Help Wanted From Others --- Lighting Questions...

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Lazarus Realty

I shot a home yesterday for another agent and it was a REALLY BIG home with big windows and lots of daylight outside.  I had the obvious problem of trying to capture the inside of the home without having the windows blown out.  I was using 3 Nikon SB800 strobes but the house was so big I wasnt getting enuf light from them to balance the exposure. 

This is a shot in the living room, which is one of the main shots.  I didnt anticipate it being so difficult but I think it had to do with the size of the home.  Anyway, I decided to shoot a couple of shots, one exposing the outside and one exposing the inside -- but the one for the inside was still underexposed because I didnt want that really bright wash out glare.  Then I worked at combining the two images.  I didnt do HDR because I havent studied it enough to be proficient at it I just ramped up the exposure on the one image and put the windows on a seperate layer in Photo Shop and blended the two.

I know most of you will look at it and go WOW! --- but the more experienced photogs are likely to see some major flaws.  The picture looks OK for the internet but I dont know if I would want to print it.

My question for this pic is what do you use to light a large home inside to counter the bright light outside?  I hate to sink more money into flash equipment but I think the answer might be a 500 watt strobe.  OTH - I imaging that a large srtobe might make it bright with dark shadows.  For example - look at the subtle shadow on the coffee table to the right.  I wouldnt want that shadow really DARK.

I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO NAIL THESE SHOTS WITHOUT HAVING TO DO SO MUCH POST PROCESSING.  Please let me know what you would do in this situation.

Living Room

 

My next question has to do with the stairwell.  It really beautiful, as you can see, but shooting it was a pain.  It seemed like no matter how I attemtped to throw light on it I was getting shadows --- shadows all over the place!  I mean the pictures looked good - as far as being bright - but I could not use a single one done with flash.  So - since I the competing light from the outside was only coming through a couple of small windows I just turned the lights on and did it without the flash.  But as you can see I still ended up with plenty of shadows and dark areas.

I am thinking that I may need to get some pocket wizards.  Does anybody else here use them.  The range for the Nikon CLS system isnt all that far and is a bit tempermental.  Dont get me wrong - if they are relatively close - there is no problem at all but I was getting mixed results the farther they got from the master unit.

My question here: What do the experienced among us do for lighting when shooting stairwells? 

 

Stairwell

 

© Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Broker / Owne: Lazarus Realty

 

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Rainer
334,630
Tom Davis
Harrington ERA,DE Homes For Sale, $$ Save $$ Buy Today ! - Dover, DE
FREE Delaware Homes Search!, $$ Save $$ - Find Homes! Delaware Realtor

I personally think that picture looks great...but maybe someone else who is more techie about it will have something to say..

Thanks Tom Davis Realtor In Delaware

Mar 21, 2008 06:03 PM #1
Rainmaker
284,867
Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate
I really wish I had your problem.  It does look good for the size but there are some problems that might crop up if you were printing.  Without spending some real money I don't know how you could do much better.  Most of the shots can be photo shopped but I know you want to stay away from that.  Sorry I don't do that kind of photography but your pictures look great.
Mar 22, 2008 08:09 AM #2
Rainer
8,525
Gary and Rebecca Bolda
Ark-La-Tex Virtual Media - Shreveport, LA

I think the second photo is better than the first.  It has that inviting quality to it.  I personally think some shadows in the photo are ok.  Not those dark monsters that seem to creep from beneath the sofa or coffee table, but normal shadows which light casts.  Shadows are a natural part of life, something we expect to see.  If you look around the room you are in right now, there are shadows, either from the light outdoors or the lighting in the room.  Its just natural.  Allowing that to come out in your photos gives them a warmer, more inviting quality.  It adds 3 dimensions to something that is 2 dimensional. 

Without them, I think the photo takes on an auster quality.  Sure, everything in the room is very visible, but there is little to make the viewer say "wow, I want to hang out in there!". 

In my personal opinion, keep the shadows, picture 2 is great.

Mar 22, 2008 11:16 AM #3
Rainmaker
79,032
Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Lazarus Realty - Fresno, CA
Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California

Gene - thanks for commenting, but you didnt answer my question ;(

Gary or Rebecca - I'm not asking which is better and I understand about shadows, I dont have a problem with them per se, it's just when I introduce flash to get the light that I need that I have problems.  DO YOU EVEN USE FLASH?  I looked at the pic on your profile page and notice the windows on the entry door at the far end are totally blown out.  Personally, I would not use that pic- or I would crop out or fix that  blown out window - cuz you guys are supposedly pros - I'm just a fast tracking amatuer.  Beyond explaining about shadows, CAN YOU GIVE ME ANY INSIGHT WITH RESPECT TO FLASH??? ,esp in pic # 1.  As for pic#2 - as I stated (if you can read between the lines) I took a LOT of pictures and this is the best one - and happens to be the one WITHOUT flash and fortunately I was able to get decent exposure using natural light and the chandeliers - my questions is WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE TO USE FLASH?

 

Mar 22, 2008 03:20 PM #4
Rainmaker
284,867
Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate
I'm sorry but I couldn't come close to answering your question but I do like your pictures.
Mar 23, 2008 01:03 AM #5
Rainer
8,525
Gary and Rebecca Bolda
Ark-La-Tex Virtual Media - Shreveport, LA
OK sorry, I guess I was misunderstanding.  It sounds to me as if you are on the right track.  You are using multiple strobe already, I also turn on all the lighting in the room that I can without creating hotspots in order to compensate for the blue of the strobes.  You may be doing this already.  Also, I direct my strobe at the window to light the interior more consistently with the exterior, then try bouncing the light in the other parts of the room to get a more consistent lighting in relation to the window area.  I also use a diffuser if I am getting washout in an area, or colorshift.  I don't know if any of this is helpful, but it is all the tricks I have up my sleeve.  I use the SB800 myself, it is a great flash.
Mar 23, 2008 03:41 AM #6
Rainer
6,065
Susie Larsen
Susie Larsen Photography - Pocatello, ID
East Idaho Real Estate Photographer

Randy,

I recently took an architectural lighting class. The instructor is very much a pro, and for your #1 question, he taught us to do EXACTLY what you did! You expose for the room, getting the lighing just right inside (you still must be sure not to blow the windows terribly, or you will get spill or wraparound on the window frames, curtains, etc..). Then you shoot some that expose for the outside, and do it in layers like you did. Of course you must have a really steady tripod, which it looks like you did. As for as the merge, I don't see many flaws at all. I think it looks great. The only thing that bothers me, is the ceiling is very cool (blue), I suppose from your strobes. You can correct all that with color corrective gels- you'll need a color meter too. But....honestly, unless you are photographing for a paint company, a magazine...you will knock thier socks off.

So, for question #2, you can do the same thing. You expose for the lower level and stairwell, and then you move you lights and expose for the upstairs and put them together in layers. I have mostly done windows, fireplaces, and light fixtures, so this situation seems it would prove tricky, and you would most likely have to use a color meter and color corrective gels over your strobes.     What a gorgeous stairway!

I don't know if you placed a strobe in the dining area (the red room), but it would be easy enough to add that area in a layer and use all your lights in the stairs area.

I have heard the pocket wizards are great. I need to look into those, too. I have the same problem if my strobes are very far.

Hope this makes sense; it's very late.

Good luck,

Susie

Mar 23, 2008 08:08 PM #7
Rainmaker
79,032
Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Lazarus Realty - Fresno, CA
Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California

Gary Rebecca - thanks

Susie - I didnt think of "blending" the stairwell - that might be worth a try.  The problem I found with the stair well is that when light was  introduced I got shadows of the balusters (actually the entire rail) all over the place.

 

 

Mar 24, 2008 04:51 AM #8
Rainer
61,374
Lisa Lambert
The Law Offices of Elisabeth A. Lambert - Fresno, CA
Esq. 1031 Exchange Expert
Although, this isn't answering your question from a layperson's point of view both photos achieve your goal, although the angle of the first photo seems a bit awkward. The staircase photo is really exceptional.
Mar 24, 2008 06:15 AM #9
Rainmaker
79,032
Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Lazarus Realty - Fresno, CA
Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California
Lisa - I know that angle in the living room pic is awkward.  I tried to do the shoot from the hall looking straight out the window.  It was a nice angle but the problem is I couldnt get the flash out of the window.  I ended up having to go into the corner at this angle to be able to catch both the living area and the outside.  You dont realize how challenging some of these shots are until you actually try to do them.  Getting the lights positioned properly takes considerable time and effort.  Thanks for the comment though :)
Mar 24, 2008 05:45 PM #10
Rainer
38,233
Jay Groccia
OnlinePropertyShowcase.com - Boston, MA

Don't think ONE BIG LIGHT, think MULTIPLE SMALLER LIGHTS.

 

The goal is to give the rooms a natural appearance - make the viewer feel that they are actually in the room. When you have a single source of light it is no different than having a completely dark room and illuminating it with a powerful flashlight.  forget about photography for a moment and think about how a room is lit for living: we like indirect lighting like tray lighting, we like lots of light sources like track lighting or multiple cans in the ceiling, we put a ceiling fixture that spreads light all over a white ceiling to evenly illuminate the room, etc.

You want to employ these same techniques for your flash - go out and get a handful of small slaves and hide them around the room - yes, it takes some experimenting, but with enough practice you'll get it and when you do, you'll get results like this (click the photo to see the rest of the house):

Kitchen photograph by Jay Groccia, Principal Photographer (c)2008 OnSiteStudios.com your source for architectural and real estate photography for luxury home marketing

 

Jay Groccia, Principal Photographer

OnSite Studios 

 

 

Apr 07, 2008 02:15 AM #11
Rainmaker
79,032
Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Lazarus Realty - Fresno, CA
Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California

Jay,

 

thanks for commenting but in all fairness you have posted a picture of a small kitchen with mutiple indoor lights that looks like an easy capture.  When shooting the kitchen alone I didnt have too many problems - except for finding a place where the flash didnt reflect off the counter.


In my shot above (my original post) I was already using multiple strobes (3 sb800s) it seemed like my problem was:

1: the rooms we so BIG that lighting them with 3 strobes just wasnt enough

2: the volume of windows and light pouring through them was not nearly balanced enough by my current flash power.  Add to that the so many windows makes placing multiple strobes very challenging -- otherwise you see them IN the windows.

My final question has to do with stairwells.  When I put multiple stobes around the stairwell --- I got multiple shadows from the balusters and not one of my multi strobe shots worked.  I am wondering how others have dealt with this situation. 

Apr 07, 2008 04:08 AM #12
Rainer
38,233
Jay Groccia
OnlinePropertyShowcase.com - Boston, MA

OK,

Here is what I suggest:

1. Set your exposure to the windows - what you are showing now is way too dark for the outside - it looks like a poster on the wall and not really outside (it is even more so on the living room shot)

2. Then fill-in the flash to illuminate what is dark. Remember, you're shooting digital so you can do this in steps (doing this with film is tough because you can't see the flash).

 

3. Don't point the flashes at the scene - they make much too small of a light source and that makes the light look 'hard'.  Use walls and ceilings as thought they are umbrellas.

 

4. Regarding staircases - put more light at the top of the staircase and use just enough light outside the balusters to illuminate them.

If you balance it right this will be the result - CLICK THE PHOTO to see the rest of the house:

 Foyer Photograph by Jay Groccia, Principal Photographer OnSite Studios (c)2008 OnSiteStudios.com Architectural and Real Estate Photography for luxury home marketing

 

There were two lights on this: One above the camera to the left illuminating the foyer and one on the floor in the kitchen  

 

 

Jay Groccia, Principal Photographer

OnSite Studios 

Apr 07, 2008 04:32 AM #13
Rainmaker
79,032
Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Lazarus Realty - Fresno, CA
Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California

Ok Jay,

 

in steps 1, 2  & 3 above you told me how to do it just about exactly as I did it using 3 SB800 flashes.  My problem was simple: I was not able to expose the inside properly with the flashes I was using. I needed more flash power. At this point I am thinking to add 120v strobe like an Alien Bee since they dont cost any more than the SB800s.  The only other solution I can think of for the problem I encountered is to wait until the lighting is just right.  I suspect that the same shot done 3 hours earlier might have been easier to do.  But its difficult - when your shooting on a time schedule to have the ideal time of day for each shot.

I like your stairwell shot - you nailed the light. I think on the my stairwell shot above I just went with the natural light coming through the windows and you can see the shadows - I dont really mind those shadows.  It was all the other shadows I was getting when I introduced the strobes that was a problem.

 

Thanks 

Apr 07, 2008 04:52 AM #14
Rainer
6,065
Susie Larsen
Susie Larsen Photography - Pocatello, ID
East Idaho Real Estate Photographer

Randy,

How wide an angle are you shooting?

Thanks,

Susie

Apr 20, 2008 09:52 AM #15
Rainmaker
79,032
Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Lazarus Realty - Fresno, CA
Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California

Susie,

I am currently using a Sigma 10-20 and the majority of my interior shots are done at 10-11mm.  This is DX so the 35mm w=equivalent would 15-35.

 

Apr 21, 2008 05:39 AM #16
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Rainmaker
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Randy "Lazarus" McAtee

Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California
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