Will Applebee’s Let Me Eat for Free?

Bobby Blackmon

In 2011 I attended an outdoor concert and took a few pictures of the band.

The other day I was contacted by a company called Gate 3 Design. They are designing the interior of a new Applebee’s restaurant. The contact person wants to use three of my images, including the one above, she found on Flickr for a digitally printed mural. Here’s a quote from the email:

The murals are compiled of digital images that represent the community from festivals, landmarks, events, sports, etc.

When I asked which images and what size/resolution so I could determine a license fee, she said:

We are not asking to license the image (you may retain all licensing/rights to your photos). We are requesting a one-time use. We are happy to display a photo credit with your name and website alongside any images that are selected for the final design. If you agree, please sign and return the attached photo release form granting us permission.

Uh, let me get this straight: Applebee’s wants to use my images for commercial use but is not willing to pay for them? How about I go to Applebee’s and instead of paying for the food I give them “credit” by telling my friends how great they are or maybe wearing an Applebee’s T-Shirt?

Look, I get it. It seems nice on the face of it. “Hey, let’s get pictures of the community taken by members of the community! When they come hang out at the local Applebee’s they can see pictures taken by their friends and neighbors! Cool, right?”

It’s this kind of behavior that has degraded the photography profession. People think pictures are free. Anyone with a cellphone can snap a picture. But if that picture has value to someone or a company, shouldn’t you be paid for it? It’s no different than an art buyer buying a painting for their home. Or if you go to Target or Wal Mart and buy a poster to hang on your wall. If you want the art, you have to pay for it. It has value.

The “one-time” use is a permanent or semi-permanent display of my work no matter how many times it is used. That release form, by the way, states that my photo may be used “incidentally” if a picture of the interior of the restaurant happens to show my images in the shot. Great, so my images could be used to market the ambiance of the business, which is a factor in drawing in patrons; but Applebee’s cannot afford to pay a dime.

I’m not sure if Applebee’s is to blame here or the company they hired to do the design. But that’s no excuse for a corporation not to ask where the images are coming from and it is certainly deplorable that Gate 3 wants to use images without paying for them. They “favorited” my images they want to use so I assume the other images in their “favorites” are also ones they want to use. You can see them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23746554@N04/favorites/. It’s clear they didn’t choose crappy cell phone pictures but rather quality images taken by people with skill.

Credit is nice, but it doesn’t pay my bills. Even if you are not a professional photographer, if you have something of value that someone wants, wouldn’t you expect something in return?


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 of a Real Estate Photo Shoot

I recently posted a picture on my Facebook fan page and someone asked for some behind the scenes info. While I sometimes take some set-up shots with my phone, I’m usually so busy I forget to do it more often. So instead, I thought I’d show a couple of exposures I used to make a final image.

bedroom set-up shot

In the photo above you can see my strobe firing into the ceiling. I took this exposure for the window on the far side of the bedroom. I had already taken one exposure for the bedroom using a single speedlight. But that flash is not powerful enough to overpower the sun. It requires a shutter speed fast enough to render detail out the window but it leaves the window frame nearly black. So I pull out the big gun. This is the final image:

Master Bed 1-3 copy

It’s a similar scenario in the master bathroom. I took an exposure for the room with the speedlight in my hand bounced off the ceiling. But if I took an exposure for the outside, the flash would reflect off the window. So I had to move slightly to the left. This exposure also corrects for the light fixture which would otherwise be blown out.

_R5A2975 copy

This is the final image:

Master Bath 1 copy

So there you have it. Just a couple of examples that give you a little insight into how I get my shots.


Photographing a Modern Day Palace

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.”

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

Grand Hall at Palazzo Vecchio

The Grand Hall at Palazzo Vecchio – Florence, Italy

 Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy

The Doge’s Palace – Venice, Italy

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.

bowling alley

How about an indoor racquetball court that also doubles as a basketball court with a retracting hoop:

I’ve shot homes with arcades in the past. Check the box on this one too.


…and a game room:

Game Room

Or how about a round of poker while watching three different games on TV!

Poker table

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):

Master Bathroom

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?

Until next time…”champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

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.

Before and After: A Tale of Two Villas

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.

Before image of house


After image of house front


Before image of pool


After image of pool


Living Room Before


Living Room After


Dining Before


Dining After


Game Room Before


Game Room After


Master Bedroom Before


Master Bedroom After


Master Bed Before


Master Bed After


Master Bed Before


Maste Bed After


Related Posts:

Before and After Real Estate Photos

Before and After Real Estate Photographs

Why Realtors Should Use Professional Photography