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Featured Stately Home Interiors

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by Alpha Whiskey Photography, Jul 26, 2018.

  1. Alpha Whiskey Photography

    Alpha Whiskey Photography Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2013
    I’m as baffled as you are and goodness knows I don’t set out to look for this kind of assignment but for some reason images like these are getting me related work. I’ve just completed work on a mansion for a baroness, no less, a somewhat intriguing departure from the small clique of scale model clients (bespoke children's posters - a niche market if ever there was one) or those wanting help with their travel photos. But I suppose it’s good to have different subjects and projects on the go and I am grateful for the eclectic mix. She found me online while searching for images of these interiors and asked me to photograph her home (of which none of the images will be featured here as they are for her private use). The images below are of heritage properties open to visitation from the public.

    NIKON D600    Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX 11-16mm F2.8    16mm    f/2.8    1/30s    ISO 2200


    As you can tell I’m certainly no expert and I’m not going to presume to offer any instruction on photographing these kinds of places but merely a flotilla of ideas. Take it or leave it.

    Unlike real estate photography, which seems to want to homogenise the lighting while making everything appear clinical and sterile, these stately homes have their own characteristic and practical lighting. It is invariably unique to each room, with pockets of (usually warm) light emanating from carefully placed lamps and chandeliers. The windows typically have screens to block out harsh light, lest they have a detrimental effect on fabrics. But this also precludes harsh contrasts with dark interiors and bright daylight, allowing one to photograph at any time of day without always requiring bracketing or garish HDR.


    In the event of harsh window light I usually expose for that (especially if I’m a mere visitor and have limited time) and also one shot for the room and layer them in post. Or I may simply bring up the shadows slightly in the darker image, allowing the light to be the story, just touching on the space to give a sense of its contents. One could also judiciously use a flash, which I tend to avoid to maintain the natural light in the room and also because many of these properties prohibit the use of flash to protect the fabrics and artwork.

    E-M5    LUMIX G 14/F2.5    14mm    f/2.5    1/160s    ISO 200

    Alternatively, I don’t always mind the exteriors being a little blown out in the windows, inhibiting their distraction and enabling the viewer to focus on the interior space.

    E-M5    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    12mm    f/2.8    1/80s    ISO 1000

    It’s not all about getting the whole room in with a wide-angle lens. Most of these places have a plethora of luxurious and ornate furnishings and ornaments that lend themselves to close-up isolation (admittedly not many presented here) and contribute a sense of period and opulence to the property. Instead of the entire room, maybe focus on a desk and chair or set of sofas, capturing the intimacy of the space.

    E-M5    LUMIX G 14/F2.5    14mm    f/2.5    1/50s    ISO 3200

    E-M1MarkII    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    40mm    f/2.8    1/60s    ISO 3200

    E-M5    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    31mm    f/2.8    1/50s    ISO 1600

    NIKON D600    Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX 11-16mm F2.8    16mm    f/2.8    1/15s    ISO 2800

    In terms of framing, I tend to look for a cosy and slightly confined space to allow the viewer to imagine themselves sitting or standing (or lying) there.

    E-M5    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    31mm    f/2.8    1/25s    ISO 1600

    E-M5    LUMIX G 14/F2.5    14mm    f/2.5    1/80s    ISO 2500

    Sometimes the whole room can be impressive but often a tighter shot with more discernible content will provide as much, if not more, of a feel of the place.

    E-M5    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    15mm    f/7.1    1/25s    ISO 1600

    E-M1MarkII    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    12mm    f/3.5    1/40s    ISO 3200

    Dining rooms are usually a good example of this, showing not just the scale of the room but allowing the viewer to rifle through some of the details such as the crystal and glassware. Using a wide aperture to capture focus further into the image is one way of leading the eye into it. If the frame is wider then obviously a narrower aperture is more appropriate.

    E-M5    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    40mm    f/2.8    1/60s    ISO 1600

    E-M5    OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8    12mm    f/2.8    1/6s    ISO 200

    I tend to err on the side of warmth when processing for these types of properties, adjusting the white balance accordingly. Interior spaces, especially if they are slightly claustrophobic, aren’t particularly inviting if the lighting is too blue and too cold. I may even accentuate the existing lamp light with some selective dodging or a selection brush. It's a subjective choice, to be sure, but it works for me.


    Wide angles lenses are good but tighter focal lengths can force better composition and help eliminate clutter from the frame. Fish-eyes, used sparingly, can also accentuate the cavernous spaces in hallways and under stairs.

    E-M5    ---       f/1.0    1/100s    ISO 1600

    I won’t bore you with the exteriors (whose often ordinary facades belie the sumptuous interiors). It is only a matter of arriving early to have the entire property to shoot but there’s plenty of subject matter in the architectural geometry and details such as the sculpted masonry or gargoyles.


    Well, as much I enjoy seeing and capturing (and hopefully revealing) these buildings I don’t really set out to be an ‘interior photographer’. It is something that other people do better and ostensibly make a decent living out of so I’ll probably leave it to them.

    • Winner Winner x 27
    • Like Like x 16
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Wow Wow x 1
  2. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    Like, The Valley
    I dunno... I think way too many people would have seen that table setting scene as a "mixed lighting problem" and made a complete mess of it by letting the left side of their brains create a bunch of WB masks... :rolleyes: 

    On the whole, this is a wonderfully understated tutorial on how to create interior shots that Don't Suck, not by expending way too much effort on tonemapping etc, not by needing that superwide lens... just chill and see what's in front of you, and approach that in a still-life kind of way... five thumbs up! :D 
    • Agree Agree x 9
    • Like Like x 2
  3. Compelling photos AWP.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Gidget

    Gidget Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2010
    Leah Hallett
    Gorgeous, but I thought m43 couldn't be used for low-light interior photography...NOT!
    • Like Like x 2
  5. snaimpally

    snaimpally Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 31, 2012
    Thanks for sharing. Some very nice shots in there - the writing desk, phone, and bowler hat + umbrella were especially nice, providing examples of your suggestions on focusing on particular aspects in the room. Not surprised you got the gig. Perhaps you will get more work when the baroness shows the photos to her friends.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Kalifornier

    Kalifornier Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Apr 29, 2014
    Very nice set of images.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Brecht

    Brecht Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 17, 2017
    I would hire you if I wanted photos of my mansion/palace.

    One question: how do you deal with noise in post-processing? The telephone shot at ISO 3200 looks great.
    • Funny Funny x 1
  8. Alpha Whiskey Photography

    Alpha Whiskey Photography Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2013
    Firstly, I don't think much of the EXIF data on these images is correct (which is why I turned it off. I certainly don't have any lenses that can shoot at F/1.0!).
    Secondly, and to answer your question, when dealing with noise I may leave some of it in the image to add to the vintage look of the subject. Sometimes I'll reduce it in post (Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom) and increase the sharpness by a reciprocal amount.
    Cheers :) 
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
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