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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
I have the great good fortune of getting to travel a lot, which means I often find myself in some beautiful architectural spaces. And I'm sitting here, right now, in a pretty nice, outdoor architectural space with Richard Klein. Richard does something that I can't do. He takes really nice pictures of architectural spaces. So, on The Practicing Photographer this week, I wanted to talk to you Richard, about What can I do? An ordinary photographer, a non-architectural photographer. What can I do when I get into a really nice architectural space somewhere, to get a nice picture? A picture that's something in the essence of the place.
>> Well Bill, what I like to do first of all, is to walk around the space And look for the one big thing. What is it about that space that really compels me, that draws me into it, that makes me want to be there? >> So you don't mean, necessarily, literally the biggest thing in the space, but the, the thing with the most impact. >> There will be an aspect of the space. I mean it might have, you know, soaring volume. There might be windows with light streaming in. There might be a beautiful view out of the window, there might be cantilever structures that defy gravity.
>> Okay. >> You know, there just might be beautiful finish out surfaces, marble floors, and you know beautiful things like that or the furnishings might be what it is. But there's always an aspect that I find most compelling. >> Okay. That's interesting because I feel like a lot of times when I walk into a space I, I do what I tell novice landscape photographers not to do. I go well I don't know this whole space is nice. I have to have all of it. So I shoot a panorama of it. I get my widest angle lens or something like that. You're talking about something very different which is not having to worry about the entire space.
>> Exactly, exactly, and what I find is many times if I represent just pieces of the space in the image. >> Mm-hm. >> The person can construct the space in their mind's eye. And I actually think it's more interesting to do that because fantasy is always better than reality. >> That's true. Particularly when hotel rooms are concerned. >> Yeah, I mean think of it in the way a movie is edited. You know we don't need to see the person drive up, turn the car off, get out, walk to the door. All we really need to see is headlights in the distance and the door opening, the front door opening.
And we connect all that up. And it's the same thing when you're shooting architecture. So I many times, don't try to get the entire space in unless it's the scale that is, is really doing it. Then it's a short lens, and capture that scale. But if it's not that, then no. >> Okay, so how many pictures do you typically take, and I know this is kind of an ended question. But so, I, I, check into some beautiful. Little chateau on the Mediterranean or somewhere. I've got a really nice room with a great view, you're talking about half a dozen nice shots to represent that space, or? >> The room itself, you mean? >> Yeah.
If I'd walked in and gone, wow I really love this place where I'm staying. I want to be sure that I take something home of it visually. >> Okay, okay. Well as, as a person shoots hotel room typically what I'll do in a case like that, anytime you're in paradise. Normally the shot is the view. >> Okay. >> So you want to look out, You want to include enough of the room to get a sense of the surfaces and the finishes. Maybe a slice of chair, a chunk of bed. >> Okay. >> Right? Or a lamp. >> Okay. >> But really, it's going to be, open up the curtains and let's see out.
If the, if it's got doors, open the doors. Let the breeze in, let the curtains blow. Get a little bit of motion, or a little bit of something else happening. >> Mm-hm. >> >> And then expose for the exterior. >> Okay. >> and, and if you don't have any lighting equipment with you. If you're really traveling on vacation. Then you might have to take a couple of exposures and combine them together with HDR. >> Yeah. >> Or some other method later if you really want to have that detail on the inside showing up, sometimes you can just turn a lamp on. >> Right. >> And that will give you just enough. A warm glow down the edge of a chair.
>> Right. >> Is just enough to indicate what that room feels like. But it's really, in that case would be the view. >> The, with the view in the background. >> The view in the background. >> Right. >> It's really the primary aspect would be the view. >> And the room is probably built that way on purpose. >> That's exactly right. >> So that you're actually capturing the intent of, of the architect. >> Of the architect, yeah. And, and in the beginning, and you might then spin around and take a look back towards the bed as a detail shot. >> Okay. >> Or you might look for any other little architectural detail that really jumps out at you. >> Okay. >> And then just detail it. >> So do you follow this through the sorry I'm on vacation, and I'm in Florence and I walk into the Duomo' and it's this beautiful arching space.
Do you follow this same the same procedure there of I'm just looking for the thing that's really the essence of it for me? >> Exactly, always, always. See for me it's all about making a commitment. And you want to commit to the strongest aspect there is. And then you're going to build your shot around that. You don't want something that's so diffused that when the viewer looks at the image, they don't really know what you were taking a picture of, right? You want to point it out. You want to say this is it. This is what I'm driving at. And it makes a much stronger composition.
>> So you say that you had this impulse, you identified the thing that is the really compelling thing. And then you build the shot. So what is, what do you building from there? Or, how are you building, rather? >> Well, for me, I like to walk around the space. >> Mm-hm. >> And just, take a look, once I've got my, I've figured out where we're going. Then, it's the question of taking that three-dimensional space and compressing it to a 2D picture plane and when I'm doing that in my mind's eye. What I'm really thinking about is how can I have really bold shapes. >> Okay. >> And how I can make it graphic? How can I make it an interesting even if I don't understand what is in the picture.
>> Right. >> If I looked at the picture with my eyes, slightly squinted and off all I can see were shapes. >> Right. >> Would it be interesting? >> Okay. >> So you want to make those interesting shapes and then use that as the basis of your composition. >> And in that regard it sounds like exactly what I do when I am landscape shooting. I'm, I'm looking for geometry. I'm looking for geometric compositions that I like in place of lights so. You are, you are taking. The landscape of the, of the interior space, in much the same way that I tend to shoot exterior landscapes, I think. >> Right, right. >> So, I typically don't travel with lots of lighting.
So what are my options there? If I'm, if I'm in a place that's kind of flat or not working? >> Well, the first thing to do, is, after you have found your camera viewpoint and you've made a lens selection a focal length selection that really serves what it is you're trying to do. Then it's a question now of looking at the available light. >> Let's back up one step. It's focal length selection that serves what I'm trying got do. So I'm looking for camera position and focal length that's going to give me the the proportions and, and depth compression or stretching that I want.
>> Yeah, it's really simple. People like to make this whole focal length thing really complicated, but it's really easy. And, and what it all breaks down to is, whatever's closest to the camera's going to be the biggest. >> Right. >> Right? So you use a short lens, its going to then exaggerate your foreground. Your foreground elements are going to be bigger. >> Right. >> They'll become more important than the background. >> Right. >> You use the longer lens, the foreground is smaller and the backgrounds bigger. >> Right. >> Right. So you're emphasizing the background. That's all there is to it. So it's really a question now. You have to make that decision yourself.
And this goes back to, what it was, what's your big thing. >> Right. >> Right? And then whatever that big thing is, then you're going to use the lens, that really points out that big thing. >> Okay. So I made that choice, and now we're moving on to the lighting. >> Right. So, so the next thing to do, once you've got that ready to go. Now is the question looking at the light. >> Okay. >> And the way we create, and really we're at the point now, we've got our flat 2D plane worked out. So now we want to put the depth in it. >> Okay. >> And we put the depth in it with the lighting and composition but primarily the lighting.
>> Okay. >> And it's the shading that actually puts the depth in it. >> Okay. >> So if everything is flatly illuminated there's no depth. >> Right. >> But, if the light falls off a round surfaces, and across surfaces, now we start having depth. >> Right. >> Right? And many times that means waiting for the correct time of day, for the sun. Right? You may need that sun streaming in, or maybe you don't want that sun streaming in. But what you really want is the light bouncing off the balcony. And then shaping a column just on the inside. >> Okay. >> Right, so that, that the light then would wrap and fall off.
I tend, whenever I can to try to put the darker items on the sides of the frame >> Okay. >> To naturally vignette so you don't have to fight the eye tracing right off the edge of the frame, right. So, but it's really a question of being sensitive and looking at what's there. And trying to decide is the sun in the correct place, would it help to turn a lamp on or not. Many times you can take the shade off the lamp, and just turn the bulb on, get it off frame, and that'll give you more fill. Right? Or you might want the lamp in the shot, and if that's the case you'll have the shade on and have it illuminate something like a chair down below or A table, or something like that, and personally, I like the style.
>> Okay. >> So, I'm always looking for whatever little props or magazines or things now can also be part of the interest of the shot, and place them on the table or you know something like that, just to soften it, to put a human touch in. >> So it may be that I want to try either taking the same shot over and over at different times of the day to see how I get different light or at the very least wait a few days before I worry about tackling this problem and watch the light in the mean time. And. >> Absolutely. I think, I think watching the light that's my favorite solution. >> Okay. >> I prefer to watch the light.
When I go on location to shoot, I schedule a couple of the days prior to the shoot in order for me then just lap the place at different times of day and really watch what's going on. There are apps you can have for your phone. >> Right >> That will help you figure out the angle of the light, >> Right >> That can be really good, but it really means you gotta visualize what's going to happen. If you haven't looked at the lot, >> Right >> Then you really won't know what's going to happen. The easiest way is to work in reality. >> Right >> And to just take your time. And take a look around. >> Alright so let me see if I got this. I come into the space, and I find the thing that is, just personally for me, the compelling the thing, the thing that has made me think this is a beautiful space.
The thing that has made me want to go home with a reasonable image of this. Once I've identified that, I think about camera position, and focal length to, emphasize that thing, but I'm working as a flat two dimensional composition, just the way that I personally do when I'm shooting landscapes. I'm looking for just good solid composition. And now it's time to pull that back into three dimensions by turning lights on here, lighting this, shading that, and so and and so forth to get planes of depth. >> You're right. And using the sun because the sun is really going to be your major light source so you've got to be. Sense of what it's going to do.
And there's one last little thing you want to keep in mind. And this is in, in terms of composition. And that is, is that you don't want lines in your image to line up with each other. So you wouldn't want, than the edge of a table to line up with the edge of the railing. >> Right. >> Right, you'd separate those two out just a little bit and same vertically. >> Right. >> Right, so you just want to spend a moment, look around your frame and look for the things that are tangent with each other. Because that will flatten the image. Now if you want to do a really flat geometric image. You would purposely line those thing up. >> Right. >> And you would purposely flatly light it.
>> Right. Right. That's fantastic, Richard. That actually makes a lot of sense to me. And it is interesting. I do think about, there's a lot of similarities there to the way I work, when I'm shooting things that I am. More custom to shooting like landscapes or, or other things. so we've just given you a five step process for perfect architectural photography and the fact is that it's much more complicated than that. And >> Well and those are actually the steps I go through. It's a question now of sensitivity. >> Okay. >> And taking the time to really look. And to pay attention.
And to also and, and what I find is really important, is that you really want to express who you are in the process. And I find that the longer I work with it, with a particular shot. >> Yeah. >> And the more of the things that I put in the shot that I like, personally. >> Yeah. >> Then I imbue myself into that photograph. >> Mm. Right? >> Right. >> And over time, that becomes my taste. >> Right. >> Right? Cause I framed it. So obviously I'm talking about myself, right? Every action that I take I'm really identifying who I am. >> Right. >> As a photographer. >> Right. >> Right? So I think that its really.
If you have the time, or you can make the time. >> Right. >> Then you really want to imbue yourself into the space, too. >> That's fantastic. Richard's got a couple of things in the Lynda library that you really ought to take a look at that go much deeper into this. Thank you very much, Richard. >> You're very welcome, Ben. >> This has been really interesting. >> Great.
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