One of the main problems when taking photo of interior is how to handle outdoor light, or to be more precise, how to handle outdoor light which is showing up in frame. Ideal time for taking photo would be in blue hour, but this period is very short and is often not long enough to make pictures of all rooms and details. If we have to make photo of interior at midday and if there are lot of windows in the frame, then this can be really big problem. Cheapest solution would be to make multi-exposure shot and make HDR photo which would contain all details from inside and outside. But, these photos usually look unrealistic and if frame wasn't static, it can be a problem to stitch these photos. At midday, (on-camera) flash is not strong enough to equalize indoor and outdoor light strength.

An expensive solution would be to use professional lighting. As I don't have experience with it, my question is if this option is really the best and is it able to equalize indoor/outdoor light strength? In how big spaces can it be used? What do people who have used this solution think about it?


The normal professional solution is to place gels (big plastic filter sheets) over the external windows.

Since the actual interior lighting is usually a feature of architectural photos, additional lighting inside is normally balanced to whatever the existing lighting is (often tungsten or "warm white" fluorescents). If you are adding additional light, that usually means using a CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel on your flash.

Natural lighting outdoors is not only too bright at midday, it's also usually way cooler (a higher color temperature) than the lighting indoors. To compensate, you'd tape or tack CTO gels (which are available in large rolls) to the exterior of the windows, often along with a neutral density gel (or a combined CTO/density filter). Depending on the time of day, and on whether it's north or south light, you'd need to use a different "cut" of CTO (a different strength of orangeness).

If that sounds like it's troublesome, expensive (in terms of man-hours) and would go much faster with a color meter and a production crew, you're right. It's a lot easier to go the multiple exposure route -- just make sure that you are using a good tripod (or two -- one on the lens and one on the body if the lens has its own ring; the second tripod doesn't need to be heavy-duty, since it's just a stabilizer), a remote release and mirror lock-up. Current good HDR-capable image processing programs should be able to do the pixel matching, but you'll likely have some color correction to do to make the exterior exposure match the interior.

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    The normal professional solution is to place gels (big plastic filter sheets) over the external windows - Hmm, I would definitely not want to use this as universal solution - what if the windows are really big - how big plastic filter sheets would you need? Although, it sounds like interesting solution when it comes to interiors with smaller windows. – ilija veselica Mar 29 '11 at 9:24
  • Keep in mind that fine architectural photography is often done using view cameras (in order to take advantage of the movements -- tilt/shift lenses are very limited in that regard), and that makes the digital option painfully expensive. Using gels is actually the cheap way out -- they make 'em huge for cinema/tv industry use, and they are reusable. – user2719 Mar 29 '11 at 9:43

The other alternative is, rather than go down the true HDR route, to just take 2 exposures, one for the indoors, one for the view out of the windows. This should be easy with auto-exposure bracketing and continuous shooting mode, even if you are hand-holding your camera (though really you should be using a tripod for any indoor shots).

If you want to be really precise, simply use spot metering and meter both areas properly, but unless the view is an integral part of the shot, you could probably get away with a rough 1 or 2 stop bracket.

Once you have the shots, you can just blend them in Photoshop. This will yield a more realistic result and is much quicker to implement than full HDR; windows have a sharply defined edge which make them easy to mask.

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    I don't know how good this solution is because the outdoor lighting usually spills over window frame and if you would use the frame from underexposed picture, you would have black window frame – ilija veselica Mar 29 '11 at 9:30
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    No, you just cut out the properly exposed window (i.e. whatever you can see through the window) and paste it in to the properly exposed interior shot. A bit of light feathering (1px) will stop an artificially hard edge. You keep the window frame from the interior shot - you are only pasting in the 'glass'. – ElendilTheTall Mar 29 '11 at 11:10

Take your ambient exposures for inside and out. Then expose for the windows whilst using fill flash so that the window frames are lit making it an easy cut and paste. Combine fill and ambient exposures to your taste. Mask in or out shadow and highlight areas within the interior that are getting lost.

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