Making a Photograph of an Interior Space Look Real

February 9th, 2015

How should we photographers who call ourselves architectural and interiors specialists, separate ourselves from the crowd of shooters who literally point and shoot and expect automatic features like HDR (High Dynamic Range) to do the work for us? I’m a believer in the do-it-yourself school which requires that we specifically, and by-hand, control the final “look” of our work. There’s no automatic program that can, in one fell swoop, reveal shadow and highlight detail in perfect realistic balance. HDR flattens out the drama inherent in any scene and requires that the photographer step in later to fix the boring averaging out which is invariably the result. So why not play the broad range you’re given in a RAW file like a wonderful musical instrument. Those who came up through the world of film know better than anyone the magical gifts that digital has given us – and we should use them. We’ve been given control of our scenes in ways only dreamed of before. So why not get our hands dirty? Why not dig into the control of our images and personally give them a signature of what we believe communicates space as it really is. Seeing detail in shadows (that really continue being shadows), seeing detail in highlights (that continue to be true highlights), that’s the work of a hands-on photographer. My credo is: scenes should seem to be lit by the sources visible in the composition. Light must not come from some alien source that can’t be explained by looking at what’s in the shot. If there are windows, then they’re the source of daylight in the space. That source should be embraced, used and enhanced thereby lending realism to the shot. If there are lamps and built-in lighting, then those sources should be the key to where artificial light falls in the shot. Shadows, always important, are critical compositional tools. Don’t fight them! Use them. They may be our best ally in creating of a sense of depth and of three dimensions making a shot look real. In the end, we photographers must keep in mind that a realistic presentation of space requires an interpretation of how that space looks and feels to a viewer in it. And those feelings must guide us in our quest to re-imagine that space photographically.

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