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Congratulations Brandon Cooper - April PFRE Photographer of The Month

Published: 26/04/2016

BrandonCooperApril2016Congratulations to Brandon Cooper of Fort McMurray, Alberta who has won the photographer of the month for April. This is the third month in a row Brandon, you need to give someone else a chance!

Here are the contestants that the jurors awarded points to this month:

  1. Brandon Cooper
  2. Barry MacKenzie
  3. Justin Jordan
  4. Tony Colangelo
  5. Peter Bentley
  6. Andrew Pece
  7. Mike Burman
  8. Anders Carlson
  9. Jason Lusk
  10. Matt Davis

Tony Colangelo and Peter Bentley tied for 4th place and Andrew Pece and Mike Burman tied for 5th place.

Here are Brandon's comments:

What can I say that I haven't already said?

I'm thankful every day for this community and everyone who contributes to it.  It's so great to have a place where we all speak the same language and have the opportunity to learn and grow together.  Thanks to everyone who participated this month and of course thanks again to Larry for everything you do. I feel honoured and humbled to have won April POTM.  For any of you out there that have ever been on the fence about hiring a coach or attending a workshop JUST DO IT.  Best business decision I've ever made.

I'm going to apologize in advance for this long-winded message but making this image was quite an adventure so I think it's worth sharing.

I'm also going to apologize for my punctuation... My wife is asleep and she's the only one in my house who knows where commas and periods go.

I had a lot of things going in my favour with this image: A great room, nice furniture and lots of natural light but ultimately persistence was my biggest asset. Here's a little background on how this final image came together.

About six weeks ago I shot the kitchen and living room of this beautiful home.  While I was on site and with the homeowner’s permission I decided to cruise around and see if there were any other rooms I could shoot for my portfolio.  When I came into the master bedroom I knew right away there was a great shot to be had.  I didn't have time to set up and shoot it the way it deserved to be shot so I snapped a few ambient frames and went home to think about it.  After staring at the ambient frames for a few days I decided to reach out to the homeowner and see if they would let me come back to take my time in the master.  Thankfully they were very gracious and I got my second chance.

This time around I decided to try something a little out of comfort zone so I hired a model to sit in the bathtub.  Shoot day came and when we walked into the room the sun was so bright that it was creating insane reflections all over the room. Bouncing off the bench legs, fireplace and shower glass, it was total chaos.  I was so intimidated and discouraged that I wanted to bail all together but I had this model there so I had to try and move forward or risk looking like a total dumbass.  I went ahead with the shoot and when I got in front of my computer my worst fears were realized, the ENTIRE shoot was a bust, I didn't have anything worth working on so I decided to trash the entire thing.  Over the next few days I was super bummed out.  I knew there was a killer shot in that room and I was dying for another chance.  After about four days of sulking I finally got up the nerves to call the client, tell her how bad I sucked and that I totally botched the second shoot.  I timidly asked for a third chance (I had to redeem myself or I was going to look like a hack forever) and she politely shut me down.  Another day or so goes by and I decided to try one more time.  I wouldn't typically harass a client this much but I have a good relationship with her so I wasn't at risk of turning her off.  I basically told her how much I loved the space and that if she would give me one more chance I knew I could do it justice.  She agreed and we booked the third shoot.

Shoot day three came and when I walked into the room I was pleased to see that the sun was still bright but I figured it was manageable.  As usual I spent the first little while setting up my comp, once I was sure I had the comp I wanted I shot a few ambient frames (with a camranger) and sat down for about ten minutes to review them.  I made a few final tweaks and then started staging.  Once the comp was set and the staging was done I started to shoot.

I started off by finding an ambient exposure that gave me the ceiling I wanted for the final image, then I bracketed a few (cover my ass) frames.  When I was confident that I had all the ambient frames I needed I exposed for the windows (actually a little darker than I wanted them to be in the final image) and started playing with some lights.  I set up a ceiling bounce far camera left, I held on flash in my hand slightly camera right for some fill and I had a third ceiling bounce just behind the fireplace.  It took some playing around but eventually I got a shot that I thought was about 80% good straight out of the camera.  Once I was confident that I had captured the majority of the room I focused on a couple details.  I scrimmed the fireplace and shot some ambient and flash frames so I could avoid distracting reflections in post and to make sure the fireplace would be suitable for me to add a fire in later.  There was a balcony outside the windows so I shot a flash directly through the blinds to create some shadows off the legs of the bench.

Once back at my computer I settled on about 2 flash frames and 3 ambient frames then went to work blending them.  When the photoshop work was done I brought the image into lightroom for some shadow/highlight adjustments, contrast, sharpening, white balance, dodging/burning, and clarity.  I added a slight vignette and called it a day.

Needless to say this was an amazing learning experience and I’m so thankful that I get to go back to this client and show her that all of our crazy efforts weren’t in vain.

Thanks again everyone!

Larry Lohrman

18 comments on “Congratulations Brandon Cooper - April PFRE Photographer of The Month”

  1. I agree with Barry! Ir is undeniable the work ethic and natural talent that Brandon possesses. Well done.
    @Barry I think you must have the record for most 2nd place finishes.
    @Larry I think you put Barry's picture up.

  2. WOW - a three-peat and, if memory serves, the first 4-time winner of the POTM!! An astounding accomplishment and absolutely, positively deserved ... am so proud of you, bud! And, yes, I agree with Barry & Caleb ... the POTY train is definitely on the tracks, and heading to Ft. McMurray!! 🙂 Congrats, Brandon!!

  3. Congratulations Brandon! Well deserved. I must say that the entries over the past several months have continued to improve exponentially. I look forward to each month and continue to learn and improve my own skills from the competition of all of the contestants. The comments and critiques are most enlightening!

  4. Nice....maybe i am missing, but i wish type of lighting used was shown. This is hardest part for me as i try to start business. One, two, three speedlights, etc.? if that info is somewhere to be found on these pix, can someone show me? If not, maybe ask the photog to disclose...thanks.

  5. @ Sharon -- from the post above: "I’ve asked Brandon for some comments on his winning shot." Typically the winners respond with a few notes regarding the production of the photo. Check back later today.

    @ Brandon -- well done!

    There were several strong photos this month.

  6. Ditto's to above comments. My question would be: is this a photo and techniques for real estate agent usage, i.e. "photography for real estate", or for portfolio purposes?

  7. Congratulations Brandon, and a fun story to go with it!

    @Rohnn - I'm guessing that not many photographers would go through that much effort and time on a single image for a typical real estate shoot. But like most of us who are hungry to improve our quality, whether for our own personal growth or to build toward some business goal, we sometimes ask/beg clients and homeowners to shoot an unofficial frame or two for the purpose of portfolio building. Hell, I just spent two hours in the hand-numbing cold this morning shooting a commercial exterior purely for my portfolio (and for fun of course) and it was totally worth it.

  8. I'm going to look up some of the winners and offer free photography in their market areas to get something worthy of entering in the monthly contests. I feel I'm in the backwoods when it comes to homes decorated to impress.

    Congratulations to all the winners. Outstanding entries again this month.

  9. Hey everyone thanks so much for all the support and awesome feedback... Much appreciated.

    Barry, Caleb, Tim, Tony, Matt, Walt, Ethan, the fact that you commented is so flattering and I'm thankful for that!

    Sharon... I think you may have commented before Larry posted my comments but if you still have questions about the lighting set up I would be MORE than happy to answer them : )

    Scott... Thank you! I don't recall seeing a message from you asking me to break down the lighting set up but that said I think I covered it fairly well in my comments. Thanks again for the comments : )

    Jeff...We're totally on the same page! Not many Real Estate photographers would waste this much time and effort on an image because in reality it just doesn't make sense... (financially) That said, it's not always about the money... sometimes we just want the chance to shoot a gorgeous space, and in my neck of the woods those are few and far between so I do my best to take advantage of any opportunity that comes my way.

    Rhonn... To be honest I would never spend this much time on a "Real Estate Shot" but PFRE has become the launching ground for so many top class interior photographers so I feel like the contest is moving in that direction. The submissions are getting better each month and so is the contest so I think it is only natural that the amount of time and effort that goes into each image will reflect the contributors desire to win and more importantly raise their own personal brand and reputation.

    Anders... I definitely wanted to create a vibe but the way you describe it is super cool and totally flattering... Thank you so much!

    Brian... Thanks for the comment but I feel the same way about your work so we're gonna have to call it a meeting of the minds as opposed to a brain picking session!

    Ken... I'm not sure if I read your comment accurately but if you were referring to content matter then don't waste your time coming to Fort McMurray : ) this is a city of just under 100,000 people and the average size of a home is 1600 sq ft. I spend a ton of time sourcing out decent properties to use for contest subject matter but there is no way I can compete against some the locations that the PFRE guys shoot on a regular basis. As Scott commented on Justin's shot this month, it doesn't matter what camera you're using or what room you're shooting there is always opportunity for a great shot : )

  10. If Brandon wins again next month I may never enter an image. ;p
    Big congrats Brandon and I agree with your opening comment about this community. Said it before, it's like free candy every day and I don't have to get it from a windowless van!

    Now, can someone break a significant finger of Brandon's at this workshop? *snicker *snicker...

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