Saturday, May 16, 2009

Strobe or Halogen? (flash or hot lights?)

Dear Kirk,
I am a young photographer who has been shooting architectural work for a short while. I have sent you this email because you are a noted architectural photographer and I figured you could give me a dependable answer. I have very basic knowledge of interior lighting, but wonder which is better using strobes daylight balanced or hot lights with quartz halogens. I have been asked to shoot an interior with a large glass curtain wall on one side and several banks of flourecents on the other and possibly some tungsten accent lights. So for me I am unsure what would work best. I realize that this may not have a simple answer but would appreciate your suggestions.

Yours truly,

Mike, this is a big question that is hard to answer without seeing the space. But here are some thoughts.

Are you shooting digital? Digital is more forgiving and easier to adjust color temperature in mixed light situations. Your example sounds like a situation where I would use strobe (which is daylight balanced) for fill light, if I was shooting it in the daytime (at night I might choose halogen fill). The warm accents from a few small halogens can look good and natural in a strobe lit daytime interior. The glass in the curtain wall commonly has a slight green cast. This will make daylight coming through the glass more like the color of the fluorescents if they are cool whites. It may be useful to put a light green filter on the strobes to make a color match between the daylight coming through the glass and the cool white fluorescents and then do a custom white balance to neutralize these three main sources. A 1/4 Rosco + green filter is usually good (see B&H)

Final tweaking of the color can be done in Photoshop by many means. An easy one is the plugin Color Mechanic Pro . CMP is good for small adjustments in color. If you try to over do it you will get pronounced noise in the transition areas.
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