Some people may argue that with the advent of HDR "lighting" isn't really necessary in architectural/interior photography. I don't happen to be one of these people. While I believe that HDR has it's place in the photographic world, I don't find it appropriate for my photographic aesthetic. I prefer to capture interiors in a more natural way and thus tend to rely mostly on natural light and strobes used in a way to enhance that natural light or create lighting that reference natural light.
Shooting a space can easily turn into a technical exercise of making sure that everything is level and perpendicular. However, I believe that shooting a space has a large storytelling component to it. The story I am telling is about the choices each designer makes in a room(s) and the experience of being in that space. I am not only capturing walls and furniture but I am capturing/creating a mood for each space -- is a room bright and airy or dark and dramatic ? (If you are a fan of dark and dramatic, check out my post on a project I shot in the very dark Timothy Oulton Gallery in SF). Lighting is central to creating mood.
So what do we do when we don't have great lighting in a space? When I say great lighting this doesn't just refer to lack of light but it can also refer to spaces that have too much light or light that is too harsh or uneven (lots of shadow and lots of highlights)
Eg. A bedroom that is on the bottom floor and doesn't get much direct sunlight or a great tile floor that is in a dark hallway with artificial light? Or a space which has uneven lighting ? This is when supplementary lighting (in this case strobes) will be a life saver! We'll look at all these examples below. All designs in the following images are from MAS Design based in Berkeley, Ca.
Lets start with the bedroom example; this bedroom has really great design and lighting fixtures but not a lot of direct sunlight. There is a window on the right but the room is on the bottom floor and somewhat below ground. The light in the bathroom is lovely but in order to give the bedroom area a nice sunny look I would have to blow out the bathroom area if I don't use lighting. I want to keep the bathroom as is. Check out below to see the different lighting scenarios.
This is where the imagination kicks in ... I wanted to get more out of this room. It was so lovely, I knew that there had to be a better shot! The room is very luxurious so I began to think about how cozy it would be to wake up in the soft bed with soft sunshine streaming through the window -like a mid afternoon nap or lazy morning. I sent my trusty assistant to set up a strobe outside the window outside to mimic some streaming light .... and Abracadabra we have more of a mood to the room! We ended up with the two final shots below..
On to another more dramatic example of how one well placed light can take a lack luster image to something a little more meaningful. This tiled hallway has zero natural light, only overhead lights. The client specifically requested an image of the tile. I knew immediately something had to happen in order to make work. I applied the same principal as above. Low raking light coming through a door way. The one with the door slightly open is my favorite because it implies that someone just walked through the space.
Ok.. One last scenario.. Sometimes the lighting is pretty good but it still needs a little balancing or a little extra punch. Here we have two examples of that. The first is a detail of a kitchen counter area. The lighting here was pretty nice to start but I really wanted to emphasize the window light and bring out the texture of the tiles and the paper on the counter and also make sure I had nice bright highlights. The difference is subtle but the second shot brings out the texture of the props and tile much better.
Finally an outdoor shot... Why would we need to add more light to a spot that is already sunny you might ask? In this case it's to even out the sunlight. As you can see the table setting is actually in shade compared to the garden area. I used the strobe to open up that shadowy area a bit as well as warm it up with a gel.
So that sums it up for this post on lighting interiors. If you are a designer or architect and have questions about my approach to interiors and working together feel free to drop me a note through my contact page. If you would like more technical info about lighting feel free to drop me an email as well through my contact page. Thanks for reading!