In this article, I’m going to reveal to you the one trick that I use in my interior design photography retouching that will make your photos look incredible. This one tip gave me the most success, and thus the most work as an interior design photographer. It’s going to make a difference between people liking your photo and loving your photo.
Step One: Before we get to Lightroom, here are a few tips for taking great interior design photographs: Shoot on a tripod, shoot straight, and shoot with a wide-angle lens. If you’re in a smaller room, set your tripod in a corner to make the image look more impressive. You can also shoot a little underexposed to have as much data as possible in your photo.
Step Two: Let’s start with some basic development. In the Basic panel, we’ll open up the Shadows to +100 and bring down the Highlights a little to –30. (I want to keep the window blown out because I think it’s more pleasing to the eye.) Now you can do your black points and white points. In this example, we set Blacks to –45 and Whites to +27.
Step Three: A very important part of the basic retouch is setting the white balance. For this photo, we can use the White Balance Selector tool (W) and click on a color in the photo that’s neutral.
Step Four: If you get a weird result with the White Balance Selector tool and you can’t get it quite right, you can always adjust the Temp and Tint slider as we did here to get to a great white balance. You can see that the overall photo is pretty dark.
Step Five: Here comes the one tip that will make your photos stand out. It’s so simple that you’ll think it’s a joke—but it really works! I’m going to show you how to relight your photo with a specific way of dodging and burning.
First, you can lower the Exposure (–0.10) of your photo in the Basic panel to make it even darker. Then, take the Adjustment brush (K), set both the Flow and Density to around 70, and boost the Exposure in the Adjustment Brush panel to around 2.0. The key is to set the Clarity on your brush to a negative value (–48 in this example). Brushing with a negative Clarity will give a little glow.
You want to brush over the light sources to enhance them, making the overall lighting much more interesting. You can also brush parts of the photo that you want to look brighter to attract the eyes of the viewers. Here, the red overlay shows the brushstrokes in this image.
Step Six: We’re done with the Adjustment brush. Now I like to step back and retouch the photo a second time with a fresh viewpoint. Let’s boost the Exposure a tiny bit (–0.05), move the Temp slider to 2,984 to make the photo a bit cooler, and boost the Contrast to +37. The Blacks are too strong, so let’s set them to –39 and lower the Highlights to –72.
Here’s the before image, followed by the basic edits, and then the final image with the dodging and burning to enhance the lighting. The changes are subtle but it makes a world of difference. Now let’s take a look at another example.
This room has great practical lighting, meaning there are little lights everywhere giving us flat lighting. My goal is to relight the room back in Lightroom for a more dramatic look. Before taking the shot, I closed the curtain so the only light sources were from the interior lights.
Step One: Let’s start with a basic retouch, as we did with the first photo: lower the Exposure to –0.65, open up the Shadows to +84, bring down the Highlights to –65, and set the white points to +51 and the black points to –26. This has already made the photo more contrasty and nicer.
Step Two: Now let’s relight it using the Adjustment Brush with the Flow and Density around 70, Clarity at –48 and Exposure at 1.42. You can brush all over the light sources to make the photo look more attractive. Here are the brushstrokes we used for this image.
Again, here’s the before image, followed by the basic edits, and then the final image with the dodging and burning to enhance the lighting.
You can now make your own interior design photos glow so they’re more attractive. It’s a very commercial look; it’s the same type of editing you see on brochures to sell products or travel. Just as you want to make your other images a little better than reality, you should also make your interior design photography a little better than reality. By making your photo darker and relighting it with a brush, you’re creating a mood and an emotion. Photography means writing with the light, so the better the light, the nicer your photos. It’s a very simple trick, but if you use it well, it can do wonders!
ALL IMAGES BY SERGE RAMELLI