Category Archives: Technique

More Lynda.com Videos — Kitchens & Twilight Exteriors

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Lynda.com just published two more courses in my Real Estate Photography series — “Kitchens” and “Twilight Exteriors“.

These are arguably the 2 most important shots a real estate photographer makes. The kitchen is certainly the room where the most remodeling dollars get spent, and it’s nearly always a “money shot” even when it’s not snazzy. And for sheer sex appeal, it’s hard to beat a good twilight exterior with a vivid deep saturated sky and glowing windows and soft glamour light everywhere.

Perversely, these are often the two shots photographers struggle with the most, and so in these two courses I’ve laid out the strategies I follow to really make the most of these opportunities. In the kitchen episode we discuss styling, lighting, and composition to show off the room at it’s best, and (dare I say it) we get a pretty doggone good result, in a kitchen that is frankly not a prize-winner. And in the twilight episode (which I have not yet watched….maybe this weekend) I go for two photos in one night, which involves (literally) some running around.

Feedback? Hit me up in the comments!

Sydney Workshop Recap

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On the last day of May, I traveled to Sydney, to work with photographers at Campaigntrack, an Australian marketing firm specializing in real estate. We shot for 4 days, in 6 different houses ranging from the big and beautiful (see lead image, above) to the small and ordinary.

Campaigntrack was looking for a way to differentiate themselves and create a more upscale, sophisticated image that would stand out from the typical Aussie real estate photo. As they saw it, composition and styling were key components that they could work on…and I agreed. Usually, when I teach real estate photography, it’s all about lighting technique, so this was a terrific chance for me to focus entirely on composition and the “feel” of a photo — two things that are at least as important but which often get short shrift.

Having a variety of houses to work in was great, too – we got to play around in a gorgeous country villa, but we also spent time in houses that are much more typical. Campaigntrack photographers aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and move furniture, and frankly I was a bit shocked at the lengths they’re willing to go to make a room show at it’s best. We did 3 shoots a day, punctuated by one-hour sessions in a conference room dissecting the images on the big screen, and reviewing existing Campaigntrack work as well as that of their competitors.

And, like every time I’ve visited Oz, I was treated to an overwhelming display of hospitality. Thanks to Paul Gal, Nolan Metcalf, Tim Dean, Jori Scobie, and the entire CT team of photographers, videographers, copywriters, retouchers, and stuffidontevenknowabout!

Here are a few highlights from the week — thanks much to Nolan Metcalf for the behind-the-scenes photos!

New Course on Lynda.com

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The latest installment in a series of real estate photography courses I’m making with Lynda.com went live just a few days ago — this one has some pretty cool stuff in it!

This one is called “The Basics” and it’s coverage of an entire shoot, start to finish. I traveled down to Ojai California and we spent an entire week filming to get this 3+ hour video. In it, I take you through excruciating detail on the pre-shoot walkthrough, shooting the small easy rooms, shooting the more complex living room/family room, shooting the kitchen, and then the rear and front exteriors. There’s even a post-production video or two, showing what I did to re-touch some of the images.

Maybe the best part is the living room section, in which I made the same shot 3 times in a row — but with a stopwatch running each time. In the first go-through, I make a 60-second photo – this is the ultimate “Run-n-Gun” shot. Next, I pull everything back and re-shoot it, but with a more generous 5 minutes. And finally, I shoot the room but with a luxurious 15-minute clock running. I think it’s a pretty good example of just what the difference is between “Fast” and “Good”, and just what it is we do differently when we have more time. It’s worth noting that in my usual work, it’s not unusual to spend 2 hours on a single photo, and many photographers measure photo production in days, not minutes!

There are a couple more courses currently in the editing phase with Lynda, and we’re discussing future ones, so stay tuned.

Real Estate Photography Lighting with Lynda.com!

Lynda_ScreenShotA few months ago the Content & Production people at Lynda.com contacted me about producing videos for Real Estate photography. I’m pleased to announce today that we’ve sketched out a roadmap for a series of videos that will cover not only technique, but also touch on business and “back end” processes that are so important for making this stuff pay off — literally.

In October, I traveled down to Santa Barbara California and we filmed our first course, which was kind of a test run. We chose a very simple room and I used it to demonstrate what I called the “Basic Bedroom” lighting technique. If you’ve read my book or watched my comprehensive video series, you know this one – it’s the ultimate quick-n-dirty lighting technique for small rooms, and it’s nearly idiot-proof. I can shoot a bedroom using this technique pretty much with my eyes closed. The photo won’t be quite “magazine” quality, but it’ll be plenty “good enough” for a fast real estate environment. Future courses will be intended to show techniques for going beyond the “good enough” level and into “excellent”.

You can see the “trailer” for this video here, and if you’re a Lynda.com subscriber, the entire 42-minute course has been live for a few weeks.

Like I said, this was supposed to be the simplest of simple shots. Well….mother nature apparently wanted to take me down a notch, because what started out as an easy “beginner” shot turned into kind of a wild ride as the sun played tricks and the shoot dragged on longer than expected. In the end I got a photo although neither the process or the finished shot look much like what I had originally envisioned!

Such is the nature of location photography, though, and overall we felt confident enough to plan for more videos. We’re shooting again in April, and we’ve got several more courses in pre-planning so these will likely continue to trickle out through 2017. The next course, (working title: “Fundamentals”) will go into more detail on a more complex shot, and I’ll even demo what I would do differently if I had, for example, 5 minutes to make the photo, or 10 minutes, or 15 minutes (an extravagantly long time in the wild-and-wooly world of real estate photography — in my architectural work we normally expect to spend upwards of an hour on even a “simple” photograph, and two or three hours is not exceptional).

So, is this a replacement for the Lighting For Real Estate Photography video series, or for The Essentials of Lighting Interiors eBook?

No. To be sure, there’s overlap, but there’s no way we’re going to be able to cover the breadth of situations and techniques that are in LFRE and Lighting Essentials. Instead, in the Lynda.com videos, I’ll be going into greater detail on the shots we do show, and trying to address the WHY of what’s going on in addition to the WHAT and HOW. But if you want to see absolutely everything I know, albeit fairly quickly….get the full video series, and/or read the book. These videos on Lynda.com will be a very good companion to either of those products.

Watch this space for more info – and follow me on Facebook if you want to see what’s happening in my world day-to-day!

Ask Me Anything! But not ’til Friday

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Tune in Friday, September 25th, at Noon Pacific time and Ask Me Anything you want to know about architectural photography, interiors photography, and anything else you want to know. The only thing that’s NOT on the agenda is my recipe for buttermilk pancakes, which I’m taking to the grave with me.

See you there!

Workshop – South Africa!

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Mark your calendar for October 10th and 11th — those are the dates for my Interiors Photography Workshop in South Africa! We’ll be in Cape Town, and possibly Johannesburg, and it looks like we’ve got some good venues lined up to shoot in.

Tuition is $350US and includes a full day of shooting — and when I say a “full day” I mean I’m not leaving until you’re DONE. We’ll cover everything I know how to do, whether that’s fast-paced real estate photography or the slower, more nuanced interior design work, or the composition-driven architectural photography.

If you’re interested — email me and I’ll get you on the roster! And here’s a sampling of photos from past workshops, worldwide:

 

Behind the Scenes Video

A few weeks ago, my longtime Photo Assistant Alan Vance brought some video equipment along and filmed me during an interior design shoot with Bleu Leman Design (Diane Leifer). He cut together this video showing the messy, weird, painstaking path we tread on our way to a finished shot.

Enjoy! And thanks Diane Leifer for agreeing to appear in this — and to Alan Vance for shooting and editing!

New Equipment Video

When I started shooting interiors, in 2006, I was doing it with a Canon 20D, a couple of Nikon SB-24s, and a homemade, fifty-foot sync cable. Those were the days!

UPDATE: www.the-digital-picture.com, a photography blog, has itemized the equipment I show, with link:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/News/News-Post.aspx?News=15016

Thanks, guys! We now return to the original blog post….

These days, the equipment roster has gotten a little bigger. You asked for it, here it is: the new, up-to-date equipment video. I tried to make it quick, but it’s 7 cases of stuff and then some, so get some popcorn and plan to settle in for about 17 minutes.

This is everything I use to create my photos. This gear comes with me on every job, from the little ones to the big ones (I never know what I’m going to need, so it all comes, every time.) We fly with it, drive with it, carry it up flights of stairs. Some jobs, all we use is a single strobe, or a small hotlight. Others, we empty every case and wish we had more.

This video was shot in my studio on a 5dMiii, and a Fuji X-100s. Took me a couple of tries, but I got through it with only one major gaffe and a couple of stutters. Enjoy!

 

Q & A

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I got an email recently from a photography student who had a short list of questions about architectural photography. I sent back some answers, which led to a follow-up, which led to another question, and in the end I realized this was probably good stuff for general consumption. So: Thanks, Meagan, for getting me back into writing mode!

Click here for the full Q & A!

Today

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Camera too close to the wall to see through the viewfinder? Pro tip: carry a magnifying makeup mirror ($1.39 at Walgreens) and focus via the LCD!

Lighting For Real Estate Photography Turns 26!!!

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Click to preview the opening video from the series!

 

 I allowed an anniversary to go by un-remarked earlier this year, but it’s better late than never: it was 26 months ago last Friday that we launched the groundbreaking Lighting For Real Estate Photography video series — which has become the benchmark for learning to light interiors for photographers all over the world.

I’m extremely proud of this series — filmmaker Malia Campbell and I worked for many months to produce something that would be truly practical and useful for working photographers. We didn’t want it to be just a “hey-look-how-awesome-I-am” piece but rather something that would have a solid, practical, and immediate effect on someone’s else’s work.

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This living room photo from high up in the Oakland, California hills has become the de facto “signature shot” of the entire series.

And the feedback we’ve gotten over the past two years tells me we accomplished this. I get emails almost every day like these:

“Hi Scott,
Just wanted to share with you a $7m home I photographed this past week.
Were it not for you, and your video course, I would have struggled to shoot this.
I’ve gone from Zero to Hero in the span of a few short months …thought you’d enjoy knowing the huge difference that you’ve made with this photographer.  Thank you.”

To everyone who has emailed me, Thank You. And thank you to everyone who just quietly bought the series, too. We went way out on a limb with this, with no guarantee of success, but I can say unequivocally, I’m very glad to have done it, if only to know that I’ve made some small impact to move photography forward a bit.

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Going over the storyboard and cutting fluff.

Make no mistake —  emails like the one above are incredibly gratifying. Compared with the top dollar that many instructional videos command, we’re a bargain at $175. Especially so when you consider the value of your own time — we worked VERY hard to make sure that there is no “fluff” in our series. You won’t hear me droning on and on, repeating myself (which I’m prone to doing; Malia was one harsh editor and forced me to stay on-topic). We carefully sketched out every episode to make sure that it was packed with solid, practical information and not a lot of blah blah blah. The most recent episodes (le Monde Réel) are free-form conversations between myself and other working photographers and are full of the inevitable “Uh’s” and “Umm’s” that come with everyday speech. But the rest of the episodes are tight — every second of footage has a purpose!

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This was one gnarly kitchen! Sunlight, black granite counters, lots of glass….my favorite episode is the one where we shoot this!

I think these videos are still as useful and solid as they were when we launched; even more so with the additional episodes that were added in later. They make a great companion to my book, which is in it’s second edition and which I’m equally proud of. One question I get asked a lot is whether it’s worthwhile to get both — e.g., is one different/better than the other?

I’ve never really known how to answer this; of course I think they’re both good and while there’s overlap, they present the material differently and go off in different directions at various points. The best resource I’ve seen was this discussion thread on Flickr, which I found illuminating.

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One of the more fun photos we did — playing with fire…

If you’ve seen both and have an opinion….do me a favor and chime in in the comments section! I’d love to hear your thoughts, and so would a lot of others!

 

Atlanta Lighting Workshops

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The photo above is one of two houses we have available to us in Alpharetta, a northern suburb of Atlanta, for what promises to be a terrific long weekend of interiors photo and video workshops.

With multiple workshops happening across Friday, Saturday & Sunday there will be a lot of people, a lot ideas, and no doubt more than a few beers quaffed — all in pursuit of better images (still, and motion).

Malia Campbell leads a filmmaking for real estate class that will be doing field work inside and outside on Friday, February 1st. Working with dSLR cameras, sliders, jibs, pico dollies and I don’t even know what else, Malia produces a video “portrait” of a house that’s elegant, pleasing to watch (no motion-sickness-inducing “walkthroughs”) and extremely popular with real estate agents.

Saturday, that group will be camped out somewhere in one of the houses with laptops, learning how to edit the footage together in Adobe Premeire: adding a soundtrack, effects, and creating a seamless, logical, relaxing video.

As for me, I’ll be teaching an “Advanced” lighting workshop (read: non-real estate) on Friday where we’ll be using strobes, hotlights, gels, cards, flags and pretty much every other thing to craft images that fully convey the feeling of a space. This workshop (one day) is geared towards a style of photography that’s slow and deliberate and highly detail-oriented – with no compromises.

Saturday and Sunday are my “regular” real estate photography workshops – speedlights, umbrellas, and enough technique to keep your head spinning for a few days.

More info? Go HERE.

San Francisco Workshop Recap

PFRE_SF_03Berkeley workshop, to be perfectly accurate, as we changed venues at the last minute to take advantage of a terrific bit of new construction by one of my favorite and longest-term clients, Dogtown Development. Designed by award-winning architect Matt Baran (also my client), this place was outstanding, with plenty of lines and angles, and just challenging enough to keep everyone on their toes.

We built the shot above towards the end of the first day, and liked it so much that we decided to step in and make a group photo out of it! More write-up, and LOTS of photos, click here!

Lighting Interiors is in Print!

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I get a few requests for a print version of my eBook, The Essential Guide to Lighting Interiors, and so I’m happy to announce that now it’s available (but be prepared to spend some $$).

I have to say that I don’t think this is a very good idea: we have enough dead trees already without printing things that are (frankly) perfectly good on an iPad. But if you feel strongly about it, you can now order the book from Lulu.com.

It’s $126(!), which is slightly more than half the price of getting it printed at Kinko’s. I’ve seen a copy, and Wow! They did a good job — it looks great!

Click the image above to go to the Lulu page — and if you order, let me know what you think!

 

Workshop Update

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That’s the front door of the house we’re shooting in the Bay Area next week – this is an architect-designed bit of urban redevelopment that’s quite cutting edge. Think “clean lines” and “smart compositions”.

The stills workshop is 90% full, meaning there’s room for one more on each day. Video has (I think) one more space as well.

Two more locations that are coming quick — Boston, and Atlanta. Atlanta is clearly going to sell out very soon.

More info, and registration, HERE.

2014 Lighting Workshops Update

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Pictured above is the house we’ll be shooting in Atlanta, in March. Our job will be to improve on this photo…..heh.

As of this writing, the San Francisco workshop is clearly going to be the first to sell out. We’re at about 75% on both days. Atlanta is close behind. If you’re thinking of either of these, I would suggest acting before the holidays.

Boston — you’ve got a little time. Neither day is past the 50% mark, and it may be that this will be the workshop to attend if you want a smaller group size.

Malia Campbell’s video workshops are tracking almost identically. Again, if you’re thinking about the SF workshop, move quick. Atlanta, you’ve got some breathing room but you probably ought to get it together by year’s end. Boston people, you’re safe for the time being.

More info, and registration, HERE.

Lighting Interiors – 2nd Edition is Live!

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Almost a year in the making…it’s here! I’ve given “The Essential Guide to Lighting Interiors” a vigorous overhaul, doubling the page count (277 pages…yikes!) and adding four new chapters as well as a bonus section at the end.

If you’re not familiar with it, this is an eBook (PDF download, click here to buy it) that covers lighting techniques for interiors photography, with a strong bent towards real estate photography. Small flash is used throughout, and the photos are shot and presented with either zero photoshopping, or extremely minimal re-touching (which gets discussed every time). My philosophy with photography, and especially for real estate photography, is to make a deliverable photo entirely on location, so that I can produce a JPG with absolutely minimal RAW adjustments  — or maybe none at all — the least time spent in post-production possible.

Details, photos, and a sample page, click here!

Announcing: US Lighting Workshops!

hargis_130304_023That motley crew above were some of the students I worked with almost exactly a year ago in Abu Dhabi, at my first Gulf Photo Plus workshop. Today, after a nearly 2-year North American hiatus, I’m happy to announce that there will be three US workshops this winter! details, and photos, click here!

Wood, Windows & Weflections – A New LFRE Video is Live!

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In the latest addition to the “Le Monde Réel” section of my 28-part video series “Lighting For Real Estate Photography”, we talk with Brandon, who shot a kitchen that I’d wager 95% of real estate photographers deal with on a regular basis.

We talk through the issues, how Brandon lit his (pretty darned good) photo, and then discuss different strategies that could have been employed in that situation. Good times, for lighting nerds.

If you’re already a subscriber to LFRE, then head back over and hit the “Le Monde Réel” link – you’ll find the new video at the bottom of the page. If you’re not a subscriber….get over there and register! Lots of good stuff waiting for you….

Wood, Windows & Weflections – A New LFRE Video is Live!

1395322_617764091613942_1555111238_n

In the latest addition to the “Le Monde Réel” section of my 28-part video series “Lighting For Real Estate Photography”, we talk with Brandon, who shot a kitchen that I’d wager 95% of real estate photographers deal with on a regular basis.

We talk through the issues, how Brandon lit his (pretty darned good) photo, and then discuss different strategies that could have been employed in that situation. Good times, for lighting nerds.

If you’re already a subscriber to LFRE, then head back over and hit the “Le Monde Réel” link – you’ll find the new video at the bottom of the page. If you’re not a subscriber….get over there and register! Lots of good stuff waiting for you….