How to Photograph Interiors - Part 1 - Preparation

Today’s post is the first in a three-part series from Janet Kwan of Janet Kwan Photography. In this series, Janet draws back the curtain and details the steps she takes to SUCCESSFULY photograph interiors. A guide for interior designers and decorators, Part One of Janet’s “How to Photograph Interiors” series begins with a lesson on how to prepare your interior for the photographer.

So, without any further ado, here’s Janet…..

Part 1: Preparation

So the renovations are finally done and you’ve styled the beautiful new space. The next step is to hire a professional interior photographer to capture the space so that you can share it with the world. But first, we need to decide if your space is even ready to be photographed.

In part one of this 3-part series, I’m sharing a list of things that are crucial to do before your photographer even steps into the home.

Interior Photography vs Real Estate Photography

First, there’s a lot more to interior photography than just taking a photo. It’s important to understand the difference between real estate and interior photography.

The goal of real estate photography is to show the overall layout of the entire home. Generally, these photos enlarge the space to appeal to potential buyers. This is not the same as interior photos, which are meant to feature the design and style to create connection and emotion to the room. Details matter a lot more in interior photography so don’t skimp on any of these steps!

Photographed for Oak and Isaac/Kelly Johnson

The Checklist

In any photoshoot, preparation is key. As a photographer, my job is to capture your place as it was intended. To make things easier, I’ve put together this checklist of the 6 key ways to ensure that the room looks its best.


It sounds obvious, but it needs to be said. While we want to show off the room’s personality, we don’t want to take the focus away from it as a whole. We want the viewer to feel invited and welcomed without feeling overwhelmed visually. 

Remove items that are a distraction such as personal photos or used towels, toiletries, etc. that aren’t necessary to convey the feel of the space. 

Clean surfaces 

We want the place to look clean and welcoming so it’s important to pay attention to the details.

  • Mirrors and windows: Wipe down your mirrors with a microfibre cloth and wash those windows (both inside AND outside) to remove all streaks and dust. It may look clean but when you start wiping them down, you’ll notice how much fine dirt has accumulated over time, especially after renovations.

  • Floors: Be sure to sweep, vacuum and mop the floor, particularly in the corners and under furniture (yes, even under a bed or couch with legs. Even a thin layer of dust and hair can stick out like a sore thumb.

  • Tables, coffee tables and shelves: Dust these surfaces as well as items on it. Again, dust can be very obvious in certain angles.

  • Hardware and appliances: Remove water stains and fingerprints from hardware such as the faucet, refrigerator, kettle, oven, etc.

  • Screens: Wipe any fingerprints and dust off the TV and computer/laptop. Any smudge and fingerprint will show up on those dark glossy screens.

Photographed for The Kwendy Home (L) and 1smallspace (R)

Hide wires, cables and cords

Tuck any cords and cables away from sight by wrapping them or temporarily taping them behind furniture. And not just from standing height. Get down to about waist-level where the camera may be positioned to check that the cables are completely hidden from view.

Photographed for The Kwendy Home (L) and Muguet Design (R)

Straighten and align furniture, mirrors, and artwork

Crooked furniture will be noticeable. Use your walls and floors to help align furniture, mirrors and artwork to surroundings. Make sure objects are level, parallel to the wall and evenly spaced. 

Photographed for Jennifer McLean

Photographed for Muguet Design (L) and 1smallspace (R)


Iron or steam out fabrics like bedding, throw blankets, curtains and pillowcases so they aren’t wrinkled.

Fold and tuck in bedsheets and linens. Remember to pull the sheets taut. Watch the corners and edges to make sure the covers and throws are evenly spread out and nothing unwanted is showing. We want the bed to look fresh and inviting. 

Photographed for Muguet Design and The Kwendy Home

Style with Intention

Styling is a whole topic on its own, but here are a few small but effective ways to put the finishing touches on any room.

Every piece should be added intentionally. Add personality to the room, but make sure that they work together. Use your style and colour palette as your guide.

Play around with the different heights of your furniture and decor to add dimension. Just be aware that they aren’t too drastic (eg. Tall table lamp and tiny succulent) or else some items will get lost in the final photo. 

You can also liven up the room with plant life:

  • Fresh flowers (Baby’s breath and hydrangeas are simple, popular options)

  • House plants (Play around with small to large plants in different areas of the room) 

  • Leaves and sprigs (Bundles of eucalyptus leaves and lavender are a nice touch)

Photographed for The Kwendy Home and Oak and Isaac/Kelly Johnson


We have identified the 6 ways of preparing a room for interior photography:

  1. Declutter

  2. Clean surfaces

  3. Hide wires, cables and cords

  4. Straighten and align 

  5. Fabrics

  6. Style with Intention

Hopefully, this checklist is helpful the next time you have a room that needs to be photographed.

Stay tuned to part 2 of this 3-part series on How to Photograph Interiors!


Part 1: Preparation

Part 2: Photography

Part 3: Post-Processing

About the Author

Janet is a lifestyle photographer based in Toronto, Canada, specializing in business branding, interior and product photography. She works with small to large companies to create custom professional photos for their branding and marketing needs. Her work has been published in Apartment Therapy and The Jungalow. Some of her past clients include Airbnb, McDonald's Canada, Vichy, Haagen-Dazs, The Distillery Historic District and more. She loves The Office, sunsets and exploring the different neighbourhoods in Toronto.

Contact the Author

Instagram: @janetkwan

Janet Kwan