The One-Room-Challenge

The One-Room-Challenge

Working with limitations has always been something I had to cope with - and I embraced! Sometimes I face technical limitations, and sometimes limitations when it comes to a location.

I was in Mexico City a couple of weeks ago and did 4 shoots in 3 days - all in the same location which was my hotel room. How I made the best of what I had, is the topic of this little blogpost and I call it the "One-Room-Challenge".

I want to give you some tips and thoughts about how I approach a situation like this and also show you some of the results I got.

Analyze the room first

This step is pretty straight forward, yet crucial to being successful. But don't panic, just ask yourself some of these questions:

- What is the general look of the room?
- What furniture are in it/can I use them for the shoot?
- How is the natural light? Are there big windows?
- How is the light across the day?
- Will you have direct light in the morning or in the afternoon?
- How is the quality of light?
- How can I change the quality of light (are there curtains or blinds?)?
- Is there any artificial light in the room?
- Is it usable (color temperature, positions, dimmable, brightness, general look of light fixture if in the frame)?
- What options do I have to shoot different scenarios?
- Are there textures or patterns that work in my shots?
- Are there distractions I need to remove (clutter, paintings, flyers...)?

These are the things I ask myself the minute I walk into a room that I plan to shoot in - it has become almost automatic since I shoot a lot in hotel rooms when I'm abroad.

Let me show you one hotel room with some annotations:

As you can see, what at first glance seems to be a pretty standard hotel room, suddenly becomes a photographer's playground.

You can experiment with daylight, textures, furniture, do simple or more advanced settings, use flash or the lights in the room, block the daylight with the curtains to create a slim stripe of light, shoot back-lit photos or shoot with the light behind you. There's so many different ways to shoot in this single room, it all comes down to your imagination.

To give you some examples, I put together the gallery on the left that has been shot in this room alone.

The important thing is that you get creative with what you have. Use what's there. Include it in your shots or if you shoot with flash - black it out and focus on your subject. And come prepared. I usually have a speedlight, a lightstand, a softbox and a striplight, a tripod, gels for color casts and different lenses  (50mm,85mm,100mm) with me so I can go from wide shots to the beautiful crisp close-up portraits. If you happen to have a 24-70mm lens, that's fine too. Just note that fast lenses work better because of their shallow depth of field. You will be amazed on how much you can achieve with only little. Or did you think that all the shots in the gallery were taken in the same room?

Let me know about your experiences in the comments - maybe we can exchange tips and tricks and I'd be happy to answer your questions!

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