Interview With Architectural Photographer Sean Conboy

Architectural photographer Sean Conboy, renowned for photographing some of the world’s most famous buildings, joined Karl in studio for this fascinating live talk show.

Sean invited viewers to take a look at what it was like working as an architectural photographer, shedding light on a profession that centres around early mornings and late nights, precision, patience and technical cameras.

Together Karl and Sean looked at some of Sean’s work, examining the lighting of various scenes and exploring how he would balance complex mixed lighting. Sean also shared the gear he takes with him on a shoot and how he handles working in light-dependant situations.

©Sean Conboy

Topics covered in this live photography talk show:

  • Architectural photography
  • Balancing natural and artificial light
  • Working with technical cameras and tilt and shift lenses
  • Composing a strong image using leading lines, focal length & light
  • Shooting interiors vs exteriors
  • How to photograph in busy places

Links:
www.seanconboy.com

Comments

  1. Hi Karl,
    I might have missed it during the show but when Sean says he uses 6, 8, 10 or even more lights… does it mean he get all the pictures in one take? It would have been very explanatory a bit of “behind the scenes” video or pictures.

    I’ve seen other architecture/interior photographers take lots of pictures using only one flash moving it around and then merge all the pictures together in post. What is Sean’s post work flow?
    Thank you so much.

    Felipe.

    1. Hi Felipe, yes generally speaking Sean is exposing for one shot. I’ve used both techniques, sometimes obtaining my main base exposure with several lights at once and then shooting additional exposures with one mobile flash with a more concentrated beam (usually controlled with a honeycomb grid) and then working my way around the room carefully firing that flash at key places along with the other lights exposing. I then take all of the shots which were shot on a tripod and then layer them in photoshop and then use masks to pull through the best parts of each. We cover using layer masks in detail in our Post Production section. If you have any questions let me know.

      1. Hi Karl,

        Thank you for your response.
        Sorry to bother you again but after seeing how many lights he uses for every picture, another question comes to my mind.

        When a photographer shoots abroad, it requires shipping a big amount of gear. I guess sometimes more than what the photographer actually owns. I found myself in this situation a couple of times. At the end I didn’t get those assignments because it turned to be much more expensive than what the client had on mind so they cancelled the projects. But while budgeting I had to decide whether rent the gear at origin or at destination (assuming the photoshoot will not take place at a remote destination where there is no chance to rent any gear). Even, when the project takes more than 25-30 days, the rental budget gets so high that purchasing instead of renting becomes an option. I guess you have found yourself in the same situation. If so how did you proceed? Or maybe being a Broncolor Ambassador means unlimited gear supplied by Broncolor?

        Finally, considering the option of carrying the gear from your country of origin, what paperwork do you need to go through customs wise speaking? What is the size and titles of your team to carry out this kind of projects? Do you hire a local producer to smooth things out?

        I’m sorry for this long question but I’d really appreciate if you could share your experience.

        Thank you before hand.

        Felipe

        1. Hi Felipe, if I’m working away in a city then the first option is rental and it’s affordable compared to the pricing of the project I’m working on. If there is no rental where I’m going then I work with as compact kit as possible 4 Mobilites and two Move packs plus modifiers. I’m afraid if a client expects you to shoot abroad then they have to expect the costs that are incurred in doing so, if they don’t then they are not the type of clients that you want. Yes on a long 3 week project then renting may be too expensive and you would be better taking your own kit and paying the extra baggage costs but that would be for you to work out in the overall budget and the longer term benefits. Being a broncolor ambassador unfortunately doesn’t mean unlimited gear it just means discount on my more recent purchases but half of the equipment I have I’d purchased before becoming an ambassador for them! There should be no paper work for travel other than copies of your proof of purchase and declaration in writing from your company that you are travelling with the kit and returning with it. I only use local producers for location scouting most of the things my own team will sort out and when travelling it will be minimum myself and one assistant to help with the transport of stuff and also assist on shoots. You can hire other assistants freelance in most cities. When I used to shoot in London more regularly I could be on a 3 day shoot, with studio rental and the bill for the studio would be at least £3K and then £1500 for equipment so there was £4500 before even my invoice. Clients should understand and expect this, professional photographers that can deliver the project they need can’t be expected to arrive and shoot with their Iphone in natural light for £50, if that is the sort of client mentality then the clients need to be educated or not be taken seriously as clients. I hope this helps, Karl.

  2. Hi Karl,
    can you help or give example or give a video about the lights which you discussed with Sean Conboy. As you discussed to make or shoot interior as real as possible not to look like HDR. So what kind of lighting should be used. Can one use natural lighting as possible with bracketing or multiple exposure. how much the ambient lighting should be used. Also what focal length should be used to have minimum distortion. can we shoot in vertical also later stitch making wide panorama or only horizontally should be shot.

    1. Hi Sunny88, I prefer to light with studio lighting, either electric or the battery powered ones are handy on location especially if doing exteriors. For interiors this type of studio lighting is daylight balanced so you can mix it well with daylight. I’ve applied a number of techniques in the past from shooting lots of exposures and walking around ‘popping’ the studio flash in different places and then blending the shots in post. Or alternatively bouncing some light off the ceiling or wall behind me and then using other lights to highlight key features. When mixing with interior lighting that might be tungsten I’ll keep those looking a little warm but I won’t let them expose too bright and sometimes I will put blue gels around the freestanding lamps bulbs. For lenses wider angle but not crazy wide and keep your camera parallel to the walls to avoid distortion.

      1. Sir about popping the flash and later merging them in photoshop. If the room is wide and ceiling is very high like a hall. Then how to use flash as light will be hard to reach and if a person goes or use light stand for the flash. Then that thing will come in the frame. Sir how to avoid that. Sir I have to shoot a hall like this. I can share the picture with you.

        1. Hi Sunny 88, the person always points the flash away from them at an area that they are not blocking with their body. It doesn’t matter if they are in the other part of the picture because when you blend all the layers together you will only be using the parts you need (the parts you lit). If the ceiling is far away and needs more light, you turn the power of the flash up or flash it multiple times in one place on a longer exposure, so for example you could use a shutter speed of 3 seconds for that shot and fire the flash 4x at the ceiling.

  3. Nice interview, Karl. Some great insight from Sean regarding the achievement of that “authentic” look especially within mixed-lighting environments. ‘Really looking forward to watching your team following Sean Conboy whilst working. I work with a local estate agent taking basic interiors and exteriors but very keen to up-my-game in order to attract some more demanding gigs. Kind regards, Andrew

  4. Hello !! Would be possible to know about how the Hasselblad H6 body is attached to a technical camera, in this case Linhof. Different ways of how the back is powered (batteries, AC, tethered) and how the back synchronizes with the lenses.. I have try to find this information everywhere and there is nothing even with Hasselblad web. Hope you may help me. Thanks !! Jose

    1. Hi Jose, please contact fellow Hasselblad and Linhof ambassador Sean Conboy at [email protected] Sean is an expert on using the H6 back with a Linhof so he will have the answers for you, just tell him I sent you and that you saw him on our live show. Cheers Karl.

  5. Hi guys only just been able to watch this incredible video. What a fascinating couple of hours. Sean has a great way of passing on his expertise and the images are outstanding. I took away so many tips regarding light levels and balancing artificial together with the available natural light. Stunning video guys, best so far!!! JD

  6. Fantastic interview Karl, great choice, definitely want to follow Mr. Conboy and perhaps catch a bts video of his work.

  7. Really enjoyed this interview, Karl. What a nice guy and obviously, by his enthusiasm, loves what he does. A wealth of experience there, and generous of Sean to share it.

  8. Excellent show, I like these shows. I like the insight that one gleans from working professional photographers.

    I believe there is a world wide explosion of knowledge sharing and Karl you are doing your part, at a very reasonable cost, good job.

  9. Thank you Karl for the talk with Sean Conboy…..I enjoyed it very much. Informative, interesting and fantastic images. I couldn’t connect when it was live but glad you have a link for replay…thanks.

  10. `i was gutted i missed this but just watched it on repeat, a fantastic show what an infectious bloke and amazing old school photographer, this has probably been one of my favourites so far along with Tim Flach. Ive just invested in a 19mm Nikon Tilt Shift so im gonna go and try a few shots #Inspired.. The quality of your guests is unsurpassed Karl, fantatsic to see the wide breadth of Photography genres covered.

  11. Excellent show, a real old skool photographer that still knows the principles of photography and the advantages of a view camera.
    In fact he uses a perfect mix of classic and modern technology and above all experiencing the pleasure and satisfaction of making a good photograph. (Unfortunately also costly)
    I’m honestly a bit jealous.

    1. Hi Peter, glad you enjoyed the show. I’d also love to work with a view camera again but can’t justify the cost for the small amount of times that I would use it when I can use my HTS1.5 instead. If I was shooting mostly the sort of stuff that Sean is shooting though then I would definitely consider it.

  12. Hi Karl,
    Just managed to watch this show on replay and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Sean, his passion and enthusiasm for what he does really shows, stunning images and a real love for his work made this a thoroughly entertaining talk show.
    thanks Karl and the team.

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