Many of the concepts I touched on in the previous case study (residential property interiors) apply to photographing commercial property. However, there can be some extra demands, and more diverse environments whose inner beauty, sometimes more elusive, still needs to be captured. This study actually encompasses 3 different cases, each with different challenges and requirements.
Sometimes photographing a commercial property provides more scope for creative expression than residential properties. For example, I allowed the shot of a Hungarian hotel reception area above to remain much more dark and dramatic than I normally would when photographing a property for an estate agent. A brief burst of flash from an off-camera flashgun lit the foreground flowers without impacting the overall lighting.
The shot below – another room in the same hotel – might be too clinic or minimalist for residential imagery, but in the context of a spa hotel communicates cleanliness, simplicity and a sense of style.
Some locations I am asked to photograph are not quite so grand as the hotel above, but the tone of the imagery is still required to one of aspiration.
A series of images I created for a local supplier and installer of biomass boilers took in a range of challenging locations from garden sheds, through dusty workshops, to barns and out-houses where the boiler took up almost all the space in the room.
Where space is plentiful I could use props to help tell the story – such as the wheelbarrow of discarded pieces of wood that would be chipped to fuel the boiler – but sometimes the lack of space required shooting through a doorway just to get an angle on the main subject. In the latter example (image on right above) I placed a flashgun on a small tripod inside the room to provide ‘accent’ light on the front of the boiler housing. By firing the built-in flash on my camera at very low power I was able to trigger the flashgun without actually lighting the subject from the on-camera flash.
As with residential properties, a bit of flash is sometimes required to supplement the ambient window light.
Although the high building opposite blocked some of the sunlight in the image above, I didn’t want the displays to be entirely back-lit, so a touch of flash bounced off the ceiling threw extra light into areas that might otherwise be too shadowy.
Small spaces can be tricky to capture in their entirety with a single shot – even with a wide angle lens. The image below captured a room in one Essex University’s iconic towers of residence. The bedrooms on one floor had received a period make-over as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Shooting through the doorway of this bijou dorm, it became evident that lens distortions from my favourite wide angle would be impossible to correct satisfactorily. Therefore I switched to a longer focal length lens (fewer distortions), put my camera on a tripod and shot two images – each taking in half the room, with a good amount of overlap. I later stitched these images into a panorama; there were still a few converging verticals (a very common distortion where walls appear to lean inwards), but they were much easier to deal with, and I was able to show three side of the room in a single image.
I also took a few ‘detail’ shots of the retro life-styling the students had undertaken in the rooms.
Other spaces, such as meeting or conference rooms, require a different compositional approach to the student dorms; key elements still need to appear in frame in order to ‘tell the story’ (i.e. show the facilities available in the room), but the overall feel will probably be much more formal.
Sometimes, at the end of a long and demanding shoot, I get to enjoy some perks (no pun intended) of this fascinating and fabulous job, such as drinking the freshly created set dressing…