Emerging commercial and fashion photographer. Watch me learn to creatively crawl, walk, run and fly.

I spent last Friday assisting commercial photographer Dario Gardiman on an interiors shoot, as prefaced in my previous blog entry.

Dario was booked to shoot high end interior images of a newly built luxury apartment complex. The photograph’s are for building awards submissions and will no doubt also be used for any of the client’s marketing needs.

My photography education didn’t touch on how to light and shoot interiors, so this job really payed me twice over in money and in knowledge. I’ve always wondered how to light large open spaces, and after this job I can start wondering about new things.

Dario spared no effort shooting these images, hauling enough lighting to illuminate Las Vegas. Rather than rely on more amateurish interior shooting techniques like HDR, this job was more in line with a Hollywood production. Throughout the day there were a total of seven Profoto strobes at play which Dario expertly used to mimic fresh and moody early morning light and to illuminate selective areas of the room.

It was a physically challenging assisting day. We were shooting two levels up an apartment complex with a station wagon load of heavy lighting and camera equipment. I’ll never complain again about carrying grocery bags from my car to my apartment! Our extensive shot list saw me lifting equipment more often than my back enjoyed!

Observing Dario work his magic on these interior shots was photographically enlightening. He cooked up stunningly sleek and moody interior photography with a recipe of complex layered lighting, the aid of a stylist, and perfect composition.

Dario used his strobes in three simple ways;

  • He aimed strobes directly through windows and doorways to mimic ethereal early morning light. Occasionally I was asked to put a reflector on a strobe, but the heads were mostly buck naked. I’ve never seen heads used without shapers, but I was pleasantly surprised by the dramatic and moody results. I guess when a bare strobe is fired through an open window or doorway, the architecture itself becomes the light shaper, with the stencil of a door or window propagating a heavenly beam of light.
  • He pointed strobes (with reflector and grid) directly at zones he wanted more illuminated. The grid served to chanel the light exclusively to the desired zone.
  • He bounced light off ceilings and walls for fill.

This three pronged approach had a three pronged result; the resulting images were moody, layered and professional. An obvious benefit to shooting interiors with strobes is the extended dynamic range it allows a scene to be captured in. Without any nasty HDR processing or time consuming Photoshop layer blending, the outside environment is perfectly exposed and offers the interior photography a far greater refined and cinematic appearance.

I enjoyed assisting on this particular shoot. Although my body was kept busy with labour, my brain had ample free time to analyse Dario’s techniques and commit them to memory. The educational reward of this shoot alone was fair payment for my time.

The greatest thing I learnt this day however, and possibly the greatest thing ever, is a technique to enhance Coca-Cola. Back at Dario’s after the shoot, I gratefully accepted a beverage refreshment. While pouring it, he confidently boasted how much he could better the flavour by adding orange slivers. I must concede, Coca-Cola and orange go together like peas and carrots. I’ll never drink Cola without orange again, in the same way as I’ll never shoot interiors without strobes.

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