Why Not To Use a UV Filter for Interior Photography


There are two schools of thoughts when it comes to using UV filters on your lens and I’ve gone back and forth between the two. The first school of thought says you should use a UV filter to protect your lens. You paid a lot of money for it, wouldn’t it be a shame if something poked or shattered the glass? It’s better to lose a $30 filter than a $1000 lens.

The second school of thought asks why put a cheap piece of glass in front of an expensive one? What are the chances of something hitting the front part of your lens anyway? If you’re careful and use a lens hood chances are, you’ll be OK.

I used to belong to the first camp. Then I moved to the second camp with the belief that any filter is a tool which should only be used when needed.

Recently, I noticed some spots on my lens that I could not wipe off. I think it may be areas where the coating has rubbed off. Alarmed, I decided to put the UV filter on and leave it on to protect the lens. Silly me. Take a look at this picture and notice the area above the painting on the wall.

Game Room

You see those yellow spots? That’s ghosting or flare from the overhead light. Different light sources are hitting the glass of the filter which bounce off before reaching the lens and sensor. Here’s a closer look with the flare spots circled in red. The other two spots are not that noticeable until you zoom in.

Flare Zoom

I had heard that UV filters can cause that effect in low light situations. In fact, I experienced it once shooting a night-time parade; it was awful. That is another reason why I moved to the no-filter camp. But as I mentioned, I foolishly defected for a short period.

Just to confirm my thoughts, I removed the filter and took another shot…

Game Room

Is that Photoshop at work? Did I clone it out? Nope. The second shot is just taken without the UV filter. (It’s much easier and faster to get it right in camera than to spend time in post.) Interiors are dark enough and the long exposure times means light has more time to refract from the filter.

Look, you don’t walk around with a hammer or a screwdriver in your pocket all day. When you need a tool, you get it, use it and put it back. That’s how I feel about filters. You don’t leave a polarizing or neutral density filter on your lens all the time. So why leave a UV filter on? Filters are tools to accomplish specific tasks. If you are shooting in hazy conditions or bright sun, sure, why not break out the UV filter? Otherwise, why give up image quality for the perception of increased protection? Ask yourself, in all the time I’ve owed my lens, how many filters have been smashed? If the answer is zero, you can do without it.

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Behind the Scenes of a Real Estate Photo Shoot


I recently posted a picture on my Facebook fan page and someone asked for some behind the scenes info. While I sometimes take some set-up shots with my phone, I’m usually so busy I forget to do it more often. So instead, I thought I’d show a couple of exposures I used to make a final image.

bedroom set-up shot

In the photo above you can see my strobe firing into the ceiling. I took this exposure for the window on the far side of the bedroom. I had already taken one exposure for the bedroom using a single speedlight. But that flash is not powerful enough to overpower the sun. It requires a shutter speed fast enough to render detail out the window but it leaves the window frame nearly black. So I pull out the big gun. This is the final image:

Master Bed 1-3 copy

It’s a similar scenario in the master bathroom. I took an exposure for the room with the speedlight in my hand bounced off the ceiling. But if I took an exposure for the outside, the flash would reflect off the window. So I had to move slightly to the left. This exposure also corrects for the light fixture which would otherwise be blown out.

_R5A2975 copy

This is the final image:

Master Bath 1 copy

So there you have it. Just a couple of examples that give you a little insight into how I get my shots.

 

Behind the Scenes: Composing For Interior Photography


If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen some of the behind-the-scenes shots I’ve posted of my camera and tripod positioned so I can get a good shot. In interior photography, the size of the room and layout of the furniture sometimes present challenges against the composition I want to achieve. Below are some of those shots and the end result.

tripod on table Living Room copy

BTS-2Living Room-1

photo (1) copyRVH_072_Master Bed 1-1 copy

Technique Tutorial: Photographing and Editing a Bathroom


Bathroom
I hate shooting bathrooms. It is one of the most challenging scenarios I face when shooting interiors. Mostly because of the darn mirrors; I have to figure out how to shoot it without catching my reflection.

When I shoot, I try to give the image context by showing a room in relation to its surroundings. The image above, for example, is a master bathroom in a condo. So I always try to show the room it belongs to in the reflection in the mirror. This gives you a sense of space and lets you know that you can access the bathroom from that bedroom. Easier said than done.

The first step is to get an exposure for the room reflected in the mirror.  If I shoot to expose for the bathroom, the reflection will be overblown and you won’t see detail in the mirror. You can see from the reflection in the shower door that I am holding a flash “Statue-of-Liberty-like” and bouncing it off the ceiling. I also have a strobe in the room to provide the light in there.

Now I want to expose for the bathroom. There’s one problem, however, and that is white balance. I’ve written about white balance before and how you can use gels to correct for light sources. In this case, the bathroom is lit with incandescent  bulbs (warm light) and the light coming from the open door is daylight (cool light). To filter out any blue light, I just close the door. That doesn’t solve my problem, though. The light that comes from flashes is also daylight balanced. So I put a full cut of CTO (color temperature orange) on the flash and set my camera’s white balance to “tungsten” (incandescent for Nikon users). The difference is subtle, but I want to capture what I saw with my eyes and what I saw was the warm glow of the bulbs. But I still have my reflection on the shower door. One more exposure to correct for that:

Then it’s just a matter of masking in Photoshop. I use the first exposure for the room in the mirror and to correct for the overblown lights. I use the third exposure to get rid of my reflection. I then had to do some cloning to remove the reflection of the camera on the shower door. The end result is the image at the top of this post. Three shots for one bathroom. Did I mention how much I hate shooting bathrooms?

Photographing an In-Home Arcade


Most of the luxury homes I photograph have at least one room dedicated to entertainment. Maybe it’s a pool table in the garage, or an in-home movie theater. Then there’s the in-home bowling alley. But a recent shoot took the cake for the number of arcade games in one room.

In-Home Arcade

It’s one thing to add six arcade machines in what used to be a garage; but the homeowner went the extra step of knocking out a bedroom and bathroom to add another machine…

In-Home Arcade

..and did I mention the 80-inch LCD TV?

In-Home Arcade

Who needs bedrooms and bathrooms in a house when you’ve got an arcade? Actually, that red sofa does have a pull out bed.

Here are a couple more looks at the room:

In-Home Arcade

In-Home Arcade

All this just leaves one question: Can I borrow some tokens?

Photographing a Private Bowling Alley


bowling alley

This was probably my most unique assignment to date. I got a request not too long ago asking me how much I would charge to photograph one room. I thought, “Just one room? That’s odd.” I asked for more information and found out this was a bowling alley inside someone’s house! The lanes were installed by Fusion Bowling and they install private bowling alleys. Talk about a niche market!

I showed up for the job in a very exclusive community and found out the home belongs to a professional major league baseball player. The bowling alley is actually on the second floor.

The shoot was pretty straight forward. The lanes create natural leading lines that make composition a no-brainer. The client asked if I shot HDR. I told him I don’t because I generally don’t like the look of HDR; it just doesn’t look realistic. I have seen some interior photographers use HDR in a style I like, but I haven’t figured out the technique. Every HDR I’ve tried always has that “HDR look”. I prefer a natural look so I take multiple exposures and blend them using masks. I did take several exposures in this case specifically for HDR and I might post an update so you can see the comparison. I’m currently reading RC Concepcion’s “The HDR Book” to see if I can learn something new.

You can see more images from the shoot in the gallery; and don’t forget you can like, comment on, rate and share individual images on my site. Give it a try!

Technique Tuesday: Bedroom


Ok, I’m calling this “Technique Tuesday” but I can’t promise I’ll do this every week. But today is Tuesday and this is about a technique I use almost everyday; hence the title. Brilliant, no?

A Master Bedroom

f/10, 1/3 second, ISO 200

The image above is pretty much the RAW image straight out of camera. It’s shot with a Canon 5D and a 580EXII on camera with a diffuser and bounced off the ceiling. If I remember correctly, I believe I have the flash set to TTL and boosted it by +2.

I then set up an Alien Bees 1600 strobe to camera left fired through an umbrella and set to 1/8 power for the image below.

Master Bedroom

f/8, 1/8 second, ISO 200

You can see right away what adding an extra off-camera light adds to the image. (Note: the image above was tweaked slightly in Adobe Camera Raw.) I then took another exposure for the window:

Master Bedroom

f/10, 1/180th, ISO200

I also tweaked the image above to bring out the blue in the sky a little. I then placed that image on top of the first one in Photoshop and masked out the window for the final image. I also got rid of that bothersome sensor dust in the ceiling.

Master Bedroom

That’s it. No fancy HDR tricks. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.