Text and Photos by Christophe Benard
Let’s face it, shooting commercial and residential interiors can be challenging. Dealing with the wide dynamic range encountered in most places, mixed lighting conditions and problematic composition’s aspects can really put your skills to the test. Successful images are the result of a methodical approach addressing each of these difficulties one by one.
The human eye is a terrific machinery capable of seeing a wide range of details in both highlights and shadows. Camera systems on the other hand can be challenged when dealing with scenes including an extended dynamic range. It is particularly true when photographing interiors that have bright light sources such as windows or lights themselves. Bracketing exposure by exposing for different levels of highlights and shadows becomes a requirement to cover the full range of exposures in a residential or commercial space. The bracketed shots can then be blended in the computer to extend the dynamic range and showcase adequate details in all areas of the scene.
Mixed lighting is also a common problem for beginners. Each light source, artificial or natural, has a very specific color temperature measured in Kelvin. Controlling each of them is key to preventing white balance and color issues. One of the best things one can do to improve interior shots is to isolate light sources. For instance, in a bright residential space filled with natural light this can be achieved by turning off all the light fixtures in the room, leaving only one predominant source of illumination: natural light. In a space with limited natural light closing the blinds or curtains can be enough to prevent blueish natural light from contaminating a scene predominantly illuminated with warmer artificial light sources. That simple approach can be extended with the use of colored gels with flashes or strobes that need to match the color of the main source of illumination in the room.
Properly exposing an interior shot and controlling its white balance and overall color would be pointless if the framing was not carefully adjusted. The best interior images tend to focus on details or structural elements showcasing the intent of interior designers and architects. Moving furniture around and adjusting decorative items is a requirement to craft the best composition possible for the shot. The camera is generally set on a tripod, but its placement might become an issue in smaller rooms or places where the furniture cannot be moved. The Platypod Max is an invaluable asset in these situations and allows captures that would have been otherwise impossible. It also opens the door to new creative options and helps differentiate your work from other photographers limited by the constraints of a full-size tripod. Going around a room with a camera in hand to find “the shot” is consequently not as restrictive as it used to be when it comes to camera placement.
Overcoming the very specific challenges of interior photography results in the most rewarding moments when clients see their work portrayed like they would have never thought possible.