Sometimes you walk into a situation as a photographer with the task and instructions to capture something as you see it, or as it is.  That can be as simple or as complicated as you make it quite frankly can be some of the most fun photo assignments around.  Little tricks of the trade, all the way up to 15 speedlights, onward to mixing big and small lights, all the way up to going all Joe McNally lighting a KC-135 with a bunch of lights or all of Ellis Island for National Geographic using 50-60 2400ws packs.  The point is that sometimes you make it what it needs to be, and other times it’s good as it is meaning you have to figure out a way to work around it.  When you’re shooting something that was designed by someone else, sometimes it’s best to let their designs, art, or ect do the work for you.

(Nikon D4, 50ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm.  8 seconds @F14.  Manfrotto Tripod with Micro Adjustment head.  Inova Bolt flashlight flashed on the knit chairs and table with a 1/2CTO over the front during the 8 second exposure)

This is a room setting that I shot for Chatham Home Interiors here in Indianapolis.  Sort of a neat little designer furniture store just off the beaten path of Massachusetts ave here in Indy.  I’ve done various work for them in the past for their ads, direct mail, coupon, and various other photo related ventures.  In fact I also shot the owners wedding.  Very cool as it was a firefighter’s wedding, so there were a lot of photoesque opportunities.   Anyway, I digress as Chatham Home Interiors was given the opportunity to completely furnish a room in a mansion along with several other designers in town as part of a competition of sorts.  I never really got to see the rest of the rooms because I was called in towards the end, but Chatham won the KEY Award and this is their first year participating.  From what I understand this is pretty unheard of, and they wanted me to come in and take some photos of their space; which was admittedly pretty awesome.

(Nikon D4, 800ISO, Nikon 85mmF1.4D 1/160th@F1.4)

My instructions were simple.  I needed to show the room in it’s glory in the way that it appeared, and they felt that if anybody could do it; they thought I could.  Wow, what an awesome bit of praise, but that bit of praise also comes with a big side of pressure.  I decided to take the simple approach that came from shooting furniture showcases at John Kirk furniture here in Indianapolis.  An interior designer usually designs things to be seen in the way that they want, which means that when I walk into a room; no matter how dark the room is meant to be seen in a specific way before I get there.  Could I have added a dozen lights to this setting to make it what I wanted?  Absolutely, but that would not have made it appear in the photo as Chatham intended it to.  So bust out the tripod.  Then you have to decide between  HDR  Image Bracketing and Light Painting.  Wait, Lightpainting?  Yup, absolutely.  HDR (Hyperdynamic Range) Imaging has its place in the world, but honestly not in my photography.  So out comes the flashlight and gel kit, because I’d ventured a guess that in a few 10 second exposures I could get exactly the shot I want without having to use the computer for hours afterwards.

(Nikon D4, 50ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm, 8 seconds @F16.  Manfrotto tripod with Micro Adjustment head.  Single SB800 zoomed out to 14mm set to 1/1 with a 1/2GTO fired by hand from the table and knit chair from the left twice, Single SB900 zoomed to 200mm with a 1/4 CTO fired by hand at the hot air balloons for the last 5 seconds of the exposure)

The idea is simple, and very similar to using strobes whether big or small.  Decide what your base exposure is going to be, and then light around it.  For the shot above, I decided on the exposure for the background and looked to see where I needed to add light.  My Inova X2 flashlight is awesome, but it’s also daylight balanced which isn’t what the lights in this room were.  That’s of course not withstanding that it wasn’t powerful enough for every frame that I shot, and I had to supplement with some gelled blasts from my SB900s.  Any flashlight will do, or of course you can get any kind of light emitting device for light painting.  With long exposures there is also an issue where lights tend to “bloom” (where a light source gets bigger and bigger in the frame as the exposure runs).  This can be easily fixed by flickering the light switch in your room on and off.  It sounds odd, but trust me.  It works, and it doesn’t require anything special to do.

In the end, I shot a few frames that Chatham Home ended up being incredibly pleased with, and I did it without having to carry 5 cases of gear to the third floor of the mansion.  Just goes to show that sometimes things don’t have to be big productions in order to get beautiful results.  Speaking of things that aren’t big productions, I’ve got a review of the Rogue XL Pro lighting kit coming up, it’s the Indy500 this weekend which I always greatly enjoy, as well as I’ve got a post with some wedding photography.  My wedding actually :).  More Soon.