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 Motocross Sports

Dirt Bike in the Air

…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.

Motocross Rider at Sunset

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.

ATVs Jumping

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.

Shooting the Baldwin Park Halloween Party

Over the weekend I got to shoot the 8th Annual Halloween Party in my Baldwin Park community. For those who don’t know, I am a regular contributor to Baldwin Park Living Magazine so I often shoot events for the publication.

I’m really happy with the way the shots turned out. I know I’ve done a good job when I have to do minimal processing on the photos; some lens correction and sharpening, maybe some white balance adjustment and done! But what I’m most happy about is what I learned. I’m the kind of person who kicks myself for making a mistake or not having thought of a better solution at the time. Same goes for this shoot, but at least I can look at it and learn.

2010 Baldwin Park Halloween Party

click for larger image

Here’s the set-up: the event ran from 6pm to 8pm, so I knew I’d be losing light quickly. So I borrowed my brother’s 50mm f/1.4 lens and put it on the full frame Canon 5D. I had my 70-200 f/2.8 on my Canon 40D. You might remember from my last post, that having this lens on a cropped sensor gives me added “reach”. So for a good 30-to-45 minutes, I had enough available light to shoot with my zoom lens; great for isolating kids’ faces. When I wanted a wide-angle or started to lose light I switched to the 50mm.

I love to shoot in manual mode because it gives me total control. But I realized after shooting the 2nd Annual Dog Wash that by the time I adjusted my settings I would lose the shot. So perhaps manual mode is best for situations where you can take your time. But for fast-moving events, like this one, I chose to shoot in Aperture priority and set my aperture to 2.8 almost all the time (to make sure I got as much light as possible and get a nice depth of field). I know I shouldn’t hand-hold anything slower than 1/60th of a second, so when I saw my shutter fall below that, I just boosted my ISO.

Here’s where the lesson comes in. At one point I wanted to get a shot; so I was changing the ISO on my camera and by the time I looked up, the shot was gone. What I should’ve done was just to set the ISO to “auto”. In retrospect, I could’ve even shot in shutter priority to make sure I never fell below 1/60th.  Lesson learned; and it’s a simple one too.

2010 Baldwin Park Halloween Party

click for larger image

I found that the 50mm on a full frame body produced vignetting as seen in the picture above. I removed it using Photoshop’s lens correction, but then decided I kind of liked it; which is weird ’cause I hate it when people add vignetting to their images. But in this case, it’s natural caused by the lens on a full frame body.

Overall, I was happy with the majority of the shots. You can see the rest of the pictures in my Baldwin Park gallery. Thanks for stopping by!

Photographing Motion at the Baldwin Park Doggie Derby

Recently, the organizer of the Orlando Digital Photography Group, Charlie, posted an image on Facebook of a man on a bicycle in Winter Park. It sparked some conversation about the panning technique where the man was in focus and the background is blurred to show motion.    

I chimed in with some tips and a note about a setting on the Canon 70-200mm IS lens. It has two modes of stabilization, one to reduce shake in “normal” situations and one while panning. So when the Baldwin Park Doggie Derby rolled around last weekend, I thought it might be a good time to put it to use.    

Doggie Derby

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The 3rd annual Doggie Derby raises money for Canine Companions for Independence which provides assistant dogs to people with disabilities. It was a hot day but there was a good turnout. Adding to the vibe was bluegrass versions of popular songs like “Walk This Way”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Final Countdown” and “She Will Be Loved”.   

The image above is really the only good panning shot I got. I got a few others, but they’re not tack sharp to my eyes.  It takes some practice and experimenting with different shutter speeds.   

I saw a couple of other photographers with pro-level gear there and judging by the pictures I’d seen of past events, they were getting the same shots; dogs coming right at them or dogs frozen in motion…and all while standing. I crouched or squatted down for most shots to get a different perspective. And I tried the panning technique to get a different look.   

So the next time you’re out shooting a moving target, try it. First, make sure your camera’s focus mode is set to capture moving subjects (it’s called AI-Servo for Canon, AF-C for Nikon). Then focus on your subject and press the shutter half way. Pan with your subject and fire while panning. The slower the shutter speed, the more blurred the background; but you’ll have to play around with it to find the sweet spot. I can’t tell you how many shots I threw away!   

Scott Kelby posted blogs here  and here about the technique while shooting indy race cars. To paraphrase, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get the shot.   

You can check out more pics from the derby on my Flickr Pro photostream.