How to Photograph Interiors
July 13, 2016
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Photographing Interiors & Retaining the Window View

Hello, and welcome to my blog! This is my very first post and I’m excited to start writing about my work and sharing tips with you all. This post will cover mostly how to photograph windows and retain the beautiful view outside. In future posts, I’ll explain my process in more detail, show you some behind the scenes images of how I create an image, and give you a better idea of how much work is involved in creating the images I deliver to clients.

My first example is a recent image I created for my clients Justin & Colin of Haute Home AZ. This particular project was a hillside mansion overlooking Paradise Valley that had gigantic windows, amazing views, and massive white walls (good for bouncing flash!), and it was my job to create a variety of images to show off their designs so they can use those images for marketing and on their website. Obviously the biggest challenge here was the amount of light coming in through the windows, and retaining the window view was on of the keys to making this a great image:

In order to capture the window view without using methods like HDR or spending hours in Photoshop with the pen tool, I decided to bounce monolights into the ceiling, lighting the interior, while setting my exposure for the exterior view. By setting the exposure for the brightest object I want to retail detail in (the outside view), I have the compensate for the lack of natural light flooding the interior. Without the monolight or speedlight, I would have a great view of the outside, but a not so great view of the inside. This is what I’m talking about:

Bouncing my monolight into the wall lights up the interior nicely while still preserving the beautiful view outside. All I have to do in post production is make a selection around the windows and discard the area where I’m in view. Doing it this way makes the composite process in Photoshop much easier,  and also solves the problem most HDR shooters have. HDR shooters tend to brush in the window view from a darker frame, but they also brush in darkened window panes and curtains, which makes the whole window look like a complete darkened mess.

Next, I wanted to preserve some sort of natural feel to the image and keep away from an overly flashy look. I always try to incorporate natural light and shadow into my images to give them a more natural feel. I can achieve this look using a few methods. One, I can bounce my lights in a manner that produces these shadows for me, or exaggerates the ones already there. Two, I can “brush in” an ambient frame, a frame with only natural light, and fuse flash and ambient light together. This gives me the ability to light an interior with flash and still preserve a natural light feel. Here’s an example of each:

Notice the shadows behind the TV and Couch. The directional nature of the shadows gives the image a Notice the shadows behind the TV and Couch. The directional nature of the shadows gives the image a “natural” feel because we instinctively know that the shadows must be there with natural light. Here you can see an ambient only frame. The most important part of this image is the ceiling. Look how soft and natural the lighting on the ceiling looks. I used that portion of the image and brushed it into my other flashed frames to produce a nice mix of flash/natural light. Take another look at the final image and you'll see each part mixed in.  Here you can see an ambient only frame. The most important part of this image is the ceiling. Look how soft and natural the lighting on the ceiling looks. I used that portion of the image and brushed it into my other flashed frames to produce a nice mix of flash/natural light. Take another look at the final image and you’ll see each part mixed in.

So, those are a few examples of problems I run into on location and the techniques I use to overcome those problems. There was a total of 60 different images I used to create the final image you see at the top of the blog post. Each of those 60 images had parts I wanted to use in the final image, similar to a junkyard. I select what I want from each, and discard the rest. Tip: When working in Photoshop, you can actually use the eraser tool to erase parts of the image you’re not using to keep your file sizes low. Each image alone would be complete crap and undeliverable to a client, however each image holds a piece of the final puzzle.

On final thing I want to mention is you’ll notice the image appears to be cut in half. I used a tilt-shift lens to capture the ceiling down to the couch, then stitched together the images using Photoshop’s image alignment feature. This specialty lens allows me to keep my vertical lines straight and at the same time move the composition up/down, left/right without distorting the lines. Check out this quick video on how tilt shift lenses work. Here’s an example of how I shifted down to capture the couch, and notice the big window panes are perfectly straight even though I’m getting more of the couch:

I will continue to write more in this blog as I have the time, and I hope to share more tips and insights with you into my work flow and style. Please feel free to comment or share this with your friends. Thanks for stopping by!

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