Recently a local design company asked me to photograph a restaurant at a golf club. The exterior shots they had were perfectly good, but the interiors weren’t working. I found the interior shots on the builder’s website, and they were competently photographed…except. By the looks of things, the shots had been taken in the morning. The space was bright and well lit, and the whole thing looked like a hospital. Nothing says ‘let’s go out for dinner’ like a space reminds you of the place where they took your favourite aunt Ethyl off to die.
Photographing spaces is more than just recording the details of a place. it’s about creating a sense in the viewer of being there, or wanting to be there. It’s al about creating a mood. In this case, the photographer probably had to shoot during a window that really wasn’t ideal. But the result was images whose mood just didn’t communicate the right feel for the place.
Photographing a restaurant in the evening can be a problem. After all the best light often comes at dinner time, so I was a bit worried. As it turns out, not a soul came into the restaurant from the time we arrived at 3:30 to the time we had packed up and left two hours later. As we entered, I scoped out the shots I wanted to do and made ‘notes’ on my Phone. One of the shots looked like this
Bear in mind this is just a cell phone camera, but you can see that the space looks a bit cold and it seems dark in the middle. My assistant, Rob, and I figured out all of our shots and then waited until just after dusk before we ran around like madmen trying to get all the shots in our rather limited light window. In order to get just the right mood, I decided to light paint the scene. I maned the camera while Rob pointed the flash at different points of interest. I took all of those shots together and composited them into the final image below.
By shooting the restaurant at dusk we were able to make it feel warmer and more inviting, something that shows off the space and might make people want to come in and eat at the restaurant. Hopefully now a photographer can’t come during the dinner time and shoot photos unbothered by paying customers.