Better Interior Shots with Your Cell Phone

How many times do you as a designer pull out your cell phone and snap a picture?

Maybe you just finished a room and you need for the shot to show your work in the best possible light.

Here are a few tips that can optimize cell phone photography without bogging you down in photography arcana.

These tips are suggested by Edward Chittenden, a photographer who specializes in interior work and who also (full disclosure) is my son.

How Much Light Does Your Picture Need?

The word for this is exposure. How much light do you need to expose the important elements in your picture?

When your phone camera is set to automatic, you will see a square or a circle called an exposure lock.

Image showing a round exposure lock.

Here is a screen shot with a round exposure lock.


Screenshot showing a square exposure lock.

Here is a square exposure lock.


If you don't see the square or circle in your camera, touch the screen with your finger and it will appear.

The exposure lock is your way to set the optimal amount of light for your picture.

You set the exposure lock by placing your finger on the screen on the back of the cell phone.

The issue is: where do you place your finger?


Tip #1 - Use Your Exposure Lock for Optimum Lighting

Begin by placing the exposure lock in a dark spot in the room. This will tell your camera to let in more light and brighten up the room. Place your finger on a shadow in the room and you will see the place brighten up immediately. Then snap!

Picture with exposure lock on darker spot of the room.


Exposure lock too close to a light source.

Place the exposure lock too close to a light source and you will see something like this. The exposure lock has set the camera to expose the features in and outside the window and left the interior dark.

Place your finger to move the exposure lock to different parts of the room and watch the lighting change. Shoot several lighting configurations.


Tip #2 - Line Up Your Shot To Eliminate Spatial Distortion

Whew. That sounds complicated! But it's not really. Take the picture from a height between your waist and your chest.

It will look far more natural!

Take picture from eye level and rooms can get bent out of shape.

Shot from eye-level this picture shows the keystone effect. Distorted perspective.

Shot with phone camera at eye level or higher. Vertical lines form a "keystone," which will not register as true to the eye.


Scene shot with camera at waist level, eliminating the keystone effect.

The same kitchen scene shot with the phone camera at waist-level. No keystone effect. Vertical elements remain vertical.


Tip #3 - Turn on the Lights?

Not if you can avoid it! The warm cast of artificial lighting and the natural light coming from a window don't play well together with cell phone cameras. In short, the window light will appear unnaturally blue in your pictures.

Artificial light causes natural light from the windows to appear unnaturally bluish..

With the lights turned on, the natural light from the windows turns unnaturally blue.


Shot with nothing but natural light from the windows. The colors are much more natural.

The same scene with all natural lighting.


Tip #4 - Blow out the window

You are most likely interested in the interior and not in what's visible outside a window. You can control this with your exposure lock.

Picture with exposure lock on the window.

This shot is exposed for the what's in and outside the window frame. You can see the exposure lock on the window.

Picture set to expose the elements in the room.

Here the camera is set to expose the interior. You can see where Edward placed the exposure lock in the upper left of the picture. He calls this, "blowing out the window."


Tip #5 - Reflective objects in your picture

The photographer is reflected in a mirror in the shot.

You probably don't want a reflection of you taking a picture in your picture. Be aware of reflective surfaces in the shot.


Tip #6 - Clean the lens!

A streak in a picture caused by a dirty lens.

'Nuf said.


As Edward always tells me, it's not one big thing that makes great photos; it's lots of little things.

With a little practice you can quickly learn to employ these tips automatically. You will love the difference!


Edward Chittenden


Edward Chittenden - Headshot

Edward is an architectural and interior photographer who has been in business in Tampa for eight years. You can see his work on his website, Natural Light Photography.




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