INTERIOR PHOTOGRAPHY HELP! Which cameras and lenses are best?

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by eric_silverstrim, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. I am an interior designer and I need to shoot my projects for my portfolio. I am considering buying a
    Nikon D80. I was debating if I should buy only the camera body only or with a 18mm - 55mm lens. What
    focal length lenses are best for interior photography? I am concerned about perspective distortion.
    Should I invest in a Perspective Corrective Lens? Maybe I should be considering another camera body?

    What is the best setup for digital interior photography? My budget is not very big!


  2. The best setup for digital interior photography and what one can afford are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

    But, I digress.

    A Nikon D80 would work fine. You will need a good wide angle lens like the Nikon 12-24mm, Nikon 14-24mm, Tokina 12-24mm or similar. The 18-55mm lens you mention is not really wide enough for interiors. You also could use a Micro lens, such as the 60mm or 105mm, to help capture some detail aspects of your labor.

    Lighting equipment is also nice to have in your box of tools. Several Speedlites (SB800) would help. Combining your ambient light with the control of speedlites will give you more natural, pleasing shots and reveal details. Also, lighting stands, tripod, etc.

    Careful composition and planning of a shot will drastically reduce any perspective oddities, and most can be corrected in post processing, if necessary.

    A PC lens, or perspective control, is helpful in correcting the image, but they are not wide enough to start with for interiors on a digital camera.

    I applaud your quest to capture images and records of your work. In fact, you will probably find that the process of photographing your interiors will expand into another tool you can use to create those interiors. You will see things you never saw before through the viewfinder.
  3. SCL


    You will also need a good computer and software to correct or adjust perspective control to your liking. Photoshop CS3 can do this as well as several other programs. The downside of digital photography, for some people, involves having to learn how to post-process their own work.
  4. A good, solid tripod is essential. You'll frequently be shooting with quite stopped-down lenses, and sometimes having to leave that shutter open a while to drink in the ambient lighting. A solid tripod is key to that.
  5. I would get a camera that works with manual focus gear and try a shift/tilt lens for architecture/interiors.

    By the way, perspective distortion is what it is. You cannot correct this because this is a feature of any lens/focal length that is not equal to how our human perception apparatus "sees" things.
  6. Take a look at the images in this post...

    Those were shot using an Olympus 11-22 wide angle (35mm equivalent of 22-44mm) with an Olympus E330 DSLR. If you want good interior shots, you need a well corrected wide angle or access to a good software program to get everything straight later.
  7. You need WIDE, and you'd be surprised how little of a room you can capture with most cameras and lenses. The widest option out there, by far, is the Sigma 12-24 lens, mounted on anything full-frame (e.g. a 5D or a 35mm film body -- pick your make). The lens has an amazingly good design (lens of the year, 2004?) that beautifully compensates chromatic aberration and has near-zero distortion. The build is excellent (hence the EX designation). Quality control is a bit of an issue, so you might have to hunt for a copy you like. I found a fantastic copy on my 3rd try. If you're merely interested in documenting your work, and if close-inspection of purple fringing at huge magnifications isn't really a concern, then most copies of the lens would be just fine.

    I find that 12-24mm is a very comfortable range for interior photography in most residences. Using this lens, I can stand in the corner of a room and photograph all four walls -- with either horizontal or vertical orientation.

    If you decide you need digital and don't want to fork up the price of a full-frame, go with either the Canon EF-S 10-? lens or Nikon's counterpart, which will give you a 16mm equivalent FL. Both manufacturers offer everything from superb to mediocre, and there are loyal followers in both camps. If you're not currently invested in lenses, consider expansion of your system in the future. If you want the possibility of full-frame photography, you can't use a crop-frame lens, like the EF-S, so you should consider buying only the full-frame lenses ("EF" -- which can also work on crop-frame digital bodies). Look at the entire lineup of bodies and lenses, figure out what you might want to be doing, both now and in the future, and then decide Nikon vs. Canon.

    As for perspective correction, don't bother with the tilt shift stuff. Really. It's expensive, and you won't find anything nearly as wide as the Sigma 12-24. Just do your perspective corrections in PhotoShop. It's easy as pie. :)

    Hope that helps!

  8. Oh, I forgot... There's a fairly reasonably priced EF 17-40 f/4 L lens that I have (and love). It has a full-frame image circle and will therefore work on any EOS camera. At 17mm, it's very close to the 16mm equivalent from one of the EF-S 10mm- lenses, at least when used on full frame. If you use it on a crop-frame camera, it makes a great normal zoom. There's also a faster 16-35 f/2.8 L lens, but it's likely beyond your budget. A 16mm equivalent (including a 10mm on a 1.6 crop camera) is about the widest rectilinear setup you're going to find, short of going to the Sigma 12-24 (an excellent copy of which *can* have the image quality of an L, except perhaps with more ghosting).

  9. If I were you try and use a little math to figure the angle of view you would need given the width of your subject and the distance to your subject. Then look for a lens that takes it in. Remember that flashes don't usually go wider than 90 degrees 21mm, wider then that you have to rig something up off camera. Also better check barrel distortion on a wide angle some are not that good and vignette too.
  10. I had actually spreadsheeted this very issue. There's an obvious bias to my spreadsheet. It's essentially a table of talking points to explain why a prospective client (a builder) would have to invest in a lot of equipment to do his own interior promo shots as well as I can. Hopefully the columns are self-explanitory. All focal lengths are 35mm equivalent, and the computations apply only to rectilinear lenses (i.e. no fisheyes). All prices are B&H, about a month ago.

    Anyway, I uploaded the spreadsheet for you (and anyone else who is interested) here:

    If you save the spreadsheet, you can plug in your own computations on other lenses. Just keep the same formulas and substitute the 35mm equivalent focal length in the left column. There are of course security issues whenever you open anyone else's spreadsheet. My spreadsheet is macro-free and virus-free (using the most current update of BitDefender). However, use at your own risk. I'm not responsible! Enjoy. :)

  11. Oh, and as far as flash is concerned, the easiest way to use a single on-shoe flash is to point it upwards and backwards to bounce off of a wall behind you. Better still, use natural light and a tripod (or handheld if you have enough light). If you want to get fancier (e.g. for promotional literature), try a Wein IR slave system and a few Vivitar 285hv flashes hidden here and there, bouncing off of walls and ceilings. I think my Wein system was under $200, and you can pick up the 285's cheap on Ebay -- around $50 ea. They're reliable and powerful -- a photographer's friend. For multiple flashes, you can pick up new Indian-built slaves cheap on Ebay ($10) that work great. You'll need the Wein IR slave to trigger one flash, and the output from that flash will trigger all the other slaves. :)

  12. Hi, I an an architect and I've been shooting my work for quite a while ( I also shoot for other designers). I stopped shooting in medium format and 4x5 a couple of years ago since the pictures are mostly for personal portfolio and occasional publications and I didn't want to deal with too much equipment. I just got a Nikon D300 but before I used a D70 and was very happy with the results. I did a lot of research and the best option for wide angle zooms was the Tokina 12-24mm (around $500), this lens performed better than the Sigma, Tamron and even Nikon equivalent ( I tried them all). The lens has heavy construction, great color rendition, low distortion and is very sharp. the lens also has great resell value.
    I sold it a few month ago when I got my D300 and bought the new Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 ($1700). Now this lens is fantastic! well worth the price but if you can't afford it I would recommend the Tokina without any hesitation.
    My other lenses are a 35-70mm f2.8 and a 105mm for close ups and details.
    As mentioned in by others you will definitively need a sturdy tripod and maybe some lights (I particularly don't like to use flashes in interior shots but some people do) and start getting familiarized with Photoshop.
    The best and easiest way to correct distortion on any of the lenses mentioned above is with PTLens, as a plugin for PS or stand alone software.
    Good luck!

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