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Lesson 4 from: Intro to Architectural Interior Photography with Natural Light

Scott Frances

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Lesson Info

4. Gear

Lesson Info


Let's talk about gear. I wouldn't normally be sitting in a beautiful room like this, sitting on their sofa, but this is a great place and space for us to sit and show it, and we're shooting in a client's and friend's home and they've graciously allowed us to do this. The most important parameter for me is compact and lightweight. I travel all over the world on airplanes and the camera case, what's in it's very valuable, I can't check it, it has to fit above and it can't be a certain weight and height, and the airlines are really cracking down on that. I also don't wanna overwhelm a client when I come into the house or a homeowner, so I only keep two cases with me, my camera case and my grip case. So this is my camera case. On the outside is a sleeve for my computer, and inside. This is for my computer, I keep it on a stand, this is a small tripod, usually it's used as my computer stand, but it also serves as a second tripod for me, sometimes I'm setting up a second camera, I always kee...

p a backup body, and I use that for maybe doing a time lapse during the day or doing little video clips. My tether cords. I always shoot tethered to a computer, or almost always, occasionally to a card if I'm doing portraits. Camera body actually with a Canon 5DS R. And the lens I use the most is the 17mm tilt shift lens. A tilt shift lens allows me to control the perspective when I shoot in a room so I don't have parallax, I can see into higher areas or to the left, to the right without turning the camera. I only keep three or four lenses with me. I keep two shift lenses this 17mm and the 24mm, and I would say that 90% of my work is with these two lenses. In addition to the 24mm tilt shift lens, I keep a 35mm lens and this is a lens that will take full advantage of the possibilities of the body, it will hook up to the metering system, it has auto focus on it where the shift lenses don't have auto focus, and it's important to be able to have that ability, to shoot from the hip, occasionally you just have to pick up a camera and quickly take a picture. It's also good for portraits if I'm shooting homeowners or if I'm shooting architects. It's a great portrait lens. The other nice thing about this particular lens, it's the 35mm, it's an f/1.2 I believe, and it has the ability to have very shallow depth of field, and the nice thing about shallow depth of field is it helps create depth in a photograph actually. It helps the viewer travel deeper into a photograph. In addition to, we talked about light, the viewers eye going to the lightest part of a photograph, you know, so we wanna have a dark foreground, a lighter middleground, and the lightest being the background, the viewer's eye also goes to the sharpest part of a photograph, so if we can keep the foreground soft, the viewer will go past that and deeper into the photograph. I also, finally, I keep a longer lens with me, it's an 85mm lens. It can be valuable for portraits, it's a little long especially shooting portraits in interior, it's good for, for me, sometimes I do shoot small objects, you know, it could be something like this, and that could be another part of the narrative in the story, a photograph that we shoot, so it's good for that. It's also good if I'm shooting a view out the window, something that I wanna bring into a photograph later on through a window, so I like it that way. Want to talk about my tripod head a little bit. This is a geared head, there's a couple of these, Arca-Swiss makes one, this one's made by Manfrotto, Manfrotto makes three different sizes, this is the middle size, this is pretty much all you need. The Arca-Swiss one is beautiful but it's very expensive. You wanna use a geared head. Because you need fine control over the camera so that you can keep the camera parallel to the walls in the room and you wanna be able to make various fine, small adjustments. A ball head's really problematic, you can't keep your axes separate. So I think this is a must, an absolute must for any architectural photographer. And I know even people that aren't architectural photographers prefer using this kind of head, just gives them much more control. In my camera case I have a small grip bag, inside of it are tools for my tripod because with the Gitzo sometimes you wanna shoot very low angle, they make a plate that you put on top of the tripod, and you take the center column off and this allows you to get the tripod down to about seven inches. So that requires tools. And I keep my cell phone charger, some back up batteries for the strobe remote control, and I keep clips. Clips are huge for me because we talked about using the black plastic and blocking out windows, and this sometimes can be a way to hang the black plastic. I have lots of backup batteries, I keep two chargers with me. Shooting tethered, and shooting with Live View a lot, we're gonna touch upon that soon, that really drains the batteries. So I keep four or five batteries. Finally, I have some memory cards, and I have the remote for my strobes, and I have a card reader, the remote release for my strobes. And underneath the camera, I have a couple of portable hard drives for backing up, absolutely I don't leave a shoot until it's backed up on a hard drive and that hard drive stays out of the case, I keep it on my body, and until I'm back in the studio and I've transferred that onto the computer there and onto the server which automatically simultaneously transfers it up into a cloud or offsite, at that point I still have the shots I did that day on my computer, on the hard drive, on the server at work, and that's also been kicked up to a cloud. So it's in four places right away. And there's almost no chance you're gonna lose your files from that day, and that would be terrible, to rebuilt a shoot is almost impossible. You're gonna put the homeowner through a nightmare, the architect, it may not be possible. You can't lose the files. There's some tether cords here, and that pretty much covers the camera case. You'll notice just two other small things, we talked about black plastic, or we will talk about black plastic, as my most important light-shaping tool, blue tape. You cannot tape to a wall, but with blue tape you can tape to some things, some wall surfaces, you have to be very, very careful. On a house like this, this is plaster drawn walls, one wall like this, if you were to damage it, it could cost $10,000 to restore it. You cannot tape to walls. So that's the camera case. In my tripod bag, I also keep a small bag for other grip equipment, this stuff's very important. Booties. When you go into people's homes, a lot of people want you to take the shoes off or wear booties which you can wear over your shoes. When you go to someone's house, it's one of the first questions you should ask, would you like me to take my shoes off. It will show to them that you're a considerate person and it will make them feel more comfortable with you in their home. A lot of times they'll say, no it's fine, but make sure you that have it with you, that it's possible to do that, and that they're okay with it. Also inside that bag, something I use a lot of, these are sliders. I do a lot of furniture moving, so these are Teflon sliders, you can get them at your local furniture store, and you can move tremendously heavy objects around with these, even statuary, whether it's a huge buffet in a dining room or a statue or chest of drawers, it's too heavy for you to move, this will do the trick. I also keep some larger clips, and I keep a dimmer, this is for table lamps and it enables you to control the amount of light coming out of that lamp. And that can often be a very important thing to be able to do. Another way you can control light coming out of a lamp, is if, possibly, is to turn the lamp off during part of the exposure, but I always have that as an option. This is a Gitzo tripod, they're pretty much the industry standard, they're lightweight, they're carbon fiber, this tripod is a 5 Series, goes up to 10 feet high, it's important to me if I'm shooting exteriors or shooting gardens, almost never in an interior where I need that kinda height. Then I have fusion material, we're gonna use that in front of windows. I keep this black cloth with me, I keep it because if I'm shooting, a lot of times, and we're gonna talk about that shortly, I'm gonna come into a room, that room that has a view that I know I'm gonna see the window, one of the very first things I'm gonna do if it's a nice morning, nice weather, is go ahead, point the camera out that window and shoot the view. Because if the weather goes off, at least I'll have the good weather from that shot and I can insert it into the windows. So this will allow me to put the camera lens up to the window, then I put this behind the camera, and I won't have any reflections. I keep one extension cord and mostly that's for the computer to keep it, camera's shoot tethered, and we're shooting Live View quite a bit, the computer battery runs down, so we often times we stay plugged in. I keep one light, I almost never use this light. On the rare occasions that I do, it's not so much to light areas of the photograph, it's to do exposures where I'm able to fill in little parts, or for the retoucher to be able to have something clean just to paint back in. This most often comes into play with windows and mullions. So windows are overexposed and then the light around those mullions blooms, or flares, and the strobe allows me to give the retoucher an exposure where the mullions are perfect and you don't have that blooming of light around them. Also sometimes it's important with portraits to have a light. If you're shooting environmental portraits, you need to hold the exposure of the background, so you may have to bring out some fill. It's also for people, we talked about, we will talk about, we don't want interiors to look flat, but sometimes for people flat light is really nice, it's like a beauty light. So a lot of times you wanna fill it and have a very soft, flatter light. And the small bag which is basically just odds and ends here, clips and stuff, and then my most important lighting tool, black plastic. You can buy it at your local hardware store. Usually it comes on 10 x 25 foot rolls, you can find it in the paint section, it's 3mm thick. If you get thinner than that, 2mm or 1mm, it's not opaque enough so light will pass through it. I usually keep about five or six 10 x 6 foot pieces, that's a good shape to fit most windows, if you use too big a piece, it's unwieldy and interior you have to be very careful. And that, I always make sure I have that. Couple other lighting things, I keep an umbrella, a stand. Other simple and really critical piece of equipment for me, and you know I'm a very low-tech photographer in many ways, cinefoil. It's black wrap or cinefoil is what it's called. This can do a myriad of things. It could act as a lens shade, you can use it to cover up lights in the ceiling that you don't want it to project. Or you could use it to wrap an exit sign. And finally in here, I keep a couple of light cards. They're white and black. I take two cards, I tape them together, what's commonly known as a V-card, you could use it to reflect light, again you could use it to block light, you could use it to bounce light if you're using strobe. If it's a room that has a mirrored wall or a colored wall, you don't wanna bounce light off of a colored wall because then your light will take on the color of that wall. So you use this and it could bounce it into here and you'll have clean white light. And that pretty much covers the equipment. I packed very carefully and I pack the same way all the time. What that gives me is assurance that I have what I need, that nothing's missing. I can look in this case very quickly I'm ready to go, I know it. If there was something missing I'd see it right away. So I urge you all to stay very tight, very neat, as lightweight as possible and to pack the same way every single time.

Ratings and Reviews

chris cooper

This class was great! I think some of the reviewers are too inexperienced to realize the value of the information that was presented here. This is not an overly technical course but instead a course that helps you create a vision as an architectural photographer and that is priceless information. You can learn the techie stuff elsewhere but here you are getting into the mind of how one of the best interior photographer thinks. His years of experience are distilled into a great course. I have taken week long courses $$ with other architectural photographers and they were great too, but at $39 this was the best investment I have made into my career. To me as a working architectural and interior photographer with 15 years experience I was able to review my workflow and create a better and clearer vision for my work. It was inspiring. Thank you Scott!!


I really enjoyed watching the Great Master give some of the insight of his craft. Scott's thoughtful commentary and relaxed but very professional presence made this course captivating from start to finish and inspired me to continue a great deal. I saw a couple of glitches here and there and a few seconds of blacked out screen where Scott was talking about a 10 hour shoot day in order to capture a program of images. It would have been great to see what was meant to be showed instead of black frame. I wish there was a little bit more and Nicole would expand on correcting Selective Perspective as this is very interesting to me. Other than these minor points I thought it was a great course and well worth it to me.

Melissa Lind

Phenomenal class. This answers so many questions that I've had for years. I feel like I've been working in a vacuum and this reassures me about the perfection I seek in a shot. I could feel the minute adjustments with styling bringing each picture's refinement to the level of fine art that many people may be able to appreciate but are unable to achieve on their own. A well honed skill set. So thankful for the unveiling of industry secrets that have been developed over a lifetime career. Stunning work Scott, the human element that you craft is inspiring; your eloquence is inspiring.

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