Sometimes architectural photography is about capturing that perfect moment when the lighting is just right and the scene has been carefully staged, showcasing the project when it is at its finest. And other times, it’s about creating the magic in post production, even if the image being shown would never have actually happened. Such was the case with a project I shot last year for Elia Architecture & Interiors.
The project was the Sidney Kimmel Theatre at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In person, the theatre is beautifully designed with an entertaining theatrical and lighting show. The problem though is that any singular moment of the show looks quite boring. Of course, this is not something one would really think about when there; rarely do people remove themselves mentally from what is happening around them and focus just on the overall lighting. However, as an architectural photographer, this is a practice I commonly do and realized work would be needed here for this image to sing.
The issue with the theatre is that it is either evenly bright and flat, when the show is off, or very dark and too contrasty, when the show is playing. Capturing either or would not be a great image. So instead I decided to capture various images through out the show and layer them in PhotoShop to create a singular image, showcasing a more dynamic lighting scenario. Specifically I captured four different theatrical scenes to layer in post.
The first image captured was when the show was off and the theatre was at it's brightest. A theatre this large is almost impossible to light, so this image was really captured just for overall fill. I used this image as a base layer in PhotoShop allowing me to easily show detail where I wanted it. Next came the capture for the overall mood of the image.
When the show first starts, the entire theatre gets dark except for the track lighting on the steps and star lights on the main floor. This produces a really nice feel throughout the theatre, which is what I was going for. It would also allow me to replace the "Sidney Kimmel Theatre" lighting on the floor with something a little more interesting. Although this scene is actually quite dark, causing the seats to turn almost black, since I captured that fist image I was be able to burn those seats in, in post.
My third capture was a lighting senecio that occurs at the end of the show with a large white spot on center stage. Although a quite boring image by itself, it allowed me to add a subtle uplighting effect in the final composite. I of course got rid of that bright spot in the center.
Last was the capture for the screens. After watching the show in its entirety, my client and I decided on image from the very beginning of the show to drop in.
Overall it took about two hours for the production of this image, and about an hour in post production. Although one could say I am not being completely truthful with this image, at the end of the day, my client was happy and it added greatly to his portfolio. And anyway, my client here was the architect, not the lighting designer.