you want your camera’s pupil to dilate, you want a larger number. For our purposes, I was instructed to keep interior photos to F/7 – F/9 range. In fact, every photo I took with success today, had an aperture of F/8. There was a symbol on my camera that looks like a fraction with an f over an n. If I hold that down and turn the wheel, this changes the aperture settings. 

3. ISO
This is the part I honestly understood the least, so I’m kind of bummed that I decided to end the tutorial with it. But whatever. I’ve already typed a lot and I don’t really want to go redo everything. So let’s talk about ISO. Pat told me to keep my setting at 1/200. ISO settings control the brightness of your photos. The larger the number, the brighter the photo. HOWEVER (and this is a big one), going above an ISO of 1/200 for interior shots will likely cause graining of the image. If you’re shooting at dusk and want to capture something outside, go higher. If you’re indoors, shoot in the best natural light possible and keep it at 1/200. 

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You’ll need to understand how to manually update your camera settings. This isn’t as simple as flipping the camera into Manual Mode. You’ll want to reference your manual for these settings. 

Also, buy a tripod. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Trust me. You can’t take a good photo with super shaky hands. Or even slightly shaky ones. The camera is very sensitive and you’ll see the movement in your finished product. Patrick proved this to me over and over today. 

If you haven’t committed to a DSLR, I totally understand. They’re not cheap. I’ve been using an app on my iPhone for a while and I love it. It wasn’t free, but it’s given me the best quality photos achievable with a phone, in my opinion. That app is called ProCamera. In fact, that picture above, of Patrick, was taken with my iPhone 8, using the ProCamera app. I brightened it very slightly in Lightroom CC, which is also not free, but these two together will cost a tiny fraction of the DSLR and provide pretty good image quality when combined. 

If you’d like to hire Patrick, or see his work, you can check out his website here.

I really hope this helps. I know it was a lot of words and not so many pretty pictures, but don’t worry! I’ll be back next week with a bagillion gorgeous photos, so make sure to check back!


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  1. Thank you, Teri! It was so nice of you to take the time to share these tips with us. I just got my first DSLR recently, and it is totally changing my world, but I am still just in the very beginning stages of learning. Mine is a Canon, but I’m sure I will eventually be able to figure out how to manipulate the settings you talked about. Thank you again!

  2. P.S. Does Pat have a website? Would he be interested in doing some online courses on Interior photography??

    1. Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for reminding me. In my haste, I forgot to publish his website. I’m editing it to include it now. His web address is http://www.pcsheehan.com and I’m going to try to rope him into doing some video tutorials with me. He’s a very busy gentleman, but I can probably convince him! xoxo

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