Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Architectural 101

Both of these shots are from last night's shoot.

Architectural photography (In my opinion) is one of the most technical types of photography in existence. Like anything else, it's all about perfect timing, the a colorful sky with a few clouds, and as much flash lighting as possible.  Oh, harsh sunlight can blow the shoot, and you need to run around like a maniac to get your lighting just right and still manage to look professional in front of the client.  No hesitations are allowed here, if you pause to think, nod up and down and move a little every once in a while to make it look like you are not panicking.  The last thing a client wants is a stressed out photographer.  I generally always shoot exteriors/interiors right around sunset.  Not because I'm too lazy to get up early (we all are somedays..)  but because the light just works for me at that time.  If the shot doesn't seem to be working, relax, cause the light will just get better and the moment for the shot will come.

Architectural photography can be very tricky in mountainous areas.  The sun can set hours apart for different houses on the same block.  This occurs if there is a large mountain is present.  Plan ahead.  Arrive early.  Impress the client.  I like to show the occasional (only a few per shoot) image on the back of the camera, and tell them how much better it will look when I'm finished color-correcting it.  Using color-correcting as a term instead of editing can help the client believe that your shots don't even need editing because you are so good.  Capture the shot, grab your stuff, pretend it went well even if you don't think it did, and move along quickly.  Lingering too long instills doubt in the client.  Would you think someone was an expert if they spent 45 minutes capturing one photo of your bedroom?
One thing that really helped my architectural work is actually the post-processing.  You can theoretically light up a large complex room with one flash, thanks to photoshop.  I will angle the flash many directions to cover dark spots, capture an image with each direction, and use quick layer masks to light the whole image evenly.  It takes some practice so you will want to try it in your own home first and perfect the masking art.   Of course, if you do have a lot of flashes, go crazy!  I usually always bounce the flash to avoid unwanted glare, either off the wall behind where I'm shooting, or the ceiling directly above me.  If there isn't anything that will create glare, I sometimes shoot the flash direct.  I use a diffuser box on it to spread it everywhere, and set the flash head as wide as it goes.
Always look for the little details in every room you shoot.  Lights look better on, always light the fire and if you can't, place a flash with a red gel in the fireplace.  I use the LumiQuest FXtra gels for this because they are affordable, and always stay on my flash.  Make sure everything is arranged in a pleasing manner, and make sure your angle truly is the best for that room.  Shooting ultra-wide will work fine, because you can use distortion control in photoshop after and retain straight lines.
There's a million more things to be said about architectural photography, but I feel this is a good start.  Please comment below if you have any questions, and I will be following this up soon with more information.


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