Lighting Interiors

by William Lulow

Here’s a neat little lesson on lighting interiors. I had to photograph a party set up at the Equitable Building in New York and keep the mood of the room consistent with an image projected on the ceiling. So, the room could not be lit up in a conventional way and if I tried to make the photograph with only available light, the whole effect of the stars on the ceiling would have been lost. In addition, the problem with using only available light in these situations is that your DSLR’s white balance will always take into account the color temperature of the room. If you want things to appear “normal,” you need to add some off-camera studio flash units which are the same color temperature as daylight. This will also let the other lights in the room be “warmer” and add to the overall effect.

The solution was to set up lights that would illuminate just enough of the room to give a sense of the setup without overpowering the ceiling and the lights on the tables. I chose to let one side be dark enough to give the table lights a glow and directional enough to give a feeling for the room. The projection on the ceiling was “painted-in” if you will, with a longer exposure. A strobe head was set up to the right side of the room and another, hidden by the columns set up to light the back room. The regular lights in the room were turned off. The shutter was placed on “B” for bulb and an exposure of about 3 – 5 minutes was made at F/16 while the strobes were flashed twice.


The thing to watch for in shooting large interiors is that light fall off from strobes is great depending on the distance to what is being lit. So, you need several flash heads to light a big space effectively.