Recently, we had the opportunity to do a “live” photography demo for a client. Lemme explain. We got a call from a developer/builder/remodeling in real estate. We went in under a recommendation from a fellow friend/acquaintance photographer. We met and did a quick portfolio review and of course…pricing. They were interviewing a couple of other photographers as well to photograph their remodeling projects. There are about 25 houses that have been remodeled that need photographing as well as new construction. Long story short, they came up with a creative solution, have each photography company do a “live” demo shoot of the same space to see what each company came up with. We each had 2 1/2 hours to work the space as we wanted. We were allowed to use any gear that we wished.
We loaded up the truck with EVERYTHING as I had no idea what we were going to walk into. We pulled up to this older condo building and I thought, “Ugh, are we in the right place?” We found the condo and when we arrived this is what we were presented with:
Then I realized why we were there. The outside couldn’t be touched due to the condo association rules, however the inside had been completed gutted. The homeowners must have spent some serious money remodeling this place. No expense was spared. We got the nickel tour from the designer and we proceeded to get our gear. Anyone who thinks that photography is always a glamorous job needs to be informed that it’s always not, when you are lugging gear that’s a couple of hundred pounds. At least there was an elevator.
Thinking that we had to photograph the space to show all of the detail I knew that we had two options, strobe it or use the HDR wrench out of the took box. The time limit was the big limiting factor. Usually to pull something like this off, you have a couple of hours to photograph one room. So the decision was made to go down the HDR road.
I pulled out the tripod, cable release and most important…my double spirit level. Using a 12mm lens on the camera can be tricky to keep your lines from going whack-a-doodle on you if you aren’t careful. We worked the foyer first. I took my standard nine that the Nikon will do automatically. I then looked at the histogram and checked the highlights and shadows. I ended up throwing the camera into manual (I love that guy), and taking a few extra until I had completely captured the dynamic range.
After the foyer, we moved to the living room. Here I was able to get the living room, foyer and office all in the same scene. At this point the designer that was over seeing everything asked if I wanted to open the shades to get more light. I politely declined. This was an advantage for us as they were acting as a giant soft box creating nice diffused light for the space. Notice the new LED lighting in the ceiling.
The kitchen was one of the big selling points of this shoot since the designer told me that she was the kitchen/bath designer. With these nice new DARK cabinets, I knew this was going to be fun. Again, I got the, “Shouldn’t we open up the curtains for more light?” Again, I replied, “ No thanks, it’s all good.” She probably thought that I was whacko at this point.
Dark is an understatement for this room. The owners choose to go with wood and darker tan colors for the theme. Here I took a few extra exposures to make sure that I had what I needed for post.
This was our last stop, the master bath. The clock was ticking and I had to get what we needed so we could end on time. This was a tight space, I’m glad that we had the 12mm on the camera. I lost some with the 1.5 crop factor, but it worked great.
After a few days later working on all of the images, and being cozy with Photoshop layers and masks, it was time to do the dance. I have been using a new program for my HDR merging. When I have a better feel on it, I will report back. So far it has done a great job with interiors. A few days later, we turned in the photos and went over them with our contact on their computer. She had a poker face and I wasn’t sure if it was going well, or if I needed to pack my stuff and bow out gracefully. After the review on the computer I asked if she had seen the photos from the other photographers. She said that she had. Me being me, I asked if we were still in the running. She then said that there was a substantial difference between the photos between the companies. At this point I have no idea what is going on. All we were told was that they were going to meet the next day and go over everything and make a decision.
So there you have it. This is how I photograph real estate interiors. I like to keep them realistic looking for something like this. HDR is not an evil monster in the back of the closet; you just have to know how to control the monster to get him to do what you want.
Oh by the way…we got the JOB!
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean
UPDATE: If you are looking for a VERY QUALIFIED company to remodel your home, check out Sand Star Remodeling. You can check out their website here.