A Lighting Challenge … In A Basement

A couple weeks ago, Arianna Braun Architects sent me to a newly completed medical office to produce some images for them to use.  Usually medical offices are fairly straightforward when it comes to lighting, but this one was a lighting challenge.  

Typically a lighting challenge means balancing an interior against bright and harsh sunlight.  I could be on a top floor in a skyscraper with nothing to shade the sun, or I am at the edge of a lake or river, or there is snow on the ground, and sunlight is coming in from above and below.  However, here, I was in a basement office with no sunlight.  So, why was this challenging? 

The main reception area was basically a very large room with several waiting areas around the perimeter.  The waiting areas where brightly lit to draw visitors’ eyes, and then their persons, to those areas.  The reception was dimly lit to contrast this.  Functionally, it was a well-designed space.  Photogenically, I had a large dim mass in the center of my images with little places to hide any lights. 

To overcome this, I lit the perimeter, drawing your eye over the reception, while also aiming gridded lights into the reception for fill.  To see how, here are a couple image sets to scroll through along with a lighting diagram for each image. 

 Now for why I did what I did. 

The main waiting area was the brightest part of the room, and, since it was in the back of my first image, I allowed it to remain as bright as it was to draw the eye in.  The Profoto magnum reflector was placed to create a splash of light on the ceiling from the pediatric waiting room into the main waiting area.  This connected both waiting areas and helped break up the space.  However, this was not enough to draw the eye over the reception.  So I also lit the wall of the pediatric waiting area with a small gridded softbox.  Next, I placed another gridded softbox to the right to create a path for the eye to travel and add a sense of 3-demisionality to the reception desk.  After this, all other lights where basically used for fill. 

For the second image, I was shooting from within the main waiting area, which meant the foreground would be excessively bright.  To overcome this, I first choose an exposure of ¼ second at f/10, making the image darker overall and providing me with a relatively large aperture for my strobes.  Both the wall bounce (by the elevator) and Profoto narrow beam reflector were used to pull the viewer to the background.  I used the narrow beam reflector because the center is extremely brighter than the edges, allowing me to create an oval where the brightest part was not closest to the light, which looks more natural.  The large gridded softbox to the left was placed to break up the foreground and the glass panels were lit to be a little more interesting.  After this, and once again, all remaining lights where basically used for fill. 

Have you ever dealt with a similar lighting challenge?  Feel free to tell us about it below.