A description of the lighting theory of Dean J. Birinyi, an interior photographer in San Francisco, CA


I always use the available or natural light that enters a space as my primary light source. When appropriate I add my own supplemental lighting to open the shadows, enhance the mood, direct the eye and sculpt the space with delicacy and finesse.

I’ve always preferred my lighting to be bright and airy, unless there was a reason to do otherwise.

Recently I was asked why I often show my light fixtures illuminated. Below is the best answer I could give.

At the beginning of my career - back in the 1980’s - I was taught that photography is all about light and lighting and that developing skill to control the illumination of my subject in regard to quantity, color and quality is required to be a professional photographer. I continue to control the lighting of my images because the quality of the lighting, my own and the designers is as important to interpreting the designers vision as the texture of the fabrics, the form of the furnishing and color of the walls. 
Interior designers and architects recognize the value of the quality of light to their projects and work to integrate that dimension of creativity into their work. If an architect, or designer has invested time, displayed talent or developed skill in regard to manipulating the light they are adding to their compositions I feel it’s important to showcase this dimension of their design.
Form follows function:
Designers of light fixtures do not design them to be static accoutrements sitting upon a shelf or table. They are intended to be active design elements, helping to create mood and enhance the atmosphere of the spaces, just like my supplemental lighting. I believe that you cannot communicate the essence of a light fixture unless it is shown illuminated, thereby realizing it’s intended purpose as both a mechanical fixture of our lives and as an active design element.

What is probably the most important thing to me about my lighting, and styling is that I want all my efforts to be absolutely transparent and for the result to look perfectly natural.

If anyone, not in the industry were to look at one of my photographs and say "Boy, the photographer sure did make that look good." I would consider it to be a failure.