A blog that focuses on the photography of Dean J. Birinyi, an interior and architectural photographer based in San Francisco, CA.

Including People in Architectural Photography

Post Party Analysis
Design that Celebrates Life Campaign 3/3
Viscusi Elson Inteior Design
Today's architectural photograph is a twofer. I shot the ad above for Viscusi Elson Interior Design in 2009 as part of their "Design that Celebrates Life" campaign.My challenge was to shoot the models in the space, balancing the visual weight of the people with the design elements of the space in keeping with the theme of the campaign. This article is a description of the techniques and creative process I used to achieve the goal.

I use available light for my interiors work and the client liked my style and wanted to include the emotional context in the image for the ad. To do this I had to balance my supplemental lighting with the ambient light of the space and create modeling on the models that was consistent with both the ambient light and the visible light fixtures as well as stop motion of the people. These were not professional models and in order to capture the concept of the ad effectively I had to elicit authentic reactions from them rather than ask them to adopt an attitude and "perform on cue" for the camera, so I had to employ strobe to match the ambient light rather than hot lights.

To get the feel of the lighting I first shot a sunset interior of the interior design. I shot this with nothing but available light using the HDR technique, this gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the mood of the space and internalize the "tone" of the light.

I then moved on to creating the ad shot. I began by composing the image, being sure to include the critical design elements needed to support the campaign theme without overpowering the models. I then balanced the exposure I needed to stop motion to see what impact the actual available light had on the shot.

I then started recreating the ambient light from my previous shot using a mixture of strobe and hot lights. I included some parts of the "costumes" that I knew would be challengeing to ensure I resolved these challenges form the outset rather than allow them to become last minute headaches.

At this point I knew what result I wanted and what challenges I faced, it became a simple matter to resolve each lighting problem in turn, I would resolve one glare issue and then move on to adjusting the luminance value of each lighting element one at a time.

Once I had resolved all the light levels and addressed each glare spot and gained control over all the shadows I began to fine tune the color of each light source one at a time with color gel filters and then as a whole at the camera/computer.
Finally it was time to position our models and begin addressing the challenges and complications they presented to ensure they looked good as people rather than manikins in a storefront window. My images have an authentic quality and I wanted to ensure this ad presented the character and mood of space in the same manner as the fireplace shot.

We opened the cropping of the image to include more of the environment at the request of Gina Viscusi, the interior designer and added a touch of light to the exterior because I didn't want the window to be black and featureless. This didn't upset the mood because landscape lighting of this type is not uncommon.

Finally we were ready, we had addressed each challenge and complication in turn, step by step we built the image. All that was left was to execute our plan and get two inexperienced models to create the authentic interaction we needed while keeping position and generating the organic emotion required to match the space, the theme of the campaign and the mood of the concept.