Anatomy of an interior shoot / by Neil Alexander

The Pyroclassic IV - a clean green highly efficient heating machine.

Several weeks ago I was asked to shoot a range of fires for a New Zealand based manufacturer, PyroClassic, for a UK marketing campaign they were looking to launch and as it was something a little out of the ordinary for me I thought I'd write up a post on it.

However before launching  into that, a little housekeeping. You're going to see some changes around here shortly. I'm really struggling to keep up with weekly posting at the moment due to business commitments, so I'm looking to scale back blog posts to fortnightly, and revert to releasing these on a Friday. I'm also going to change the URL that my RSS feed is on to something a little less misleading. It will be http://feeds.feedburner.com/NeilAlexander so go ahead and add it to your RSS reader now to avoid missing new posts when they come out.

Finally my Image of the Week newsletter that I send out on a Friday is going to cease in it's current format. I'm changing it to an Image of the Month. As I'm going to keep the Monthly Desktop Wallpapers going (which currently seem to be some of my most popular posts), I'm thinking that I'll release the newsletter around the middle of each month. With a little more time to prepare, it's going to have more in it every month - each one will have a coupon for a discount on prints and will only be available to newsletter subscribers. And to mark the relaunch, there'll be a chance of winning a prize or two......

If you're already a newsletter subscriber, then don't worry - you're still on the list. If not? Why not? Head over here to subscribe right now!

The Pyroclassic IV Fire - photograph of the unlit fire placed in the room

Now that that's out of the way, back on topic.

The Pyroclassic fires are manufactured with a range of different flues to cover all the differing global regulations. We wanted to cover as many bases as possible and as the fires also come in a plethora of different coloured panels, we had a combination of around 60 different parameters to photograph. The property in which we shot the fires had a large atrium in the middle of the room and it was one of those days when the sun was forever going in and out of the clouds, which made lighting somewhat problematic. Normally I'd work a shoot like this in manual so I know that once I'm dialled in, nothing's going to change. But the levels were dancing all over the place. I took a base exposure with the camera in aperture priority and then set the strobes (SB900s) to remote TTL. This saved me constantly having to change lighting levels. In order to get through all the various parameters (I'd prepared a little printed matrix in advance to make sure we didn't miss anything out), we had to shoot a completely disconnected, stand-alone fire. Then I made a bunch of measurements for the distance and angle that the camera was from the front of the fire so that a couple days later I could go and photograph a lit stove replicating the positioning. Then with some careful Photoshop work, layer the flames into all of the base shots.

We worked a couple of different set-ups. In the first setup  (kitchen layout - immediately above) the sunlight works quite well when it came in through the atrium. However the second set up, shooting into the living room (top most image), the sunlight began to cause no end of problems with reflections off the windows and the glittery wallpaper. It was so problematic that we ended up having to get someone up on the roof to place are a large sheet over the atrium window.

For the second part of the shoot, the lit fire, we typically ended up doing this on one of the hottest days of the year. It was quite a small kitchen and the client wanted an image of the fire going full tilt. Even though it was just a case of setting up the camera on a tripod using the measurements from the previous day, it was still very hot and sweaty work.

A lit Pyroclassic fire shot on a different day

With hindsight there are probably a couple of things I'd do differently next time. The first would have been to get hold of another light or two so that I could control the light coming through the atrium myself - this would have made things a lot easier in the long run. The second one probably would have been to start earlier  - we tried to pack an awful lot into one day and it did all begin to get a little rushed towards the end.

Real flame set up shot

So there you have it. Both myself and the client are extremely pleased with the final images and I look forward to sharing their ad campaign with you.

Finally,  I have to say a huge thank you to Diane from Amelia interior design for her expertise onset, without which my photographs wouldn't have looked anything like as good!