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Lessons Learned from 6 Months of Photographing Interiors

February 17, 2020

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This is a guest post by Andrea Ahedo, our Visual Media Producer/Head Photographer. See her bio at the end of the post.

“I want to re-shoot the kitchen.”

Julia raised her eyebrows with a smile and said, “Okay!”

I started working for Chris Loves Julia during a jam-packed-big-deal week. We were filming and photographing a Thanksgiving campaign for World Market on my third day, and it was Phase 1 Kitchen Reveal Week! I was eager to jump right in and get well-acquainted with what my new main subject would be: interiors.  For the past six years I had built a successful commercial photography career, loving and wearing every hat of the creative process: from art director to photographer to retoucher. I had published in magazines, shot fashion campaigns, photographed entire catalogues, styled food and product, and hosted styling and staging workshops. I was more than qualified for the job and confident that I could shoot interiors, applying my wealth of experience. But I swallowed hard behind my camera lens that first week. Photographing a room is unlike photographing anything else! They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something. And my new job at CLJ was going to be the ultimate interior photography master class.  For kicks, let’s compare same angle shots from six months ago, and this week. Bare with me guys; I’m laying it all out.

These photos were taken with the same camera,  and no, they haven’t repainted their cabinets! It’s just *face palm* white balance principles! And for heaven’s sake: Shoot on a tripod no matter what — OK, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break down my top tips for shooting interiors. Andi-Tested-and-Approved!

  1. Use a tripod. No matter what. Your camera needs to be on a tripod. 

Shooting on a tripod gets your photos tack sharp. Every detail from the rolling pin, to the artichoke, to the soap dispensers can be in focus, and should be! Shooting on a tripod also lets you leave that shutter open as long as you need to get the exposure you want. This photo was shot at f7.1 for 1/6 second at ISO 100. Using a tripod also allows you to shoot at multiple exposures, and then blend them together in Photoshop. I didn’t do that technique here, but I did write a whole blog post about this last year (that includes a video tutorial!), and you should definitely check out.

2. “Vignettes” are a great way to show the room’s character. 

The purpose of our previous photo was to show the relationship of space in the kitchen: Where’s the island in reference to the sink? Where are plates stored? How big is the window compared to the sink? But the purpose of the above photo is show the personality of the kitchen, and more of Chris and Julia’s design taste. We call these vignettes. They’re close-up shots that have a story-telling aspect to them. I can see in detail what kind of knives and spices Chris likes to have on hand. I can better appreciate a piece of art, and let a bowl of citrus draw me into this kitchen cottage corner.

3. Adjust your white balance to get your photo as close to what your eye is seeing as possible. 

You know how big of a deal it is to choose a paint color. We pour ourselves over walls of paint chips because — are you going with SW Moscow Midnight or SW Rainstorm? There’s a difference! It is crucial while photographing interiors that your shot represents what your eye is seeing. If you painted your cabinets bright white, they can’t look off-white in photos. If you have a new deep navy blue loveseat, it cannot look dark gray in photos. And let’s say it: Chris and Julia’s island wasn’t painted black, as my photo from last August portrays. You have to do the design of the room justice and capture that in camera. So what should you be double checking? First and foremost: your white balance. White balance (WB) is about removing unrealistic color casts, so that the colors you’re seeing in person are rendered in your photo. All cameras have an Auto White Balance (AWB) setting, and then some “light presets” to select depending on what is the light available where you’re shooting. Is it tungsten lighting or are you shooting in the shade? Overcast cloudy lighting? Florescent? They do a pretty good job and are a great place to start. But I know a lot of you guys are in the “Kelvin camp” and would probably feel comfortable even manually dabbing into setting your white balance! Look for the “K” option in White Balance settings, and manually set the color temp for your photo. I recommend turning on your camera’s Live View as you dial so you can see the colors adjusting before your eyes and know when you have a perfect match.

4. Get Low.

I taught Digital Photography and Advanced Photoshop at a private school for five years, and I often told my students. “The best shot is the one you’re physically uncomfortable while taking.” If you always shoot at eye level, from your height’s perspective, you’re robbing yourself of a much more interesting angle if you would just squat a bit or drop a knee! Working on a tripod, I’m typically adjusting its legs and center column for every shot. And you can always turn on your camera’s self timer so if it’s set up low to the ground, you just press the shutter and let it do its thing!

This is just the beginning! My photographer friends out there will also have a lot to say about perspective and lenses. These tips are just to get all of us (myself included!) started. I’ll be sure to bring all of you along as I clock my 10,000 hours, sharing what I’m learning along the way when it comes to interior photography. I know there are a lot of really talented bloggers and photographers out there who are using cell phone photography, and wow — that technology has come a long way! Feel free to share top tips in the comments. While we might be of different opinion and skill sets, maybe we can all agree: Photographing your home is just another way to love where you live.


Paint Color: Thunderous by Sherwin Williams in a Satin finish

Range Nook

Hardware Knobs
Hardware Pulls
Dinner Bell (old, similar)
Round Wood Footed Tray (old, similar)
Pepper Grinder
Marble Spoon Rest
Marble Utensil Holder
Copper Tea Kettle
Pyramid Cheese Grater
Mortar & Pestle
Mini Copper Cocottes
Large Strainer Stock Pot
White Enamel Dutch Oven
Copper Kitchenaid Stand Mixer
Magnetic Knife Strips
Vertical tongue and groove paneling


Over the Counter Wood Cutting Board

Cabinet Side

Cream Smeg Toaster
Honey Pot
White Speaker
Long Wood board
Natural White Speckled Melamine Bowls
Marble Rolling Pin
Olivewood Salt and Pepper Mills
Round Pizza Board
Wood Fruit Bowl (similar)
Black Bowl
Art (vintage)
Soap Set

Arched Cabinet

Black and Cream Striped Cotton Rope Baskets (these are the best and affordable!)
Marble Tiered Serving Tray
Round Wood Pedestals
Copper Planters
Faux Stems

Dining Room

Vase (old, similar)



Andrea Bradley de Ahedo is a stylist and commercial photographer who recently moved to Idaho, after living abroad in Monterrey, Mexico, to be the Visual Media Producer for Chris Loves Julia. She loves foraging for unique spoons and bowls for her ever-growing prop collection, and shooting flatlays for days. She feels most at home when she is traveling with her husband and toddler son in tow. You can check her out on Instagram at @andiandreastudio.


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What do you think?

  1. Ruth says:

    Hello! Great post! I was wondering what lens you use?

  2. Mollie says:

    I love the expodisc for white balance in home photography. You have to stand in the space (as if you were going to be photographed in it) and take an exposure through it -and then you can set a custom white balance based on that image.

  3. Vicki says:

    Thank you for this. I consider myself an experienced photographer but still find it difficult to successfully photograph my home. So, I am thrilled with your sharing what you are learning with your new subject. Everything that you said makes sense and the Feb 2020 photographs are certainly clearer, sharper and brighter. What you said about making sure you are representing the color correctly is certainly important for me. I loved the color as represented in the original photographs which had a blue undertone and I was seriously considering the color for my cabinets. I also like the color represented in the new photos but what I’m finding with both colors is that neither very closely represents the actual color on the SW website or in my color chip fan. I expected the color chip to be different but the color on the SW website is usually much closer to the actual color. I am finding the value to be somewhere between the two sets of photos and the hue to have less blue than either set. I am not being critical at all. It is only an observation. I would never actually choose a color without doing a sample first. I’m just wondering if you can also see the difference and which is more representative of the actual color you see with your eyes. Thanks!

  4. Jessica says:

    Hi there, what camera and lens did you use on both?

  5. Nadia says:

    The expression is “*bear* with me”, not bare. From Grammarly: The verb bare means “to reveal” or “to uncover.” The correct expression, “bear with me,” means “be patient with me.” The speaker asked the audience to bear with her while she searched for the correct graph.

  6. Kristen says:

    Great post Andrea! I really enjoy your work and learning from you! You are a fantastic addition to the CLJ!

  7. Neen says:

    Get yourself a white balance card. This is a must-have for interiors photography. I’m sort of surprised it wasn’t mentioned!

  8. Jennifer says:

    This has sparked so many questions for me! I’ll limit myself to only a few: (1) if it’s all in the white balancing, could you have post-processed the original photos to get better color rendering? Or was some of the effect also in exposure time (or something else) and so you needed to re-shoot? (2) Do you ever use a white card or anything to get a true white for white balancing? If yes, where do you put it? I’ll use a white card but I’m always working with flat objects, so it’s easy for me to know where the white card needs to be (right in front of the painting, as close to the painting plane as possible). I don’t know where I would aim for a three dimensional space. This post has really opened my eyes to all the behind the scenes work. Thanks! I know this paint color has been a bear to photograph, and I love seeing all the different chameleon colors of it.

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      Hey there Jennifer! Let’s tackle some of your questions: in regards to White Balance, Lightroom (my go-to post production of choice) does have sliders and correctors to try, but I believe in perfecting most of what you can in camera instead of relying on post. I haven’t used a white card up to this point, no real reason, just hasn’t been in my tool kit! But I want to give it a try. I’m so glad you found the post helpful!

  9. Jill says:

    Andrea thank you! What a difference! Your photography skills have grown so much!

    I do have a puzzle to solve, however. What is the object lying on the floor under the arched cabinet!?!? I CANNOT figure it out and it’s driving me crazy.

    Thank you!

  10. LOVE these tips – I’m starting to get into interior photography and am super thankful for the timing of this article! Do you have favorite lenses you use for interiors?

  11. Gwen says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! There is not enough on the internet about this kind of photography unless it’s real estate and that has different goals.

  12. Susan C says:

    Can’t get over the difference in the metals as well! Didn’t really notice the pulls and handles, the dullness of the mixer until I see the retakes. And I loved them the first go! But second take sure made them pop.

  13. Belinda says:

    This is an amazing post! Thank you so much for putting all this info out there!

  14. Noreen says:

    Ok…a brilliant post for so many reasons!! Lots of photography tips and interesting to learn it’s so different to shoot interiors! As someone who is currently learning to take good interior pics, it was nice to hear a professional was making mistakes at the start too. Thanks for the post, loving all the photos now! (And previously too to be honest! :)

  15. Kate says:

    Hi there, wondering where the runner is from? Is that the one from Schoolhouse? Thanks!

  16. Emily says:

    I’m confused. When the original post came out in August and people mentioned the pictures were really dark Julia said it was something about how the photos got uploaded to the website wrong. But now you are saying the photos themselves were just too dark?

    • Julia says:

      The photos DID upload for SOME people desaturated. They were almost completely grayed out.

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      The original photos uploaded were actually a different color mode all together. It was a WordPress issue, and it was corrected. What you see in this post are the correct photos from the first time around, and of course my photos from this month. They uploaded desaturated, and it was a totally separate issue.

  17. MoCo says:

    I always thought you were supposed to take a test shot with a white balance card. Is that not a thing anymore? I will admit to using the live view/match what you’re seeing trick (but mostly with phone photos – best way to not have to filter your sunset shot to make it look like what you saw!).

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      May be a thing for some! As photographers we can all have different methods and tools in our kit. I have never used a white balance card, but am open to trying one!

  18. Brenda says:

    I loved this post and its honest reflection!!!

  19. Laura says:

    I am thankful for the original shots as I LOVE the cabinet color in them. I also love the actual cabinet color but I’ll always choose dark for my home. Thanks for all the great tips and I love both your instagram accounts!!

  20. Julie says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s really refreshing when someone is humble enough to say, “wait I need a do over because I made a mistake and I admit it.” I love photography posts too and like the tips that help me take better pictures. I always like to have my pictures be as close to reality as possible. What I see with my eye is what I want my photograph to look like. And white balance is KEY. (sometimes it is fun to have highly edited artsy stuff too though, for certain things) Thanks for the content here. I love it all.

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      I’m so happy to hear it. And I’m glad you appreciate the before photos! I knew I was really putting myself out there, but I knew you had to see comparison photos to drive the lesson home :)

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      Such a great comment! Thanks for your words Julie!

  21. Penny Houle says:

    Well, now I’m really confused. All this time, I thought the kitchen cabinetry was green. Now it’s looking light to medium gray. And in a couple of photos, it even looks blue. I do feel I can see the wall and floor color better now, though, in the latter photos.

    All I know is, I prefer the green. lol. But thanks for sharing your process and the lessons you’ve learned.

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      It’s definitely a chameleon color! But trust me, the photos taken this month are true to what your eye sees when you’re in the kitchen. And trust me, “confusing” is a key word that inspired this post in the first place. We wanted to clear up a lot of confusion around the color of the kitchen which was solely based on the way it was photographed months ago.

  22. Jordan says:

    Thank you for these tips! It’s crazy because I would’ve never seen anything “wrong” with the august photos. The side-by-sides are super helpful and I love, as another commenter said, that these went from “good” to “better.” A great reminder with any skill in life… we can continue to hone it as we go. AND, to be so honest about growth and improving a skill set is so refreshing!

    You ARE a professional and yet still flexing your learning muscles. It’s encouraging to those of us who feel like we still have so much learning to do. Thanks again!

  23. Nichole K says:

    I liked it before, though it felt dark for my taste. I like it even more now with Andrea’s adjusted photography! The color has much more warmth and depth. Love you all!

  24. Josh says:

    The white balance is fixed, but the compositions are still off. You have to take photos in which the viewer knows their place in the room. When you cut off the bottom or top of any furniture or fixture it has to be done specifically to let the viewer knows it’s upon them in space. Otherwise it’s discombobulating. Also, vertical lines need to be vertical, or the rooms feel off kilter. Be it from lens distortion or slight tilt, it’s a no-go every time. I’d suggesting not only studying cinematography and interior photographers, but also cg animation. The combination of real and imagined solutions will give you solutions which flex creative muscle.

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      Thank you for your insights and opinions!

      • Michelle says:

        Want to second the motion for clear verticals and I’m sure you will learn more about how lens and focal point affect this. But wanted to add a slightly softer note on the composition. What I saw, as a former print editor, are the photos you take that allow for precise cropping when placed in their editorial context. When creating a library, even of vignettes, it’s better to keep options open so if there is a need to cut a chair or cabinet you don’t have to make all the choices when you shoot the pic, you can do that I post production. Just wanted you to know that’s what I see when I review these. And bravo for being vulnerable and sharing your professional growth. You’ve shot an amazing breadth of photography jobs, each with deep levels of mastery. Excited to see your lessons evolve and to learn from them as well.

      • Andrea Bradley says:

        Michelle, thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback. I crop to vignette sizes often too! As you said, it’s a great way to assure a variety that the client wants. I tend to first shoot very pulled back, and can crop from there, but still love putting on a 50mm for vignette shots from time to time.

      • PJDN says:

        Did you share the lenses you used for the kitchen shoot? Would you mind?

    • RC says:

      Adobe Lightroom has a bunch of one click perspective correcting options vs. doing it more manually in Photoshop. This has been a lifesaver for me for real estate photo shoots.

    • RC says:

      Adobe Lightroom has a bunch of one click perspective correcting options vs. doing it more manually in Photoshop. This has been a lifesaver for me for real estate photo shoots and editing

  25. Tiffany | Pretty Real Blog says:

    These are so helpful! I’d read the tripod tip before but out of sheer laziness, convinced myself it wasn’t necessary. Just this morning I used it to get a shot of my dining nook and what a difference it makes! These entire post was very helpful! Thank you for putting yourself out there to share what you’ve learned!

  26. Maddie says:

    Thank you – a really excellent post.

  27. Jennifer says:

    Great job. Thank you!

  28. Cristina says:

    Andrea, thank you for reminding us that we can always grow!

  29. Abby Jensen says:

    I love how it goes from “good” to “better”… I often see photography tips with before-photos that are just awful. This really captures the nuance of room photography.

  30. Felicity says:

    Just here to say that I dig these instructional posts from Andrea. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Lindsey says:

    Well written, Andrea and great tips! The “before” pictures are good but those afters show real growth!
    It was especially noticeable in the before/after of the fireplace in the master bedroom.
    Just when I convinced myself that I liked my wood tone cabinets, now I’m tempted to paint all over again :)

  32. The comparison pictures are really helpful! The first ones are so good, but then after time you got even better. Thanks for the tips! Interior photography is really tricky, but I’ve found if you take your time with it and let the space you’re photographing tell a story, it will inform you of angles and where to stand.

  33. Debra says:

    In most cases, I prefer the August photos. To me, they have more character and depth. Nevertheless, thank your for the photo tips.

  34. Keo says:

    Wow I love this so much! Thank you for being so transparent!! Experience really is the best teacher… I’m excited to keep following along as you perfect your craft!!! Have you ever used an expo disk? It’s been a game changer for me when it comes to white balance!!!

  35. Alison says:

    Andrea, thank you for sharing! This post is wildly serendipitous as I just sat down to photograph our recently-finished bathroom the other night. We poured our blood, sweat and tears into remodeling it ourselves (and I mean that literally). When I finally got around to photographing it, I became frustrated that I could not capture what my eye was seeing in this space that I am so proud of. I wrestled with my DSLR to get some photos that I thought were decent, but after reading through your post, I’m eager to try again. Here’s to the pursuit of 10,000 hours!

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      You got this! Using a tripod will help you with the patience you need, because once you have it at a good angle, it’s just adjusting your settings. Do it dial by dial little by little and watch your image transform

  36. Katy says:

    These are really great tips. I always thought you had to use those white balance cards to adjust your WB and I never really figured out how to do that… I like your tip, especially since Julia got us all to go 2700K in our lightbulbs years ago so we know what to do there! Ha :)

    Also, I’m curious if snow outside makes it brighter and easier to shoot inside. Seems like a slam dunk for naturally brighterning a space, but maybe it threw off your contrast and made it more difficult.

  37. Sadie says:

    I love these photography posts. It was obvious from Andrea’s start date she was talented and hardworking just like her sister, Julia, and it’s been fun to watch her grow. Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge!

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      Ah Sadie, it’s really a pleasure. This post came about really organically and I’m so glad I decided to show those before photos from August. It’s a journey!

  38. Chelsea says:

    I have been a portrait photographer for 8 years and just started dabbling in real estate photography and this was very helpful! I am looking forward to more! Thank you!

  39. Brittny says:

    Is there an “ideal” height to shoot interiors that prevents most straightening in post production? Also interested in what focal length you usually shoot in? Finally, do you shoot your videos with you DSLR? Do you use a harness?

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