March 26th, 2007
I was recently looking through the images on M. James Northen’s web site after he’s made a comment on photographing upper-end properties. M. James works out of Vero Beach, Florida an shoots for premiere real estate companies, multi-million dollar builders, custom cabinet and kitchen designers and interior decorators in the southeast Florida area.
I chose this image to ask M. James about because I was attracted to the beautiful job of lighting that he’d done on this image despite the obviously very bright outside. It’s always challenging to get such a beautifully lit interior when the windows are so bright. Here is M. James comments on his setup, equipment and post processing:
“This was the first setup of the morning and took about 10 minutes to get right. The setup was very simple – That room faces east to the Ocean, I got there around 9:00 am so the sun was bright in the room. I set up two Strobes ( Alien Bee 800’s – 320Ws) I positioned one to the left of the camera at full power and a little behind me and the other to the right further into the room only half power. I had to watch the angles to avoid reflection in the windows. That was the most time consuming part. I use 48” white shoot through umbrellas most of the time as they are more convenient than soft boxes to move from room to room. The image was custom white balanced using an Expodisk. That typically saves me a lot of time in Photoshop. The exposure was ISO 400 – 1/160 at F11. I used a Canon 1D MKII with a 24mm Tilt – Shift Lens. When not using a Tilt- Shift lens I use an EF 17-40 which does well with the 1.3 Crop factor and allows me to get tighter on the same frame for a more intimate feel. For some really dramatic angles and interesting perspectives I use a Sigma 12-24mm – but only outside.
This was the beginning of a shoot that encompassed around 6,000 sq. ft. under air and a lavish pool and covered lanai. The images were required to be available the next day to be sent to magazines and other marketing venues. I did the whole shoot *.jpg and made fairly minor adjustments in Photoshop that evening. I have an action that I wrote which does the following, Light Shadow recovery, Light Color Saturation and finally basic sharpening. My work flow is to look at all the images in ACDSee Pro select the ones that I like and that also illustrate the home from a real estate standpoint as well as some more artistic shots. I then copy those to a new folder named “In Progress” I then run my action on all of those images in batch. I then go through those images and take the ones that I still like – from there I might have to do some perspective corrections but nothing to dramatic. (I use a hot shoe bubble level anytime I move the tripod) Burn a CD and give to client – with Invoice which I also send via an email PDF.
I like to use natural light whenever possible but on homes where there is a great view I typically light the rooms using anywhere from 1 Strobe to 4 with Morris Slaves as accents and reflectors and flags to control spill and volume. I use Alien Bee Lights as they are constructed well and are a good value. The price of the listing and what the client request dictates how elaborate the shoot gets. I find that keeping things simple works well though.”
I should mention that this image is the second image in his “recent” gallery. M. James said that he believes that the third image in this gallery is stronger than the image above. I’ll leave that for you to decide. I like the image above because it has a more symmetrical composition and I feel drawn into the room with this image where-as the third image keeps pulling my attention towards the glass table to the right.
Thanks M. James for sharing the setup and details of your image.