Homeowners Get Creative With Interior Decor

In one of my recent posts I featured a home where the designer really got creative in some of the theme rooms. Well, I was equally impressed by a vacation home I photographed this month where the owners themselves added some very unique touches to the home. Take the New York City inspired loft complete with a taxi-cab pool table, subway signs, brick floor and full-sized wall mural of the skyline.



Then there’s the outer space room. I don’t think I’ve ever seen silver sheets!

Space Room

In the bathroom, the cabinets look like control panels made by adding computer parts.



This is the “Around the World in 80 Days” room. Notice the sandbags on the bed to complete the hot-air balloon motif.

Hot Air Balloon Room

Then there are the treehouse and drive-in movie rooms with artificial grass.

Master Bed 4

Theater Room-1

And finally, who doesn’t need a boat in their room?

Master Bedroom


It’s fun to shoot rooms where a designer or owner has clearly put thought into the details of the decor.  From what I’ve seen in recent months, more vacation home owners are making an effort to get creative and have fun with their designs.


After Nearly 8 Months, Photos Help Sell Home in 8 Days


See this house? It languished on the Orlando market for 224 days.

It’s no wonder; with a photo like that who would want to come see it? A new realtor took over – one who understands the importance of professional photography for his listings. I shot it on February 28 and delivered the images the next day on March 1. On March 10 he told me a buyer had made an offer. So by my calculation, I believe the contract came in sometime between March 1 and March 9. To put it another way, after almost 8 months on the market, the home was under contract within 8 days after I took new photos.

Now I can’t say the photos alone sold the home; credit must be given to the Realtor. But I have no doubt the photos helped. Take a look at some before and after shots:

5271 Baskin St.-1

Living Room Before


Living Room-1


For the living room shot, my original composition was a little tighter. The realtor asked me to pull back a little to show the hallway. I took his suggestion and I liked it. It opens up the room and  gives you an idea of the space.

Before shot of kitchen




Dining Before




This is the second angle of the dining room. The first was a head on shot but this one shows you the foyer and room off to the left.

Master Bed Before


Master Bed 1


Bathroom Before


Master Bath 1-2


Bedroom 2 Before


Bedroom 2


Isn’t it clear how having good images can attract more potential buyers? I am always amazed how most Realtors refuse to pay for professional photos. It’s something I’ll be writing about more in a future post.

Color and Creativity Combine for a Fun Interior Shoot

My last post was about how a homeowner and designer came together for some fun and creative theme rooms. I recently photographed a home where the homeowner added a unique feature to the game and kids room.

Before I get to that, I want to point out what the designer did with the interior. For a long time I have noticed how the decor and paint palette of a home can affect the way I feel about shooting it. When a home has dark paint and dark furniture, it makes the room feel small and drab. Never mind the challenges of trying to light a dark interior!  I find myself trudging through the shoot and not really enjoying it. Contrast that with bright colors or even neutral colors with accent colors thrown in. I find it puts me in a good mood and I really enjoy photographing the home. It almost makes it easier to light and that frees up my mind to get creative.


Living Room-3 Master Bed 1-1 Bedroom 5

Now check out what they did with the game room. It has a nuclear bunker theme complete with four gaming stations where the kids can play each other in multi-player games or individually if someone wants to play a different game.

_R5A2375 as Smart Object-1Game Room-3


Upstairs on the kids room is a Frozen theme (very popular).

Bedroom 8

The design in the ceiling is actually fabric connecting to the light fixture. But the coolest feature is this castle:

Bedroom 8 Decor-3


It doesn’t look like much until you open it up and find a little hide-away where kids can play.

Bedroom 8 Decor-4

It actually connects to the Harry Potter themed room next door.


Bedroom 7-1 Bedroom 7-2


That closet door opens to the hide-away which connects to the Frozen room. Pretty cool, right!?

I’ve really seen designers steeping up their game and getting more creative. It certainly makes my job more fun. Check out the rest of the pictures here: http://bit.ly/1ugay0d

This Is How a Theme Room Is Done!

I photograph a lot of vacation homes and many feature theme rooms that might appeal the children in the families who are visiting. They can range from Disney themes to Harry Potter. Sometimes, it’s stuffed animals or wall murals or even the bedding. Often times, it seems like an afterthought and the room isn’t really tied together.

Just before Christmas, I shot a home where the designer clearly put a lot of thought into the theme rooms. Check out this Lego room where everything is awesome!

Lego Theme Room

Lego Theme Room


Then there’s the Frozen room:

Frozen Theme Room

Frozen Theme Room


I don’t know if you can tell in the second picture, but the carpet actually glistens with a glitter like material adding to the “snowy” effect.

Check out the entrance to the theater room:

Movie Room

Movie Room


Now that’s how a theme room should be done! It was a lot of fun to photograph this home. You can see the full gallery here: http://bit.ly/1KjtjVw

Using Black Flags for Interior Photography

In case you don’t know, a black flag is used in photography to absorb light and keep it from reaching your subject. It is the opposite of a reflector which bounces light onto your subject.

Interior photography is not unlike other types of photography in which you have a main subject, must compose carefully and place lights in the correct location. But it can present challenges too. Take a look at his picture:


See that window? Sunlight is streaming in and bouncing off the floor which then reflects up into the bathroom. It’s typically bad practice to light a portrait of a person from underneath. It gives them that scary camp-fire-ghost-story look. Well, the same applies here. Look carefully at the shadows and you can tell the light source is coming from underneath. Even with flash, I could not make it looked balanced or pleasing. Here’s another look:

iPhone bathroom shot

You can see the sun bouncing off the floor and wall. I did not want to leave it as is and have people think that I lit the bathroom from underneath. I was stumped until I remembered that I always bring my 5-in-1 reflector with me. One of the sides is black. So I draped that over the spot where the sun was hitting:


The black helped absorb the light and let me balance the ambient with flash for a more pleasing look. Here’s the final image:Final Bathroom Image

Notice the shadows cast by the bathtub faucet and light fixtures are less noticeable. The glare on the cabinet is reduced as is the brightness of the tile on the bathtub.

Most people may not think of using a 5-in-1 reflector for interior and real estate photography, but it’s just another photographic tool which helps to control the light.

Translating an Interior Scene from Camera to Screen

I was discussing my style and photographic vision with a homeowner recently. He complimented my work and I explained my goal is to translate what I see with my eye. That process is not easy. Behold what the camera saw in this scene:

Living Area
That’s about 1-to-2 stops overexposed. In other words, I had to disagree with what the camera thought was a “correct” exposure. That’s nowhere close to what I saw with my eyes. Here is the editing process I went through to get it to look natural:

Photoshop Screenshot


You can see it took 6 different layers to massage the image and get it to look like this:

Living Area


The room has a lot of dynamic range; from the brightness outside the sliding glass door to the dark furniture. As they say, when you get lemons, make lemonade.

Review: RODE Smart Lav

RODE Smart Lav


For some of my video projects, the client wants a talent or host; so I have the wire them for sound. In the past, I’ve used the Sennheiser wireless mics and they are great. But at more than $600 a bit pricey for my needs. So I was looking for a low-cost alternative and came across the RODE Smart Lav. At $60 bucks, it fit the bill.

The Smart Lav plugs into your smart phone and records into the RODE Rec app. The app is free but the $5.99 upgrade offers many more settings and functions including the ability to upload the audio files to Dropbox. In the field, instead of worrying about running out of memory or somehow losing the file, I just sent it to Dropbox. This allowed me to have two copies of each file. Here’s a video from the company showing some of the features of the app:


So how did it work? Check out this video comparing the on-board mic on my Canon 5D MKIII DSLR and the RODE Smart Lav:


You can hear the obvious difference. Not bad for something that is a tenth of the cost! I also like that the Smart Lav comes with a windscreen. This helps when shooting outdoors and to minimize “popping p’s” from the speaker.

There was one problem though. Out of about 11 files, 2 were not useable. One came out very low and I could not recover it in post. Another sounded very muffled. The muffled sound may have been caused by the mic slipping and being covered by clothing. But I cannot explain the low sound on the other file. I am a little worried about the inconsistencies but the other audio files sounded fine. I haven’t decided whether to try it again or to back to renting the Sennheiser.

The other consideration is syncing the audio to the video in post. This takes a little work but was easier than I expected. With the Sennheiser the audio records straight into the camera so the audio and video file are already synced.

Still, if you need a low-cost option to getting good sound, the RODE Smart Lav might be your best bet.