Back in January, I had a photoshoot that challenged my technical problem solving skills.  The project was to shoot the inside of a music store, during the day, from the outside looking in.  Large windows were the obstacles to a clear view of the inside of the store.  Daytime reflections of the street and traffic behind me overwhelmed any detail, big and small in the store.

You can see in the raw test image below, all natural light, that virtually nothing inside the store is discernible.  What is visible is the building across the street, the sky, a tree and the street.  These reflections obscure what is on the inside of the store. That was the challenge:  To minimize the reflections in order to show the store.

reflections in window


First Effort

I set up 2 powerful strobe lights inside the store triggered by a radio transmitter to an attached transceiver on the 1600 watt second Alien Bee  lights.  You can see in the test image below that it helped, but the sky outside was still reflected in the window as well as the tree.  Another concern was that the shadows produced by the added flash unit were harsh, especially on the floor.

test image with added flash unit inside store.



Different angle

I set my camera at the first angle and aimed the inside strobe light in an optimum position.  The test image below show that the reflections began to lessen with this combination of camera angle and placement of the light.  I can recognize that it is a music store now.  The persistent problem is the sky reflected in the window in the upper portion of the image.  The street light is also evident.


The solution I was trying to avoid

As time was slipping away, (we had many setups to shoot that day), I decided to cover myself and shoot the interior of the store from the inside, bypassing the windows altogether.  I shot at the same angle that my camera was set up outside. I then shot the store from the outside again with the natural light, reflections and all!   (You can probably guess my plan.)  I took this interior image and the exterior image, and in post production, I  overlaid the exterior image on top of the interior image.  I  created a layer mask and brushed out all exterior windows to reveal the “reflection-less” interior of the store.  Below is the raw interior image I used.

interior of store


Final image

Below is the final image, combining in post production the exterior natural view with the interior view – shot inside the store, avoiding the windows altogether.  Other refinements in post production included perspective correction, blur the interior (to eventually accommodate a model and the selective focus needed for the final product image), matching edges and corners between the two combined images and shadow adjustments and cropping.

final interior image as raw material


In conclusion

This final image required more post production than I would have liked, but because of time and the number of setups left to do that day, I surrendered to my gut instinct and chose this solution.  This set up, the first one of the day, was the only heavy post production necessity.  All the other shots inside the store had minimal work done after the photography ended.


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