How To Photograph Interiors With Challenging Problems?

August 17th, 2016

EnfuseLR6Kathy in Maryland asks:

Can you give me any pointers on photographing kitchens that have black cabinets and light or white countertops? I just photographed an empty townhouse, that had that and very light colored bamboo flooring open concept main level, yellowish tile and counters and black cabinets, with stainless steel appliances. I also find open concept style homes challenging too with my multiple lights. I tried an umbrella in this kitchen, but the darn umbrella just was getting in my way and reflecting in the stainless steel. I find these types of kitchens to be my biggest challenge. I follow Scott Hargis’s pointers a lot. But still struggling with this.

Yes, I know what you mean. There are some interior situations that are way more difficult to shoot than others. I find that a useful way to deal with these difficult situations is to be prepared to deal with these challenging situations in post-processing by making sure you capture some ambient shots as well as flash, lit shots:

  1. When shooting in a challenging area do your multiple manual flash approach but also, without moving the camera on the tripod also shoot an ambient shot and also 3 to 5 brackets. This will give you multiple options for processing in post.
  2. Shooting a series of brackets provides the option of processing with LR/Enfuse.
  3. A second very popular method is to shoot one or more flash images and an ambient image then take them into Photoshop as multiple layers and hand blend the best of each image together into a final image. You’ll note by looking at the PFRE Flickr group this has become a very popular method.
Simon Maxwell’s Enfuse book goes into the details of both #2 and #3 above.
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8 Responses to “How To Photograph Interiors With Challenging Problems?”

  • Bracketing with available light is a must. I always do this for those using my higher end package. Sometimes flashes reflect of walls and woodwork. Also, when doing multiple flashes, you may need to pop another to move the reflection where necessary.

  • Good timing. We are shooting for a kitchen remodeler today. Dave.

  • Excellent timing as I was just about to ask this question pertaining to option #3, blending an ambient.

    I h’ve been successful with blending ambients for window pull and removing flash reflections but I can’t seem to get down masking out shadows on walls and cabinets with an ambient, or anything on a wall for that matter. I just can not get the colors to match.

    Any suggestions? Shout out to Rich Baum, as his videos have been extremely helpful.

  • Dark shiny surfaces are my nemesis. Ambient light gets soaked up and flash yields hot spots. The next approach I intend to try is using multiple flash pops to light smallish areas or as big of an area as I can and combine the images in PS via layers. If I know ahead of time, I may bring out my backdrop stands and a large white nylon fly to create a huge light panel.

    I use a black collapsable “reflector” to eliminate reflections in appliance windows. I brush the frame in via layers in PS.

    Aaron, if you are brushing in exposure (lighter or darker), try setting the layer to “luminosity”. That will keep the colors from shifting on you. I love Rich’s videos too. Short and to the point.

    The wonderful thing about digital is that it costs almost nothing to make a set of bracketed images. Whatever you don’t wind up using, you can throw away. I mostly use brighter frames, but every once in a while I will use a darker frame to add some depth to an image so my added lighting doesn’t look too flashy.

  • Thank you for all of the great suggestions! Ken Brown, what is a nylon fly??

  • Thank you Ken! I will implement the Luminosity in my post after my shoots today. Mush appreciated!

  • As someone who fought multiple shadows and burn out from flash umbrellas for decades when dealing with shiny surfaces, I would suggest simply bracketing like crazy with the camera on a tripod and blending the best exposures for the white surfaces with the middle exposure and then bringing in dark area exposures with the appropriate over exposed exposure. A lot faster than messing around with multiple flashes and the lighting ends up looking far more natural as long as the natural light is pleasing. We did not have the layering ability in Photoshop back then. Come to think of it, we did not have Photoshop at all. So I revel in what is available to us today when we face these challanges. Digital has far greater range than film could ever hope to aspire to.

  • Kathy, a Fly is a large flat sheet of material, usually translucent or mesh, stretched on a frame. The term is used mostly in TV/Film production. The idea is to get a very large light source so the light is very soft and doesn’t project any hot spots. It’s more set up and tear down, so not something that you want to use on every job, but if you are photographing a home where quality is going to be more important than price, it might be a good tool to have. The approach Peter suggests using multiple flash pops and selectively brushing together a composition in PS may be faster on site but might take longer in Photoshop depending on how skilled you are.

    Every technique is going to have its pros and cons. One may be faster on-site, but take more time in post production and another may yield better results, but take a long time to get right on location. It never hurts to have some experience using several different approaches to a problem so you can get the image you need regardless of time constraints or the amount of gear you have brought. I try new things when I have no time limits and nothing pushing me to get a job done so I can get to the next one. I could practice at home, but I’ve done that so much that I know my home too well from a lighting standpoint. Having a fresh location such as a vacant home with nobody else around forces me to solve problems on the fly.

    I have a couple of Flys that I have built with 3/4″ Schedule 80 (the heavier stuff) plastic pipe. It’s cheap and I have a photo student that has her own tailoring shop so I can trade some lessons for some sewing. They come apart so I can get the parts in my car. I don’t normally carry them with me on RE jobs, but I might if I know that I have a home with dark surfaces. They are great for outdoor portrait work.

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