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How to take a great photograph

20 May 2015

Whether you’re wanting to take photographs of your home for real estate, competitions or simply to show it off on Pinterest, there are ways to make sure you capture it perfectly. Habitat by Resene contributing photographer, Bryce Carleton, shares these valuable tips he’s learnt from 30 years in the game.


The easiest way to freshen up the place for a photograph is to tidy away unnecessary furnishings. Less is more. Hide away extension leads, rumpled newspaper, the kids’ scattered toys, etc.

Add appropriate props. Leave homemade sliced bread on the kitchen tabletop. Plump up the pillows and display fresh flowers in a vase. Neaten up your magazines and use small heavy objects to prop things up straight, or in an interesting angle. Animals in the shot work really well.

Watch closely for reflections – people in mirrors and glass tables. Give them a clean, and make sure they’re free of smudges.

Outside, make sure the lawns are trimmed and, once again, children’s toys are picked up. And check the hedge you’re photographing isn’t dead. It’s all in the details.


When you don’t have all the lighting equipment that the pros use, natural light is your best friend. Don’t use the on-camera flash – it only lights up the first metre and a half of your image. That will leave the rest of the room dark.

For a room set, make sure you reduce your contrast. Turn all inside lights on, and close curtains on the sunny side of the house. This allows natural light to stream in without it being too harsh. If the sun fills your room in the morning, shoot it later in the day. If you’re shooting a room with full sunlight, the camera will try to expose the highlights, leaving your shadowed areas black, or it will try to expose the shadowed areas giving you the detail but blowing out your highlights. This is because your camera can’t see a high range contrast. 

Remember to also turn lights on in any rooms showing past your room set, otherwise they will appear black.

Shoot the exterior while there’s natural light. If you would like a night shot, make sure your lights are on inside (and that no-one is peeking out from the window).


Use a tripod to prevent blurry pictures. A chair, bench or table is a makeshift solution. It also gives you different points of view, as it can get boring quickly when every photo is shot at eye level. Get different. Overhead shots can also look beautiful. But don’t be too clever with your tilted angles.

When framing, ask yourself: Is everything in there that should be there? Don’t be afraid to shift furniture around.

Don’t use a fish eye lens and do not overdo the wide angles. It can look ugly. Try shooting vertical and horizontal – it’s nice to have a range.

Trust your instinct. Look at the photograph, and say to yourself: Would I buy that? Do I think that looks good? Definitely look at how the professionals are taking photos, but believe that you know what looks good. Practise makes perfect!

We love featuring beautiful photographs of our readers’ homes. Send us your pics to [email protected].