Architectural Lighting

Discussion in 'Commercial/Product photography' started by Alpha, Nov 3, 2007.

  1. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    I have a client who is a big time wood-worker and carpenter. He owns one of the only lumber mills left in our area of Virginia. He milled over 70 trees himself in order to build his new home, which he's commissioned me to photograph. I've done a bit of architectural work before, but I have never attempted to light anything this large or complicated. I need advice.

    Here's the setup. The downstairs of the home is very, very open. The living room blends into the dining room and kitchen (no dividing walls). The living room itself is perhaps 40 sq feet. The upstairs is lofted, leaving the living room open all the way up to the roof. The apex of the room is probably a good 40 or see feet high. Given how wide and how tall much of the space is, I'm probably going to have to pick my battles, when it comes to getting what I want into the frame. I will be shooting it wide angle (of course), so it's imperative that I have ample and well-distributed light. For anyone who's interested, I will be shooting it in 4x5 with an 80mm Rodenstock, 645 with a 45mm, and a Rebel XTI with the 14mm 2.8L. I know that the Canon lens has an aspherical element, but I'll be using it mostly for proofing (as opposed to more costly polaroids for the 4x5, which will be my primary camera).

    Given the size and layout of this space, lighting it well may prove to be a nightmare. I will probably shoot it mostly in late afternoon to cut down on window glare and blow-out. Putting up mesh scrims on the outside of the windows is not a cost effective option for me here.

    As far as power needs, it's obvious that I'm going to need a lot. I've never worked with any strobe bigger than 1600 w/s. I've got a few high-powered options, though it's most cost effective for me to go with a Dynalite M2000 (2000 w/s) or the Speedo 206VF (4800 w/s). I'm worried about hot spots at power outputs this high. Any idea how much total power I'll end up needing to fill a room this size?

    As far as dispersion, I was thinking about firing off of a silver umbrella and into the room, or off an umbrella and into a wall and back into the room. I may bounce off the ceiling of the living room for some shots. I want to be at or near daylight for most of these, and I want the light to be very very even.

    I know that using a number of smaller strobes may help eliminate hot-spots. However, in a room this open it will be very hard to hide them, especially shooting as wide as I will be.

    I could use some advice, if anyone has experience with this sort of thing.
     
  2. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    Off the top of my head, I would try to barebulb it before anything. and use a gobo for the side facing the furniture. The light bouncing off the back walls would do more diffusion than an umbrella. Than again, I don't know what the interior is like, if it's logs, not much is going to bounce.

    You can use gels on the strobes to balance out the color of the exterior, and if blowout is a problem, than I'd shoot digitally and make HDR's. I've seen it done very well in magazines.

    Another thing you can do to give it a more natural look is put the strobes outside the windows and have them shine through (so long as they're not in the frame of course).
     
  3. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    It's always tricky, doing stuff like this.
    However you light it you are going to get hotspots so you have to use them to your advantage - use them to define the shape of the room.
    Hiding lights behind furniture and painting up the walls can work.
    Another trick - if the wall behind you is white (or near) then you can bank the lights and bounce them off the wall to flood the room. If it isn't, hang a white sheet and use that. Then place a discreet slave or two to give some definition.
    A silver brollie is going to be a little too directional.
    Watch out for reflections from the lights in the windows.
    You don't need a huge amount of light - just use a faster film.
    Alternatively, if you shoot at night and it's dark outside just lock the lens open and expose by using multiple flash as you would in the studio.

    To be honest advice is hard to give. I'd have to see the space and work from there. It would probably take a couple of hours to figure out a workable arrangement.
    Good luck.
     
  4. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Thanks for the advice. The interior is all wood. I'll give the white sheet thing a try. As for film speed, I won't be able to go above 400 (I'll be shooting Portra 400NC and perhaps a little Provia with the 4x5).

    This is gonna be a nightmare. Do you think I should go for the 2000w/s or the 4800w/s strobes?
     
  5. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    I don't think it will matter what strobes you use, you can always just pop them a few times, so long as you have a tight enough aperture where ambient light won't affect the exposure.
     
  6. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    I'll be shooting at f.22 with the MF and the digi. I'll shoot the 4x5 at f.32.

    I think I'm gonna give it a go without the strobes first and see what I can do. Then I'll use those as proofs the help guide me when I go back with the strobes.

    I'll come back with the Dynalites.
     
  7. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Shoot natural light and see what needs to be filled in. Generally in houses like this the mood has been set in the architecture. Blasting it with light can quickly kill the original intent. Keep in mind that the client is the builder as opposed to a Real Estate agent. He may be looking for wood tone, shapes and details.

    Love & Bass
     
  8. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Your point is well taken, but that will hardly be possible to represent if I can't portray the grain of the wood well because it's all in shadow.

    I'm going to shoot it with natural light first, but I'm confident that I will return with the strobes. Some of the technical concerns voiced are quite important. I hadn't considered the fact that the wood will most likely suck up quite a bit of my light, and make bouncing very difficult.
     
  9. Flash Harry

    Flash Harry TPF Noob!

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    Meter for the ambient/brightest light in the rooms then balance your shadow areas with the strobes to match or slightly less, at least this should get you an even exposure all round to work with, if the strobes are going to interfere with shots consider fotoflo bulbs in normal lamp type lights and shoot on tungsten film, but only switch on for metering and the actual shots as they get too hot to leave on, a couple of extension leads with one switch to control the lights will be of benefit too. I did a huge church with hotlights this way and it turned out fine with a little dodge / burn to help the print along. H
     
  10. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    what if you do the shoot when it is dark outside? no ambient light then to balance. You could use rather weak non-flash lighting and go for very long exposures.

    This is just an idea, never done it myself that way, so it might not work.
     
  11. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    I could. The night shots are tricky because they require me to double expose. If I try to do the whole thing at night I'll have window glare to worry about. I'd need to get an exposure while the interior and exterior light levels are the same, and then another when it's darker outside.
     
  12. jols

    jols TPF Noob!

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    im sure you will be fine max your a pro after all
     

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