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Beyond Real Estate Photography?

March 3rd, 2011

I recently got an email from Atticfire that reminded me that I haven’t mentioned them for a while. I first discovered the Atticfire and did a post on it back in Oct of 2007. Since that time participants in the PFRE discussion group managed to reverse engineer how the Atticfire team creates the dramatic effect in their images.

Back in 2007 I pestered Eric Prine (an Atticfire principle) to tell me what they were doing to get this dramatic look (he of course declined).

I find it interesting that many real estate photographers find the dramatic Atticfire style “over the top” while some find it dazzling and want to use it on it on their photos.

How do you create dramatic images like this? The consensus of the PFRE discussion group is that Atticfire uses Photoshop layering and “image harvesting”. This technique is presented in Vincent Versace’s book Welcome to Oz: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop. Once you read through Vincent’s book you immediately say to yourself, “oh ya, I see what they are doing”.

As many have pointed in the past, this is NOT a technique appropiate for an average real estate shoot where you’ve committed to deliver 10 to 20 photos in 12 to 24 hours! Shooting and post processing these images takes waaay more time any real estate agents are willing to pay for!  This stuff is high-end home art, not real estate photography!

I think the big message for real estate and interior photographers is that this whether you personally like the look or not, this dramatic Atticfire style is very popular with high-end home owners and celebrities. If you don’t believe me check out this Feb 2008 article in the NYtimes article that features Atticfire right along with Julius Shulman.

I keep bringing Atticfire up as an example because this kind of work is one direction that a real estate photographer can grow towards. It’s an example that there is a high end market for high quality work. This the kind of work that Andy Fame, who I featured back in Dec has successfully moved into. Hopefully the Atticfire site will be an inspiration to other real estate photographers that want to move in that direction.

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13 Responses to “Beyond Real Estate Photography?”

  • There isn’t anybody better than these guys when it comes to this art form. They leave everybody, absolutely, categorically, dead in the dust. I find it funny how so many people try to reverse-engineer these guys. You can’t reverse engineer natural born talent and a creative marriage made in heaven. You’ll never learn this on no BLOG kids. This shit is talent. Hard work. And years and years of working together as a beautiful team. That’s something the Internet can never deliver. Get over it. Just love it. And aspire to it. If you come close, you’ll have brushed the lofty edges of heaven. If not. Just sit back and watch in awe. And stop trying to copy it. Because this shit is unique. RE-fuckin-RESPECT.

  • A little over the top Brett, no? Anything can be learned. Yes, it is unique, and it is pretty, but certainly not unattainable. And definately NOT for everyone. I certainly do not intend to replicate or duplicate their style of work. Your DSLR video style is another matter. Now, THAT, I do aspire to reverse-engineer and duplicate. And some day soon, I will…

  • Atticfire’s image quality stands out in the photography universe as some of the best technical and aesthetic work I’ve seen (as with any art form, one doesn’t necessarily have to like it to appreciate it).

    It’s only logical then that there are those who would seek to imitate that quality – the sincerest form of flattery.

    The anomaly is in Mr. Eric Prine’s declining to share at least some of the techniques that make his company’s work so outstanding. If we reasonably assume that natural talent (and perhaps personal training and experience) are major components of Atticfire’s success, it’s unlikely that revealing the mechanical processes involved in their work would result in any substantive competition.

    But what’s even more unusual in our photo universe is an absolute unwillingness to share. Some of the world’s top photographers share their “photography secrets” via workshops, books, webcasts, podcasts, and blogs. True, some earn additional income from a segment of those activities, but not all. And none seem concerned about their students, readers, and followers becoming their competitors.

    It would be a good thing if Atticfire would share some of their techniques with the photographic community, even if in a monetized way. It would be gratifying to see their image quality (or some part of it) extended to other photographic genres. Bottom line – the world can’t have too many beautiful photographs.

  • I don’t blame Atticfire one bit for not wanting to share the secrets behind their magic. While imitation is indeed sincere flattery, you still have to see it as a threat to your business in that type of high-end photography strata. It is unique and impressive – even over the top – but I am just happy to view what they have done and appreciate the art.

  • The trend today often times seems to be in a different direction for most agents. Was the iPhone really meant to take and upload images to the MLS? Most Agents seemed to have jumped on the iPhone band wagon for all its apps and features. I believe there is some expectation that a single device will be the focal point of ALL the agents work and that Atticfire will someday be a button on the touch screen or voice command (thought command). Is Atticfire affect software that far fetched? Wonder what they would say at Adobe? Can software totally replace the creative nature of a human? I suspect it will come close over time and the agent will have that “iphone” with a wide angle lens that auto corrects many of the errors. Oh, and it does video too. Did I mention the dynamic range of 30 stops? All that with adding a creative touch much in the same way we think of a layer style today.

    Lucky for us this imaginary day isn’t here yet and there is room for us to practice our craft and earn a living from those smart enough and willing to pay for quality work. It is still frustrating that the bulk of agents do not have an appreciation for the value of efforts to produce quality imagery that matches the listing price of a property. At Attifire’s level it has become a non issue of course. As for the rest of us, there is some selling to do.

  • Wow is all I can say. I have seen this work before and it’s brilliant. I think you’re spot on with the comment regarding the time commitment for this sort of product – I can see this stuff taking a considerable amount of time to complete.

  • Brett writing another script for his videos ?

  • Certainly very nice but also a little over-processes. This is the sort of stuff that looks great in the moment but a few months form now you will look at it and think: oh-no.

    Set up at dusk and and shoot a bracketed set of exposures. That is one shot normally exposed another shot one 1 or 2 stops over and another equally under exposed. Using Photoshop merge to HDR. Or if you practice you can get it with one exposure. The trick is to photograph at twilight when all the colors in the sky are lovely and the contrast is mostly gone from the scene.

    Thanks for all the great advice, by the way.

  • @Sam, if that’s all you think is involved in creating the AtticFire ‘look’, then I guess you haven’t actually seen any of their work. If you have then you certainly haven’t really looked at it.

  • The Cooler: Had I been writing another script for one of my vids, I’d have probably referenced a Gimp and some 6″ pumps given our latest trajectory. ‘The lofty edges of heaven’ does slide as a bit of a tosser comment, on the re-read though. Thanks for the pull-up. I was never any good at poetry. And I ain’t ever going to Heaven.

  • They have divulged quite a bit of information, in fact, almost their entire workflow (for exteriors) in a magazine who’s name escapes me right now, but I do have a copy. It’s at least a couple years old at this point. I reference it very, very often – there are some incredible masking techniques and layering techniques in the article which John Fulton, another principle, goes into depth about.

  • I do very similar work to Attic Fire and I will let everyone here know that the process is a time consuming one. I have been doing it long enough now that I can get a shot lit and exposed in about 30min to an hour. A large interior or exterior may take about an hour and a half tops. From there I take about 20 min editing the Raw images. There are anywhere from 15 images, small kids room, to over 45 on a large shot that go into making the perfect image. None of the blending is done through HDR programs but all hand masked in. lights are moved throughout the shot to get the best detail out of every piece of furniture and architectural formation.

    After the images are blended I then go further and do local contrasts on everything in the shot. Global contrasts, saturation, and brightness do not work as dark cabinets have a different gamut then a white couch. The real magic happens in post production. It takes a detail oriented person with extreme patience. I just finished up a job for a builder and have 32 hours of touchups ahead of me this week. This is what it takes to break into the high end market, win awards, and the respect of your peers.

    Good luck everyone!

  • Don’t forget about this step-by-step tutorial on getting the “Attic Fire look” by PFRE Flickr member “lightzoneindia” located here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/photographyforrealestate/discuss/72157618698157158/

    Eric, thanks for chiming in – your work is top-notch.

    I for one love the look that Attic Fire achieves, and if I used strobes, that’s a look I’d aspire to master.

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