Magazine Article


Unity & Contrast
Architectural photographer Jim Roof uses light to create dynamic rhythm within his images

Blue interior
Images by Jim Roof

Aerial view of waiting area
Images by Jim Roof

Exterior view of walkway over water
Images by Jim Roof

Exterior view of sculptures
Images by Jim Roof

Exterior view of building
Images by Jim Roof

Mall rotunda
Images by Jim Roof

"If the space is lit up with 75-watt incandescent light, and I go in with a 1,000-watt quartz light, I'm going to blow it away. There's no way I can incorporate that light into the shot."

The Beauty of Digital

Making the switch from film to digital just 18 months ago, Roof refers to himself as a "holdout" who has since seen the light, as well as an upsurge in clientele.

"Digital is more than just a time-saver," says Roof. "I can scout a site and take 50–60 quick hand-held images. Then I'll send them to the designer, who takes a look and tells me which eight to ten shots they want me to go back and produce with more care."

Another upside to shooting digital: blending multiple exposures. He points to his latest project with Red Bull as an example.

"I was shooting a meeting room that used to be a garage, so it had a really unique, retro theme—a lot of exposed brick, very industrial.

"Above the conference table, the ceiling was designed to look like the intake of a jet turbo engine. I took four exposures: one for the base, one for the highlights, one for the mid-tones, and one for the shadows. There were about 16 chairs. I went around the table and used a small light on the back of each of the chairs, each one in a different exposure. I ended up with approximately 19 images, which I then combined into one in Adobe Photoshop."

Roof gets what he describes as the "base image," which consists of the overall best exposure, and then brings in the highlight details. He'll put together different exposures depending on highlights, angles, and shadows, with each variable having a unique element to bring into the photograph. "There would be no way to get this look on film," he says.

The prophetic words of Roof's professor about unity and contrast are evident both in his pictures and in his photographic approach. With a keen sense of light and shape, Roof has taken art's yin and yang and built a career on it.

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