Just press the shutter? Hardly ...

The human eye is remarkably forgiving. Walk into a typical building and your vision (1) automatically adjusts from the bright outdoors to a much dimmer interior and (2) compensates for the vastly different color and quality of light.

A camera isn't quite so smart, so we photographers have to work to make it mimic what we see.

In my assignment to photograph the Arlington Mill Residences for Washington Workplace, I knew that the lobby area would be especially challenging. Here's what my Nikon saw when I first walked into the lobby.

work-DSC_0091.jpg

The overhead lights are warmer than daylight. Luckily they're reasonably consistent with each other. But their brightness is a problem. If I set the proper exposure for the furniture, the overheads are totally blown out and have no detail.

Turning 180 degrees, here's the view towards the entrance. As you can see, it's glass, and lets in daylight. Fortunately the daylight wasn't too strong, and even though it was a different color temperature than the room lights, it would be relatively weak.

I set up 2 strobes behind the camera, facing into the little corners formed by the foyer. I needed a broad swath of light, as diffuse as possible; ideally I would have liked to have an entire wall, instead of just the little corners, so I spent quite a bit of time varying the height, distance, and angle of the strobes. Here's a photo where I got it wrong:

Eventually, it all worked out. Nice, even light across the lobby. Balance camera exposure and strobe brightness so that the overhead lights look like they're on, and you can still see detail in the lighting fixtures. Here's the final photo:

Not bad. Given more time and budget, I would have cleaned up the reflections in the glass doors by shooting more images with the lights in different positions, then compositing in Photoshop. But the client was happy, and so was I.