Archive for 2012
Most empty homes don’t photograph well. They’re even more of a pain to sell (especially in this soft market). But Steveston native Ken Yoshikawa of Trendsetter Homes designs and builds custom homes that seem to defy the odds. Built to withstand the test of time, Ken’s work echoes “Luxury Living” in even the slightest detail. Where many new homes in Richmond have a similar shape and feel, Trendsetter properties refreshingly stand out.
Despite pressure by limited time (the new owners were just about to move in!), the images still turned out fantastic. Hopefully there will be more to come from one of Richmond’s leading builders!
I was recently sent back to the North Shore for a collaborative project between Susanne Doise of Sensitive Design and Mark Cooper of Shakespeare Homes. We spent five solid hours nailing down eleven shots. That’s about half an hour per shot. As you look at the Before & After transformations, hopefully you can see that good pictures are MADE, not taken.
On some occasions, especially where time is limited, a minimal lighting setup is the better way to go. Detail shots such as this closeup of the kitchen island can be made with just one strobe bounced into a white reflector. The bathroom below also relied on just one light bounced into the ceiling joint directly over the camera.
Also, stay tuned for a tutorial on how to effectively light shiny reflective objects, such as metal surfaces on appliances. With the right knowledge and some practice, you can turn a situation like this…
Upon walking into this Vancouver home, you’d think it was just staged yesterday. But the owners are still around, and their tasteful care in selecting the decor combined with superb upkeep made this Modern/Traditional mixture a joy to shoot.
Real estate agents want their pictures to convey SPACE. Makes sense! And 99% of the time, ultra-wide angle lenses are needed to capture that. However, what many don’t realize is, just because an ultra-wide angle lens can potentially take in every nook and cranny, doesn’t mean it should.
This brings us to a fundamental concept we MUST understand in order to take our interior photography to the next level. It’s NOT necessary to show EVERYTHING in a room with only ONE photo.
Let’s look at an example. First, we’ve shot a master bedroom from the corner using the widest possible zoom setting on this lens, which is 14mm.
At first glance, it seems the plenty of space shown in this room is a good thing. But try to analyze what’s REALLY being gained:
We can see what 14mm gives us as opposed to 24mm, which is the shortest zoom length this lens can go to. The above helps us isolate the additional gain. More bare ceiling. More boring wall. That mirror on the left side is not an important feature at all. And the dark gloomy dressers and nearest chair are too dominant. In fact, wide-angle lenses always distort objects close to the edge of the frame, making them appear abnormally large and stretched.
Shooting this wide also severely limits the hiding of strobe lights. This bedroom is pretty dark. We need to get a good amount of EVEN light in here without producing hard flash shadows or reflections. I personally like to place flash units against walls out of the camera’s view and bounce the light off them, in effect creating large soft light sources. But since we’re shooting so wide, it’s impossible to illuminate the scene evenly because the potential hiding spots are visible!
So let’s zoom in to 24mm, set up some hidden lights, and take a shot.
We’re obviously not showing as much space as before, but do we need to? Everything we need to show is here, including the design and flow of the room. The windows don’t appear oddly distant. We’ve eliminated the dresser on the right altogether; it really wasn’t necessary. We only need to IMPLY that there’s furniture on the left. By only showing a portion of the lamps, the dresser, and the chair, these become less distracting while still giving balance to that area. We don’t need to whack our viewers on the head by fully showing those items to prove that they are, indeed, two lamps, a dresser, and a chair!
Often, we feel compelled to shoot wider and wider and wider, especially on a real estate gig. Try to resist that urge. You’ll soon find that your interior photos won’t just merely show space, but warmth and coziness as well.
One of my favourite, tried-and-true methods of producing a good interior photo is exposure blending. Now, let’s get something straight. Exposure blending is NOT HDR, where several exposures of the same scene are automatically merged together using special software. Although HDR software often have sliders that help control how the final photo will look, they’re usually very limited. In my opinion, nothing beats traditional hand blending using layer masks in Photoshop.
The above photo taken for Damien Roussin of Dorset Realty is a good example where exposure blending was effectively applied.
While on site, I stabilized my camera on a tripod, set up a couple of lights, then shot several bracketed exposures of the same scene. This gave me the following:
You can see that the varying exposures each have their own strong and weak portions. For instance, the light coming from the stairs and far entry area is so inviting in frames 3 and 4. However, frame 3 suffers from too dark a foreground and yet the flowers on the table are beginning to lose detail. Frame 4 has an overexposed table setting and hardwood floors, but I like the brightness of the foreground furniture and walls.
Having opened the individual frames in Photoshop, I stacked them on top of each other. I decided to use frame 2 as the bottom, or base, exposure (frame 1 was uselessly too dark, so I dumped it altogether). Then, carefully using layer masks I revealed the parts I liked from each frame.
By doing this manually, I had full control as to how light or dark certain areas of the image appeared. This control was important for creating depth and giving the eyes a path to follow. In this case, I wanted the viewer’s eyes to be drawn gradually toward the sunbathed entrance.
Would HDR processing have worked? Perhaps, but not to the same level. Besides, it would’ve been double the work, since I would’ve had to take the merged image into Photoshop and make further adjustments anyhow.
You might be saying, “OK, great! But that’s a LOT of work! Won’t that take too much time?” It definitely takes time. But clients LOVE quality, even when it comes to humble photography for real estate. My clients appreciate the extra effort put in, and that’s why they keep using LionLight Photography!
I encourage all aspiring architectural photographers (Yep, even real estate photographers!) to learn and master this technique. Here’s a few more examples from the same listing where exposure blending was used:
Richmond’s Steveston area is marvelous. Nature is right at its doorstep, including breathtaking ocean views, miles of park trails, and the cleanest air in the region. Its charming history goes way back to 1889 and forms a prominent part of BC’s fishing heritage today.
Lynda Terborg specializes in Steveston real estate, and her recent listing was a delight to shoot. She definitely knows her stuff, so whether buying or selling in the area, ask Lyn for help.
We can’t deny it. The bulk of buyers in the Lower Mainland these days come from China. Chinese people LOVE bright, warm, and airy homes. Lots of natural light and a good amount of space. This listing presented by Daisy Ye has plenty of that.
However, no matter how bright the interiors appear to our eyes, the camera always sees them differently. An interior scene, especially one with windows, has too much contrast for the camera’s sensor to pick up. So it either exposes for the dark areas, turning the bright areas nuclear white or vice versa, leaving clear window views amidst a pitch black room.
Well-placed strobe lights remove the high contrast by balancing light and dark, in effect reducing the range for the camera to record. The resulting images are exactly what potential buyers want to see, those of an actual bright, warm, and airy home.
Here’s a few shots from Daisy’s listing:
I always get portfolio-quality images when Mark Cooper of Shakespeare Homes & Renovations Inc. calls me up for shooting. When it comes to business growth, Mark and I are on the same level in crucial ways. We both target a niche market and we both understand the importance of good branding.
Good branding should make the client confident in your abilities as a professional. Mark effectively uses “Before & After” shots of completed projects on his web site to help potential future clients see what he can bring to the table.
Specializing in home renovations on the North Shore, Mark and his team are known for uncompromising quality. If you live anywhere on the North Shore of Vancouver and are considering a renovation, Shakespeare Homes & Renovations Inc. will do a first-class job.
Here are a couple of “Before & After” shots of mine done for Mark. The “before” shots have the composition set up, but no lighting yet incorporated. The “after” shots speak for themselves, and check out the workmanship by Mark and his team!