Brew and Chew new menu shoot, Dec 2016
December 18, 2016
interiors shot - After
How to light interior spaces – breakdown of an interior shot – Part 2
January 18, 2017

How to light interior spaces – Part 1

When I started out doing interiors/architectural photography, I thought it was easy, but when tried the first time, turned out it is definitely not. why?
A myriad of reasons actually; first of all interiors/architecture photography is not just a matter of talent or point and shoot, but rather it needs extensive study and comprehension of how camera's sensor works and deals with lighting, then study how to overcome the obstacles behind it; I was once asked, "why do you light interiors?".
The answer is that while the dynamic range of the human eyes is superior and capable of discerning the tiniest details in the shadows and highlights simultaneously, camera's sensor is not; with contrasty conditions, there's a tremendous amount of photons (i.e. light particles) hitting the sensor which is not as perfect as our eyes in terms of interpreting details in such conditions; so, how does the camera handles this situation?
I am glad you asked; in these situations, camera would just expose for the brightest parts of the scene to properly expose them; but how about those areas looking properly exposed to our eyes??
Unfortunately they lose details and fall into shadows, and that's the main reason why interiors/architectural photographers use lighting when shooting; other reasons include carving the lighting and creating mood, depth and texture, but bringing shadows into life again is the main reason.
Now I'll share with you several interiors/architecture photographs, and the different techniques I utilized to light them; let's start with a simple one where you're lucky; why lucky? Because the space you're shooting enables you to hide your light and get it right in camera at one shot; on the left is the final image, while on the right I have drawn the light setup as best as I could "p.s. Excuse my drawing skills :) "
1-Main light is number one in blue to the right; a speedlight shining through a shoot through umbrella "e.g. STU" and doing all the heavy lifting on that image.
2-Another speedlight on the floor hidden behind these chairs, gridded and zoomed in, aimed upwards towards these book shelves, and adding some interesting highlights.
3-Lastly, a third gridded speedlight on a very low power to camera's left just to provide a bare kiss of light to the back of these chairs facing the lens.

We'll now move into another example of the easy "light it all at one shot" kind of images; This is an interiors image of an authentic Egyptian food restaurant in Cairo; On the left is the final image, and on the right is a lighting setup diagram explaining how it was lit:

As you can see; there's one speedlight shining through a "shoot through umbrella" lighting the main area facing the camera, but from the left side, shining through the big glass window, giving the space some nice mood and depth, and to camera's right few feet away there was another speedlight with an umbrella filling the back area where employees work, just to pull the viewer's eyes across the scene

Hope you found that useful, and yet simple.

In the next blog post, we will move up to a slightly more complex setups, where you don't get the final image all in camera, but a simple Photoshop work will be required, still simpler than composited images, which we'll jump into eventually.

Stay tuned, cheers.