Tag Archives: Doors

The hidden secrets behind doors…

• Red Door •

• Red Door •
Doors seem to have a powerful psychological impact…
• Red Door • By Netkonnexion on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Just what is the fascination with doors?

They are the subject of an image that most photographers take at one time or another. They are important in sayings in most languages. Yet visually they act to stop you seeing within, or do they? In fact doors provide a whole range of visual and conceptual photo-opportunities.

A real psychological impact

Recent research  External link - opens new tab/page at Notre Dame University, Indiana, has suggested that going through doorways causes memory lapses.

Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away.
Professor G. A. Radvansky

While the impact of going through a doorway is clearly a significant memory event there are undoubtedly powerful social forces at work too. Many of the worlds nations have significant ‘doors’ or ‘gates’ in their social consciousness with dominant architectural sites that resemble doors to the nation. Old photographs of occupying powers at the national gate is enough to evoke tearful responses from survivors of the time. The German occupation of Paris, France, is bought to mind through harrowing pictures at the Arc de Triomphe in 1940.

German troops at the Arc de Triomphe

• Paris, Deutsche Truppen am Arc de Triomphe •
German troops at the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, 1940.
Paris, Deutsche Truppen am Arc de Triomphe on WikipediaExternal link - opens new tab/page

Entering the castle

On the more mundane level we all think of our homes as the feudal lords of past times thought of their castles. Our doors are the virtual fortifications that keep the evil hordes at bay. The popular culture of police drama is always breaking the door down in a symbolic statement of violation in order to capture the “bad guy”. Doors are both a symbol of safety and a manifestation of violation when breached.

Not only do doors and gates have an impact on social and dramatic conciousness but they are important to the language too. We talk of “having a foot in the door”, or “opening doors for the future” and so on. We use the idea of doors as both a defence and as an access. Many classic stories rely on symbolic or actual doors as the focus for the story. Even science fiction has its “stargates” and “doors” to other universes. The door connects to all sorts of consciousness stretching ideas.

Art, photography and doors

Doors are also a significant part of the cultural scene too. I did a search for “door” on Flickr, the popular photography social networking site. My simple search returned more than 4.5 million results! In fact doors have had a very long history in art and architecture. The ancient Greeks explored the concept of aesthetics and architecture from their earliest times. The proportions of architectural designs for doors and arches have long been associated with mathematical and aesthetic principles. It is not surprising that doors have penetrated so deeply into the modern psyche, they have a lot to say about our culture. Photographers have picked up on that fact.

Interesting artistic approaches

Pattern: The strong similarity of the conventional shape of the door provides a large number of options for pattern photography. Doors are often dissimilar in so many ways (door furniture, colour, windows etc) that the regularity of the frame becomes the pattern forming element while the rest is the interest.

Montage: Totally different doors offer enough similarities to be able to form great photomontage opportunities. I have seen countless door montages and they always draw my eye.

50 Doors in Crestview by David Erwin, on Flickr

• 50 Doors in Crestview •
The regularity of the door shape make it ideal for pattern and photomontage shots.

50 Doors in Crestview by David Erwin, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Colour: Brightly coloured doors are almost universally photographed. People seem to want to make a statement with their entrances and photographers have gladly advertised the fact. My own picture at the top of the page is an example. Colour draws the eye.

Character and sense of place

Character: Many older buildings have wonderful old doorways. They can be found in some of the most ordinary of locations as well as more grand surroundings. The photographer with an eye to architectural detail can find some wonderful photographic opportunities in old doors.

The hidden secrets behind doors

• The hidden secrets behind doors •

Click image to view large
The hidden secrets behind doors By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Sense of place: Doors say a lot about a building and often about the type of occupation, they project a strong sense of place, of being and of architectural meaning. There are homely ones, business-like ones, run down doors, expensive, cheap… I cold go on. The door speaks about the place and people.

Beyond the obvious…

The grand statement: I mentioned the national gateway theme of many nations. The grand statement of ‘national’ arches or gates is paralleled by some of the grand doors of classical architecture. Huge structures, grand columns, magnificent entrances all serve to impress and awe the visitor – they tell a story of power and control behind the nation. We see equally as powerful door statements in the doors of some of today’s global businesses who’s power and money rival the historical extent of former empires.

Strong story potential: With all these things that doors can say they can also tell great stories. Street photographers and portrait photographers have a long association with them, as do travel photographers. They know a person in association with a door, especially their own, tells a story that jumps out of the image. Looking for a strong story is a holy grail for photographers.

Secrets: Closed doors pique our interest because we are all a little nosy. Who has not walked past an interesting door and wondered what lay within. Even the plainest could hide secrets we cannot even imagine. The secret, the mysterious and the hidden are all things that pull us into an image. They are interesting for themselves, but they also stimulate imagination. Often a peek in a window in association with an interesting door is a great way to give a taste of hidden fruit beyond our reach… a sure way to keep the viewer interested.

Look out for a door…

There is so much potential in this photographic subject. Sometimes you can walk right past a photo-opportunity if you are unaware. Doorways are there with us every day. They are a source for forgetting and a reason to remember. Think about photographing them. Enjoy!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Nine simple guidelines for great interior shots

• Dining Room • For great interior shots follow the guidelines

• Dining Room • For great interior shots follow the guidelines
Click image to view large
• Dining Room • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Photographing interiors is easier with simple rules.

We have all taken interior shots at some time. Indoor subjects are wide ranging. What about when you want to take a picture of the room itself? Here are some simple rules to help you get it right.

Why would you want to take a picture of the room?

Actually there may be many reasons. In the picture above the shot was taken because of the historical interest. It is a record shot. Of course there are lots of other types of shots you might want to take in an interior. Here are some examples…

  • Historical interest
  • Insurance record
  • Design interest
  • Before and after shot
  • House or room for rent
  • Hotel room for holiday snap
  • Hotel room for advertising
  • Colour and décor sampler for decorating plans
  • Sales and marketing photo for building sale purposes
  • Comparison with other places
  • Artistic impressions or interpretation

You get the point. Rooms can have a lot of reasons to be the subject of a photograph.

Some simple guidance…

1. Give yourself a clear purpose for the shot(s): Without such a purpose how will you know the best approach, what to include and exclude and how much of the room to take in. So know why you are doing it and what you hope to gain from the photograph. It helps to write it down.

2. Minimise distractions: As with any type of photography your primary purpose can be affected by distractions in the shot. Think carefully about the purpose of the shot. Remove anything that is discordant or will not add value to that purpose or will distract the eye. Take out objects that are too bright, nothing to do with the shot; something that may confuse the purpose of the shot.

3. Work on the brightness: Remember, the normal lights in a room will probably have a colour cast which will have an impact on the overall colour. If possible use daylight adjusted lights or off camera flash units. Use the flashes to light up specific areas of the room. Highlights like that add to the atmosphere in a room. Be consistent with the natural lighting and any artificial lights that may be in evidence as permanent fittings so the lighting does not look out of place. If you only have the on-camera flash make sure you have it set to a sufficient power to light the whole room. Arrange the furniture so that the light coming from the camera does not leave harsh shadows on the floor in front of you. Flash is inclined to leave such shadows which make the room look very angular and uncomfortable. Rooms that have soft, bright and well lit aspects are more welcoming and give an air of comfort.

4. Windows and doors: These are important parts of a room. Depending on your purpose you may need to show them. If they are looking out onto a bright exterior, or directly to the outside you may have a problem. The outside is quite likely to be much brighter than inside. More than two stops of brightness will almost certainly burn out. This creates a very bright white area of the shot. That’s very distracting. It will take the viewers eye straight away from the subject. One way to counter-act that is to raise the internal light levels so the contrast from inside to out is not so large. That will probably require some additional flash units or other lighting around the room. Alternatively, you could lower the incoming light by closing curtains or the door. However, you light the room remember to use the appropriate white balance settings on your camera. Colour casts can spoil the shot. It is also better to shoot in RAW so you can adjust the colour balance in post processing.

5. Straight lines and verticals: Rooms and interior spaces often look odd in pictures because the straight lines are not straight and the verticals are converging. You must prevent this if your purpose for the shot is to make the room look normal. Use a lens that minimises distortion and set your camera on a level for the shot so it minimises convergence in the upright lines. If you are unable to prevent the lines from bending or converging then make sure you can straighten them in an editing application in post processing. Of course if you are making this photograph for artistic reasons, anything goes.

Langley Library

Use furniture to give the impression of depth.
Place pieces so they look like there is a succession into the depth of the room.

6. Impart depth to the room: Taking just any old shot you will find that the room often looks flat, or lacking in depth. The effect of zoom lenses and maybe an on-camera flash will exaggerate that effect. You can do three things to off-set that effect…

  • Use lines in the room to give the impact of depth as they trend away from you (eg. the table in the top shot above).
  • Create a foreground, mid-ground and far point of the room. Taking a shot with a piece of furniture directly in front of you, something mid-way into the room and something on the far wall will do the trick.
  • Strategic placement of lights down the length of the room will draw the eye down the room too.

7. Adjust comfort levels to suite your purpose for the shot: Every room has what I call a comfort level. It the room is cold and uninviting the comfort level is low. If you intend your room to look like a medical clinic then find ways to give it a low comfort level. Harsh lights, angular furniture, sparse layout… anything that will make it look uncomfortable.

If you want to sell a new home to a home-loving family then you need to raise the comfort level in the room. Soft lights, soft furnishings, rounded corners, bright and inviting cushions… these things help people to feel comfortable. Your pictures should reflect the reason you are taking the picture.

8. Use appropriate lenses: Different lenses have different effects. If you use wide angle lenses they will distort the long dimensions. Use it in portrait view and the lens will appear to make the room look high. If you use a wide angle lens down the length of the room it will make it look long and thin. If you use a zoom lens it will have the effect of foreshortening the room. A 50mm lens will tend to show the room much as the eye would see it. Every room or interior space is going to be interpreted in different ways. The best guidance is to look for a lens that will best exaggerate sizes, or complement dimensions to suit your stated purpose for the shot.

9. People: The inclusion of people in a room can be either a good or bad thing. It all depends on how you want to portray the space and the purpose of the shot. In an entertainment space lots of people enjoying themselves will make the shot good. In a warm, homely room one or two people chilling out and enjoying the comforts will also sell the shot. On the other hand, a record shot should really be about the room, factual and un-distracted.

If it is solely the room you intend to show then it is probably better not to include people.If you do include people then make sure it complements the purpose for the shot.

Interiors are satisfying to photograph

There may be lots of reasons to take pictures of rooms, but that makes it important that you think about what you are trying to portray. If you have a clear purpose for the shot then you can match the layout, furnishings, lighting etc to meet the purpose you have set. Think about layout, depth and finishings. Think about people. There is a lot to consider. However, interior shots can be very satisfying indeed. Practice makes perfect, so work on the points above.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.