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I am not very satisfied with the photo I have taken, although it took me around 20 mins arranging two 200W flashes around the room to light it up, taking several shots of each and every corner so I blend them using "flambient" technique.

enter image description here

I took another photo from the center of the room towards the windows, it looked much better including window pulls. However, I want to showcase the size of the room.

enter image description here

In such cases, what is the best practice when taking photos of large rooms?

My gear:

  • Canon 6D mk2
  • Sigma 12-24 f4 DG HSM Art
  • Two 200W wireless flashes

Settings:

  • Aperture f8

  • ISO 100

  • Manual mode

  • Flashes also in manual mode

  • I shoot RAW and auto-WB


[Edit]

Workflow:

I first start with a single ambient exposure without flashes. I then drop my exposure two stops for flashes. I take several flash exposures from all around the room. For small rooms, I usually need three flash exposures not more. For this room, It was really difficult to properly position the flashes to light up dark areas. Next step, blending all photos in Photoshop. Ambient shot is applied as Luminosity layer.


[Edit] - @Rafael's answer

I. I take one ambient shot, keeping an eye on the Histogram and exposure in general. Next step, flash shots. I keep all settings untouched except for the shutter speed, I lower it by two stops as I learned from one video on YT.

II. Since I'm not experienced and totally new to all this, I do the following when using flash(es).

  • I start with flash above the camera so I perfectly expose the foreground, taking advantage of the white ceiling to bounce off the light. This photo will be the base where I mask other exposures on top of it, finishing it off with a masked ambient shot.
  • I fire flashes on either side of the room in order to expose the opposite side. I go back and forth to the camera to make sure I'm not over/under-exposing any part. I either handhold the flash or use a stand, depends on the situation.
  • As you can see in the following photos where I have placed the flashes. The big issue here is to determine the flash power as well as its distance from the ceiling. Some videos recommended 2ft off the ceiling. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here III. Regarding sunlight bouncing off the floor on the ceiling, I had to close the center curtain to eliminate the reflection that ruined the center of the photo. The ones on either side didn't bother me much, or maybe I just didn't care. I honestly never thought of flashing the floor to illuminate the ceiling. I will keep that in mind next time.

IV. Interesting. I will look it up.

V. All the photos I saw other realtors taking are the same. the windows look fake so they showcase the view, a marketing tool :) I load all photos into LrC, add lens correction, a bit of basic adjustments, e.g. highlights and shadows, then open them as layers in PS. I mask the layers, adjust curves (auto) in order to get rid of any color cast, add High pass filter and then back to LrC for final touches before exporting them.

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4 Answers 4

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First of all. Good work. That situation is a challenge.

I am writing this answer, more to myself than to you. Things and methodology that I need to put into practice more often. So I do not know what is the "best practice".

I first start with a single ambient exposure without flashes

I. I hope you mean "bracketed multiple exposures". Remember that the very first option you have is to make some HDRI techniques, or even some dodge and burn over different exposed layers.

II. One thing that would be useful to analyze your specific case is where the flashes are and where you are aiming them to.

I have some clues tho. (A) My diagram does not mean that you are using a snoot. It is only showing where I think the light is and I am circling the zone where I see the shadows.

enter image description here

But in an interior scene, we have large areas of light bouncing light to the opposite side. (B) so my first option would be simulating what would a light on the spot (C) would bounce light? The answer is on the ceiling.

III. In general, I would bounce the light to illuminate the opposite side. First on the ceiling and the floor on a different shot. Thankfully the ceiling is white!

The flor you have the additional problem that is a glossy surface. Probably you can carry a big white fabric (I would carry several m. of it). Try not to use a synthetic fiber, because they cast some magenta-purple color. You can even use it to cover color furniture so it does not cast a lot of colored light.

enter image description here

These zones are a good excuse to use them as light sources. I would fire flashes on the second floor.

enter image description here

IV. I do not mind a different color on the light entering the window and the light bouncing on the interior it is expected, but you could get some LEE filters. Specifically, get some CT (orange) and CTB (blue, just in case). It is way cheaper if you buy one sheet of gel, that way you can cut several pieces and have spare gels in case they wear out. By buying one or two specific colors you will know how they respond and you can get a new gel with the same color each time.

In case the full CT is too strong, as the light is bounced, you can cover just a fraction of the flash head and you will get a fraction of the color cast. Sometimes I use the flipping plastic pice some strobes have to spread the light when you need to use a wider lens, to hold the gel.

CT Lee filter

V. Post

Imho, the image outside the window is too well exposed on the second image, this looks a bit fake. Probably you need to "overexpose" it just a bit more.

The additional images probably need some masking I would first try only some gradients to mask them, to make the transition between photos smoother.

And keep exploring HDRI merge.

VI. On the flashlights, prefer uniformity over exposure.

If you feel that you need to put lights closer to an area because they are not powerful enough, don't.

You can compensate for that shot using curves or adjusting the exposure on the post. You have some room to do it using RAW files. But the falloff produced by a close light is harder to work with.

VII. Dark furniture.

I would forget about it. If the walls around them look ok, the shot of that zone is ok. Only in very specific cases, I would put some additional light there.

VIII. One more thing is to determine how much you want to emphasize the artificial lights.

I noticed they are on, but probably they need to be brighter. The only way to do this is by exposing it more by lowering the shutter speed. That is another reason to make bracketing even if you are not considering the outdoor lights.


Reading some of your comments.

  1. Do not change the ISO. Stick with the one you have. But if you are ok using ISO 200, and your room is mostly dark, use it instead of ISO 100. You will expose better the room using the lights further away, and for the ambient shots, you can simply increase the shutter speed.

  2. Do not use the auto white balance. If you can not balance all the shoots, use daylight and adjust the other shoots in the post or using gels.

  3. Most of the gray cards are only useful just to set up the exposure, not the white balance. I prefer using a white paper and underexposing it to set up the gray (or use a color checker). In the case of a dominant white zone, like the room paint, you could use it. But for architectural photography you do not need a perfectly neutral white, a warmer tome is nice. That is why is better to use gels and keep the golden our look.


One note about bracketing.

It can help you, not only with the difference between outdoor and indoor light, but also as a way to balance the falloff of the lights as you get further away from the window.

Although the framing on this related post is different, it shows how to use two shoots on different layers to balance the exposure. How was this interior room photo lit? Window...Strobes...Both?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Many thanks, Rafael, for the comprehensive answer, time and effort you have put into it. I will re-read your post again and edit the OP with my comments so we, both, and others benefit from this post. To quickly answer some of your questions, (I) I take one exposure where I make sure that furniture's color and lights are balanced and visible, ignoring overexposed windows. I do 7 brackets HDR (-3 to +3) only for outdoors and then merge them. I will post a detailed answer with some photos that show the placement of the flashes, I feel this post will be rich with info and will help others. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 16, 2021 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I edited a bit the answer about some bracketing on another interior scene. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Dec 16, 2021 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ And I added a note about the artificial lights. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Dec 16, 2021 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not all of them where on, only the ones on the side walls in the first photo. I tried turning them on but couldn't find the switch xD I usually have them bright in the ambient shot because I blend it last one as Luminosity layer after blending all flashed shots. I'm preparing my long edit lol. I will let you know once ready. thanks again Rafa. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 16, 2021 at 16:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please check the op. Added more details. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 16, 2021 at 18:34
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I think the second shot looks better not only because you maintain the scene out the windows, but also because you've got a more consistent color of light throughout the frame. The sunlight coming in from the windows is definitely warmer than your 200Ws strobes, so maybe consider gelling them to match, so you don't have a mixed white-balance nightmare, and things look a little more consistent; think of it like faking sunlight.

The second shot also looks better because you're not distorting the dimensions of the room as much, and features of interest are now shrunk to nothingness in the background. Yes, you are emphasizing the size of the space, but at the expense of a realistic feel of the room's proportions and ability to actually see what's back there. You may need to be more judicious in using the short end of your ultrawide lens. :) Personally, this is where I'd start pulling out my Nodal Ninja, fisheye lens, and doing two or three VR panorama instead, moving through the space.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly, I use strobes. as for WB, my default setting is auto, in light room I adjust it for both ambient and flashed. I have a gray card but I don't use it, I found it inaccurate sometimes. For flashed photos, I standardize their WB settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 14, 2021 at 9:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Guest00001, the issue is the color of your strobes being a cooler color than the sunlight. Your camera's/Lr's white balance can only adjust for one color or the other. And in a scene like this, they'll also mix, which makes it hard to, say, use masks/layers to adjust the two separate colors. Gelling the strobes to match the sunlight color, would vastly simplify white balancing. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Dec 15, 2021 at 7:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks again for your comment. I have watched endless number of videos on YT, no one ever mentioned flash light temp. The advertised color temp of the flashes I use is 5600, so it should be within average daylight temp. I will try these amazon.es/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 15, 2021 at 8:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would not get those filters. Try to buy a sheet of professional-grade filters. leefilters.com I would only start with a full or half CTB leefilters.com/lighting/colour-details.html#201&filter=cf and one CT leefilters.com/lighting/colour-details.html#204&filter=cf I will explain a bit more on an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Dec 16, 2021 at 13:50
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It just looks to me like you needed more images to cover more dynamic range.

E.g. in the first image your windows and window highlights on the floor are more overexposed, and the foreground floor/ceiling is a bit more underexposed.

The farther away you are from the ambient source (windows), the more falloff of the ambient there is going to be which you have to compensate for... which is basically the point of exposure blending. E.g. because you were farther away, you were in a darker part of the room, and the windows were smaller in the composition, so your ambient exposure was different and a 2 stop drop for the flashes wasn't enough for everything.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ illuminating background was a challenge, although I placed two flashes (full power) on each side to cover each and every part possible. I'm not sure if I had to increase the ISO, yet I don't think higher ISO would be of help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 14, 2021 at 9:17
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The best practice depends on what you are optimizing for. Everything depends on the amount of resources you are willing to commit versus the result that is good enough.

If you are willing to commit the additional effort, measure the space with a light meter and then meter the flashes and adjust flash power to provide more even illumination.

This means diagrams and lighting plans and probably more time in the field and more time in the computer and possibly going back for a reshoot if you miss something.

The best practice is always making the unreasonable effort to get what you want. Do it enough and it becomes habit and seems reasonable to you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how to use light meters, not to mention, sometimes I don't have enough time to do trial and error on site. Getting back to site isn't an option most of times. I do try to take several exposures, I go back and forth to the camera to check the image captured, I adjust flashes' power as well as position. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 14, 2021 at 9:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Guest00001 There are lots of resources about light meters on YouTube. And lots of time in the future to gain experience with them. But my general idea is that better results come from more work. The shortcut will get you to the old place faster. It can’t take you somewhere new. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 14, 2021 at 21:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, the more effort you put, the better the outcome. Again, the videos I have watched didn't mention light meters, they only teach you how to take several exposures, edit them in LR, and then exposure blend them in PS. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 15, 2021 at 9:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Guest00001 Most people don’t have a good light meter. And so standard practice is to take a lot of pictures “just in case” and then “just fix it in post.” And if that’s good enough there’s nothing wrong with that. Using a light meter is like using a tripod. A best practice. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2021 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, I will do my homework by reading more about usage of light meters. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest00001
    Dec 16, 2021 at 16:36

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