Friday, 30 July 2010

Flashy pad 5!

Haven't updated the blog for a wee while so I thought I'd add a bit of info about a recent job for a regular client. As it was quite a nice day with some brea
ks in the cloud I broke out the flashes to keep the windows in check whenever there was blue sky showing. As I've said in previous 'Flashy pad' posts a cloudy day is usually better for interiors but when you get a nice blue sky with white clouds then you can't turn it down.

The shot above was taken using one (I think) flash bounced into the ceiling to light the interior so I could make the exposure for the outside (which was 250th/f9). Without the flash the interior would obviously have been pretty under-exposed. Here's a setup pic from a previous shot showing one flash bouncing off the ceiling and one lower down off the white door for even coverage...

Another space that needed some flash was the top floor which had a nice skyllight and was light and airy. The natural light shot was actually ok but I wanted to pull in the nice sky
outside so I set up the flashes. Here's the natural light shot...

Which looks fine, but I really wanted to pull the window in so here's a rough setup shot

And here's the 'final' shot...

Which I do prefer. There's three flashes here by the way, one cam right into the ceiling corner, one cam left handled by me on the stairs (cam triggered with a cable release) and one in the bathroom at the end of the hall.)

I could have used HDR for these shots, as I did in my previous post, but the results, in my opinion, are rarely good enough quality and when the house has so much white to bounce light around I really think doing all this 'in camera' is the way to go whenever possible. I did take an HDR shot of a dining room to compare with doing it in-cam....

First is the natural light shot

Which, again, isn't bad, but I wanted the sky and a little bit more light as I felt this looked a tad dingy, which the room wasn't. So next is the HDR version (9 exposures)

Which loses some sharpness and the colours just don't look right. Then the shot with two flashes...

Which in my opinion looks much better. I was a bit sloppy and got a slight hit on the corner of the mirror but that's user error :)

All in all this was another nice house that I'd love to live in! Here's a few of the detail shots I liked:

And lastly, just to mention the two setup shots I posted (and some shots I stuck on twitter while I was shooting) were taken with the iPhone cam which is pretty good when you have some light. Here's a pic I took of a very brief break in the clouds out of the skylight :)

Which is now my iPhone background :)

Sorry for the longer post (and the dodgy design as my normal blog editor isn't working so using blogger), especially if it's bored you! Just thought I'd share.

Cheers all
Ian :)

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Golf, HDR and food!

Had a very nice shoot the other day up in St Andrews. It was a beautiful day and the drive up was really enjoyable. Especially after the stressful couple of weeks we've had (see previous post!). The commission was to shoot some food and a few internals for a bar & grill that overlooks the 18th hole of the old course, and since The Open is about to start all the stands were up and the town was packed.

The shot above is the first thing you see when you walk in and I instantly knew I'd have a problem reproducing the scene since it was such a bright day outside and quite dark (at least for a camera) inside. As I was shooting food also I only really had an hour to get the internals done. Normally I'd approach this by exposing for the windows and then lighting the interior, but this was a large area with a very high ceiling. I actually did use the flashes on a couple of other shots to light the corner I was shooting in, one of which is below...

But that wouldn't work for the main entrance shot as the space was just too large for me to light with three flashguns, plus I was up against the clock. So I decided to resort to something I hardly ever do....HDR. I don't like HDR. I know it's quite a fashionable thing just now but I'm just not a fan. The only HDR that looks ok are the ones that don't look like HDR. But, it was the only way I could get this shot at the time, so I took 9 exposures.

The darkest...

To the lightest...

and I blended them into the shot at the top of the post. I have to say it's pretty impressive. Given time and some studio lights I could do much better, but for a quick job I'd say I'm pretty happy with the results!

As you can see by this pic, when you don't have a window in the frame it's much simpler :)

Have to say this was a lovely place with a fantastic view of the 18th hole..

And some lovely food...

Loved this dish (Scallops above), I thought it looked so colourful and really well put together.

And finally...

I really liked the purple chair in the background which worked so well with the bokeh.

I shot all the food with natural light coming in from cam right. I didn't even use a reflector as the windows where quite large and the light wrapped around the food.

So, I admit to not only using HDR but actually liking the results, hopefully though that's because it's not overdone like so many HDR images are these days IMO, and I also admit that for the first time ever I'll watch some of the golf just to see the 18th hole ;)

Ian :)

Samuel the menace

Well I've not posted anything for a few weeks and here's the reason. This is a picture of a wee menace! 2 days in intensive care, three in special care, then out and back in a couple of times. But now he should be home for good. So apologies for lack of posting but hopefully almost normal service will resume shortly and you prob wont even notice a difference from my normal ramblings and my sleep deprived ramblings!!

Ian :)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Killer flick of light in killer kitchen!

This house didn't really qualify as a 'Flashy Pad' post since I used natural light for almost all the shots. However, I did use a flash on the shot above to give a little highlight to the really cool kitchen at the far end of the room. This room was great and the kitchen was awesome, but it did present a slight problem in terms of exposure.

The main problem was that the kitchen units were pretty dark, while in front of them was a bright white table and chairs right beside the sliding glass doors. Luckily the sun wasn't streaming in the kitchen directly (if it had I'd have had to light the whole kitchen to close to the ambient level) so I could expose how I wanted and add just the one flash to light up the kitchen. The flash is placed on the floor behind the middle chair. I tried bouncing the light off the chair to get a bit more even coverage but it just gave me horrible shadows everywhere so I stuck with some direct flash :) The 'killer flick' line is of course taken from the great Joe McNally :)

Below is the same shot without the flash...

It's not a bad shot by any means, but I think the details are important with this sort of thing and I think the flash highlights the kitchen which is the main feature of this room really.

I love the shot actually, I like the balance of having the green of the grass there to lift the colours, it really does this great room justice.

Below are a few other shots I liked, some from this house and some from a different house on the same day. Both had these great kitchen rooms and basically, I WANT THESE KITCHENS!

And lastly, here's a couple of details shots I really like. These houses (like most showhomes I'm lucky enough to shoot) had some really nice interior design which makes it a real pleasure when looking for some details shots...

Thanks for reading/looking

Ian :)

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Flashy Pad 4

Just another wee example of using flashes for interiors. I was shooting for one of my clients last week and was lucky enough to have some nice weather for my exterior shots of the development, but I also had to take shots of the new showhome. For this, as I've said before, I would much prefer some cloud cover for a softer more even light. However, it wasn't too much of a problem with this house but I did have to break out the lights when shooting the living room. The shot above is the final and I'll show you how I got to it.

First off, here's the natural light shot...

Not a bad shot but because of the shape of the room I needed quite a long shutter speed to let the ambient soak in to where the dining table was, basically where I was taking the shot from. It was also taking a lot of the saturation out of the scene. Sometimes I like this look but here I wasn't happy with what I was getting so I knew I had to light the shot. So, first off I set the shutter speed to 1/250th (my sync speed) to see what the flashes on their own would do...

This was just a quick shot to see how things lay. There's two flashes, one behind me up on a stand right into the corner of the room and another in the far right corner. That far one was just pointing straight up and I could see that I needed to bounce it off into the corner too because of the harsh shadow on the ceiling light. So I turned that flash around to get more bounce and to get a softer light. This got me to here...

I knew now that I had to open up the shutter to let some ambient in to fill in those shadows. Now I did have an option here. I COULD have broken out a third flash (a trusty Vivitar 285) and placed it to my left to give me more light and an even coverage. Then I could have kept the shutter speed fairly high in order to keep the sky looking blue. Problem is I'd also have kept that BT van in the shot too :( I'd already asked them if they could move it (they were nice, but said no!!) so I had left this room as long as I could. So I decided to let the ambient soak in a touch more to nuke the windows. The view wasn't integral to this shot anyway so it wasn't a major problem. However, the flashes brought a much more even light and some colour and texture to the shot that was lacking in the ambient light only version.

I just want to add another shot here that was ambient only. I just loved the way the light from the window fell off the blue wall...

As you can see from the shot below, it's quite often advisable to keep the window or light source out of the shot, particularly if you're wanting to concentrate on a gorgeous light like this. I only add flash if I need it, it's a tool in the bag and not the first stop saloon (is that even a saying?)...

Actually, here's a couple of others from the shoot that I quite liked...

And this one which I actually really really like but I'm not sure anyone else will. Two versions...

And a black and white version...

I like the almost pastel colours of the colour but I also really like the grain and moodiness of the B&W. What do you think? Good, Indifferent, or crap? Would love to hear opinions!

Ian :)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Flashy Pad

I thought I would post up a few photos from a showhome I shot last week. The reason I'd like to post them is to show how I used a couple of flashes to even out the light in this livingroom. I always carry three flashes with me on every job but I don't always need them. If I'm shooting interiors I ideally like a nice cloudy day which will give me a softer light. If it's a sunny blue sky day it would give me shafts of light that are much much lighter than the rest of the interiors, basically far too much dynamic range for the camera.

I know a lot of people like to use HDR these days by bracketing between 3 and 9 shots and combining them in the computer, but that's not for me. I rarely see an HDR photo that I like and I'd MUCH rather know that I've got the shot before I leave the site rather than later on after half an hour on the computer looking at a picture that just doesn't look quite right!

There's a few things you can do to deal with these shafts of light such as pulling blinds down or even using a white sheet to cover the windows to soften the light a bit more, but if you have the windows in the shot then this isn't really going to work so well. Also, if the view is important for the shot then you really only have two options, light the room up to the same exposure value as the exterior ambient, or go the HDR route (you could take one exposure for the view and one for interior and mask in photoshop but to be honest, quite often just two frames like this don't sit well together.)

So anyway, on the shot above you can probably see a marked difference in the exposure of the upper and lower halves of the room. This was due to the angle of the sun coming in the window behind me. Also note that the lights are on. Some clients prefer to have internal lights on and some prefer them to be off. It's a matter of preference and it can even depend on the type of room you're shooting. If there are small spotlights then I'd usually prefer them to be on, especially if there's any reflective surfaces showing. I usually shoot between f11 and f16 which gives you a nice 'star/twinkle' effect from point light sources that add a little bit of extra interest in the frame. But for lights such as these I quite like them to be off so they don't burn in too much during the exposure. This also means the white balance is a lot more straight forward of course.

So I turned the lights off and took another shot to see how the shadows on the wall were affected...

I could see straight away that I would need to set up a couple of flashes to get a more even coverage. One option would of course to fix it in post production, but, as with the HDR, I'd much rather get the shot in the camera before I leave the site. Also, if I'm honest, it's also a bit of professional pride for me to get pictures as close to finished in camera as possible. I do of course post process all images but if you can do it in camera then I think you should.

Anyway, to even out the exposure I put two flashes fairly high up in the corners of the room behind me, both pointing into the corners with wide angle diffusers on. Pointing them into the corners gives a much more even coverage because it's making the light bounce off in all directions. This is really important to reduce shadows. One place I always look at when I'm looking at interior shots are the ceiling lights. You can usually tell where the dominant light is coming from by the shadow.

In the next shot you can see the coverage isn't quite even enough and so is giving me a bit too much of a harsh shadow on the ceiling light...

You can see two shadows from the flashes but you can also see that the shadow on the far wall has pretty much disappeared. This told me that the power of the lights was fine but that they needed to be backed off from the ceiling a bit. More distance means more coverage as they hit a wider area of the wall. This would fill in those shadows nicely. So I backed both off a bit (basically lowered the stands by about a foot) and shot again to get the final shot...

This might seem like a lot of effort to go to for a shot of a livingroom but it's details like this that make a difference. For the final delivered shot I also cloned the chair which has some of it's leather covering falling off (which I missed on the day!!) and tweaked the white balance a touch.

There is a nice even light in the room that I think makes it look clean, fresh and inviting and there's no harsh shadows to distract or draw the eye to. There's definitely a time and place for higher contrast looks but for most interior shots a nice bright, clean and fresh look is what is asked for.

Apologies for the longer post as it's probably a bit rambling but I get carried away easily :) Please leave a comment with any thoughts or hints for me or others, it's much appreciated.

Ian :)

Monday, 19 April 2010

Nice house and Scooby Doo too!

Just a few pictures from the weekend shoot. This was a lovely show house from David Wilson Homes in Dunfermline. The site is in the early stages so I had to do some extensive cloning on the picture above. In particular on the right side of the frame there was metal mesh fencing which was a challenge to remove :) And also the lower right window is basically a copy of the one above it since the fence went right in front of it. I've changed the reflection a bit so it's not that obvious but it was the best way to 'rebuild' the window.

I was a bit lucky with the weather too as it was a pretty cloudy morning but there was one patch of blue sky drifting slowly towards the right part of the sky for this shot. I had to wait about 10 minutes for this but it was worth it. Always better to get a nice sky in camera rather than having to replace it in post production in my opinion.

Anyway, the house was lovely and had a great kitchen...

Being an ex-chef I always like looking at new kitchens and this one was really spacious!

There was also a sales event on that day and we had the scooby doo van turn up for the kids for a while...

I took most pics of the house with natural light since it was quite cloudy so I had a soft enough light. I do have a 'Flashy pad' post to put up from a different job last week though so I'll be working on that over the next day or so.

Thanks for reading :)

Friday, 16 April 2010


I had the pleasure of taking some pictures for the newly refurbished Lancers restaurant in Edinburgh a few days ago. It's a very modern, stylish place with friendly staff and amazing food. As usual we were a bit time limited having to take interior, food and portrait shots, so we had to move to different lighting for each. I'm really happy with how they came out so I thought I'd share some here :)

The shot above was taken with a softbox cam left balanced with the ambient spotlights for the background.
The food shots below were mainly taken with natural light behind and a flash off to cam right.

And here's a nice wee outtake which I really like...

Hope you like these, if so leave a comment :)
I'll be updating more frequently from now on so check back here or my twitter for updates.