Every week, Unplggd posts beautiful photos of geeked out interiors. These beautiful home office set-ups, media rooms, and kitchens are more often than not photographed by the domicile dweller themselves, many of whom aren't professional photogs. So what's the key to all their amazing photography? We went out to find out.
The first step was finding a camera. The kind folks at Canon agreed to let us borrow one of their budget friendly dSLRs, the Canon EOS Rebel XS, along with one of their recently launched point-and-shoots (a review on that is in the works). The goal: to see what each camera can offer in terms of interior photography, present some pointers and tips for indoor shooting, and hopefully gather even more advice from you readers. We're sure many of you are like us and have homes you're really proud of, but can't seem to be able to transfer all your hard work into a beautiful still. Well, lets figure this out together. First, our experience with Canon's consumer friendly dSLR.
Let me just start by saying, if you're in the market for a new digital camera but can't afford a dSLR, don't play with one. You will never want to put it down. While small, compact digicams have improved by leaps and bounds (and many can compete in picture quality with their bigger brothers) there's something about a proper single lens reflex camera that turns snapshots into gold. One of those things is a big 'ol, quality, lens.
Many dSLRs are bought in three parts -- body, lens, memory card. Canon's Rebel XS kit includes a standard 18-55mm lens, though you can buy and swap in other lenses for specific tasks -- a few sites I read, for example, suggested using a 14mm lens for interiors as it allows you to frame more of your room. The 18mm that came with the Rebel XS did a great job (especially with close-ups) but there were definitely times when I wished I could bust down the wall behind me to gather more of the room in my frame. What's so great about a dSLR is, if you want to invest in a lens that would allow that you could, without having to buy a whole new camera.
I'm not a photographer, by any means. While I love taking photos, I haven't really educated myself on camera functionalities. When I have had the opportunity to play with dSLRs, I've always stuck to the auto mode, since all those buttons and dials were always so intimidating. Luckily, the Rebel XS is a smooth introduction to the world of ISOs, apertures, and exposure times.
Since my main experience with cameras has been with point-and-shoots, I decided to test out what auto abilities the Rebel XS. They were impressive, especially when you consider I was snapping away sans tripod and flash. Below, a few examples (note: I did not adjust any photos in post production.)
I was rather impressed with the photos taken when using the lazy route, but the real benefit of having a dSLR on hand is all the fine tuning you can do before you hit the shutter button. Point-and-shoots allow you to manipulate some settings, but it's rather bare bones. With the Rebel XS I could not only adjust ISO settings and white balance, but I could also fine tune exposure (by mere fractions of a second) as well as the aperture, which is key when going from wide shots to close-ups.
Sure, I had no idea what all these settings did when I got the camera, but thanks to the internet I was able to find some helpful tips on not only what to adjust, but how to adjust. Here are a few tips I found useful.
- Toggle between ISO 400 and 800. The faster "film" speed takes in more light in dark indoor settings.
- If you have a tripod though, work with slower ISO speeds by increasing your exposure time. A longer exposure time will allow more light into the sensor, while the slower ISO speed will capture more color detail.
- For wide shots stick with aperture settings between f/11 and f/16. Aperture settings allow you to manipulate the depth of field. Higher f-stops, as they're called, allow for more in the photo to be in focus. Since you want most of the room in focus when taking a wide shot, using a higher aperture setting is key. Too high though and your images will look flat, so play around until you find the perfect number.
- For close ups bring your aperture down to between f/3.5 and f/6. This will allow what you're focusing on to be the center of attention, while the background slightly blurs.
- Increase exposure times to bring in more light, but if you do, find a tripod to set your camera on. Otherwise you're going to end up with some fuzzy shots.
- Don't use a flash! While the Rebel XS has a built-in flash, I stayed away as it created very wonky lighting effects.
- Snap away! The beauty of a digital camera, if you've got a large memory card plugged in, is that you can take photos until the cows come home. Take as many photos as you can, adjusting settings along the way, and you'll have a lot more to choose from once you upload them all to your computer.
Below are some of the photos I took by experimenting with these settings.
As you can see, I was really happy using the ISO 400. The lower ISO meant upping the exposure time, but with a tripod that was an easy thing to do. In the last photo I went down to ISO 100, as I was having issues with too much light coming from the windows. I pulled down the blinds, lowered the ISO and upped my exposure to 4 seconds and was able to balance some of the lighting issues that way.
I found the Canon Rebel XS to be a great introduction to the world of dSLRs. The settings were easy to toggle between, importing photos into iPhoto was a snap, and that auto mode is pretty hard to beat. One feature, which is an easy one to forget about, is battery life. I gotta say, I was crazy impressed with how long the battery lasted per charge. I went weeks and hundreds of photos before needing to charge up. The Rebel's relatively inexpensive price tag made it that much easier to swallow for an amateur like myself. Five hundred buckaroos for a camera body and decent lens is hard to come by, which is why I'm saving my pennies to buy my very own.
In my next post I'll go over some of the problems and solutions I had working with both natural and artificial light, along with some other tips on scene setting. As I mentioned before, all the photos here haven't been manipulated, but post production work is another key element to creating beautiful interior photos. From simple cropping to sharpening and blurring aspects within a photo, these are all great ways to turn a good snapshot into a stellar one. We're working on posting a short tutorial on post production soon.
In the meantime, if any of you have recommendations, advice, or tips, please share them in the comments section. This is a whole new ball game for me and gathering as much info as possible is key for all of us to take better photos of our homes.
Images: Sonia Zjawinski
Apartment Therapy Media/Unplggd makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.