Right now over at the Strobist website David Hobby is running the Strobist Bootcamp II. The current assignment is to take a real estate or architectural interior photo of a residential living space with the intent of using it to help sell the property. Since I have gotten back from vacation I have been asking everyone I could think of if I could shoot their house. It seems that either everyone is out of town or that no one trusts me around their expensive furniture. Oh well, there is no place like home . So with the deadline looming I decided to just go ahead and get it done in my own humble apartment.
I broke out my sparse little kit of old mismatched flashes only to find that one of them had retired and refused to work any more. There are lots of lights in the apartment so I went with what I had and spent an hour opening and closing blinds, turning lights on and off, moving furniture and adjusting the power output of my two remaining flashes. I’m fairly happy with the results though I can think of a few things I might to differently the next time.
Strobist info: Daylight creeps in from behind the camera through the horizontal aluminum blinds. I was hoping that there might be some interesting patterns cast on the foreground by those but no go at this time of day.
Shortly after I started, I came up with the idea that I wanted a diffraction star in this shot so I have stopped down to f/22 and opened the shutter for 2 seconds at ISO 400. I started out with tungsten white balance on the camera and gelled the second flash but with a fair amount of ambient in the beginning it was coming out way too blue. I ended up using the “shade” setting for white balance because I wanted more of a warm fuzzy feeling. It would be easy enough to dial things down to daylight balance but this seems more cozy somehow.
There is an overhead bulb in the hallway right along with a table lamp hidden behind the wall between the arched openings. The dining room is on the left with a chandelier that has 6 bulbs. I pulled the shades off of four of them to make that a little brighter. There are also 4 table lamps in the dining room. The kitchen is behind the dining room on the left and is being lighted by a fluorescent ceiling light above the sink. There are also windows in the dining room and kitchen but they don’t seem to be adding much to the exposure.
One of my flashes broke so I am down to just two at the moment. One flash is in the fireplace with doubled up orange gels. It is set to 1/4 power. Both flashes were triggered with a Cactus V2 radio. The other flash is in the hallway on the left side sitting on a table and aimed at a mostly white painted canvas so that it bounces some light around that area and hopefully illuminates the framed photographs on the opposite wall.
I pulled out the clamp I had borrowed but I forgot to use it. I was going to put the Nikon flash on its little stand but I couldn’t find it right away so I just laid both flashes on their backs instead.
No stands, just my tripod backed against the wall with the legs splayed out so I could get a lower vantage point. I did learn that perfectly arranged furniture has nothing to do with architectural photography. The camera has a slightly different idea about perspective and geometry than the eye so the furniture gets moved around so that it makes sense in the photograph rather than conversational seating groups.
I used the histogram on the camera to tweak the final exposure so I didn’t need to do much in post processing except to clone out a couple of pesky dust spots.
It occurred to me after the fact that I could have turned on the light in the hallway on the left. My goal in this shot was to be able to see into as much of the space as possible. Normally I would shoot from one corner but I wanted the fireplace and the piano really takes over the space in the opposite corner so I was force to shoot from the center instead.
I thought that those hurricane lanterns in the fireplace would act as gobos for the flash but it didn’t work out that way. Also I think I would have like to add a diffuser to the table lamp in the center because it is still a little too hot. I did think about the perspective up and down and could have changed it but decided on this because I wanted to include the edge of the carpet. Now that I think about it (and the lack of that extra foot of space) I could have just moved everything in the room forward about 12″ and I would have had it made. That piano is pretty heavy though…