General Question

Fallstand's avatar

When taking an inside photograph, how can I properly expose the inside of a room as well as the view outside of a window?

Asked by Fallstand (1125points) November 19th, 2007

I’m a realtor, and for each of my listings I do virtual tours. I use a Canon EOS 30D. In professional virtual tours they always expose the view perfectly. But when I take the photos its difficult to expose outside and inside.. Views from the windows are always overexposed to just white light.. I’m aware of HDR photos but I noramlly don’t carry a tripid around to do virtual tours.. What else can I do to correct this..

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6 Answers

bpeoples's avatar

Other than doing HDR (which is pretty easy if you do a tripod), you will need to light the inside of the room to the same level as the outside.

This is not a trivial thing to do well, as the lighting will need to be somewhat bright and look entirely natural. I would recommend getting a tripod and trying HDR, since the cost of a cheap to moderate tripod ($50—$200) and some HDR software ($99 for Photomatix http://www.hdrsoft.com/) is far less than the half-dozen or so strobes it will take to light the interior as well.

Michael's avatar

Does your camera allow you to manually override the auto settings? If so, change your exposure metering to “center spot.” Before you take a picture, point the camera at the window (make sure the crosshairs or bracket that appear on the screen are pointed at the window) and adjust the aperture and shutter speed to get the meter to read 0.0. Then take the picture with the flash on to compensate for low lighting inside. This will work if you are fairly close (7 – 10 feet) to the window, but if you are far away, it may not. As far as how to adjust all the settings, check your camera user manual – it’ll give you specific instructions.

mjm1138's avatar

I agree with the first poster. In my opinion real estate photography is one of the better uses of HDR techniques, and the results justify the trouble of bringing a tripod along. Photomatix is a fine piece of software for this purpose.

Other than that, I’ve had some good success with using flash, though the best success comes with using it off-camera. On camera flash will tend to produce a flat looking image that saps the scene of visual interest. For me, a Nikon D70s with an off-camera SB600 speedlight gave some excellent results doing interior real estate shots. Don’t try to make do with interior house lights, as the light color will not match the daylight coming through the windows, and the result will be difficult if not impossible to color balance properly.

bpeoples's avatar

@mjm—Good points =)

The challenege, however, is that to effectively light the room (e.g., not just bounce it off the ceiling from behind the bookcase), you need quite a few lights. I’m rather partial to Scott Hargis’s work: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scotthargis/1897372697/ for instance.

The other trick with using a flash (which Scott talks about a bit) is that you need to make the next room look inviting, not dark and mysterious. This is typically just one light, but in addition to however you’re lighting the room you’re in, you also then need to light the next room, too. =)

I guess what I’m saying is that there’s a learning curve and an equipment curve with lighting interiors, and if you want to go that route, you end up wtih excellent images. On the other hand, I’ve seen stunning things done only with HDR techniques, and I think from an equipment standpoint it’s an easier hurdle.

roryking's avatar

One other idea is to knock down the amount of light coming in (as opposed to adding interior lights).

If you have the money, get a roll of Lee Scrim; it’s pricey but very reusable. Just tape it up on the OUTSIDE of the windows that are problematic in the shot. Lee Scrim cuts the amount of light coming in by about 75% (or two stops) and the camera (generally speaking) doesn’t see it. Great stuff. If you can’t reach the outside of the window, you can tape it to the inside but this takes longer because neatness counts. (Use paper tape and be gentle.)

Don’t worry about putting the Lee Scrim over the windows out of the frame: those windows will in essence “boost” up the interior lighting.

Lee Scrim (or Rosco Scrim) comes in a silver/black version that is silver on one side to create a reflector should you need one. You can also get it in a black/black version. You want the black side to face the camera lens.

Look for Lee Scrim (or Rosco Scrim) at a film/video expendables store or a local theatrical lighting store (they will probably need to order it for you).

If you’re on a budget, you can try getting window screen at your local hardware store. You’ll need to experiment to find the right density for your needs.

You may find that a combination of adding lights and knocking down the windows will give you some of the best results on a budget. But I agree that to do it properly you will need more than one light.

unddiefliege's avatar

I’d just wait, until the light outside got less outside – maybe between daylight and beginning of dusk. then you’ll find exposure for outside, you save it. then you turn your camera to Manual-Mode and set the exposure to the one you measured before.

finally you adjust the intensity of the flash to a level, which wouldn’t overexpose the interior (i use min. flash intensity most of times).

I used that kind of technique also on bright days when having mixed light conditions – works great: blue sky, a lot of detail in shadows!

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