Photographing an In-Home Arcade

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.

In-Home Arcade

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…

In-Home Arcade

..and did I mention the 80-inch LCD TV?

In-Home Arcade

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:

In-Home Arcade

In-Home Arcade

All this just leaves one question: Can I borrow some tokens?


Photographing 113 Homes in 9 Days

Collage of 110 Homes

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!

Before and After Real Estate Photos

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.)

Home Exterior

Living Area

Master Bath

Upstairs Balcony

Office Den

Before and After Real Estate Photographs

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.

Front of a House


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.

the "after" picture of the same house


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.

Living Room


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.

Living Room


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.

Pictures to Ponder

Images of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

I cam across a couple of interesting news items related to photographs. The first, is newly released images of the 1906 earthquake and ensuing fire that destroyed the city of San Francisco. The six images were taken by photography innovator Frederick Ives several months after the April quake. 

Ives took the slides as part of an invention that would allow you to see the images in 3D. The “Kromgram” came out in 1907 and cost about $1000 in today’s dollars. The device never caught on, but the Smithsonian believes  are some of the first true color images of the disaster. Ives is credited with inventing the half-tone process used by newspapers. Another article says,

The process he used to produce colour images, creating separate slides for each primary colour in the light spectrum, required a long exposure and therefore was not conducive to capturing people and objects in motion.

You can see more images in this Telegraph article.

The next news item, I thought had to do with a Lady Gaga song.

Image from Born This Way Blog

It comes from a CNN article about a blog called “Born This Way“. Los Angeles-based DJ Paul V. asked friends to submit childhood pictures that display their gay or lesbian tendencies.  He then compiled the images in the blog and accepts submissions. In fact, the banner on the blog states:

A photo/essay project for gay adults (of all genders) to submit childhood pictures and stories (roughly ages 2 to 12), reflecting memories & early beginnings of their innate LGBTQ selves

I thought this was interesting. Do you think a child’s behavior or even a pose in a photograph can or will determine if that child is gay or will become a gay adult? If a boy puts on his mother’s shoes or a tom-boy dresses in boy’s clothes…does that mean they might be gay? I’ll leave this open to your comments…

Technique Tuesday: Bedroom

Ok, I’m calling this “Technique Tuesday” but I can’t promise I’ll do this every week. But today is Tuesday and this is about a technique I use almost everyday; hence the title. Brilliant, no?

A Master Bedroom

f/10, 1/3 second, ISO 200

The image above is pretty much the RAW image straight out of camera. It’s shot with a Canon 5D and a 580EXII on camera with a diffuser and bounced off the ceiling. If I remember correctly, I believe I have the flash set to TTL and boosted it by +2.

I then set up an Alien Bees 1600 strobe to camera left fired through an umbrella and set to 1/8 power for the image below.

Master Bedroom

f/8, 1/8 second, ISO 200

You can see right away what adding an extra off-camera light adds to the image. (Note: the image above was tweaked slightly in Adobe Camera Raw.) I then took another exposure for the window:

Master Bedroom

f/10, 1/180th, ISO200

I also tweaked the image above to bring out the blue in the sky a little. I then placed that image on top of the first one in Photoshop and masked out the window for the final image. I also got rid of that bothersome sensor dust in the ceiling.

Master Bedroom

That’s it. No fancy HDR tricks. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

Photographing the Spa at Bella Collina

Hot Stone Massage

I recently had the opportunity to go on a commercial photography shoot for a spa owner I’ve worked with in the past.  The owner is opening up a new spa at the beautiful Bella Collina Golf Club. The clubhouse is designed to look like a Tuscan villa and the architecture is breathtaking.

The shoot consisted of two models portraying  a couple and enjoying the spa services; including an outdoor massage, pictured above. For that shot, the owner wanted the setting sun’s rays breaking below the archway. So I set my aperture to f/22 to get the star-effect from the sun. I also had an off-camera flash with a CTO gel camera left to help overpower the sun. I also took a second exposure to bring back some detail in the sky and blended it in the final image.

Couple at the Bella Collina Spa

For this shoot, much like the last with the spa owner he would look at my LCD screen to evaluate the image. While this might drive most photographers nuts, I actually prefer it. This way, I know exactly what the client wants and he can give me immediate feedback. Granted, I wouldn’t work the same way for, say, a wedding or portrait session. It was also nice because the owner would help stage shots and direct the models.

Couple's bath at the Spa at Bella Collina

I’ll post a link to the entire image gallery once the client has had a chance to review and download all the images.