These photos were taken for a client who wanted to document the renovation of his condominium unit. Built in 1930 in the Mission Revival architectural style, the place was packed with period details. It was important to the client that as many of these details as possible be shown in each photo.
So often, photographing interiors is a game of problem-solving. And the primary problem, most often, is light. In the photo below – which shows the scene before any photographic lighting was added – there are some obvious issues: Many areas are dark and shadowy; there are strong color casts on the walls; and the architectural details are not as well-defined and vivid as they could be. To deal with these things, I had to supplement the existing light with some photographic lighting.
The hallway in particular needed quite a bit of light; it was kind of a dark hole back there! And the bathroom required a fair amount of added light as well. I actually went a little ‘extra bright’ with the bathroom, to help guide the viewer’s eye from the living room in the foreground, down the hallway, and on through to the bathroom in the background (our eyes tend to be drawn toward the brightest thing in a photo). The living room was already getting a lot of light from the windows behind the camera, so didn't require as much additional light as the hallway and bathroom. By using supplementary photographic lighting in these three areas, I can show viewers what it might be like if they were actually standing in the living room, looking down the hallway towards the bathroom.
In addition to lifting the overall light level, another reason for adding light when making this photograph was to alleviate the color casts, and to achieve more accurate colors in general. In the 'before' photo, you can see a strong greenish tint on the wall above the TV. This is caused by the sun reflecting light off the greenery in the trees outside the large windows behind the camera. There’s also a red cast on the ceiling and upper part of the wall near the door on the left. This is due to light hitting the floor and the door, where it picks up the red tones from the wood and bounces back up towards the ceiling. There's also a blue cast on the lower part of the wall to the left of the fireplace, and to a lesser degree, on the lower part of the wall to the left and right of the tiled stairs - daylight from windows will often produce blue color casts on objects in a room.
These color casts (created by shifts in the color temperature of the light) exist when you’re standing in the room. But our mind does a great job of instructing our eyes to ‘normalize’ color casts, so that what we know is an off-white wall actually appears to be off-white when we look at it. By bringing my own photographic lights and adding light to the scene, I can more precisely control the colors of the light that the camera records, as shown in the second photo. Because the light I'm adding is of a consistent color temperature, it helps to neutralize the variations in color temperature (and thus the color casts) that are visible in the 'before' photo. The end result – though artificially created – is in a sense more natural, because it depicts the scene in a way that more closely mimics the way the mind’s eye ‘processes’ the scene when you’re actually standing in the room.
This was quite a fun place to photograph! Here are a few more pics...