It’s All About the Light

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One of the biggest challenges with photographing interiors is taming the light.  There is a massive difference in light levels around a home – especially near large picture windows.  Even with the windows wide open, the interior is so much darker than the exterior that it is very difficult to get an image that has the right exposure for the inside and the outside.  To make matters worse, on a very bright day hard shadows will be created by the window frame or anything that blocks the light streaming in.

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Without techniques to control the light, the above picture would either be a bunch of zebra stripes from the curtains.. or the outside view would be a blown-out mass of white.

To remedy the problem, the inside light and the outside light has to be balanced with each other.  That means that there are essentially three choices:

  1. Darken the outside
  2. Lighten the inside
  3. Make a blended image that takes the best of multiple images

Darkening the outside isn’t really practical unless all shots are taken at dawn or dusk.. or at night.  Lightening the inside is frequently done by adding flashes – but unless it is done with multiple off-camera flashes, the net result looks like something done by the DMV.  Shooting with multiple flashes takes time to do well.. walking around with a camera with a flash pointed at the ceiling (though better than nothing!) doesn’t deliver pro results.

The third option is the one I favor.  There are a lot of different ways to achieve the same thing.  I shoot six images of every shot at varying exposures, then I blend them in post-processing.  The process I use is in the HDR family, but it’s not Photomatix-style tonemapping.  Photomatix was the first thing that I tried, but quickly rejected it due to the images being too surreal.   A Photomatix-blended HDR sticks out like a sore thumb because it doesn’t look real.

Instead, I use exposure blending.  This technique delivers the most realistic images of an interior.  It gets the interiors right, and it gets the exteriors right.  Best yet, it doesn’t introduce halos, noise, or unrealistic shadows from flashes bounced in strange places.  The net results are just plain beautiful!  It also does a spectacular job with reflections.. sometimes a little too good.  I’ve had to Photoshop my own reflection away when I realize that I can see myself in a reflection on the microwave oven.

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See all the delicious soft reflections on the wood floors?

Today’s featured home is a gorgeous mid-century modern located in the Northwestern corner of Minneapolis.  It’s in an upscale neighborhood with a large yard, lots of trees, and great views.

Go Somewhere Special…

Mark Teskey

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