05/02/2011

Shooting Indoors

Challenges of shooting indoors
(real estate photography)

I have found shooting indoors can bring about, for me, many more challenges, than outdoor photography. Particularly with lighting and especially if there is a bright, open window dominating part of the scene. This can result in a drastically under-exposed shot due to the camera exposing for the bright window.
Other problems could include room clutter, such as kid's toys on the floor, too many ornaments or brightly coloured cushions, articles of clothing or dishes still in the sink. If there are windows that show a clear view to the outdoors, make certain it is a clear view and one without any annoying or distracting elements either. 
Another problem with indoor photography is distortion cause by wide angle lenses on vertical and horizontal surfaces, such as, door frames and window drapes. And we need a good wide angle lens to get everything in, but the wider the lens the more distortion. Fortunately some mid range SLR cameras now have a built-in Distortion Correction facility to alleviate these problems.
All these things can not only detract dramatically from our main point of interest, but also give shots a very unprofessional look.
Perhaps you are photographing a property that is for sale or rent for a Real Estate office? Is it going furnished? If so, will you need to show all items in each room? But you will also need to find out if there are any special features of the property that the owner would like to have included in the shoot.
In real estate photography you would normally shoot both inside and out, so outdoors will need almost the same amount of scrutiny, care and consideration as inside.
Obviously, a SLR camera is best suited for this type of photography. Mainly due to the fact that if you need to use flash, as would normally be the case, the pop-up flash of a compact camera is simply not powerful enough for distant shots and just too over-bearing for close-ups. Therefore an external flash attached to a SLR camera's Hot Shoe is much more acceptable, as its light is more powerful and can be diffused by being bounced off a whitish wall or ceiling. You may need to adjust its strength, and/or your white balance however, depending on the type of fixed lighting being used in the building.
A slave flash mounted atop a tripod would also be an asset in large rooms.
As for the strength and direction of the sunlight coming in from outdoors, you may have to draw the curtains or possibly come back when the sky is a bit more overcast.
It all depends on the equipment you have and how proficient you are with its use.
The best type of lens for this job of course, is a wide angle lens. If you are using a compact camera, set it to its widest angle.
On a SLR camera, 14-18mm is about right for larger sensors, but for smaller, 12-14mm. You will notice however, the wider the lens, the more “barrel distortion” will affect your shots. And unless you have a very costly distortion altering lens, the best you can do is try to make it as less obvious as possible, by not including vertical door frames, etc., in the shot.
To make it less obvious, get a rough idea of the ceiling height of the rooms and if you shoot at half that height, you will find those distortions will not be so prominent.
One thing that I consider is important with real estate photography, is to contact the owner prior to the shoot and be fully informed with what he expects and all that is required.
Keep a file on him/her and the real estate office handling the property. Take notes of each consecutive frame number that relates to a particular room, so that you can then relate back to them if needed. Also note down any special aspects of this shoot that you may want for future reference.
Ask the owner if he/she would like to have a photo or print of any special part of the house or garden that they are particularly fond of or has a certain closeness to.
All these things considered can only help you become more professional in what you do and how you accomplish it.