Real v/s Hyper-Real secret No.3 revealed :: twilight exteriors


Making the best of one of the rare moments without rain of this season, I have shot the images for the third issue of mjf’s weekly “secrets”, which addresses the way I usually capture twilight exteriors.

The following is a photograph of a residential+commercial building in London, a detail of the stairways and lift compartment:

As shot, this photo is nothing exciting; correct exposure to keep highlights and shadows within camera dynamic range, white balance OK, vertical lines preserved (thanks to the tilt/shift lens), but nothing stands out and enhance the design of this building.

Now take a look at this second image, whose colours are absolutely NOT manipulated in post-production:

Don’t you think that the very same building is now much more appealing?

Well, the process able to give this result is made almost exclusively on the shoot, leaving only a simple layering work to the post-production in photoshop.

Here are summarily described the key points of this technique:

1. wait for twilight, when the sky get usually more dramatic and the artificial lighting in the building starts to match the luminosity of the sun light

2. take two different shots, one correctly exposed for the building and one exposed for the sky, which is generally two stops or more brighter

3. take further shots using a flash light to give accent to specific details of the building and the surroundings; in this image I have “painted with light” the staircase (one floor at time), the corridor and communal areas from inside, threes and shrubs. To do it, I was walking around, inside and outside the building, with a flash light and a radio remote to trigger the camera.

That’s a quite simple procedure, but it requires to shoot at the right time of the day and to take several shots while the camera is perfectly steady on a tripod. The composition of the final image took something like twenty different shots.

The only post-production in Photoshop has been the overlaying of these several shots and the suppression of the two wall lights on the facade, which weren’t adding any interest to the building itself.

As the previously published “secrets” of the past weeks, this “hyper-real” image shows the subject and its design in a more detailed and accurate way than the “real” one.

Compare again the two images in this animated sequence, which one do you prefer?

real v/s hyper-real : twilight exteriors
real v/s hyper-real : twilight exteriors

Thank you for reading,


Please stay tuned to read more about 

mjf’s Real v/s Hyper-Real secrets in the next chapters…