As high performance cameras become affordably priced and smartphone camera megapixels skyrocket, photography has become more accessible than ever. However, using a high performance camera without attention to skilled handling, composition, lighting, and processing techniques does not necessarily yield professional results.
See the difference an investment in professional photography can bring to your visual marketing. Move the sliders left and right to contrast the quality, atmosphere, and overall feel.
Example 1: Leaning Walls, Yellowed Neutrals, Unflattering Atmosphere
Careful wide angle composition, white balance, and attention to lighting can bring out the appeal of even the most modest of spaces. Before (on left), even with the camera horizontally level the wide angle lens was pointing slightly downward for the photo, resulting in walls that appear in process of falling outward. The lighting as captured by the auto exposure gives the space an unflattering feel, details on the interesting light fixtures are blown out, and the mixed lighting fools camera’s auto white balance to make neutral colored elements appear yellowed in some areas and blue in others. After (on right), the wide angle lens is kept vertically and horizontally square to maintain upright walls, and off-camera flash maintained color balance and revealed details in the vanity top, tile work, and light fixtures. Selected blending preserved the natural and interior lighting’s look, and result more accurately portrays the view as seen by the human eye, giving even this modest space a fair chance at getting noticed.
Example 2: Curious Collapsing House
Just as demonstrated on Example 1, composition on exterior photos using wider angle views requires special attention to avoid distortions and maintain perspective control. Before (on left), this house on top of small hill required the camera at sidewalk level to be tilted upward in order to fit the entire house into the photo. The resulting distortion causes the vertical wall lines to appear slanted inward, making the house appear on the verge of falling in on itself. After (on right), we use a perspective control lens (also referred to as a tilt-shift lens) from the same camera position. We keep the camera vertically square with the front façade and “shift” the view upward to view the entire house and more sky, thus, avoiding vertical distortions. Optionally, we can raise the camera (but that changes the perspective and is not always possible to do) or apply perspective corrections in post (which tend to degrade image quality). Either way, maintaining the verticals will result in a photo that better represents the home’s quality craftsmanship and sound structure.
Example 3: “Flashy” Flash
Using camera flash can be a poor or excellent way to brighten up a scene, depending on how the flash is used. Before (on left), flash on the camera was set to auto and pointed into the scene to brighten the room. The result is a usable photo that shows the space, but texture and grain details are lost in the area where the flash was pointed. Reflections and harsh shadows from the flash give the scene that camera flash look. After (on right), controlled off-camera flash reveals crisp colors, fine details, and texture subtleties that come together to not just show the room, but also convey its feel.
Example 4: Window View Detail With Blown Sky, Dark and Gloomy Room
Scenes with bright windows and relatively darker interior portions are a regular challenge of interior photography. Autoexposure can result in either overly brightened windows or dim interior views, or both. The result can inaccurately portray an otherwise beautiful bright room to be much darker than it really was. Before (on left), the auto exposure was able to get some details out of the window view but still overexposed what was actually a blue sky and clouds, still leaving the room dark and uninviting. After (on right), manual mode settings with additional off-camera lighting, and color correction brought the scene back in line with what the human eye would see if standing in the room: bright and inviting while again preserving the window view.
Example 5: HDR Side Effects, Mixed Lighting, Odd Color Casts
Related to Example 4, one popular technique for photographing scenes with extremely bright and dark areas is to use HDR (High Dynamic Range) techniques. HDR can get the job done, but more often than not its side effects overwhelm the benefits. Some see it as a “dreamy” look with hazy halos and saturated colors, but that look sacrifices textural details and color accuracy that are often critical to intended design and mood. Before (on left), HDR preserves the window and interior views as expected, but HDR side effects result in color casts from overhead lights turning the black doors and the grey couch in front of them an orange/brown shade. Natural window light turns the white walls and other neutral surfaces into various shades of blue. Exaggerated lights and color casts (not present in person) needlessly degrade the scene. Some HDR side effects may be corrected in post processing, but correction results are inconsistent. After (on right), controlled off-camera lighting and selected blending results in cleaner window and interior views. In spite of the “lights-on” view some clients prefer, the true color of the door trim, walls, counter tops, and furnishings are clear. Details are crisp, with material qualities like leather, marble, and floor grain more apparent. Overall, a truer representation of the design’s colors, details, and ambient mood prevalent in the scene.
Conclusion: Professional photography tools and techniques in the hands of a skilled pro will overcome all those challenges to deliver quality results that present interiors and exteriors at their best. Beyond technical color accuracy and flattering view angles, quality images convey refinement in your work while also presenting an overall inviting mood.