Using Black Flags for Interior Photography


In case you don’t know, a black flag is used in photography to absorb light and keep it from reaching your subject. It is the opposite of a reflector which bounces light onto your subject.

Interior photography is not unlike other types of photography in which you have a main subject, must compose carefully and place lights in the correct location. But it can present challenges too. Take a look at his picture:

bathroom

See that window? Sunlight is streaming in and bouncing off the floor which then reflects up into the bathroom. It’s typically bad practice to light a portrait of a person from underneath. It gives them that scary camp-fire-ghost-story look. Well, the same applies here. Look carefully at the shadows and you can tell the light source is coming from underneath. Even with flash, I could not make it looked balanced or pleasing. Here’s another look:

iPhone bathroom shot

You can see the sun bouncing off the floor and wall. I did not want to leave it as is and have people think that I lit the bathroom from underneath. I was stumped until I remembered that I always bring my 5-in-1 reflector with me. One of the sides is black. So I draped that over the spot where the sun was hitting:

IMG_1379

The black helped absorb the light and let me balance the ambient with flash for a more pleasing look. Here’s the final image:Final Bathroom Image

Notice the shadows cast by the bathtub faucet and light fixtures are less noticeable. The glare on the cabinet is reduced as is the brightness of the tile on the bathtub.

Most people may not think of using a 5-in-1 reflector for interior and real estate photography, but it’s just another photographic tool which helps to control the light.

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Translating an Interior Scene from Camera to Screen


I was discussing my style and photographic vision with a homeowner recently. He complimented my work and I explained my goal is to translate what I see with my eye. That process is not easy. Behold what the camera saw in this scene:

Living Area
That’s about 1-to-2 stops overexposed. In other words, I had to disagree with what the camera thought was a “correct” exposure. That’s nowhere close to what I saw with my eyes. Here is the editing process I went through to get it to look natural:

Photoshop Screenshot

 

You can see it took 6 different layers to massage the image and get it to look like this:

Living Area

 

The room has a lot of dynamic range; from the brightness outside the sliding glass door to the dark furniture. As they say, when you get lemons, make lemonade.

My Worst Critic


There’s this guy; hard to please. You know the type. Every once in a while, he’ll like one of my images, but he’s never really satisfied with my work. That guy is me. I think I am producing some of the best work of my career right now. Not every single image is a winner, but I have more hits than misses and the hits are pretty good. But I’m still not where I want to be. I am, at least, reassured by looking at my past work. I can look at my work from a year ago and wince a little. It was the same the year before that. It’s a sign of personal growth.

I’ve done “before and after” comparisons before (links at the end of this post). This time, I am comparing my own work. I recently had the opportunity to photograph a property that I shot in 2010.

Living Room

Before

This first one isn’t terrible, but the color seems a bit off and it would be nice to see what’s outside that window.

Living Room

After

That’s better. A slightly different composition but the room seems a bit brighter. Here’s the reverse angle:

Living Room

Before

Living Room

After

Next is the master bedroom:

Master Bedroom

Before

I think I was trying too hard to show the TV in the shot (clients ask for it). So I decided to take a different approach.

Master Bed

After

Again, you can see out the window and the color and lighting is a bit more pleasing. How about the master bath?

Master Bath

Before

Master Bath

After

Ouch. Enough said.

Bedroom

Before

Bedroom

After

That last one is pretty much the same story. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, mostly through trial and error. I develop new techniques and refine them. When you do something over and over again, it begins to take shape. I hope I can look back at my work next year and see improvement.

Can’t get enough of the before and after stuff? Check out these past posts:

Before and After: A Tale of Two Villas

Why Realtors Should Use Professional Photography

Before and After Real Estate Photos

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.

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

Before and After: A Tale of Two Villas


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a “before and after” series (you can see the past posts linked at the end of this one). I thought you might enjoy the night and day differences between the images a client had before and what I delivered. The client was so pleased, he said it looked like two different  villas.

Before image of house

Before

After image of house front

After

Before image of pool

Before

After image of pool

After

Living Room Before

Before

Living Room After

After

Dining Before

Before

Dining After

After

Game Room Before

Before

Game Room After

After

Master Bedroom Before

Before

Master Bedroom After

After

Master Bed Before

Before

Master Bed After

After

Master Bed Before

Before

Maste Bed After

After

Related Posts:

Before and After Real Estate Photos

Before and After Real Estate Photographs

Why Realtors Should Use Professional Photography