I found the perfect dining area for a demo interior shoot. The room had bare windows, stainless steel appliances, reflective cupboards, and shadowy nooks – in other words, lots of obstacles. I even let the two dogs stay in the house, despite having to periodically call them over to me to get them out of frame. I limited myself to a DSLR camera with a wide angle lens, two strobes, two light stands, two umbrellas, and a tripod (more on gear choices here) – and here’s what I ended up with:
It’s not a perfect interior photo, but I think it’s pretty decent based on the difficulty of the area and the limited number of flashes. The image is well exposed except for a couple of dark areas and a few blown-out highlights. If I could, I’d add in one or two more strobes to better illuminate the cupboards, minimize shadows, and try to prevent light falloff. Most importantly though, I managed to balance the interior and exterior light. If you remember from Part 1 of this series, a common problem is when the interior and exterior light cannot be balanced, which was the case with this room. Here’s a shot taken without a flash, using full-frame metering:
According to the camera’s metering system, the photo above is perfectly exposed. However, we can clearly see that the shot suffers from both over and under exposure that has rendered most of the visible areas useless. In order to compensate for this problem, we need to add light to the interior – which is exactly what I did.
So, here’s how I did it:
1) Select a Metering Mode
As usual, I started by observing the scene and determining the areas that were both brightest and darkest. There was nothing I could do about the sunlight/window, so I decided to use it as my principle level of exposure. I set my camera to Spot Metering, which we discussed a while back, so that I could target the bright window area.
I spot metered my camera to the window and manually configured the settings to f8 for my aperture and 1/200 second for my shutter speed to allow for a decent depth of field. I metered the shot at 200 ISO. Here’s what I ended up with:
Now, this photo may look absolutely terrible, but it’s exactly what I wanted/expected. The exterior light is no longer overexposed, and it gives me a point of reference for my interior light requirements.
2) Add Strobe/Flash #1
Now that we have a reference point, it’s time to add the first light. I set up the first flash to the left of the camera, and I bounced the light in an umbrella. Bouncing the light softens it, and makes for less distinct shadows. The light stand was erected as high as I could get it, and angled down on the dining area. I initially set the flash to 1/2 power, but increased the strength after a couple of test shots. A light meter would eliminate the need for trial and error, but we’ll get into that another day. Here’s one of the test shots:
On the positive side, the interior and exterior light are closer to being balanced, but there are a few reflections, and dark areas that require attention. Sometimes you just have to tweak the placement of lights and continue doing test shots to get it just right.
3) Add Strobe/Flash #2
Once you get the first light in a good location, it’s time to add the second into the mix. I didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver, but I found a good spot at the end of the room to the right of the camera. Here’s the basic floor plan with camera and flash placement:
With a bit of tweaking, I was able to get a shot I was happy with. Flash #2 was erected to about 5-6 feet, also bounced off an umbrella, and set at 1/2 power.
I had to perform some minor color correction to the final image in Adobe Photoshop, as I chose not to use color correcting gels. The image was shot in RAW which allowed for some added flexibility in both exposure and color temperature. You can use this method with any number of lights, just keep adding them in until you have enough. It’s a bit more time consuming, but it is a great way to stand out from the crowd – and we all know that in real estate, standing out from the crowd is a very good thing.