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Photography Question 
Richard M. 

Interior Photography Without Flash

I am embarking on photographing interiors and exteriors of historic properties - homes, churches, etc. What is the best equipment to capture the most optimal pictures/ I'm hoping for the quality that one would see in a coffee-table-type book. Most people I've encountered do NOT allow flash equipment inside the structures. How to capture the best photo without flash, and what type of equipment is needed?

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4/23/2005 9:44:57 PM

Chris J. Browne   You are trying to light a set without lighting the set. Granted, you only want one image instead of 24 images per second, but the principle remains ... you must light it. Natural light is beautiful, but it needs help when trying to squish it down to film. Contrast range is your killer here. Simply put, the world contains more contrast than film or digital mediums. You need to modify the light to match the film or digital medium: namely reduce contrast.
I would check out how motion picture production crews light a set ... it will give you oogles of ideas for lighting the image. Flashes are less distructive than hot lights ... for still photography.
Good luck.

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4/24/2005 7:26:53 AM

Richard M.    Thank you very much for responding. I will definitely take your suggestion and continue working on the task.

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4/24/2005 9:05:39 AM

Kerry L. Walker   You will need film that is balanced to the light that is available to you, most likely tungsten (or daylight film and a filter to compensate for the type of lighting), a good tripod, and a cable release (or use the self-timer). This is assuming you will not be able to use flash or other additional types of lighting. Available light is often hard to work with but can give you some dramatic shots.

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4/24/2005 11:26:38 AM

Many photographers looking to do a coffee-table book and/or that type of project shoot with 4x5 view cameras for a couple reasons: the superior quality of 4" x 5" film, and the ability to correct for perpective. When shooting a big project like this, you cannot have crooked doors and windows ... the images need to be square. This does not solve the lighting issues regarding contrast within the scene. If you can't use strobe, maybe you can use hot lights and shoot at dusk. You can get various setups that have swings and tilts or even a Perspective Control lens so you can shoot digitally. But the PC lenses often become useless with cameras that have small sensors, because they are no longer wide-angle enough. You can also correct these same perspectives in Photoshop, and it works well, but may not appear as true as an image taken on 4x5. If you cannot use lights of any kind, you could also try to increase the dynamic range of the digital image by shooting for the highlight and again for the shadow and combining in Photoshop.

Is your project for these historic sites and you have permission? Or is this a personal project? I wonder, because if it was for, say, the County Historic Society, they should let you in with lights. However, if this is your own project, a lot of these places don't allow flash because they don't want photographers shooting pictures and selling them. They want control over that. Graceland is a perfect example. They control every photo and video footage as to how and where it can be used. Your project sounds challenging ... have fun!

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4/24/2005 11:39:29 AM

William Koplitz   You will need a tripod. I wouldn't bother with film, but use a digital back on a view camera, you will need perspective control, you will need to make multiple exposures and layer and adjust them in Photoshop. The best way to make the room look the way you want it to is to paint with the light.

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4/26/2005 5:28:39 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005 should put a large banner at the top of the form where people enter questions. It should read, "If asking ANY questions about equipment, please let us know your BUDGET."

Do you already have a camera and are looking for advice on lenses & accessories, or are you starting from ground zero? If this is a personal project, how much do you want to spend? If this is a new career, how much do you want to invest upfront?

There's almost always a solution if your budget is unlimited. For example, a digital back on a view camera would work very well for this application, if you have several thousand dollars to spend.

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4/26/2005 7:10:49 AM

Maria Melnyk   Here are simple instructions. All the lights should be on. Meter your interior light. For churches an average reading is somewhere around 1 sec. at f/8 for 400 speed film, but it varies. You must add a full stop with interior tungsten lighting; it needs extra exposure to record the colors better. Use a light blue filter on your lens. I use an 82B, and it helps a lot. (Add 2/3rds exposure if metering manually to compensate for this filter.) If shooting with slide film you might want to use the 80-series filters. (Ignore the filter info if you are using tungsten-balanced film.) Set your camera on a tripod. Use a cable release, with mirror lock-up if you have it. Watch your verticals and horizontals; they must be perfect. And shoot. That's it.
For homes, same thing, except be aware of any lamps and make sure they throwing light where you want it.
If you can see the outdoors through a window that will be visible in the photograph, see if you can make the interior exposure match the outdoor exposure. (Ha, difficult to do unless you can use flash, but keep it in mind for very professional-looking photos.)

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4/27/2005 12:36:11 AM

Scott Pedersen   You will need to pack an 80A filter for under tougsten lights and there is another one for floresent. Its best to do this on camera and "not" with software. If they don't allow flash photograpy they probobly wont allow tripods either. I have found places like that. NO TRIPODS. So you will have to learn to hold er straght. Use 400 asa film to keep your speed up. Remember you loose a stop or two with the filter. The sunlight streaming though the windows will provide some stunning effects. You might have to come back a couple of times, at differnt times of the day to check that one out. Sounds like a fun project.

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4/27/2005 4:02:44 AM

Maria Melnyk   Well, I don't know about handholding 400-speed film inside a church, unless you use an f/2 aperture or something like that. I once had trouble handholding 3200-speed film in a dark church for a wedding! (No kidding.) I would recommend 800-speed film (Portra or Fuji NPZ; the others aren't as good for that coffee-table-book-look). Scott - the reason I use an 82A or B filter instead of 80A is because of the 2 stops lost with the 80A, and my lab corrects the remainder (for film), plus sometimes there is some outdoor light filtering in as well. I do agree, though, that 80A is the proper one for tungsten lighting.
If you aren't allowed to bring a tripod, I'd recommend bringing a tiny one - a tabletop. That way you can rest it on the floor and angle the camera up a bit (a nice effect I use for weddings); you can probably rest it on a pew or something, or even on your chest.
Make sure you also have a wide-angle lens (19-35mm or so); you'll want to use it at least half the time. In addition to your wide-angle shots, don't forget to zero in on some details, like a statue, candle, whatever.

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4/27/2005 4:09:32 PM

Richard M.    I truly appreciate the time everyone has taken to assist me. Your answers and suggestions are very valuable. Thank you for your time so much.

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4/29/2005 9:29:10 AM

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