Reflective Surfaces and Small Bathrooms Can Be Tricky to Photograph
Photographing Bathrooms – Now that we have the basics out of the way, I will explain in detail how to deal with each room individually, starting upstairs (if there is one), with the bathroom.
As I mentioned before, this can be a fairly difficult room to photograph for 2 reasons;
- Size – The bathroom could be fairly small thereby not allowing the lighting to be set up correctly.
- Surfaces – Possibly one of the worst rooms in a house for creating reflections.
First thing to do is to find the angle that shows the bathroom at its best. If you can get most of its features in such as the bath, basins, Jacuzzi, views from the window or any distinguishing feature, set up your camera there. If need be, you can take a couple of shots and use the best or both images for your client or portfolio.
Next, establish whether one or two or none of your lights will fit in the bathroom. Where can you put them safely and without creating too many reflections?
A Quick Tip. Unless the bathroom is fairly large, I normally try to get away with either natural lighting or one or two bounced flashguns, it saves time worrying about reflections and is easier and quicker to set up and shoot.
With flashguns, I have used in the past, one speedlight (Canon 580 EX or Sigma 500) on the cameras hotshoe, and the Metz CL-4 (or another EX580) attached to the base with the main head to the left of the camera. Each flash head is tilted directly upwards and slightly to the left and right.
Set both the units to manual power and to full. As the room is quite small you will need a small aperture to deal with the amount of light being fired. This works well as you need good depth of field anyway.
Your camera will probably have a maximum shutter sync speed of 200th or 250th of a second. Start with 200th and take a shot. Is the view outside exposed correctly? If not, and is too dark, try a slower shutter speed until it is spot on. Is the interior too bright? Close the aperture down a stop or two.
I find, when photographing bathrooms, that generally a shutter speed between 60th and 125th works well, with an aperture of between F8 and F11. Try these out and you will get to a stage where you know the combination for each size room when you need to use flashguns.
2 Years on: Of course, as time goes by things get simpler. For situations where I either dont have the time to set up the studio lights or the room is too small, I use this funky set up from Harbor Digital Design in the States.
The light shooting upwards and outwards is normally enough to light an average sized room. You can find more details on this handy piece of kit by clicking here or the above image. Remember, these are alternatives to natural or studio lighting but are really quite effective.
More recently, I have been using two off-camera speedlights and a set of TTL Pocket Wizards (Mini TT1 and Flex TT5) which I heartily recommend!
Photographing Bathrooms – Panorama/Stitching
You may come across a situation where the bathroom has too much information to get in just one shot, even with a 16mm wide angle lens. What I have done on many occasion, is to take two or three images and stitch them together later on.
Not many photographers do this when photographing bathrooms as it can be time consuming, but the finished result will normally be something that your client wouldn’t have seen before and it really shows the room off well!
These images also look great when advertising a property as they get so much more in the picture making the room look so much bigger.
When photographing bathrooms and panoramas, I use Canon’s Photostitch software that came free with the cameras that I purchased. It doesn’t really matter which software you use as long as you can use it effectively.
When taking the two shots it is imperative that you do not move the position of the camera in the room. The better you do here, the fewer headaches you will have in Photoshop.
You also have two options on how to take the pictures, depending on the size of the room.
Most people keep the camera “horizontal” for panoramas and if you use this format for interiors, only move the camera very slightly and take 3 or 4 images to be stitched if necessary.
The reason for this is that using wide angle lenses will cause the “pin cushion” effect and make each image that much more difficult to stitch.
However, if you tilt the camera to a “portrait” format, and use a focal length of around 25mm, the pincushion effect is lessened and although you may take more images, they are easier to stitch together.
Because the camera is in portrait mode, you are getting more of the room in from top to bottom, and when 4 or 5 images are stitched in this way, the room can look big and fantastic.
When practising and getting your portfolio together, try various tests with this and see which way is easier for you and differing sizes of rooms. It is worth persevering with and getting right as your images will look so much better than the competition.
Lastly, because so many bathrooms have more than one mirror, you may not be able to help but get yourself in the picture. Take it anyway and spend time cloning yourself out later…it is worth the effort.