Creative Theme Rooms in Vacation Homes


Star Wars Theme Room

I’ve seen a lot of theme rooms in vacation homes. In fact, I’ve written about them before:

Homeowners Get Creative With Interior Decor

This is How a Theme Room is Done!

But in the last year or so, I’ve seen homeowners really stepping up their game and pushing the creative envelope. With the renewed popularity of Star Wars, that franchise is popping up more and more in bedrooms. But I’ve never seen anything quite like the room above. Check out some more angles and note the R2D2 trash can in the bathroom.

Star Wars Theme Room
Star Wars Theme RoomStar Wars Theme Bathtoom

 

In another home the theme was Pirates. Think “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disney World. I actually heard someone from Disney did some of the work in this room.

Pirate Theme Room

Pirate Theme Room
Pirate Theme Room
Pirate Theme Room
Pirate Theme Room

Of course Frozen theme rooms are still going strong. This one was unique with the changing LED light display.

I can’t wait to see what designers and homeowners will come up with next.

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.

My Worst Critic


There’s this guy; hard to please. You know the type. Every once in a while, he’ll like one of my images, but he’s never really satisfied with my work. That guy is me. I think I am producing some of the best work of my career right now. Not every single image is a winner, but I have more hits than misses and the hits are pretty good. But I’m still not where I want to be. I am, at least, reassured by looking at my past work. I can look at my work from a year ago and wince a little. It was the same the year before that. It’s a sign of personal growth.

I’ve done “before and after” comparisons before (links at the end of this post). This time, I am comparing my own work. I recently had the opportunity to photograph a property that I shot in 2010.

Living Room

Before

This first one isn’t terrible, but the color seems a bit off and it would be nice to see what’s outside that window.

Living Room

After

That’s better. A slightly different composition but the room seems a bit brighter. Here’s the reverse angle:

Living Room

Before

Living Room

After

Next is the master bedroom:

Master Bedroom

Before

I think I was trying too hard to show the TV in the shot (clients ask for it). So I decided to take a different approach.

Master Bed

After

Again, you can see out the window and the color and lighting is a bit more pleasing. How about the master bath?

Master Bath

Before

Master Bath

After

Ouch. Enough said.

Bedroom

Before

Bedroom

After

That last one is pretty much the same story. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, mostly through trial and error. I develop new techniques and refine them. When you do something over and over again, it begins to take shape. I hope I can look back at my work next year and see improvement.

Can’t get enough of the before and after stuff? Check out these past posts:

Before and After: A Tale of Two Villas

Why Realtors Should Use Professional Photography

Before and After Real Estate Photos

Why Not To Use a UV Filter for Interior Photography


There are two schools of thoughts when it comes to using UV filters on your lens and I’ve gone back and forth between the two. The first school of thought says you should use a UV filter to protect your lens. You paid a lot of money for it, wouldn’t it be a shame if something poked or shattered the glass? It’s better to lose a $30 filter than a $1000 lens.

The second school of thought asks why put a cheap piece of glass in front of an expensive one? What are the chances of something hitting the front part of your lens anyway? If you’re careful and use a lens hood chances are, you’ll be OK.

I used to belong to the first camp. Then I moved to the second camp with the belief that any filter is a tool which should only be used when needed.

Recently, I noticed some spots on my lens that I could not wipe off. I think it may be areas where the coating has rubbed off. Alarmed, I decided to put the UV filter on and leave it on to protect the lens. Silly me. Take a look at this picture and notice the area above the painting on the wall.

Game Room

You see those yellow spots? That’s ghosting or flare from the overhead light. Different light sources are hitting the glass of the filter which bounce off before reaching the lens and sensor. Here’s a closer look with the flare spots circled in red. The other two spots are not that noticeable until you zoom in.

Flare Zoom

I had heard that UV filters can cause that effect in low light situations. In fact, I experienced it once shooting a night-time parade; it was awful. That is another reason why I moved to the no-filter camp. But as I mentioned, I foolishly defected for a short period.

Just to confirm my thoughts, I removed the filter and took another shot…

Game Room

Is that Photoshop at work? Did I clone it out? Nope. The second shot is just taken without the UV filter. (It’s much easier and faster to get it right in camera than to spend time in post.) Interiors are dark enough and the long exposure times means light has more time to refract from the filter.

Look, you don’t walk around with a hammer or a screwdriver in your pocket all day. When you need a tool, you get it, use it and put it back. That’s how I feel about filters. You don’t leave a polarizing or neutral density filter on your lens all the time. So why leave a UV filter on? Filters are tools to accomplish specific tasks. If you are shooting in hazy conditions or bright sun, sure, why not break out the UV filter? Otherwise, why give up image quality for the perception of increased protection? Ask yourself, in all the time I’ve owed my lens, how many filters have been smashed? If the answer is zero, you can do without it.

Behind the Scenes: Composing For Interior Photography


If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen some of the behind-the-scenes shots I’ve posted of my camera and tripod positioned so I can get a good shot. In interior photography, the size of the room and layout of the furniture sometimes present challenges against the composition I want to achieve. Below are some of those shots and the end result.

tripod on table Living Room copy

BTS-2Living Room-1

photo (1) copyRVH_072_Master Bed 1-1 copy

How is Photoshop Like Chlorine?


Answer: It can turn a green pool blue again!

This is the before image:

Pool 5 Green

After changing the white balance to “tungsten”, tweaking it a bit and masking it in Photoshop:

Swimming Pool

Dive in, the water’s fine…well, now it is.

Thinking Differently About Composition


Bedroom

I don’t remember if it was David Hobby (Strobist) or Joe McNally who said that when they were shooting for newspapers, they would always use the same lighting technique: camera in right hand, flash in left hand. That led to the same lighting pattern over and over again. So it took some thought to begin setting up a light on the right hand side of a subject.

It’s kind of like that for composition, I think. If you are used to doing one technique; be it lighting, shooting or editing, you fall into a routine. This  isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can lead a beginning photographer to discover their style. But it’s also a good exercise to break out of your routine and try something new.

Not too long ago, I was hired to shoot a couple of houses. I thought it would be a standard shoot until I arrived at the first house. The client said he was looking for something more creative; not necessarily showing the whole room. It turned out to be a fun and challenging shoot because I had to approach each shot in a different mind frame.

Foyer

The shot above, for example, is not one I would have normally taken; but I rather like the compositional elements. The homeowner specifically mentioned the sculpture on the right. On the left, the pattern and vertical lines of the wrought iron door anchor the image. In the middle distance, you can see a sitting area and the dining area in the background adds depth.

A front door and staircase

At the second house, the client wanted to emphasize the detail work above the doorway. I didn’t want to just take a picture of the door, so I thought I’d make it interesting by showing the spiral staircase. The dramatic curve plays nicely against the horizontal and vertical lines outside.

Staircase

In this last image, I think the angle of the staircase leads the viewer’s eye to the living area. The vertical line of the wall makes a good dividing point between the left and right side of the image.

Obviously all these examples are of interiors and architecture. If you are a wedding or portrait photographer, you might try using negative space. Or use the environment around your subject to frame them. The point is, break out of your comfort zone. It’s going to take a little forethought before you even look through the viewfinder, but you might be pleasantly surprised at the result.