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Interiors: Composition and lens choices

From: Insights on Architectural Photography

Video: Interiors: Composition and lens choices

So you've done the walk through, you've inventoried the elements and objects in the space. What's your next step? >> Well, at that point, it's really picking a camera angle. And what I normally do is I take a look around and I decide what do we need to include in the space. So I set the camera at my length's choice. In my camera position and height. It's all based upon the background. So once I have the amount of background in the image that I want to see, I've got it framed the way I want to see that.

Interiors: Composition and lens choices

So you've done the walk through, you've inventoried the elements and objects in the space. What's your next step? >> Well, at that point, it's really picking a camera angle. And what I normally do is I take a look around and I decide what do we need to include in the space. So I set the camera at my length's choice. In my camera position and height. It's all based upon the background. So once I have the amount of background in the image that I want to see, I've got it framed the way I want to see that.

Then it's a question of arranging the foreground to work with the background. And it's pretty rare that I don't move the furniture around quite a bit. Just depending on the needs, really, of the composition. So after then, after I've got a frame and composition, things are set in place, accessorized the way I want them to be. Then it's a question of lighting because lighting is where the real seperation and depth in the image occur.

Because we can light for texture and then we can also light for depth in the image. And what I normally like to do is I juxtapose light and dark areas against each other. So I might have a light object more in the foreground against a darker something in the background. And then vice versa. I might have a darker area with something lighter in the background. A glow behind thing. Or I'll back light. to get flowers especially, back light beautifully, because they just light up, when you hit them from behind.

because they're slightly translucent, so the light comes through them. So they become a light source themselves. And in other objects. Will also for the little bit of rim light around them with a darker area behind will separate. So it's, these are the things that I'm doing to add that depth back into the image. >> To restore that 2D plane back into the 3D space. >> Exactly, exactly that I perceived. >> So as you plan your shot >> What kinds of considerations do you give to the height of the camera? >> I normally place the camera as low as I can and still see what I need to see.

And the reason I do that is because as the camera angle, as the camera rises, then the objects Game or volume in the front closest to the camera. And as they begin like a table, then begins to triangulate as oppose to foreshorten where the camera's low. You're looking across a surface. It's foreshorten and you have just a slice of tabletop. As the camera rises then the thickness of that grows.

And it gets to the point where it looks like a big dog's tongue just coming to lick you. And that's, that's one of the things I'm always trying to avoid. And it always turns up any horizontal surface. Whether it be a table or a sofa or a bed. Anything that you're going to look across lower the camera goes. The more foreshortened, the less important it becomes, because I don't really need to see all of that surface. I just need to indicate a bit of that surface, without seeing the whole thing.

Now, what will force the camera to go higher is because the way things are arranged in the room. I need to get a little separation between things. So they just don't stack up on top of each other. One of the things I always look for, are what I call tangents. And that's where things line up, either vertically or horizontally. And I'm always looking to break those lines to get a little separation in those lines themselves. If I wanted to shoot something so that it actually looks really graphic and flat I will purposely line things up.

Edge to edge. Then the image and it'll create that kind of flatness in the image. When I want to do the opposite, then I'll break those tangins to be sure that we don't have that flatness showing up. And it happens both when you look across furniture. So you'll have a table surface in the foreground, and you'll have a chair in the background. And you have to be really careful that those things just don't line up. So, as you move the camera, it's like a lever that things change. Right? The camera goes up higher. What is does is it lowers your foreground and raises your background.

So I'm always looking then to keep that separation in. So there are times when the camera actually because of the background is forced to be higher than I prefer for the foreground. That arraigning the foreground becomes tricky and especially if I'm using a short lens. The shorter the lens the harder the foreground is to deal with. So I always try to shoot with the longest lens I can get away with, in order to make the foreground easier to deal with. >> So let's talk about lenses a little bit more. Obviously they have a huge impact on the way a space is conveyed in a photograph, and on your creative options.

Besides what you just described, what other considerations go into your lens choices? >> Well for lens choices >> It, it really depends on whether there is a particular object that I want to be, to have be the star of the show. And if that's the case, then a short lens close to that object is going to fill the frame with that object. And then the rest of the room is just going to be diminutive compared to that foreground object, right? Well that works really well, if you happen to have a sillhouette, or something that is just to die for, that's in your foreground.

But if you don't, then what happens is, is that your foreground elements are still exaggerated, compared to the background with a short lens. So you're going to really add emphasis to your foreground. When you use a short lens. Now a lot of people will go ahead and use a short lens because they want to see more background. Which is you know, obviously the case, many times its really important and you have to do that. I get forced into that all the time. But its not my first choice.

I'd much prefer to use the longest lens I can get away with, and still see what I need to see in the background. Because it's going to make arranging the foreground so much easier, than using a short lens does. So, if necessary, sometimes what I'll do, is use a longer lens. And then I'll pan the camera, and stitch it together. Because then I can have a more natural-looking perspective, natural to the eye. Looking perspective, but I can still see across the room, and still see the greater expanse.

So I do a lot of that. I do a lot of panning and stitching because of that. if I'm in a situation where I can't pan and stitch, technically. There's trees blowin' in the background, or other things going on that would keep me from being able to do that. Then I'll use a short lens but then I have to really very carefully arrange the foreground. >> So ideally you prefer to shoot with a longer lens? what focal length would that be on a medium format and it's rough equivalent on a, on a full frame digital SLR? >> Well that would be for me, my favorite lens is between 45 and 55 on the medium format which is around a 35 millimeter on the full-frame DSLR.

In a practical sense, I would prefer actually to shoot with a normal lens, you know, for the format. But in a practical sense, shooting interiors, it's not wide enough, and it requires too much stitching. What happens in stitching is that if you want to do just one pan Without having to do a second pan point the camera up again and do a second pan. Which you end up with you know a fairly large matrix in post production to deal with when you do that. Now (COUGH) excuse me, the stitching software can cope with that.

But at the same time it just does a lot of post work. So I, try as much as I can really to get it in one swipe. So my lens choice then becomes how much, from floor to ceiling, do I need to see. And I have to cover that with the lens. Once I get that set, then as I pan, I'll see side to side.

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Insights on Architectural Photography

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