What is The Preferred Way of lighting Rooms Without Windows?

October 9th, 2016

figure6-6Vida in Kranj, Slovenia asks:

What is your preferred way of lighting rooms without windows? Having elaborate lighting to mimic windows is often impossible due to small spaces and also misleading. Rooms with one strong light overhead are lighted terribly with ugly shadows and colors. Using bounced flash is often flat and just not soft enough. I guess I’m curious to know what look to go for? If somebody has a photo of a room (no matter the size) with one overhead light that is lighted admirably I would love to see it posted here.

You are right, the most common way to light a room with no windows and one overhead light (frequently these are small interior bathrooms) is to bounce a small flash off of the ceiling/wall joint and adjust the power so you get the effect you want. I take this approach because most of the time small bathrooms are not where I want to spend a bunch of time on a shoot. Usually, I find the results acceptable for the amount of time it takes.

However, if you are bothered by the misleading light, shadows or flat light, another approach is to use Enfuse processing. The image above is an example (click on the image to view larger) by London interiors photographer Simon Maxwell, from his book Enfuse and Hand Blending in Photoshop for Real Estate Photography. This particular image is an example from a discussion on how to control the highlights.

Simon’s approach above is to shoot 3 RAW brackets and process the brackets with Lightroom and the LR/Enfuse plugin. As you can see the result has only natural light from the lights in the room.

Do others have examples for Vida?

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4 Responses to “What is The Preferred Way of lighting Rooms Without Windows?”

  • I use a flash mounted on a stand to reach into a bathroom to add light. I angle the flash to fire back towards me against the W/C joint over the camera. If I can see the flash in the mirror or other surface, I will take another image with the flash on the opposite side angling the flash away (L/R) and use layers in PS to mask out the flashes. I will expose a frame for any lighting to mask back in since they will be left off for the main image. Bathrooms are the most difficult due to mirrors and shiny surfaces. For other rooms, I use the light stand as a monopod to get the flash (bounced off of the ceiling) as far in front of the camera as I can. I rarely use Enfuse or Photomatix anymore. I’m getting fast enough in PS that I can shoot for post in the field and process images faster than Enfuse or Photomatix take to combine images. Of course, I try to get the image done in the camera as much as possible so I only have minor touch work left to do in LR.

  • In most cases, a good ambient and a good flash layer in Photoshop can yield good results using layer masks and such.

  • I guess I wasn’t so clear with the question. I should ask how do you keep consistency in the look of your pictures if your style is emphasizing natural ambient light (which is trending now) – windows?
    From the answers so far I gather the majority goes for flash/ambient. So there is documentary consistency (showing ambiental lightning) but no consistency in lightning style which asks for simulating window light when none is present.

  • I almost always go ambient only when there are no windows. Although I generally go for a daylight ambient look in most images I don’t see the point in trying to make a room with no windows look like it’s bathed in daylight.

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