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Thread: Architectural Interiors: Questions on lens & film and kit.

  1. #1

    Architectural Interiors: Questions on lens & film and kit.



    I have an opportunity where I'll be working with an architect to do a day-long shoot in an apartment-residence that he designed for the purpose of creating photographs for his firm's portfolio. My experience is in natural light, outdoor landscapes and some building exteriors, and my research so far has brought me to some specific questions about the move to interior photography:





    Now, I have made it clear to the architect that I do not have experience in interior shooting. Both the architect and I are viewing this as a learning experience. That said, though, I'd like to increase my chances of success. So, I'd appreciate any views on the questions below:





    a. I've got a Nikkor 90mm f/8, and I'm thinking that I'll rent a 65 or 75mm to augment that.
    - Will two lenses cover it? Anything else I should have as a backup?
    - Will I see fisheye-type distortion in the 65mm?
    - Should I also get a center filter to even out the light in the 65 or 75mm?
    - And, with the f/8, will I have difficulty focussing under modelling lights?
    - Any hard-won camera set-up or focussing tricks for interior shoots?



    b. I think I've settled on shooting a combination of FujiFilm NPS 160 and Velvia 100F. My decision is based on the ability of both to handle mixed-lighting situations. I'm shooting both negative and transparency partly to evaluate the merits of both for interiors, and partly to cover a the two different "looks" of higher-contrast transparency and smoother negative. This shoot will involve a combination of natural light, a two-head strobe system (either 2 speedotron 2400 ws heads or 2 Nexus 3200 ws heads), and the built-in lighting of the residence.
    - To increase the chances of success, I'll be proofing with polaroid film. My thought is to use type 79, but how closely will this actually match the color of the films I'm considering? I know that it won't be exact, but how about to evaluate the effect and color of the strobes? Anything to watch out for?
    - Will I need to worry about color-correcting filters with these films? Any experiences?





    c. And for general critique, here's what I plan to show up with. Constructive comments or things I should get to make my life easier?
    - Ebony 45S
    - 90mm Nikkor f/8
    - 65 or 75mm f/5.6
    - Minolta Spotmeter F
    - Gossen LunaPro Incident Meter
    - Quickload holder & film
    - Polaroid 545i holder & film
    - Grey card
    - two head strobe system with umbrellas and softboxes.
    - Tripod & pan-tilt head
    - Antacid



    Thanks much,

    -Ted

  2. #2

    Architectural Interiors: Questions on lens & film and kit.

    If you are using strobes, you should make sure they are powerful enough to light the apt. at f32 or so with one shot. If not, you will have to do multiple pops, which can be tricky if there is outside light, etc. Also, using a laser pointer can help with focusing and checking DOF when stopped down, since you can move the spot from near to far things.

    If it is not cloudy, you can get blue light coming in, so you might want gels for the strobes to get even color. If all of the color is off, you can correct it later, but it is a pain to fix mixed lighting.

  3. #3
    David Vickery
    Join Date
    Oct 1998
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    Texas, USA
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    Architectural Interiors: Questions on lens & film and kit.

    Hello, These are only my opinions. I make no claims as to their worth to you.

    Forget the strobes---they are way too much trouble, take too much time and provide no real benefit. Use Daylight balanced photofloods. And also use regular tungsten lights for warmth, highlights etc. Remember, most interiors are expected to have a mixture of lighting, including that from windows and different types of artificial lighting. The only caveat to this is Fluorescents. You don't want any of those on if you can help it. However, if that is the primary light source then you can get filters that will do a good enough job of balancing those to your daylight balanced film. But what they will do to the light coming through windows, I don't know. Or, you may have to overpower them with photofloods. They will sicken the color of anything that they disparage with their vile emissions! A lot of the top Architectural photographers use only natural light (read, whatever is in the building)---but of course, they are usually working in big, expensive buildings with a lot of windows, etc.

    Forget the Velvia, to contrasty---Kodak E100 series films are fantastic for interiors. And I don't see the point of using negative film, (well, I guess if they requested a bunch of prints?) unless you are trying to make art, which implies a deviation from what the architect desired (The architect is the artist. You are there to document what he or she intended the place to look like. This may even include the lighting that they dictated. If you were working with the owner of the building and not the architect, then you may be able to do more interpreting.).

    The 65mm lens may be too wide and not have enough coverage for extensive movements--but of course the building may demand it--but I think that usually the 75mm is the better choice, especially if you can only take one or the other. You may want to take along a longer lens (120mm to 150mm) for details, etc., or for bringing closer the exterior details if you have big windows, etc.

    You want more opinions?? Use the incident meter. Use regular film holders and tap the holder just before you insert it into the camera. Expose two sheets of film. Mark your film holders with little labels. Get one sheet processed, evaluate it and then process the other and have it pushed or pulled as needed. After you use the incident meter a little you will find that the majority of the second sheets of film will only need "normal" processing. Michael's idea about the laser pointer is a great one that I wish I had thought of a long time ago. It will help. You probably should get the center filter if you use the 65mm. I have one on my 75mm, but I have never tried the lens without the filter, so I don't really know what it would look like if I didn't have it. Try to get two separate days to work. If you don't like what you got the first time then you can go back and apply my suggestions and get it right I'm sure. ;>) Good luck.
    Sudek ambled across my mind one day and took his picture. Only he knows where it is.
    David Vickery

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 1998
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    1,972

    Architectural Interiors: Questions on lens & film and kit.

    - Will two lenses cover it? Anything else I should have as a backup?

    yes. I use a 90mm / 65mm for interiors regularly.

    - Will I see fisheye-type distortion in the 65mm?

    No.

    - Should I also get a center filter to even out the light in the 65 or 75mm?

    You might.

    - And, with the f/8, will I have difficulty focussing under modelling lights?

    yes. an f/4.5 or f/5.6 lens will really help.
    - Any hard-won camera set-up or focussing tricks for interior shoots?

    I use the bare bulb (reflector assembly removed) of a mini-maglite as a point source to focus on. I place it at for near and far points andetermine the necessary f-stop from their. I use the Rodenstock Depth of Field ccalculator ($35.00).

    Constructive comments or things I should get to make my life easier?

    Use an assistant. Count on using lots of Polaroid: both Type 79 (color) and type 55 (B&W with a negative). I use the Type 55 negative to check for double check for focus accuracy and the T55 print to judge contrast range. Type 79 to see how the color works. No it won't be an exact match colorwise but you will see how the colros work together. Don't pull out the lights unless you absolutely need to. Pay attention to the mode of the room , unless it has none. Set the balance between the view out of the window and the interior so the room is "normal' and the view outside is , on average, about 1/2 to 2/3rds ofa stop over that. Plan on about 1-2 hours of prep per room for really clean shots,

  5. #5

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    Architectural Interiors: Questions on lens & film and kit.

    Tell the owners to clean first, and to put away all their junk. Take a Polaroid of where all their remaining junk was, so you can return it to its original position. Don't be afraid to remove furniture and clutter. Bring an assistant to move the furniture. Keep the architect busy with cleaning (they like to clean.) Wear clean socks or bring a pair of slippers. Tracked-in dirt or footprints on the carpeting look bad.

    Half the battle is diplomacy and confidence. Be confident. Act confident. Don't dwaddle.

    If you don't have the perfect lens, just tell the architect that that is as wide as you can go. Don't go buying gear for a little job with an architect who probably can't afford to pay you anyway! If you can't get a good shot with a 90, going wider is just going to show more of the same bad shot... really, wait to you're getting paid for special equipment. Most architectural photos are too damn wide angle ugly IMHO. Spend your $ on film and Polaroids.

    Strobes can work just fine in many situations. If it is a condo-style with a high ceiling, you can always bounce the strobes off a white wall or ceiling. Use the environment as a giant reflector. True, you won't get f/32 in one pop, but you can often balance different light sources during a long exposure. For instance, eight pops of the strobe during a 60-second exposure to capture the ambient light, with your architect friend crouched under the sink cabinet to turn off the kitchen halogen spots after burning ten seconds. That sort of thing. It's fun. Strobes are great if you already have a lot of natural light - you can fill in the shadows, that sort of thing. "Hot" lights also have their place, and you will probably need both in the course of a larger job.

    Don't forget to do nice detail shots. Every client wants to do some super everything photo. Most clients buy from the detail shots - the nice mouldings, the stairs, the entrance path, the way the light flows through the house. Be a salesman, and think WHY your client needs the shot.

    Kodak EPN 100 is the best daylight transparency film for architecture. It is less contrasty and has a wider range, plus fabrics don't screw up and even flourescents aren't as nasty. Color neg is far more useful to shoot though... I'd do both to start with. You can use a digital to save on Polaroids, at least during set-up - but budget enough to shoot 5-6 plus Polaroids per room over an hour or so.

    Have fun, it's only a few photos and this is how you learn.

  6. #6
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Architectural Interiors: Questions on lens & film and kit.

    Just some thoughts not covered above.

    You will be lucky to get f/32 with that much strobe. We use 3 2000 watt and 2 800 watt norman strobe power packs and 7 heads with press shutters on the lenses for multiple pops at 1 second (usually 4 pops) to get f/32, but frankly f/22 is usually fine with 90 and more than enough for the 65. I almost always need three heads and I prefer umbrelas and bouncing light off the ceiling to get light back in the corners.

    "If it is not cloudy, you can get blue light coming in, so you might want gels for the strobes to get even color. If all of the color is off, you can correct it later, but it is a pain to fix mixed lighting." This statement is very confusing. If it is not cloudy it is sunny and sun light is very similar to strobes. Even if it is cloudy it is not necessarily blue. If you use a coloor temp meter you know that under many circumstances cloudy days can even be warm in color. Anyway mixed lighting is not much of a problem with todays films Velvia 100F, NPS or EPN.

    "Kodak EPN 100 is the best daylight transparency film for architecture" EPN was my choice for years. It has a very wide range, but its forgiveness to flourescents is do to its magenta reciprocity shift which works to overcome the green, but can give a magenta cast to a whole trans. if the ambient exposure is 1 second or longer. I now find EPN a little flat and lifeless too. With the advent of Velvia 100F I switched. It has the same 4th die layer as the NPS. It is more contrasty but it is more forgiving and you can just light a room flat to make up for the contrastiness. It is less forgiving than EPN with a mix of halogen. The halogen on Velvia daylight film goes a very rich gold color which my clients like. My magazine and book clients also love the saturated look of the Velvia. I have a refrigerator full of EPN that is going out of date. Frankly though if the final product is digital use the NPS it is extremely forgiving and has a long tonal range and I can goose the saturation in Photoshop. When my clients want scans as a final product we shoot NPS and scan it in house on an Epson 4870.

    Also don't use a center filter for interiors. I simply light the corners a little brighter. You can't afford the loss of light from a center filter on interiors.

    I prefer type 54 Polaroid. Long ambient light exposures on color Polaroid goes blue. You can correct it but it has nothing to do with the real film and the blue confuses and scares your clients. Plus Polaroid is not as forgiving in mixed light as the real film. So do them on b&w which is cheaper and less confusing to your client.

    For focusing have your asssistant hold a pen light about 1/3 of the way into the room. Don't use the Polaroids for focusing!

    I use a 47mm, 65mm, 90mm, 120mm, 150, 210, 305. But primarily a 90 and 65 for interiors. The 65 is very wide but it doesn't fisheye. Make sure it is a 5.6 or it won't give you any movements.

    Best of luck!
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

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