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Question about shooting Interiors with Mamiya 7!
Old 05-01-2019   #1
daveyboy
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Question about shooting Interiors with Mamiya 7!

Hi, I have a Mamiya 7. I use it the majority of the time for exterior landscape and portrait shots. I do a lot of road trips, and at times meet people who I want to take their photo inside their house or a building. I'm having a difficult time figuring out the best way of doing this. I usually use Portra 400 film. When shooting inside i'll put it on a tripod. However, a lot of the time the negative I get back is really really contrasty and doesn't look good.

I've never really used lights before. Sometimes I'm walking around for a bit so would need something small and battery powered that could cast an even and ideally as natural looking light as possible.

Wondering if anyone has any tips when shooting inside with a rangefinder. Film, lights that might be worth me looking into?

Thanks a lot!
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Old 05-01-2019   #2
retinax
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I think your best option is to move people into positions where the window light works in your favor. That's still less intrusive than flash. I don't have much experience with flash, but short of carrying an umbrella or softbox I think you'd need to resort to bouncing it, which can be problematic if the walls and ceilings are not white.
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Old 05-01-2019   #3
Jamie123
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You could try overexposing by a stop or two. In my experience Portra 400 tends to lose contrast the more you overexpose it. Also, how are you metering at the moment? Are you just using the built in light meter? Maybe you're currently underexposing your shots. Try using a handheld meter and exposing for the shadows.
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Old 05-01-2019   #4
jim_jm
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Easiest method is to use window light, especially if your camera cannot meter with flash. Place the subject fairly close to the window so that the light spread is similar to that of a big softbox or umbrella. Place them facing the window or slightly facing away, depending on how you want the shadows to fall. If there are no other light sources, windows or light-colored walls to help balance the spread of light, you can use a folding white reflector to lighten the shadows on the opposite side of the face. You want to set your exposure based on the primary lit side of the face, not the shadowed side, the background or anything else in the room. I try to get a close-up meter reading of their skin, and then I usually overexpose by one stop from that reading for average caucasian skin tone. For darker skin, expose less, for lighter skin, expose more.

You can also try a flash unit on a light stand and fire it remotely with a cord or wireless trigger from your camera. If you can't bounce the light off a white wall, you'll need to shoot thru an umbrella or bounce it off a reflector to minimize any harsh effects.
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Old 05-01-2019   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim_jm View Post
Easiest method is to use window light, especially if your camera cannot meter with flash. Place the subject fairly close to the window so that the light spread is similar to that of a big softbox or umbrella. Place them facing the window or slightly facing away, depending on how you want the shadows to fall. If there are no other light sources, windows or light-colored walls to help balance the spread of light, you can use a folding white reflector to lighten the shadows on the opposite side of the face. You want to set your exposure based on the primary lit side of the face, not the shadowed side, the background or anything else in the room. I try to get a close-up meter reading of their skin, and then I usually overexpose by one stop from that reading for average caucasian skin tone. For darker skin, expose less, for lighter skin, expose more.
Placing the subject closer to the window will result in higher contrast in the scene which doesn't seem to be what the OP wants. Same goes for metering the lit side of the face.
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Old 05-01-2019   #6
Steve M.
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It doesn't sound like you necessarily need more light, it sounds like the negs were underexposed. Make sure you have a meter that is up to the task of reading low light levels inside buildings. A spot meter would be nice, but otherwise just walk up to your subject and meter the light off their face if it's a reflective meter, or hold it near the subject and pointed toward the camera if it's an incidence meter.

Meters w/ CDS cells sometimes struggle in low light, or take a while to give an accurate reading. A silicon celled light meter is what you want for low light.
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Old 05-01-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
Placing the subject closer to the window will result in higher contrast in the scene which doesn't seem to be what the OP wants. Same goes for metering the lit side of the face.
Depends if he wants a typical portrait, or more of an environmental portrait which includes more of the interior space. Metering for the face is perfectly correct for traditional portraits. If more of the interior scene is to be included in the shot, lighting can be particularly tricky if there is a mix of window lighting and interior shadows. I've set-up large interior lit shots that utilized up to 6 strobe heads in various areas to illuminate all areas of the room. Toughest one was a dark central cabin on an early-1900's sailing ship which required multiple Nikon remote flashes hidden up in the rafters, behind furniture, etc. to get adequate lighting throughout the scene.
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Old 05-01-2019   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim_jm View Post
Depends if he wants a typical portrait, or more of an environmental portrait which includes more of the interior space. Metering for the face is perfectly correct for traditional portraits. If more of the interior scene is to be included in the shot, lighting can be particularly tricky if there is a mix of window lighting and interior shadows. I've set-up large interior lit shots that utilized up to 6 strobe heads in various areas to illuminate all areas of the room. Toughest one was a dark central cabin on an early-1900's sailing ship which required multiple Nikon remote flashes hidden up in the rafters, behind furniture, etc. to get adequate lighting throughout the scene.
Sure, nothing wrong with metering for the face. But the OP specified that he wants less contrast in the scene so moving the subject closer to the window would be very counterproductive in this regard. And I would advise against metering for the lighter side of the face in this particular case as it sounds very much like the OP's problems might have to do with underexposure.
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Old 05-01-2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
And I would advise against metering for the lighter side of the face in this particular case as it sounds very much like the OP's problems might have to do with underexposure.
That's why I recommended overexposing about one stop from the meter reading, for average caucasian skin tones. Regardless of how much of the surroundings are included in the shot, the primary subject is always going to be the sitter's face, at least the side illuminated by the main light. For the rest of the scene, light may need to be added or subtracted depending on the surroundings, and the photographer's intent.
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Old 05-01-2019   #10
Corran
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim_jm View Post
Easiest method is to use window light, especially if your camera cannot meter with flash. Place the subject fairly close to the window so that the light spread is similar to that of a big softbox or umbrella. Place them facing the window or slightly facing away, depending on how you want the shadows to fall. If there are no other light sources, windows or light-colored walls to help balance the spread of light, you can use a folding white reflector to lighten the shadows on the opposite side of the face. You want to set your exposure based on the primary lit side of the face, not the shadowed side, the background or anything else in the room. I try to get a close-up meter reading of their skin, and then I usually overexpose by one stop from that reading for average caucasian skin tone. For darker skin, expose less, for lighter skin, expose more.
This, and don't forget the reflector.

Better yet, buy and read a book on lighting.
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Old 05-01-2019   #11
chipgreenberg
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Can you post an example of what you don't like?



Quote:
Originally Posted by daveyboy View Post
Hi, I have a Mamiya 7. I use it the majority of the time for exterior landscape and portrait shots. I do a lot of road trips, and at times meet people who I want to take their photo inside their house or a building. I'm having a difficult time figuring out the best way of doing this. I usually use Portra 400 film. When shooting inside i'll put it on a tripod. However, a lot of the time the negative I get back is really really contrasty and doesn't look good.

I've never really used lights before. Sometimes I'm walking around for a bit so would need something small and battery powered that could cast an even and ideally as natural looking light as possible.

Wondering if anyone has any tips when shooting inside with a rangefinder. Film, lights that might be worth me looking into?

Thanks a lot!
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Old 05-01-2019   #12
john_s
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I'm a big fan of weak fill flash in such situations, and outside too. Auto flash set for -1.5 stops is worth a try.
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Old 05-02-2019   #13
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Shooting indoors can be complicated.
  • For color film you could have to deal with existing light sources with different color temperatures.
  • Redirecting outdoor light (reflectors) limits where subject location and requires stands or assistants.
  • Off-camera lighting is less convenient than redirecting outdoor light
  • With off-camera flash lighting you could have to deal with shadows.
  • Small continuous LED lighting units could be ideal. These also require stands and units with adequate power (LUX) are expensive.

The Neewer Bi-Color 480 LED 2-Light Kit with stands uses LED panels and offers optional with battery power. There are many other LED panel solutions out there. Panel LEDs don't get hot so they can be placed relatively close to the subject(s).
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Old 05-02-2019   #14
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From my read of daveyboy's post, for the occasional indoor portrait, with the possibility of using a tripod (if necessary), i'd solve the problem by choosing an indoor location with good natural light, & more careful meter readings/exposure. As mentioned, I'd take several exposures one for close-up & one for environmental portrait. I'm not a big fan of flash since unless you are very well-versed in its' use, the result rarely looks natural...& it doesn't make sense to me to carry lights for an occasional indoor portrait.
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Old 05-02-2019   #15
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Window light, correct exposure (overexposing the average in simpler words) and a reflector (even a piece of white cardboard) could be a possibility.
robert
PS: by the way welcome to the forum! And if you could post a photo of your result it would be easier to give you an appropriate suggestion!
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Old 05-02-2019   #16
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Leaf shutters are perfect for flash photography because they sync at all shutter speeds. And there is no better way to control contrast than popping a bit of fill in to lift the shadows. Even a single light can make a big difference - just bounce the light off of a wall if you want a key light with softer shadows,

Here's a link to the best site that I know of for learning to use flash: https://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html
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Old 05-02-2019   #17
daveyboy
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Thanks guys, some really helpful tips here!

I was thinking of a small LED. Pro with that is that I know I can get a proper exposure. Con is that a lot of the time it can be a task to convince someone to allow you to take their photo, let alone in their home, etc. My fear is that if I start setting up lights, it will increase the chance of them changing their mind, in less I can create a really good rappour and explain myself fully beforehand.

To be honest, I usually use the inbuilt light meter on the Mamiya. For exteriors it's been pretty accurate. I dunno what you guys think? My issue might be using that for interiors is not a good idea. I have a light meter and need to start using that.

I've gotten the most contrast when I've had to push the Portra 400 one stop. At times it's read that I need like an 1/8 or even 1sec shutter. Obviously that's too low for a portrait and could cause blur, so I usually change it to 800iso and push one in developing, which then allows me a 60shutter speed, or the like. This has never really given me great results though. I'm wondering if I should just start putting the shutter at 1 or whatever it says and ask the subject to be very still. Not sure.

-
Also, has anyone ever had the inbuilt light meter stick on LT even when there is clearly enough light. It's happened a couple of times when I've been in dusty places. I think this might be something to do with dirty contacts. Can get annoying as it means you can't take a photo until it rights itself. Curious if anyone on here has had a similar thing happen?

Thanks!
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Old 05-02-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveyboy View Post
I've gotten the most contrast when I've had to push the Portra 400 one stop. At times it's read that I need like an 1/8 or even 1sec shutter. Obviously that's too low for a portrait and could cause blur, so I usually change it to 800iso and push one in developing, which then allows me a 60shutter speed, or the like. This has never really given me great results though. I'm wondering if I should just start putting the shutter at 1 or whatever it says and ask the subject to be very still. Not sure.
I wouldn't push color negative film as you'll mostly just get higher saturation and a little bit more contrast. But it doesn't really look good especially for portraits as it tends to make (caucasian) people look like cooked lobsters. If you really need ISO 800 you could get a roll of Portra 800.

In any case, I think your problem basically comes down to underexposure. Your issues would mostly be resolved if you could expose your negs more generously. If you're using a tripod I wouldn't worry too much about going down to 1/15th or even 1/8th as long as you're using a cable release. I shoot large format portraits at slow speeds all the time and it's fine. Except for blinking, people can manage to stand pretty still when you tell them not to move.

For the times when there's just not enough light you might want to get a flash but I wouldn't make too much of a production out of it. Just get one of the Metz 45 CL/CL hammerhead flashes and bounce it off a ceiling corner of the room. It may not look like the most elaborate flash set-up but if it's a compelling portrait that won't matter.

Oh and, yes, use the handheld light meter. The problem with in-built light meters is not that they're not accurate, it's just that it's hard to know what exactly they're metering when you have mixed lighting conditions. IMO it's much easier to just use and incident meter in these cases.
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