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Architectural and Real Estate Photography: First Try

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Video Transcript

This is my first attempt to take an architectural interior photo using the techniques taught by Mike Kelley in his course. [Here's another one I shot in the same house on the same day.] I'm going to tell you what I learned by trying to take these. What I did right, what I did wrong, what I will do differently the next time and where you can learn to take these kind of photos.

I've been taking a course by Mike Kelley. It's called 'Where Art Meets Architecture: How To Photograph Real Estate Architecture and Interiors.' I've got a link down below this video to the course if you want to go find it so you can see how Mike takes photos like these that you're seeing on screen right now. After showing these I'm almost embarrassed to go back to my first attempts but I thought it might be kind of fun and educational just to show you how my first attempt at doing this kind of photography went right and how it went wrong.

OK, back to my first photo. Now, the very first thing I did was I went to my friend's house because my house doesn't look this cool - I wanted to find a house that was kind of fun to shoot in. She has this cool little room that I think of as the reading room. It's got this little fireplace built into the wall and these bookcases and little nooks and a curved staircase going off to the right, so I thought this would be a cool little space to do a test photo. The first challenge is to figure out what angle to shoot the room from. I came in and I started taking some test shots and at first I was over at this angle because I thought I wanted these sliding glass doors to be able to have the view outside. But then you couldn't see the staircase, so I decided that was no good. Then I moved over here where I can get a view of the staircase but these chairs seem huge in the foreground because I was too close and too wide. So I backed up, and after backing up things looked better but the chairs were still not quite right, so we moved the chairs and I was starting to like this, but I decided I needed to back up a little more and I finally got to this shot. This is the base shot. I like the framing here, I like the way we have the staircase over to the right and the window over to the left and the proportions of things are looking pretty good. This is not a terrible photo as it stands. It's a pretty well lit room, it's got light coming from the left and from the right and from behind us. Not a bad looking space. But it needs something to bring up the light and make it look alive. So I added a flash to the scene. You can see how it brought the light level up. We also remembered to turn on the lights in the little cubicles on the wall which helped too. You can see the way the light now in the whole room is much brighter. This was done with one flash through a shoot-through umbrella on a light stand about six feet to the right of the camera just shining into the room, punching some light in there.

Then I decided to get fancy and I decided to try Mike Kelley's little trick of using a flash on a stick to light some little details in the room and make some little highlights. Then I was going to combine these together as layers in Photoshop. Here you can see me putting some light on the fireplace, and me running around to the other parts of the room popping off a little flash here and there to add some detail lights. All of this turned out to be a complete waste of time, I couldn't use any of those shots because somewhere along the way the camera got bumped or several times the camera got bumped and these shots would just not line up, even with Auto Align in Photoshop. I could not line these shots up well enough to merge these together in Photoshop later. So the lesson I learned from that: the reason the camera was getting bumped is because we were pressing the shutter to take these photos. So even though the camera's locked down on a tripod we have to keep touching the camera. I knew better than that and I brought a cable release and I tried to use the cable release at first but it was giving us some quirks and it wasn't behaving quite right, so we stopped using it and we thought, 'Oh well, we'll just be careful and we'll use the shutter button.' All of these photos are unusable because the camera just got knocked around a little too much and the angle changed enough that the photos couldn't be merged together later. So, my serious learned there is: once you lock the camera down you shouldn't touch the camera. You need to use a cable release, or if you're going to be really fancy you can get the CamRanger that Mike Kelley uses so you're using your iPad to make your camera fire and control it. But lesson learned the hard way. Don't touch the camera once you start the process. The photo I ended up with had none of those detail lights. This was all done in-camera with that first photo with the one light through an umbrella, and the only thing I did in Photoshop was I added flames in the fireplace because even though we turned on the fireplace for these photos, the flames just weren't very visible to the camera for some reason. So I just added a little bit of flame in Photoshop to make it look like the way it looked to our eyes when we were there. This is my photo. It's not too bad for a first attempt and I learned a really useful lesson doing it.

Then we moved over to the living room for a second photo. This is the end result, and here is our starting exposure, which once again looks pretty good because this is a really well-lit house and it's the middle of the day and there are huge windows everywhere. This is not bad, but we looked at it we thought we could punch it up a little bit by bringing some light in from this side. So once again we added a flash through a shoot-through umbrella. I would have just bounced flash off the ceiling but the ceilings are about 30 feet high in here, so we use the umbrella to add some flash to the room. This time I did succeed in doing some light painting with the flash on a stick. I went around and highlighted various spots, and even though we were still bumping the camera a little bit and the photos didn't line up perfectly, they line up well enough that Photoshop's Auto Align feature could combine them and I was able to bring in some of those highlights in the final photo. Most importantly to preserve the view outside I used an underexposed window from one of the earlier shots so that we can see that greenery out there a little better without it being quite so blown out by the sun. Here's my final photo. Once again it's not a work of art, I still have a long way to go obviously, but this was a lot of fun and I learned a lot of great things in this first attempt. I encourage you, if you're interested in doing any kind of interior, exterior, architectural photography to check out Mike Kelley's course. It's really well done, I'm extremely impressed with the quality of it and it's motivating me to go experiment with some of this stuff which is always fun. Once again, I put a link to that course down below the video if you want to check it out. I hope you found this interesting. I'll talk to you again soon.