I just returned from a trip to Italy where I saw the ruins of ancient Rome and had to imagine the size and scale of the buildings. In Rome, Florence and Venice, I also saw some very well preserved palaces that are now museums and thought to myself: “I can’t believe this used to be someone’s home.”
I shoot a lot of high-end homes and while I am always a little in awe, it takes a lot now to really impress me. Well, consider me impressed. I recently photographed a 10-Master Bedroom home that had some features I’ve never seen before; at least not all in one home. As I was walking through the home I thought to myself: “This is like a modern-day palace. I wonder if it’s still standing in 300 or 1,000 years, what people will think of it.”
One of my former clients installed residential bowling alleys and I photographed one at the home of a Major League Baseball player. I didn’t get to see the whole house but I may have been just as impressed with that one. Well, this one has lanes too.
How about an indoor racquetball court…
That also doubles as a basketball court with a retracting hoop (if you look carefully in the image above, you can see the rectangle where the hoop comes out of):
I’ve shot homes with arcades in the past. Check the box on this one too.
…and a game room:
Or how about a round of poker while watching three different games on TV!
The house has a lot of cool little features. Like the doors which opened when you waved your hand in front of a sensor. It would also sense your body if you are close enough and open automatically a-la Star Trek.
But the biggest surprise was the bathrooms. I backed up into the closet where the toilet is to take this shot (you can see the identical closet on the opposite side of the bath tub):
Well, when I backed in, sensors must have detected my motion and the toilet seat lifted automatically and music started playing. I shit you not. Here’s video of it:
Hey, why not a tune while you toot?
I didn’t get to shoot the whole house because workers and cleaners were putting the final touches on it. So I didn’t get to the indoor jacuzzi/spa and the sauna/steam rooms. It was also raining that day so no pool or exterior shots.
If you want to see more of the house, check out the gallery here; but check back on this post at the end of this month when I hope to get those shots and video of the retracting basketball hoop. Until then…”champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a “before and after” series (you can see the past posts linked at the end of this one). I thought you might enjoy the night and day differences between the images a client had before and what I delivered. The client was so pleased, he said it looked like two different villas.
I’ve shot some big homes before. But this one takes the cake. This 14-thousand square foot, 9-bedroom home is the largest home I’ve shot to date. The pool area alone was bigger than most homes!
Yes, there are lights that shoot through the jets of water, like tracer rounds (I still don’t know how they do it). The long exposure above makes it look like the fountains are constantly lit.
This is a vacation home and the best part of the story for me is that the homeowner told me since the pictures went live, he’s had 30 bookings! That’s enough to carry over into 2013! Proof that professional photography adds value.
I’ll leave you with a few more images. Check out the full gallery here.
…and now for something completely different. Every once in a while, I like to push myself out of my comfort level and try something new. A few weeks ago, a photographer friend of mine posted an image on Facebook of a motocross racer and said he wanted to try to shoot something like that. My neighbor’s two kids race their bikes at a track not far from here so I coordinated a shoot during a practice night.
For someone who shoots houses for a living, trying to shoot something that moves very fast is a change of pace, to say the least. I got there just before the sun set and quickly found I had to boost my ISO to at least 800. I knew I wanted to show some motion in the wheels so I thought a shutter speed of 1/125th would work. I was shooting with the 70-200 f/2.8 lens and thought I would start at f/5.6, but that went out the window right away and I was shooting wide open at 2.8 the whole night.
After the sun set, I had to boost my ISO to “HI” which on my camera body is only 3200. I started shooting in RAW, but switched over to JPEG because at 6.5 frames per second, the buffer time was taking too long. My Compact Flash cards have a 30 Mb/s transfer rate. If I shot sports professionally, I’d probably have the 45 Mb/s cards. One last tip if you’re shooting fast action: make sure you set your camera’s focus drive to “AI Servo” (aka Continuous Focus for Nikon). This tells your camera to track motion.
Despite all the knowledge I brought onto the track, the vast majority of my shots were craptacular! I had trouble nailing the focus in the low light conditions. But hey, that’s what trying something new is all about, right? I might go again…maybe during the day to see if I have better luck. You can see the rest of the gallery HERE.
Most of the luxury homes I photograph have at least one room dedicated to entertainment. Maybe it’s a pool table in the garage, or an in-home movie theater. Then there’s the in-home bowling alley. But a recent shoot took the cake for the number of arcade games in one room.
It’s one thing to add six arcade machines in what used to be a garage; but the homeowner went the extra step of knocking out a bedroom and bathroom to add another machine…
..and did I mention the 80-inch LCD TV?
Who needs bedrooms and bathrooms in a house when you’ve got an arcade? Actually, that red sofa does have a pull out bed.
Here are a couple more looks at the room:
All this just leaves one question: Can I borrow some tokens?
I shot the annual Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) conference at the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando last week and it was a white balancing nightmare! Truth be told, I shoot in RAW so I can always change the white balance in post, but I like to get an accurate representation of the image at the time of capture. It’s just a comfort thing, not to mention trying to get as much right in camera to begin with. Take a look at this image: (NOTE: for the images in this post, try not to focus on the content, but rather the color. These examples are pretty much out of camera with little or no editing)
You can see how “orange” or “warm” it looks. That’s pretty much right out of camera. The warmth is due to the tungsten (incandescent for you Nikonians) lights overhead. So I switched from “auto” white balance to “tungsten” and while the result was better, I knew I’d run into trouble if I wanted or needed to use flash.
In the image above I used fill flash with a 1/2 cut of Color Temperature Orange (CTO) gel. Putting an orange gel on your flash essentially turns it into a tungsten light. So if you set your white balance to tungsten (incandescent) then the two light sources will balance. If you look carefully, however, you’ll notice that the waiter’s face still looks a little “cool” or “blue” in comparison to the room. So I added another 1/2 cut of CTO which equals one full cut and that did the trick.
The next day, I turned to using custom white balances for each room and that really made a difference.
Compare the color of the walls in the image above to the very first image in this post. Actually, if you see that white board on the right side of the frame; that’s what I used to get a custom white balance.
I learned about custom white balancing as a news videographer right out of college. Back then, those big cameras didn’t have handy white balance settings and you couldn’t tweak it in post. You either set the kelvin temperature or you took a custom white balance every time you moved from indoors to outside and back.
In case you don’t know, when you take a custom white balance, you’re basically telling the camera what “white” is so it can set all the corresponding colors accordingly. Camera models vary, but to take a custom white balance, take a picture of something white that is getting hit by the light source in the room. If, for example, you have a mix of tungsten and daylight, take something white and put it where it’s getting hit by both sources. You might need to switch to manual focus because your camera may not find focus in something with no contrast. Next, go to your menu function for custom white balance and select the image you want to use. Then, change your white balance to “custom”. Don’t forget to switch back to auto focus.
The classrooms (pictured above) were the worst! They really did have this weird orange color that seemed warmer to me than regular rooms lit by incandescent lamps. Not to mention, I was expecting fluorescent lights at hotel conference rooms. Switching from “auto” to “tungsten” didn’t help at all. So I just shot the white door at every room to get a custom white balance.
Getting the right white balance is crucial if you shoot JPEG because you don’t have as much latitude in post processing to tweak it. It’s less important if you shoot RAW, unless you’re like me and want to see an accurate picture when you shoot it.
I’ve been a little busy the past couple of weeks. I was given 10 shooting days to shoot the exteriors of 113 homes. If you’re counting, the image above only shows 110; I needed an even number to make the collage work. Click on it to see it bigger.
The first step was plotting the homes on map and figuring out the best time of day to shoot them. The LighTrac app I blogged about recently was indispensable. I was able to figure out, down to the minute, when the sun would hit each home at the best angle. Unfortunately, I was at the mercy of the weather. In Florida, afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence which made shooting the west-facing homes a challenge. Sometimes, it would be too cloudy. Sometimes, I’d have good sun, but dark clouds behind the house. Other times, I’d have a good sky behind the home but a huge cloud obscuring the sun. As it was, I usually had to wait for a cloud to move. There I would be, camera on a tripod and me standing next to it looking up at the sky.
I do want to share one tip which I mentioned in a previous blog regarding shooting exteriors. Absent of a tilt-shift lens, you have to make sure your verticals stay vertical. Most people have the inclination to stand in front of a house and tilt the camera up. This makes the house look like it’s falling over. So I set up across the street on a tripod. I dial in my exposure manually, raise the tripod as high as it goes and use a cable release to take the shot.
In the end, I got it done in nine days. It would’ve been sooner if it wasn’t for the darned weather!
This was probably my most unique assignment to date. I got a request not too long ago asking me how much I would charge to photograph one room. I thought, “Just one room? That’s odd.” I asked for more information and found out this was a bowling alley inside someone’s house! The lanes were installed by Fusion Bowling and they install private bowling alleys. Talk about a niche market!
I showed up for the job in a very exclusive community and found out the home belongs to a professional major league baseball player. The bowling alley is actually on the second floor.
The shoot was pretty straight forward. The lanes create natural leading lines that make composition a no-brainer. The client asked if I shot HDR. I told him I don’t because I generally don’t like the look of HDR; it just doesn’t look realistic. I have seen some interior photographers use HDR in a style I like, but I haven’t figured out the technique. Every HDR I’ve tried always has that “HDR look”. I prefer a natural look so I take multiple exposures and blend them using masks. I did take several exposures in this case specifically for HDR and I might post an update so you can see the comparison. I’m currently reading RC Concepcion’s “The HDR Book” to see if I can learn something new.
You can see more images from the shoot in the gallery; and don’t forget you can like, comment on, rate and share individual images on my site. Give it a try!
I shot a home a few months ago and today came across an older realty listing for the same home. I thought it served as a perfect example of how hiring a professional photographer can make a world of difference. The home is listed for $1.9 million. If my assumptions and calculations are correct, the realtor stands to make about $57-thousand from the commission of the sale. For a little more than half-of-one percent of that, they could have gotten quality images from me. See for yourself and ask, “If I had 1.9-million lying around, which pictures would get me to go see that house?”.
(Note: clicking on my images will open a larger image in a new window. To see the full gallery click here.)
I shoot mostly interiors and architecture. I am routinely asked to reshoot rooms and houses when there are updates to the property. Often, I’ll look at the previous or existing image to know what I’m walking into and examine angles and lighting. My goal is to improve upon the previous image. So I wanted to show you a few examples and walk you through why I did some of the things I did. While some of these tips may seem specific to interior and architecture, I think they can apply to other types of photography.
First up is the exterior of this house. I see a couple of things wrong. The perspective is off. Whoever took this photo stood too close to the house and pointed the camera up. Tilting your camera up will cause buildings to look like they’re falling over backwards. We see this all the time in people’s vacation photos of famous monuments and buildings. The other problem is that the sun seems to be just behind or almost directly over the house. This affects the exposure and makes things look washed out.
In the “after” shot, I stood across the street and raised the camera as high as the tripod would let me. This makes the angle of the focal plane almost parallel to the mid-point of the house. In other words, the camera was about even to the eave above the garage. I had to step back far enough to get everything in frame without tilting the camera and I made sure my tripod was level. Lastly, I waited until mid-afternoon to make sure the sun was hitting the house. This makes the colors pop and adds brightness to the image. If you want nice blue skies, shoot with the sun at your back.
This kitchen shot is another example of bad perspective. I can’t identify a single vertical line. The room looks like it’s tilted toward you because the camera is tilted down. To keep your verticals vertical, you have to keep your camera level.
This “after” shot shows what a difference is made just by putting the camera on a tripod and making sure it’s level.
This last shot shows a living room. Here the lamps seem overexposed and the room seems to be tilting to the left. When I walked into the room, I saw the opportunity to show more of the space.
In the “after” shot, I chose a composition that shows more of the space. I opened the blinds so you can see the patio and I made sure to light the bedroom on the left. Also notice there is still detail in the lamps.
Well, I hope you’ll pick up some useful tips. If you have any questions on technique or lighting, let me know.