Using A Reflector for Interior Photography


Reflector blocking light

In a previous post, I wrote about using black flags in interior photography. In this case, I did something similar to block light. That’s me up there holding a reflector to block light from a small bathroom window. Without it, harsh light was spilling into the bathroom.

bathroom

 

You can see in the image above how light from the window is hitting the left side of the frame and even parts of the sink. By cutting out the harsh light I was able to get an even exposure for the bathroom and blend it with the final image.

 

Final Image

My First Time Lapse


I’m starting to do more real estate videos. Not satisfied with run-of-the-mill videos, I recently invested quite a bit of money into equipment that will step up the production value. One of those items is an intervalometer to help me do time lapse.

I did the short clip above by hand; meaning I did not have an intervalometer. I simply used the timer on my iPhone and a cable release to take the necessary exposures. After trying that, I knew I needed a remote timer to make it easier on me, so I went ahead and bought it.

There are a ton of tutorials on the web about time lapse so I won’t rehash here. Just know there is some math involved to figure out how many frames you need. I knew I wanted a 4-second clip and I’m recording at 24 frames per second. So I need 96 pictures to cover 4 seconds (4 x 24=96). I want to take a picture every 3 seconds to show the movement of the clouds. So I multiply 96 x 3=288. That’s how many seconds I have to shoot with a 3-second interval to get 96 frames. 288 divided by 60=4.8 or about 5 minutes. So for five minutes, I took a picture every 3 seconds and got 96 frames to cover 4 seconds of footage. In other words, you just saw five minutes fly by in 4 seconds.

Soon, I’ll post reviews on all the pieces of equipment I acquired including the intervalometer, so stay tuned for that.

Oh, The Places You Won’t Go (as a photographer)


Screen-Shot-2013-11-08-at-9.13.41-PM

If you’ve read some of my past posts on licensing and copyright, you know I try to spread the gospel on why copyright is so important. You might remember my debacle with a contractor working for Applebee’s who wanted my images for free. So you can imagine my chagrin when I come across photographers who are giving their work away. It not only hurts them but it hurts other photographers.

Take a look at the screen grab above. Notice the line that reads “we will provide copyright free photos”. I really don’t think they understand the concept. Let’s review. When anyone takes a picture, be they a professional or not, they have created a unique work of art and the copyright remains with them. Copyright means just what it says: the right to copy. You decide who has what right to your work. By giving away your work, you are leaving money on the table and allowing someone to do whatever they want with your work.

Wedding photographers have long made a living by up-selling. Let’s say they charge $2,500 for a wedding which includes a few prints and maybe an album. If the couple or their families want prints or additional albums, that’s an extra charge. This is a form of licensing. The photographer is saying, you have the right to the prints and album I promised you, but if you want more products you may not print them yourself which would deny me income. You must pay more for more copies of my work.

The classic example I give is of the Harry Potter books. When Hollywood made the movies based on the books, do you think they did so without asking J.K. Rowling? I live in Orlando, home of theme parks like Universal which has a section dedicated to the boy wizard. In 2011, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter boosted the theme park’s revenue by 8.2% to $393 million. There are plans to expand the park next year. Do you think Ms. Rowling just gave away the rights to her work? Every toy wand, Halloween costume, DVD sale, etc. means more money in her pockets. That is the power of licensing and copyright. Imagine if she had given away her copyright and companies made millions of dollars from her work and did not have to give her a single dime!

Notice also, in the example above, how they are willing to undercut another photographer who might charge less. This is another sign of unprofessionalism. Only you can know what your business costs are. How much does it cost to keep the lights on and feed your family? That varies from person to person. If you charge less than normal, you are in essence making less than what it takes to pay your bills. How can you expect your business to survive? Read my post on figuring out what to charge.

website screengrab

Here is another photographer who is giving away his copyright. Let’s take the last example of “Shoot the Band”. OK, I’m in a band and hire him to take our photograph for some promotional items. It goes on our website and flyers we post around town. The marketing attracts people to our concerts which means more money for us. We release a CD and use the images on the cover. That’s more revenue for us and none for him. Let’s say we make it big and sign a big record contract. We use the images on the new CD. The pictures are used in Rolling Stone magazine (which makes money from subscriptions and news stands). Again, money for us, money for the magazine and NOTHING for the photographer.

Are you familiar with the album cover of Maroon 5’s “Hands All Over”? Here’s the story: a 19-year old took that picture. The band’s management found it on Flickr and contacted her. They did a reshoot based on the photo and viola! She’s gone on to do major shoots for clients like Elle. But let’s say it had worked out a little differently. Let’s pretend she took that photo for a little-known band called Maroon 5. The band makes it big and uses the photo on an album cover that sells millions of copies. If she had given away her copyright, she would not be entitled to any further compensation.

Remember, when you download a song, buy a DVD or book you don’t own that work. You are purchasing a license for personal use. If you want to profit from it; like using a song in a YouTube video, charging people to watch a movie or making a film based on a book, you have to pay the artist.

Look, it comes down to getting paid for your work. You go to work Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 and you get a paycheck. That’s fair, right? So why would a photographer not want to get paid for their work? The more money someone makes from your work, the more you can charge.  You are not only leaving money on the table but you are degrading the industry. Clients like Applebee’s will expect “free” photos. Perhaps you heard about how the National Association of Realtors asked renowned blogger and educator David Hobby for free photos. It cheapens photos and trains the general public to devalue the work. I can’t tell you how many times a client has asked or argued over why they can’t use my photos for whatever purpose they want. They say “well the other photographer just gave me all the images on a disk and let me do whatever I want with them”. That is the difference between a pro and an amateur. A pro knows that being a professional photographer isn’t just about taking pictures. It’s a business and you have to know about pricing, licensing, copyright, insurance, taxes, marketing, etc.

When you shoot for a client you have to specify how they can use the images. Can they post it on social media? Can they take it to Walgreens to make prints? Is it personal use or will they profit from the work?

Protect your copyright. It’s worth something.

Avoid Lens Flare With A Clean Lens


In a recent post, I showed how a UV filter in low light can produce ghosting and flare. You can also get some unwanted results if dust and lint is on your lens. Most dust is not a problem; even small scratches may not appear in your image. But in a high contrast situation, that dust can have a big impact. Take a look at this photo:

Bedroom-Before

 

You can see on the right side of the image a large white spot. This is, of course, an area of high contrast between the bright window and dark curtain. Operating with a narrow aperture (I’m typically at f/10) can also reveal imperfections. If you have dust on your sensor, for example, it will be more noticeable at f/22 than at f/4. When I saw this, I immediately checked the front of my lens and noticed some dust and lint. I blew it off with an air blower then used the brush on the LensPen. Then I took another shot:

Bedroom After

 

Just like that, it’s gone. I did not use Photoshop to alter the “after” image; I simply cleaned out the dust and lint on my lens. The image still needs work and is not the final version I delivered to the client. But if you ever spot the same problem on your images, it wouldn’t hurt to check your lens for dust. Oh, a couple of tips: do not use your breath to blow on the lens and do not use compressed air.

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.

You Searched, I Answer: Do You Need a Flash for Golden Hour Photography?


Often, people stumble upon my blog by typing in a phrase in a search engine. The exact term is not always something I’ve written about, so I’m always tempted to reach out to that person to answer their question. Of course, I have no way of knowing who searched for it; all I have is the search term.

So, I am going to try to start a new blog series called “You Searched, I Answer”.

My last post was about apps that let you track the sun; which can be particularly useful if you want to shoot during the “golden hour”. Someone found my blog by searching for “do u need a flash for the golden hour photos shoots?

Well, it depends on what you are shooting, but I assume you mean portraits. If you do a Google image search for “Golden Hour Portraits”, you’ll see some good examples.

golden hour portraits - Google Search

Google Image Search of “Golden Hour Portraits”

I would begin by using the sun as a rim light. That is, have the sun behind your subject so that the light creates this almost halo effect. It works especially well with women because the light shines through their hair. Now of course, your subject is back-lit, so you need to do one of two things. First, you could use spot metering and meter off of your subject’s cheek. Your camera will expose for the skin and all the highlights will be blown out.

If you want a more balanced image, then you need to provide some fill light. You can use a reflector. Some reflectors come with a gold-colored side. You could try this, but it might be overkill. I would use the white side to throw the orange-colored light back onto the subject.

If you want to use flash, I would gel it with some CTO (color temperature orange) to match the warmth of the natural light. If you fire your flash without a gel it will look blue (remember the flash is daylight balanced). More on gels and white balance here.

I don’t want to use another photographer’s image without permission, so check out these links for some good examples:

Using the Sun as a Rim Light

Using a Reflector to Fill in Shadows

If you do use a reflector, make sure it’s up high so the catchlight on your subject’s eye is at 10 or 2 o’clock.

You searched. I answered.

Why Realtors Should Use Professional Photography


I got a call from a prospective client asking me to take pictures of their home which they were putting on the market. The caller said she wasn’t happy with the photos the realtor took. I chuckled to myself because I know all too well the horrible pictures on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sites. When I got to the home, the husband told me how the realtor took a few snapshots with a point and shoot and he knew right away the pictures would just not do. Judge for yourself:

Living Room Photo on MLS site

Before: Dark and crowded

Living Room

After: Bright and open

The homeowner told me how he hired a professional photographer to sell a previous home and how quickly the home ended up selling. So why don’t more realtors use professional photographers? Maybe they think it’s too expensive. But as I pointed out in a previous blog; depending on the price of the home, the cost could be a fraction of the commission. The payoff is selling the home faster which means not having to lower the price as the listing lingers on the market. Maybe they think mediocre pictures will do just fine. Or maybe their mindset is stuck in the “this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it”.

Kitchen on MLS Site

Before: Those skewed verticals drive me crazy!

Kitchen

After: Ahh. That’s better.

Ten years ago, if you wanted to buy a house, you had to do some footwork. It required going with your realtor from house to house. Today it’s all done on-line. So it’s even more important to have good pictures to attract more visitors to the property.

Bedroom on MLS Site

Before

Master Bedroom

After

[UPDATE 8/28/12: Check out this article from the Wall Street Journal that states home listings with professional photos attract 61% more views: “Get a Picture Perfect Home Sale”]

Consider this quote from a 2010 Wall Street Journal article (it was still getting comments as of June 2012) that cited a study which found homes with professional photography gained higher asking prices.

At the closing table, listings with nicer photos gain anywhere between $934 and $116,076–as measured by the difference between asking and final price–over listings using photos from point-and-click cameras.

Here is the study the WSJ cited with nice charts and graphs: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Dollars.

Bedroom on MLS site

Before

Bedroom

After

I could site several more articles and studies that show homebuyers begin the process online, even on their phones and tablets; and that listings with good pictures attract more views and sell at higher prices. It’s time to end the status quo. If you are selling your home, you should demand professional photography. If you are in the business of selling homes you should add professional photography to your arsenal of online marketing. At the very least, it would differentiate you from all the other realtors who think they can do it themselves and settle for far less.

Pool on MLS

Before

Pool

After