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Shooting lifestyle and interior design

My wife recently started an Instagram account called Modern Asian Life, where she shares contemporary Asian lifestyle photos centering around interior design and home styling (mostly from our home), artworks which she collects and curates, and jewellery that she designs.


As you can imagine, most of my photographic endeavors of late have centered around this project, with a lot of interior design, lifestyle, and product photography. It's been quite a departure from travel photography and portraiture, two of my favourite things to shoot. But I've been enjoying the process very much.


Here are some of the most important things I've learned:


1) Use a tripod for everything

When you're shooting human or animal subjects, they inevitably move and fidget, so there's a limit to how slow you can drag your shutter before you start to get motion blur. But when you're shooting interiors and products, they're inanimate and this means you can go as slow as you need to in order to get the right exposure for your shot.


This is especially useful because I shoot interiors with a small aperture (usually between f8 to f11) to get the whole interior in focus, so there's not much light hitting the sensor, and I want to keep my ISO low to minimize noise. So shutter speed becomes the key variable, and I rely on the tripod to keep my photos sharp while I drop the shutter speed low enough to give me a good exposure.


As a side-note, I don't typically set up flashes for the interior photos because I'm always short on time and honestly sometimes I'm just lazy about setting up lights just to get 1 or 2 shots, so...that's my excuse. But if you're trying to get professional, magazine-worthy interior design photos, you should absolutely consider getting a bunch of flashes and setting them up all around to get even and consistent lighting throughout the interior, and you can also use them to highlight interesting features of the interior.



The daylight photo was taken at f8, ISO 200, 9 second shutter speed using a tripod


2) Shoot products like you shoot portraits (where appropriate)

Products have shapes, textures, and features that can serve as focal points for your image. So in some cases, you can try using portrait lighting techniques to light products.


In the photos below, I used soft daylight from a large window diffused by sheer curtains to light the figures, and this is the same kind of lighting that would make for a nice casual portrait at home.


These are Anissa Kermiche's "Tit for Tat Salt & Pepper Shakers". They have a beautiful texture to them that looks like skin and feels grippy like sandpaper, and they're wonderfully sculptural.


3) Complementary color palettes

I've been focusing on paying more attention to color palettes and specifically, I've been working on shooting photos with just one or two main colors to make the photos more visually coherent. Give it a try - see if you can style things or do post-processing so that they're all shades of the same color, or shades of two colors that are opposites on the color wheel.


Here you can see the nautilus shell vase, travertine coffee table, sofa, ball cushion, plant pot, and wall are all neutral shades of beige, cream, and white, creating a coherent color palette. Even the pouf in the bottom left is a soft neutral grey.


Here, three diamond and white gold bracelets (and one with an icy jade and green jade flower centerpiece) are displayed on the neck of a donut vase. The vase is a neutral beige, and the white gold, diamonds, and white backdrop provide a very complimentary color palette. The green jade provides some color contrast.


You'll also notice that the donut vase is a great prop for shooting these bracelets because the neck of the vase is shaped like the neck of a person, with the bracelets wrapped around it like necklaces/chokers. So photographing this setup felt similar to photographing a person.


I hope you found the tips useful!



Please consider sharing your photos with the community by tagging #dharmaportraits on your Instagram photos - I'd love to see how you're using these tips to create beautiful photos.

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