Episode 7; Lighting – Chapter 2
The topic of lighting the
interiors and exteriors of hotels and resorts is a very large one. Every photographer does it differently, they use
different equipment, and the images work out.
There really isn’t a “best” way of doing lighting, or the “best” lights
to use, it all depends on your personal preferences. What I will do here is explain how I do it in
a general way. Most of the time when I’m
lighting scenes, my decisions of what to
do come from the inside, kind of like from my unconscious. I see the scene, I know what the client is
wanting, then I just get the answers. These answers are, most of the time, punctuated
with bouts of serendipity where the sun comes out at the right time, or the
stars, or a cloud when I need it. It’s
almost as if there is some one guiding me.
I know, I know, shades of “Yoda.”
In the last chapter I wrote about
colour temperature and how incredibly
important it is when you are shooting interiors and exteriors. If you have a multitude of different coloured
lights, the image will look horrible. I mentioned that when I encounter compact
flourescents, I swap them out for regular incandescent bulbs. So really what I try to do is make sure that
all the lights in the room are of the same(or close) colour temperature. For
example, if a room has lots of windows,
and daylight is streaming in, I will convert my lights to daylight colour
temperature so the match the light coming in.
There are various ways of doing this
Photographic lighting fixtures.
All of use are familiar with
flash on cameras. We use flash when
there isn’t enough light in the image.
We also know that this type of light is not flattering and can cause deep
shadows. Professional photographers use as similar type of flash, but on a
larger scale, and usually not on the camera.
They are called “strobes.” The
science behind how a flash works is to lengthy to get into here. Basically, a glass tube is filled with argon
gas, and when it gets an electrical charge, the gas produces the flash.
Here is my preferred choice; the Speedotron strobe unit with fan cooled head. Thus unit packs a punch and comes in a variety of power setting. The flash tube shows the glass tube that contains Argon gas. Once charged, the gas emits light in a very fast pulse. With this light in front of a reflector, it produces a powerful light for a split second. The configuration and the quality of the light tends to be flat and mushy and very hard to control for interior photographic use. Don't get me wrong, I have used these lights to great effect, but prefer fresnel lights.
Strobe lighting is very powerful
and has been used to make some of the most incredible photographs. Creative use of these strobe units can light
almost any subject. I personally have been
using Speedotrons for many years. They
are rugged and have never failed me.
These daylight balanced lights work very effectively outdoors when I am
photographing lifestyles or when I need
fill in shadows on buildings.
Many photographers use these powerful flash units when they shoot
interiors. I have done this over the years and was never satisfied for one
simple reason. The light that these
strobes produce is flat. Yes you can get
a nice shot using strobes for interiors, but the images looks flat. All that you end up doing is “illuminating”
the interior rather than “lighting” it.
So why is this? Personally, I
think that the main drawback with strobes is the design of the bulb and the
reflector it’s in. Once the strobe goes
off, it creates a “mushy” white light
that is applied over the whole scene, thereby, flattening it. There are all kinds of gimmicks used to
prevent this, but you are still starting off with a mushy light. Don’t get me wrong. I love these lights, but they can’t be used for
everything. And I have been known to
combine strobe lights with other types of lights when the situation called for
This is an Arri 300 watt fresnel light. Notice the round lens that the light has to pass through. The light can be spotted or flooded out simply by turning a knob at the back. The barn doors are used to further modify the light. The bulb configuration, the reflector is sits in and the lens all contribute to a very sharp and focusable light beam.
My preferred lights of choice for
shooting interiors are “Fresnel” lights.
Most of us have seen these types of light used in the movie
industry. They come in all kinds of
sizes and shapes. The main difference
between strobes and fresnels, is that fresnels have lens that actually shape
the light. A Fresnel is a round piece of carved glass that is designed to shape
the light into a narrow (spot) or a flood (wide one) pattern. The light is actually harder and can be
manipulated and shaped via the use of barn-doors. Fresnel light is crisper and you can spot and
widen the beam when you choose. So with
a few of these lights, you can create a very romantic feel in the room. The
barn doors can be used to shape the light even further. So in essence, you have way more control of
light emanating from fresnels than you do with strobes.
In this guestroom, I have deployed 10 individual 300 watt fresnel lens with varying degrees of manipulation. You would not believe this just by looking at the shot, but it's true. The room has a very romantic feel to it. The use of pools of light leads your eyes into the shot.
The main source of light here was mainly from the windows. I use some strobe lighting as fill light only. This is a nice shot that shows what flat lighting looks like. Sometimes flat lighting can be used to great effect.
This shot of a resort exterior shows the use of multiple fresnel lights set up in varying degrees of spot and flood.
Fresnel lights are usually
rated at 3200 degrees Kelvin.
normally interior lighting temperature without daylight coming in from the
outside. They can be adjusted to match most colour temperatures via the use of
colour conversion gels.
If you want to
soften the light they you can put soft-diffusion material over the lens.
Fresnels are extremely versatile. The great thing about Arri(and other makes) fresnels, is that I can use them anywhere in the world. All that has to be done is to change the bulbs(from 120 to 200 volts) and get the particular electrical plug for that country. I love these guys.
Anatomy of Hotel and Resort Photography; A guide.
Episode 6; Lighting
– Chapter 1
Lighting for photography is
always challenging and in the next few chapters we will look at why. To start off, I think that we should look at
what is light, what is it made of and how it works.
I believe that we take light
for granted. Light is always there
during the day and not there at night.
We always see the effects of light.
We have also seen how it moves around.
Issac Newton in the 1600’s postulated that light was made up of
particles or waves and left others to confirm this. A Dutch physicist, Christian Huygens, didn’t
agree with Newton and postulated that light was made up of waves and not
particles. Since Newton was so popular
then, it took another 100 years before the wave theory was accepted. To this day you are either in one camp or the
other and sometimes in both.
According to the particle
theory, reflection on light is very straightforward. Light when it hits a mirror, arrives there as
a stream of tiny particles, then bounces of the mirror’s surface. According to the wave theory, a light source gives off light waves that
spread out in all directions. If these
waves hit a mirror, they reflect according to the angle of impact.
I’ve often wondered why
light can’t be both particles and waves.
We will let the scholars figure this one out. I am however, always
looking at what light does and how it does it. I’m always looking at the effect
of light coming in a window and how it affects the room, the furniture, the
carpets and even how it warms my dog that’s lying on the floor.
Light is absolutely
spectacular and can be created, controlled and modified.
Okay, lets talk about the
colour of light, or colour theory.
When we look a light we
normally see it as white light. However
the opposite is true.
Light is a mixture of all
the colours in the rainbow, basically the full spectrum. – red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, indigo, and violet. The
reason why we see things in colour is because they are reflecting that colour
and absorbing the rest. An apple is
green since it reflects green and absorbs all the other colours. An orange is orange since it reflects orange
and absorbs all the other colours.
White light shone through a
glass prism separates into its component colours.
Why is this important to
hotel and resort photography? We will have
to check out the Kelvin temperature scale. Lord Kelvin in 1848 figured out that
each colour had a certain temperature that could be measured. His theories have become extremely important
in the fields of photography, lighting, videography, publishing, astrophysics,
etc. The colour temperature of light is
the temperature of an ideal black body radiator that radiates light of
comparable hue to that of the light source. Okay, kind of confusing. Simply put, colour temperatures over 5000K
are called cool colours(blueish white) , while lower colour temperatures (2700-3000k) are called warm colours .
The image on the left has
the proper colour temperature while the one on the right does not.
In photography, the term
colour temperature can be used interchangeably with “white balance.” White balance allows for the remapping of
colour values to simulate variations in ambient colour temperature. Most digital cameras provide presets
simulating ambient values such as,
sunny, cloudy, tungsten, flash, etc.,
Some cameras you can enter the white balance number you like, such as
3200k(the colour of a regular tungsten bulb) or 5600k ( the colour of
In both of these shots you can see
incandescent colour, daylight, colour and even a little fluorescent colour.
Therefore, the colours of the table,
chair, plant, etc., is off.
I have simplified the
concept so that we can look at how it affects our photography.
When I photograph an
interior, I try to make all the light sources – wall sconces, table lamps,
daylight coming in the windows – the same colour temperature by changing the
light bulbs or by using conversion gels.
I usually convert all the light sources to true 3200K, which when the
camera is properly white balanced, the image comes out the right colour. Let’s say I don’t do this. One lamp might have a fluorescent light bulb
in it (which produces the most ghastly yellowish-green colour) and another has
a regular tungsten bulb, then the interior will have competing light colour
temperatures. The furniture, drapes,
carpet will not show as the proper colours they are. One area of the will look greenish-yellow,
while the other areas will look normal.
This can be a real problem so has to be considered before taking the
This ceiling light has
fluorescent lights in it and is very difficult to get a pleasing colour
temperature out of it. I would change
these to regular incandescent(tungsten) bulbs.
Here you can see how the
colour of daylight(bluish) affects the colour of the wooden wall>
Knowing the basics of colour
theory you can be creative in its use as well.
The following restaurant shot in Mexico shows that with proper knowledge of the theory and proper use of lighting a pleasing balance between daylight
and incandescent(tungsten) light can be found.
Episode 5; Composition
Composition is by
The combination of distinct
parts or elements to form a whole. Arrangement of artistic
parts so as to form a unified whole.There are lots of books written
on Composition but here are a few rules of thumb that you can follow to improve
the way you compose shots or evaluate them.
Point of interest
The Rule of Thirds concept. This concept can be considered "old school," but it is still in use by all visual artists. The Rule of Thirds was first theorized by John Thomas Smith in 1797. In his book "Remarks On Rural Scenerey," Smith writes about the balance of dark and light in a painting. "...Two distinct, equal lights, should never appear in the same picture; One should be principal, and the rest sub-ordinate." Basically, the Rule of Thirds means that you break up the image in thirds(imagine hopscotch lines going through the image) and make sure that the main point of interest is not in the centre of the shot. You compose the image to guide the viewer to look at certain points first, then they can look around in the image.
In this shot, the Little Blue Heron is not in the centre of the image
You can see that the water trail is not in the centre of the shot.
The Use of Lines
When shooting architecture,
the use of lines is very important.
Lines, if used properly will force the viewer to look at the image the
way you want them too. You use straight or curved lines to
guide the viewer to where you think the “heart” of the image is.
Here your are forced to look along the curved highway first
I used the spectacular vertical columns to guide the viewer down to see the man in the pools. The spa pool was important, not the columns.
What is important to show?
When shooting interiors for
example, you have to find the “heart” of the image. What is it about the room that sings? You can always just photograph furniture
against a fireplace or window, but does this tell the story of the room? I don’t think so. A bunch of furniture, even if it’s nice
furniture, can be done anywhere and may not represent the room. I’m always searching for the “heart “of a
room and what story does it have to tell.
Nice shot of a chair and window. What does this say of the interior? Okay, so it was shot in Mexico.
In this shot the most important thing was the view. So it takes up more of the shot that the table.
Lensing and Angle
Lensing is always very
important. Most of the time when
shooting large exteriors and interiors, you will need to use a wide angle lens
– 14mm to 28mm. Most lens though will
curve walls and straight lines due to their optics. I always use what’s called “rectilinear” lens which
help to eliminate the curved walls and lines. Extreme wide lens like fisheyes
should not be used since they really throw the image out of wack.
I used a super wide lens here and shot from a low angle. You can see how the buildings are wacked out.
Patterns and Shapes
Does the image have unique
patterns and shapes that will help in composing the shot?
There are lots of interesting shapes and patterns here to look at. It's also interesting that the street in shadow kind of forces you to look down it at the bell tower. So, sometimes you can use darkness(instead of light) to guide the viewer to where you want them to look first.
The use of foreground elements will always help your
Here the green foliage adds to the shot making it look more inviting.
One final thing I think is really important in composition
is the “COOL” factor. Does the way
you’ve composed the shot feel
“Cool”, feel right? Composition is a personal journey and the
feeling that you got it right takes time.
So feel free to train yourself to get better at composing shots. If you’re not a photographer, at least now
you have a few tools to evaluate the images you see. You either like them or not. If you can quantify this feeling, then you
are on your way.