If you ask an architectural photographer to make some beautiful images of a building, he or she will do a few things first:
*figure out which way the building is facing (east, west, north or south – somewhat in between?)
*find out when the sun rises and sets at that spot on the proposed dates of the shoot
*based on that information, the photographer will arrange for a time that puts the client’s desired view in the – quite literally – best light
Depending on the budget and the final concept, he or she may rent boom trucks or sky-jacks, perhaps lights, perhaps close off the parking areas to the building to make sure the views are not obstructed by random vehicles (in extreme cases on high budget shoots the streets may be shut down, etc – just like for a high budget movie production!)
In addition, the photographer will want full access to the building and its lights. Everything is just so, and the final piece – is the weather. Using sophisticated, meteorological reports, a date is chosen. And if the weather plays a trick, the shoot is rescheduled.
A few hours later, a couple of perfect views of a building are captured.
Of course that’s great if you are working with a multi-thousand dollar budget and have complete control over time and all other variables on location… But… Then there is real estate photography. The house needs to be on the market on Monday. The cleaning company was unable to deliver their bins because of a two day bout of freezing rain. You can shoot the house any day of the week you want… as long as it's Sunday. Sunday morning, specifically, because anything after noon is a “no go” with the owners and or the realtor…
And you’re a photographer who is not willing to just say “oh well, it is what it is”, you pride yourself on setting YOUR client apart with exceptional, eye catching photos.
You show up on Sunday. There is a slight wrinkle – it’s a blizzard. Quite literally, visibility measured in feet, not yards, lovely giant flakes of snow falling sideways from a slate grey sky. What do you do?
Well, some variation of this theme happens pretty much all the time in real estate photography. You are not the master of when and how, usually. Your clients understand that it would be better if you were, but that’s just not the reality of the business. From backlit houses and harsh shadows to full on blizzards, it all happens. Sure you could come back and reshoot the exteriors – but you have two other shoots that day (joke’s on you – they’re all facing the wrong way anyway by the time you get there).
This is why you’re a pro – you make it work. Most people could take a decent photo under perfect conditions if they get enough tries at it. A professional is called in to make a great image regardless of what conditions or challenges are presented; to solve problems, to find a way. To put it bluntly, this is what we get paid for.
I was inspired to write this post based on a recent experience. Have a look at the before and after photos. See what an out of the camera shot looked like, and what was delivered to the client. You have to know your craft very well, and when the unexpected happens, you can count on your technical knowledge and artistic vision to fall into place and combine for a result that makes your clients truly happy that they had you on their team.
I was SO excited to find out that Doug McKenzie won the title of Drywall Artist of the Year! But I can't say that I am surprised. I may not know much about the technical aspects of drywall application and all the countless things and years of experience needed to do it right - but I do see many, many homes. And I can attest to the fact that Doug's work stands out immediately. I was blown away by the meticulous attention to detail and tasteful choices of various trim pieces and shapes. The work always stood out because of how crisp and refined it looked - almost like an architectural drawing or a designer's rendering. Except it's real!
And believe me - I am THAT guy... the guy with the camera... My job requires me to spot flaws in order to make the best images possible. And if I can't spot them on site, I can assure you I spot them peering over the pixels on my monitor while I edit the photos for my clients. And the camera SEES ALL! That's why I was really amazed at the quality of Doug's work, even under the anything-but-real-world microscope that is the monitor of a professional photographer.
I have to say it is truly gratifying to see people you work with accomplish such amazing things - and truly humbling to see how much commitment and dedication and just flat out hard work it takes. I had a unique insight into this because I was privileged to take photos of some of Doug's award winning work. For my small part in all of this, I am just really happy that I was able to provide images that convey the amazing work he does into photographs that can be viewed by the world.
Here is a link to the McKenzie Drywall Inc website, where you can check out more of their projects, and click here to visit the Instagram feed announcing the winner! Once again, congrats on being recognized for all your hard work, Doug, so well deserved!
It’s true. There are some sacred rules that shall not be broken. Verticals must be vertical. Horizontal lines must be horizontal. If you go for that one point perspective… you better not miss, its better to not even look like you were trying for it than to be a little bit off. Whites should really be white. Shadows should only be where shadows should naturally fall. Mirrors are portals to the land of the damned and will suck your soul out through your eyes. Trust me. They are evil and can not be trusted. In even the dirtiest house there will be paintings that are so incredibly clean they reflect EVERY little photon that strikes them, seemingly amplified and into your lens.
You are no longer a “civilian”, you can not look at houses on the local MLS, or pass the time waiting for an order of food looking at one of those realtor magazines. You don’t even know what the houses look like. But you do know that the verticals were off in that one picture. You know that the overcooked, lazy HDR made the ceiling joints look like they are damaged by smoke. That someone… someone peed around every single light fixture. How else do you explain those yellow stains on the ceiling? And why are the windows greenish and purple and blue?
But… but is the house nice? I don’t know! Look at these pictures!
...but instead, there are minions of dark forces about, lurking in every corner, everything starts to look crooked and mad... and maybe if you just look a little bit harder you will see that vertical line being a tiny teeny bit off... and in your tired, beat up photographer brain, you see THIS!!! (insert dramatic horror movie music here)
I have to put my hands in my pockets because my fingers are fidgeting and making all the little gestures they would be if I were sitting over my computer… fixing ALL OF IT.
Oh, and forget watching TV. Just forget it. You’re watching a show, the characters are having a deep, heartfelt moment…and you don’t even know who’s on the screen. But you know, oh YOU KNOW, that the camera isn’t level – LOOK AT THOSE CROOKED VERTICALS! And the white balance??? How hard is it to level a camera for crying out loud, on a multimillion-dollar Hollywood production? This is unwatchable… my eyes hurt. My head hurts. I want to turn the TV on its side.
And then there is that one picture, you know the one? From the lovely historical home? The one that’s a 120 years old and you loved it to bits, but oh my goodness… Nothing is straight in those houses… you see… they settle… over the centuries… some beams are a little less than horizontal. Some walls… a little less than vertical. And you used to love it. It was “character”, it gave those special, beautiful houses heart, soul! But now you just sit there with a Rubik’s cube of an image… Trying to make it all straight and you’re ready to scream…
Eventually, in the dark, with a computer screen burnt into your optic nerves, you rock gently, back and forth like Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness… and those brave enough to come close can hear a horse whisper escaping your parched lips:
“The Verticals… The… Ver..ti…cals!!!!!!!!”
TwoSixPix philosophies, tips and tricks, and just a little peek into who I am behind the camera.