BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Poornima Makaram

lighting for interiors

I have tried practising shooting interior pictures at home. I have a problem of how to light so the ambient light is not lost. Also considering that I need the widest possible field of view, where do I put the lights so that they do not show in the image. And how do I avoid shadows coming out in one direction

To love this question, log in above
11/19/2008 7:36:11 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  The solutions for these types of problems probably require you to do some reading on the subjects of architectural photography which, as you might suppose, is a real art in order to get it really right.

Briefly, however, sometimes you don't need artificial light to supplement daylight/ambient light especially working with medium speed ISOs say around 200-250, using slow shutter speeds and a tripod at slower ISOs is helpful too. Also, if you know how to correct or color balance your shots, using room lighting to supplement ambient light works too. You can get strobes with edison bases made by outfits like Britek to screw into lamps in place of regular tungsten lamps that will trigger when they sense another flash, say on camera, going off.

I shoot architectural work using a view camera, often going down to a 90mm Apo Symar lens to get a wide angle of a room AND to be able to correc the distortion that wide angle lenses tend to create. Ofen, I set up the camera outside of the room I'm shooting and shoot through a doorway to get a sufficient view.

Lights can be hidden or placed under tables, behind sofas, out of camera view if they're powerful enough. You can bounce them off walls and ceilings to eliminate shadows, but you need to balance the strobes with ambient light to add to that lighting not overwhelm it. You may also have to rearrange the furniture in the room to eliminate shadows and change lighting positions to eliminate fireballs in windows or on mirrors. Sometimes we take mirrors down or angle the camera or lights so as to not cause reflections in glass.

Sometimes you need to use slaves to trigger your lights. Depends on the situation. It all depends on the room, the lighting, what type of lenses you have to work with, tripods, your own lighting, what modifiers you have for them, and how you stage everything. There are a lot of books written on this subject. Again, I recommend that you get one or two and start reading.
Also study magazines like Architectural Record, Residential Architecture, and other interior design mags to figure out how other photographers used their lighting, what direction it came from and what you would have done differently. Experiment and practice. It took me years to learn how to do this right and I'm still learning.
Take it light ;>)

To love this comment, log in above
11/19/2008 9:41:43 AM

Alan N. Marcus   The tried and true bounce lighting:

Because the human eye/brain combination has an amazing ability to adapt to low light levels, it is difficult to get across how feeble indoor lighting is as compared to sunlight. Generally indoor existing light shots suffer from shallow depth-of-field and blur due to a slow shutter speed setting. Ambient light generally records with a higher contrast than anticipated because the shadows are deeper than expected.

Bounce light to the rescue. We supplement ambient light by bouncing light off the ceiling. This extra light supplements the ambient light and permits the use of fast shutter speeds, this permits hand-holding the camera, otherwise a tripod is required. Bouncing off the ceiling results in a more even light thus high contrast normally associated with ambient light is contradicted.

Bounce light allows the light fixtures to be hidden away out of the camera’s viewpoint. Another benefit; ceiling bounce acts like a “broad” light source. “Broad’s” are advantages as they do not obey the law of the inverse square. This is a key point. Compact light sources fall off in intensity rapidly with distance. One must be mindfully and adjusts shutter speed and aperture if the subject is roaming about. A “broad” source is constant over a great span thus the subject is free to roam over a wide expanse as the exposure settings remain constant.

One can use bounce flash however to preserve the look of ambient lighting it would be advisable not to mix lighting sources. If the room is illuminated with tungsten, you are advised to bring in tungsten reflector floods or pin-up fixtures purchased at a hardware store. This is an inexpensive way to supplement ambient lighting.

Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)

To love this comment, log in above
11/19/2008 10:18:20 AM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Poornima,
I’ve been working on an article about this, but that isn’t finished. You can download at an article I published some time ago
The basic idea is to start with a large light source, say a 60 inch umbrella and add additional lights to taste. Easier to say than do. One thing that is really helpful, tether your camera to a laptop so you can really see what you are doing. You can use a long exposure with strobes so that will allow more ambient light into your shot. Strobes are only affected by the aperture you choose or a shutter speed OVER your sync speed. This leaves part of the sensor covered at the moment the strobes are triggered.
Thanks, John Siskin

To love this comment, log in above
11/20/2008 6:38:56 PM

Poornima Makaram   Thank you all so much. Thats a lot of information to begin with and I shall start reading and experimenting.

To love this comment, log in above
11/20/2008 8:09:46 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.