Images Of Exteriors And Interiors

by William Lulow

Recently, I was asked to make a series of images of buildings and interiors at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. My specialty is shooting people, but my experience has included product photography as well as interiors and exteriors. Commercial photography includes just about any type of subject matter, so one must be prepared to handle most aspects of what’s required to come up with salable images.

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Good weather helps, but I have shot buildings in rainy weather as well. Shiny pavements add a certain glossy element to exterior shots. Below is an image I made for a hotel in Yonkers, NY. I actually had the staff hose down the parking lot to create some reflections:

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One of the things to keep in mind for any image of a building, is to frame it with existing trees, or other elements that give the picture some depth:

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The same thing holds true for interior images. These shots usually require the vertical elements to remain vertical. This used to be achieved using the swings and tilts of a view camera. But today, it’s often not practical to use a large camera that shoots only film. So, why not use a digital back on a view camera? Well, the problem then becomes how to focus it properly, because it’s not the same as using film and film holders. So, commercial photographers had to figure out how to shoot interior images with digital cameras!  In our digital world, some perspective corrections can be made by using a “perspective-correction” lens. But it doesn’t always do the job the way a view camera would. One of the techniques I have learned over the years with digital cameras, is to place the camera at the vertical center of the room so that you won’t have to tilt it up or down. But even this won’t completely solve the vertical problem due to the natural distortion of most wide angle lenses placed on DSLR bodies. Here’s an example from my recent West Point shoot:

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The vertical elements are fairly correct. Using the camera’s built-in level, I determined the vertical center of the room. Any other distortion came from the lens itself which was a Canon 20mm f/2.8. A “normal” lens for my camera (Canon 6D) would be a 50mm. So, using a lens wide enough to cover a good part of the room, you would almost always create some distortion.

This image was made with a view camera utilizing full swings and tilts:

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It’s a bit more difficult obtaining this kind of image from today’s DSLRs, even with a PC lens! Also, if there are time constraints in your shooting schedule, you might not be able to make an image like this work digitally.

Here is another example of a digitally produced interior:

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The verticals are fairly straight but the camera had to be placed slightly above the room’s vertical center in order to show the counter top.

Shooting interiors and exteriors presents very different problems than just shooting people. Wide angle lenses introduce problems of distortion and “keystoning.” So, if you are a commercial photographer, you have to be aware of these things and know how to solve the problems presented.