Everything You Need for Gorgeous Interior Photography

I’m no expert.  I’m a self-taught amateur with a low-end DSLR camera, a few affordable accessories, very little time on my hands, and three young children running circles around me.

But for some reason, y’all seem to like the pictures I take, which thrills me to no end (seriously, I feel like a teenager getting asked to prom…).  So after multiple recent questions about my photography, I thought I’d spill all my secrets.

Gorgeous interior photography can be done with affordable photography equipment - get the full scoop here with Everything You Need for Gorgeous Interior Photography | maisondepax.com

Please forgive me if you showed up for a diy project or Rachel’s latest furniture arrangement…  I promise I’ll be back to those antics soon enough!  But given the fact that we are moving later this week, I thought now would be a great time to answer all those photography questions I’ve been getting.  So today I want to answer the question,

“What’s in your camera bag?”

Now before I answer, I want to encourage you all: none of these items are top of the line.  In fact, they are pretty much as basic as you can get.  If you’ve never priced DSLRs, this equipment may seem extravagant, but if you have any camera background, you will realize that this is all very reasonable.

Gorgeous interior photography can be done with affordable photography equipment - get the full scoop here with Everything You Need for Gorgeous Interior Photography | maisondepax.com

So without further ado, my camera bag:
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1. Canon EOS Rebel (just the body, not the “kit” with the lens)
I have the T1i, but the most recent version (the T6i) is pretty similar.  My only complaint with the Rebel is that it is hard to “back up” enough to get a full room in the shot.  A full frame camera (one that wasn’t artificially zoomed in to start) would be easier for photographing tight spaces.  Otherwise, I’ve been super pleased with it.  A money saving tip: my T1i is several models old, but it still works wonders.  The newest models of Rebels are still affordable as far as DSLRs go, but if you’re looking to save even more money, take a look at the previous model (the T5i).

2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens
This is the quintessential portrait lens.  On the Rebel, it is a wonderful view to capture your kids’ smiles and your loved one’s eyes.

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It’s also pretty great for photographing food.

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Or intricate details.  It has very little distortion and is wonderfully crisp, in my opinion.  Plus, the 1.8 aperture produces drool-worthy bokeh (aka blurry background).

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But it is difficult to capture a room; it’s far too zoomed in… which brings me to:

3. Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens
(Update: I have since learned that the lens above doesn’t work with the full frame cameras… If you think there is a chance you may upgrade your camera body some day, you may prefer this one.)

I love the versatility this lens provides.  I’m not thrilled by the amount of distortion it produces when trying to “back up” to capture an entire room.  You can see how it bends the image here (a straight-from-camera image – except the watermark, obviously):

Laundry Distorted

But luckily, I have some editing tricks up my sleeve that I’ll be sharing soon. 😉  In the meantime, enjoy this image instead.  See how the ceiling is now straight and the washing machine is less bubbled?

Functional ideas for a multipurpose laundry and mud room | maisondepax.com

To be fair, our 1940 colonial is NOT an open floor plan, so I have to set the lens at 18mm most of the time to achieve a full room shot.

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As you can see, it works.  I don’t mind editing a bit of distortion (now that I know how – tutorial coming, I promise!), and the result is beautiful images of my home with just two lenses.

4. Tripod and Remote
This might be the single most important element of my photography.  I started with this one, and I liked it very much until my son broke it (note to self: tripods are not made to be jungle gyms for four year olds).  While it took a bit getting used to the new one (which was a gift), I’m really starting to love it. It’s very lightweight but sturdy enough for my camera.  When using a tripod, it’s important to use a remote shutter release (or the timer) so that you don’t shake your camera when you hit the button.

Contrary to popular belief (seriously, you guys leave the nicest comments about my “light-filled” house!), my house does not actually get that much natural light.  Sure, the light in a few rooms is awesome…

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But the living room, for example, is all shuttered windows with shadows from trees and neighbor’s homes outside.  When I go to photograph it, it’s so dark I almost can’t read the buttons on my camera.  But you’d never know….

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Because of my tripod.  I promise a tutorial later on all this, but suffice it to say that tripods are important for interior photography.

5. Close-Up Filters
My sweet friend Samantha first suggested these to me, and they are a great alternative to buying more expensive lenses.  They allow you to get closer shots, and at ~$10 for four, they are SO much more affordable than new lenses.  As you might expect from the name, these filters are wonderful for close ups.

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6. Filter Screen
This last one is a fairly recent purchase, recommended by my friend Sarah.  It can function as a filter (helping smooth the light so it’s not so harsh) or reflector (providing more light when needed).  I’ve only used it a few times, but I’m loving the results!  I held up the screen between my son’s hand and the window when I took these photos to keep the glare off the watch face.

gorgeous wood watch - perfect Father's Day, birthday, or Christmas gift for dad | maisondepax.com

And that’s it!  Many of my entire posts are created with nothing but my Rebel, my 18-135mm lens, and my tripod.  The other pieces are just icing on the cake.

If you’re thinking, “I have all those things (or something better!), and my pictures still don’t look like that!”…  Never fear.

I have tutorials coming that talk about how to use all this interior photography equipment AND how to edit your photographs to make them even better.  Update: read the next installment in this series (Photography Tips: Staging and Composition) here.

So stay tuned, and feel free to ask any questions you might have.  And again, thank you to all my readers and friends for their sweet encouragement.  I hope you find this series helpful!

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Gorgeous interior photography can be done with affordable photography equipment - get the full scoop here with Everything You Need for Gorgeous Interior Photography | maisondepax.com

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  1. DebraShoppeno5 says:

    I just bought a Canon Rebel moving up from a digital point and shoot. This post has been very helpful. I can’t wait for your next photography post. Thank you.

  2. Thanks so much, I’m anxiously waiting for more. I;m currently using a Canon Powershot sx50 hs, I’m still struggling with some of the settings, so anything I can learn is all the more better for better pictures such as yours. fondly ~lynne~

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      It’s such a process, Lynne. I’m so glad you found this helpful… I hope it continues to be so! :)

  3. Thank you, Rachel. This is awesome advice. Looking forward to the editing insights as well. Cheers, Ardith

  4. Can’t wait for your editing tips. I sooooo want to learn how to go from that before laundry room photo to the bright, crisp after! You have amazing skills when it comes to the pictures you post here, whether it is your camera, your staging, or your editing!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      It’s been a learning process for sure, Jamie. Thank you so so much! I hope you find it all helpful. :)

  5. LOVE it! I seem to always have issues more with staging & composition when it comes to my interior shots. That is one area where I have a lot of room for improvement.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thanks, Gina! I totally understand that. I feel like I still have SO much more to learn in those areas… But I’m hoping to share what I’ve got soon. I hope you find it helpful! xx

  6. I really enjoyed this post. I don’t own a Rebel yet, but hope to soon! I look forward to seeing more of your posts about photography!

  7. And you make it all look so easy! Your photography is beautiful! Can’t wait for more of your tips. Thank you for sharing. Truly enjoyed this knowledgeable post.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Oh Peggy, you are so kind!! It has definitely been a slow learning process for me… But I am so glad you enjoyed the post, and I hope you find the rest of the series just as helpful!

  8. Thanks for sharing those tips Rachel! This is where I seriously struggle. thank God for photoshop:D

  9. Rachel, thank you so much for your photography tips. I don’t have a DSLR camera yet but I am hoping to get one soon:). Your pictures are beautiful thanks for sharing!

  10. Great tutorial thankyou! My husband has the 1.8f lens and I just started experimenting with it! Now I have more reason to. Like you said, I love the bokeh it creates! We should probably get a new tripod since the old one broke. Your post just gives me more reason to buy one asap!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Haha… I’m so so glad you found this encouraging! The tripod I use is super inexpensive, and I really do think it makes a difference. Good luck and have fun! xx

  11. Gorgeous! I agree about the tripod and I just bought a filter screen (haven’t even taken it out of the amazon box!), now I can’t wait to see the rest of your editing tutorials!

  12. Amazing, Rachel! I love these tips and can’t wait for more!
    Hugs, Jamie

  13. I regularly read your comments, love your decorating advice! You have inspired me! I have long wanted to learn my way around a DSLR camera, mine is a 10 year old Pentax K100D. I will be following your tutorials with great interest. Thanks!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Helen! I’m so glad you’re excited about the series. I hope you continue to find it helpful. :)

  14. yay! I’m so glad you are doing this series, Rachel! I need all the help I can get and you always have the most drool-worthy photos! Can’t wait for more!

  15. GREAT post, Rachel!!! I had a lot of this equipment already, but the filters are new to me. Yay for new gadgets! My photography is no where near as gorgeous as yours, but it’s so much fun learning and figuring out what works. Can’t wait for your other tutorials coming up! I’m excited to learn about that trick for anti-distortion. That’s a new one for me too.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Oh Lauren, I think you are selling yourself short! But I’m so glad you found it helpful, and I REALLY appreciate your sweet comment. xx

  16. Very interesting tutorial, thank you!! You didn’t mention anything about lighting, or do you just use natural light and post processing?

  17. Wow! Stunning photos, I’m venturing into real estate photography. Do you ever use flash? Do you have any tips to make it look soft and natural? Thanks in advance

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you! It looks like you have since read the full series, so I hope it answered much of that. I don’t ever use a flash, and I always work to get my lighting even (usually using a white sheet or curtains over the window to diffuse the light if needed) and then I use a tripod and a long exposure to get enough light for the image. The Lightroom edits (specifically Luminance) help that, too. Hope this helps! :)

  18. Hi Rachel! I found your photography posts and can’t wait to dig in. It was SO great getting to know you this past weekend at Haven – gotta love those lobby happy hours! You’re such a sweetie and I’ll see ya next year :)

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Jen, I’m SO glad we met and got to hang out!! And so glad you find that series helpful. Looking forward to more lobby happy hours next year! 😉 xx

  19. Hi Rachel,

    Your tips have made a world of difference in my interior photography! Thank you for being so thorough and helpful! Do you recommend any kind of lighting to shoot rooms without any windows? I have a very dark bathroom that only picks up a hint of light from the adjoining bedroom.

    Thank you so much!
    Alana Frailey

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      That’s wonderful, Alana! I’m so glad to hear it. Funny you should ask this now because I have just started playing with a speedlight recently (an external flash). You can see in my post about our closet under the stairs how it made that dark closet nice and bright… But it’s definitely not something I feel especially comfortable with yet, and all the equipment wasn’t cheap. I did manage to photograph my half bath with no windows last year, and while it’s not perfect, I was fairly happy with the result. If I remember right, I opened the door but draped a white sheet over it so it would soften the light (and cause it to glow throughout the room more rather than glare from just one side) and then followed my usual process: low ISO, tripod, and super slow shutter speed.

  20. Loved this whole series, Rachel! I’m excited to check out the filters that you mentioned. I have maybe a stupid question for you, but do you set your photo sizes for your blog in Lightroom and then export them? I don’t have Lightroom yet and so I just export through my computer’s photo program {on a Mac} but it always makes my photos grainy and blurry :( Trying to figure out what is probably a pretty basic process, but I am struggling!!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      There are so many details to master, Gina; I totally understand! And I’m so glad you found this helpful. :) I do export mine in Lightroom. I make the edits (which LR stores for me in case I want to export it in a different size later) and then I export them all to the chosen size for my blog (700 pixels wide is what I use). LR makes it really easy! I hope this helps. :)

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