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Room Show Off

Why don't the pictures of your new living room, basement, kitchen or bedroom look as nice as the pictures in the catalogs? After all the money you spent on furniture, drapes, carpet and accessories, it should look beautiful. The human eye sees an angle of view of almost one hundred eighty degrees and at the same time can resolve sharp detail. In order to come close to this feat of magic, the camera's abilities must be stretched to the limit.

A twenty four millimeter wide angle lens sees an angle of eighty four degrees, sufficiently wide for our purposes. A wider angle lens starts to show too much distortion through foreshortening and a less wide lens will make the room seem smaller. A second choice of a twenty eight millimeter lens with an angle of view of seventy five degrees is acceptable. A trick I have used to increase the width of view is to shoot through a doorway, just missing the sides of the opening. Unless you plan on correcting perspective distortionn in your computer, a distance of four feet from the floor is ideal to prevent convergence (when the walls appear to tilt out at the top). A six inch leeway is permissible to emphasize table tops (higher) or low furniture (lower). On the other hand, a high angle view makes an interesting perspective and the verticals can be corrected in Adobe Image Ready or any photo editor with a perspective control.

Walk around the room and choose a view that includes the best look or most of the furniture. Two different views may be necessary to tell the whole story. For a spacious look, shoot into a corner, slightly to the right or left of dead center. Pictures taken at right angles to a wall look constricted and less spacious.

Another way to portray a room is the panorama. While expensive devices exist for lining up several overlapping photos, you can do the same thing with a tripod and a sliding flash bar. The idea is to find the mid point between the front of the lens and the focal plane. Attach the camera to the sliding flash bar at that point and attach the bar to the tripod. Rotate the camera on the nodal point for slightly overlapping views. Be sure the cameral is perfectly level and the lens is set on 40 to 50mm (equiv.). There are many panoramic software programs for joining the images invisibly. You may want to try joining them manually yourself. Open the first image, then expand the canvas to the right. Open the second image, make it an object, then drag that image over to the first, adjusting for size and matching edges with the handles on the corners. When satisfied, combine the object. Continue with this process until all the images are joined. You can crop off the jagged edges or clone in the missing parts. You should save each step since you may exceed the amount of memory available.

While flash on the camera is safe and will render the whole scene in accurate color, too much is lost in the way of depth of shape, highlight and shadow and in attaining an interesting look. Flash on the camera flattens the scene, reflects unnaturally off flat surfaces and introduces a dark shadow around every object in the room. A better lighting includes a single bright light in a reflector, and a second light bounced off the back wall not appearing in the picture. Items of a dark nature like a dark stained cabinet need an additional spotlight in order to balance the tones and appear a natural color in the picture. Night time pictures avoid the problem of overly lit windows, but if the window treatment only looks good with light coming through the window, time your photos at dawn or at dusk. The bluish light entering the window at these times while not matching in color temperature is quite dramatic and attractive. If you donít like this dramatic look, the blue window light can be matched by placing light blue gels over the interior lamps or using photo bulbs.

For sharpest results, place the camera settings on manual. The best f stop to use is F11 or F16. Digital cameras work well at f4.5 or f5.6. These stops provide adequate depth of field and the sharpest detail. Wider f stops might produce a softening of focus near the camera and a more narrow f stop (F11 to F32) will bring in less detail due to the diffraction effect. Take a meter reading at the recommended f stop for the appropriate shutter speed. I suggest an 80B blue filter is incandescent light is used, otherwise the picture will come out orangey. Another quick and easy method is to use a remote flash set on full or half power and aimed at a corner of the ceiling not in the picture. The flash on the camera can be used to trigger the remote flash but should be angled away from the front. Experiment with locations and power settings on the remote flash until a good balance is achieved. One inexpensive ($70.) remote flash is the Vivitar D200. Animals or people may be included in the composition, but remember to make sure they don't move for the duration of a time exposure which may take several seconds. These photographs are great for your album, insurance records and an aid to decorating. Good luck!

© 2006 Kenneth Hoffman Articles available with limited rights for distribution upon written email approval. A link back to this site is a requirement. Contact Ken for permission.
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