Behind The Scenes in Photographing The Largest Home For Sale In Salt Lake City
A couple weeks ago, we got a call from Realtor Robyn Moody with Salt Lake REO & Lurch Group at Realty Path who was listing one of the largest (if not THE largest) homes for sale in Salt Lake City. Robyn was needing the best photos possible in order to attract the right buyers who would be interested in such a grand and beautiful home. "I have been following you on Facebook for a while and I love your photos," she told me, "So I want to know if you'd be interested in photographing this 32,000 sq/ft estate."
Well yeah, we would be totally interested.
With a home this large and so many unique architectural designs, we were faced with a number of challenges related to composition and lighting. It wouldn't do this home justice to just set up a camera and a snap a few pics. In order to get the best photos, a lot of planning and experience was necessary. In this article, I'll take you behind the scenes and talk about how I overcame several difficult shooting situations in order to get amazing photos of this spectacular home.
I started at the front entry to get a couple photos of the grand entrance and staircase. With huge picture windows on the far side of the home, proper lighting was going to be the biggest issue here. I could light the front room well enough but that would blow out the windows in the back and kill the mood.
But if I tried to expose for the view out the windows, the front room felt like a cave.
In order to make the best image I had to use every flash in my camera kit: 3 regular speed lights (about 85 watts each) and 1 monster 360 watt studio strobe. With each of the lights set up to my left and right, I was able to light up the front of the room enough to match the exposure in the back room. Then, in order to get the fabulous view in the windows, I used a trick called "window pulling" where I flash the inside of the home to bring the view out from the windows. Because the windows were so large I had to repeat this maneuver several times until I had enough exposures to composite into my final image.
Next, you'll see a problem that is very common in real estate photography: the dark cave. In this shot, the dark, unlit room in the corner is actually a home office with a beautiful dark bookcase. The problem here is that dark wood soaks up so much light it is hard to get anything more than just a black cave.
I first used my flashes to light up the front room, then the back room as I mentioned before, then I paired some with a shoot through umbrella (a white umbrella with translucent fabric that spreads out the light from a flash) to give the office a nice wash of light.
Placement of the light is crucial in these situations because poor placement will result in a distracting and ugly flash glare like you see in this image above.
The trick to great real estate photography is to make people forget about the camera. I don't want any artifacts showing up in my photos; things like reflections, flash glares, flash shadows from ceiling fixtures, tripod legs, etc. The images aren't about me, they are about the home.
Careful placement of the flash led to this amazing image that showed the viewer the great office on the main floor.
This next photo is another example of the dark cave. In this room, there is an amazing 2 story library with custom hardwood shelving. In this initial exposure, you see nothing more than a dark room.
By bringing some light into this room, I was able to make it stand out and grab the viewers attention when looking at this photograph. I also used the window pull technique I mentioned before to bring out the view in the windows.
Once I got inside the library, I was met with a number of new challenges. As I mentioned earlier, wood soaks up light and doesn't let go. This overexposed photo shows little detail and color in the hardwood and blows out the windows very badly. Also, you hardly notice the stairs in the back behind the fireplace going up to the second level (again, the dark cave problem).
With several well placed lights, I was able to bring out the detail and color of the wood. But as you saw before, I was faced with glare. That is unacceptable.
I used 2 exposures that each had glare in different spots that would cancel each other out when I blended all the images together with another image with better overall light. The resulting image showed the beautiful color in the wood and the fine detail in this incredible library.
This next shot looking into the dining room had almost every challenge you could imagine: dark corners, difficult lighting, and the challenge of shooting a straight on composition. Many fine architectural designs require a straight on, or a 1-point, composition. 1-point compositions give the feeling of elegance and grace, refinement and sophistication. However, 1-point compositions are extremely difficult to shoot because everything has to be balanced perfectly. Even if you have something a small as a ceiling light placed off center, it will ruin the shot. But in a mansion like this, the architect was well aware of balance and center lines. Shooting this image required me to light many dark corners, and hallways and took a trip up the fancy staircase to get some light into the top hallway. Here is the test shot.
and here is the final image will the accessory images blended together.
Lastly, we have the grand kitchen. There is enough space to store a month's worth of groceries for us regular folk. Another challenging lighting situation, big, bright windows overpower the view from outside if you try to get enough light into the kitchen itself.
I set up several flashes with my shoot through umbrellas to get enough light in the main body of the kitchen and helped me to avoid bad shadows from the ceiling rack above the island and also to be able to clean up any glare I would get off the cabinets. I also walked around the back of the kitchen where there is a large walk through pantry and lit that area up with a couple flashes so it would look bright and inviting. This technique helps to pull you into the image because your eye naturally flows towards the brightest areas of a picture.
Here is the finished image.
Photographing this huge Holladay Estate was one of the most challenging shoots I've ever done. Fortunately, I have the skills, experience, and equipment to produce great photos of luxury real estate. We know from experience (and most agents know) that the better the photos, the more people will be attracted to a listing. That means more eyes on your listings and more eyes on you as the agent. People DO think to themselves when looking at an eye-catching listing, "Wow, this listing looks great. I should sell my house with this agent because she does such a great job at marketing."
If you are selling your home without an agent, you already know how important your home is to you. In fact, it is most likely the most expensive thing you own. Put yourself at the top of the market by getting professional real estate photos and show them off all over.
Don't hesitate to give us a call when you need the best photos for your next listing.
Want to see more photos from this shoot? Check em out here.
Keywords: luxury real estate photographer utah, real estate marketing, salt lake city real estate photographer, utah real estate photography
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