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How High Should Your Camera Be When Shooting Real Estate Interiors?

Published: 15/06/2016
By: larry

CameraHeightKen asked the following question:

What heights do you set your tripod/monopod at? Do you shoot kitchens and bath lower or higher ? Do you shoot from an average height - 5'? or do you shoot higher ? Do you change shooting heights thru out the property ?  What is a comfortable height for the viewer? Any advantages from shooting higher or lower?

Here are my camera height rules. I have to admit that I've learned most of these rules of thumb from Scott Hargis so more accurately these are Scotts rules of thumb:

  1. In rooms where there aren't large surfaces you generally keep the camera between 36" and 48" off the floor. Composition considerations will determine the exact height.
  2. In kitchens or bathrooms, you have the camera height 15" to 20" above the counter (the primary surface) height AND you keep the camera height high enough so you can't see the surface on the bottom of the cabinets. Frequently there are lights and other stuff under there you don't want to show.
  3. In bedrooms, where the primary surface in the photograph is the bed you have the camera height 15" to 20" above the height of the bed. The lower the bed the lower the camera goes.

In #2 and #3 above, this means the camera will end up generally from 36" to 48" off the floor unless you have a very low bed.

The reason you typically don't have the camera above 48" is that you always have the camera leveled, ideally with a geared three-way head. So raising or lowering the camera (as well as how wide you are shooting) controls how much of the ceiling or floor is in the image. 36" to 48" gives you about the right amount of ceiling and floor.

I'm sure others will have different points of view on this.

9 comments on “How High Should Your Camera Be When Shooting Real Estate Interiors?”

  1. This is one of those this that separate one photographers style from another. If there is a special formula then all photographers would be the same. Each photographers has a vision and shows it thru their own style.

  2. I tend to shoot from a lower height in the bedroom if it is a nicely decorated bed/room, just above the foot of the bed toward the headboard. I feel this gives the bed more of a "hotel" feel. My thought is that if I can convey that the room will feel like an escape each night, it will be more desirable.

  3. I follow pretty much those same guidelines for camera height. I try to get midway between floor and ceiling, keeping camera level for non-converging verticals. For two-story spaces, I go higher. I notice that most RE photos in our MLS -- even for vertical spaces -- are horizontal (landscape) orientation. I go vertical (portrait) for two-story foyers and grand stairways for example.

  4. Generally I shoot at about 4-5 feet. I tend to be a little higher than others, and then I point the camera slightly downward. I adjust my verticals in lightroom or photoshop. I realize that this crops my image a bit, but that's ok with me as I start with a pretty wide lens. I've received feedback from clients that ceilings are not very important so I'd rather have more floor than ceiling. This means I need to have my camera pointed down. I don't have a tilt shift lens so this is how I do it. Additionally, framing out the ceiling makes dealing with ceiling hotspots a little easier too.

  5. I'm under 5' tall and, in my second half of life, I've found another profession that is perfect for me (g'head--try to guess the first). I am naturally shooting at 15-20" above counter height, no stooping required. Maybe my petite self is overly sensitive to this, but shots where the camera is lower make me very uncomfortable, like I'm a Hobbit (don't say it), or sinking into the floor. 36" seems like it would be far too low, but I'll try some experiments and see if I like it. I'll sneak in a little more ceiling if it is coffered or otherwise architecturally interesting, but generally prefer a bit more floor and do the fake tilt-shift/post fix like Trevor does.

  6. I think it would be a great guide for starters to put the camera as low as you possibly can without making things look ridiculous. Sometimes that's very low, like when shooting at coffee tables and stuff.

  7. The heights in the article are a good starting point. Bed heights can range a lot. I've had everything from Japanese style, on the floor mattress to four-posters that have a step to help climb in. With a standard US bed, the 15"-20" above the mattress guideline will work most of the time. I keep an eye out for balance with the rest of the furniture too.

    There is a local office that uses a staffer to take photos (as opposed to "make" photos) that is vertically challenged. They will often shoot below counter height in kitchens and bathrooms and present a toddlers-eye view of a home that just doesn't work. The agents aren't paying extra for the photography so they don't seem to care very much. I haven't been able to sell anybody from that office on using professional photography. Their descriptions are all about the same and just a compilation of standard RE marketing clichés. I haven't given up on marketing to those agents, but they are a much lower priority if I'm out visiting open houses.

    I look for a good balance of ceiling and floor for most rooms. In kitchens, I want to have some separation between an island and the counters. Most of the time I am adjusting my camera height and occasionally I'll do a little fake T/S if I need. With two story high rooms, I don't have excess ceiling issues so I am looking for a good composition that doesn't leave a huge amount of negative space with the walls. These rooms usually have tall windows that allude to the high ceiling so I don't have to actually show the ceiling to convey the height. I try to shoot horizontally exclusively. I feel it works better on the local MLS's which are formatted that way and when a gallery is viewed on a mobile device, the person doesn't have to keep flipping the phone around.

  8. For me, the general starting point is 1/2 of the ceiling height. Since most homes have 8 foot ceilings +/-, I keep the camera at 48". With a level camera set half way between the floor and ceiling, all the walls will be straight and there will be a good balance between the floor and ceiling. Adjust as you go for composition. I typically stay at 48" for most rooms and I lower the camera 6-8" for bathrooms, in favor of more floor. Exteriors are all shot with a 24mm T/S set at 5'-6" (height of my eye).

  9. Interesting to see the range of perspectives. Good topic.

    For me, camera height is generally 54" for most rooms; varying as composition may require. Kitchens are almost invariably higher, enough to not show underneath the upper cabinets. Bathrooms, are whatever composition and reflective surfaces dictate.

    As I discuss with my clients, we want to down play expansive ceilings in favor of floors. It's about selling square footage from that perspective.

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