Ashley Morrison's Blog

February 10, 2011

Praise is indeed bread to an artist.

Noticed we have been receiving a lot of ‘hits’ recently, from different parts of the world – so decided to check-out where they were coming from.

There’s been a lot of world wide debate over the past few years about US style interior photography (which is often extensively lit in a ‘glamorous’ movie sort of way) vs European style interior photography (which is all about ‘natural’ looking light). And also Real Estate photography (showing space and USP’s) vs Magazine photography (which is more about lifestyle and decor). Different markets, different clients, different trends – but some of these recent posts show that there is certainly a growing interest in some level of cross over which I applaud.

Really pleased to see that experienced photographers have been debating how we shoot interiors and seem to like what we are doing.
Praise is indeed bread to an artist.

By way of background, I’m Irish and am based in the north of Ireland but I went to college in Texas, so I guess I’ve been fortunate to learn from both sides of ‘the pond’.

Looking at some of these recent posts, it’s both interesting and encouraging to read what others are saying about us – below are some of the comments from 3 different forums – which we hope they don’t mind us recording it here, for keep sake when we are old(er) and grey(er).

These comments are not really about us – they are about interior photography – a field that is open to interpretation. Because everyone sees things differently and sees different things, when they look at a picture.
Anyway, we’ve had an amazing decade but are still learning – so we always love to hear what other’s are thinking and seeing – especially when they look at our images.

The recent posts:

DPreview / Pro Digital Talk – Interior design Photography.

Hi folks
How are the Pros doing it? HDR? multiple strobes? ambient lighting?
I’m currently scratching my head here hearing all sorts of stories into which type of photography for interior/real estate images. A lot of the images I have been seeing online look very ‘lucis art’ but then i’m told that people want to see ‘natural ‘ looking images. I have been toying with HDRs but can never get windows to look anywhere near natural.

If you’re going to get into strobes, you would not use anything on camera, which casts short harsh shadows. You don’t want to take a picture of a room from the perspective of a light bulb. And you need some modifiers, at the least umbrellas, a diffuser, and perhaps a grid. But really you need to set up a bit differently than you are now. Someone like Ashley Morrison might use 7-9 strobes, but you could not find any evidence of them being there. Small flash heads attached to a power pack make that a little easier, and having a wide selection of modifiers and rigging at your finger tips. And a truck, or at least a Subaru.

On Ashley Morrison’s site, have a look at the Before and After images. They give you an idea of some of the ingenious ways that he uses strobes. Notice how he uses strobes to make window light for example.

Amazing stuff! I just love those images. Thats 20 years experience for you rather than 6 hours, lol.

All would do to study up on Ashley Morrison, who sometimes writes here and at LuLa. On his site, or his vimeo feed, he has time-lapse videos of several of his shoots, and together they are a master class in setup, lighting, etc. He uses lights, several of them, but makes it look so natural.
Notice the attention to detail used in getting the arrangements just so. It takes all day, and a team of 4-5. He’s only making it look easy, but it isn’t.
———

Bulletin / Forum – ufck photography thread the 3rd.

i’m trying to reverse-engineer some interior photos lately. not quite sure what type of modifiers are being used though, anyone have any insight? e.g:
Ivory with European Oak kitchen in Austin Baird's house near Holywood in County Down.

The sitting room in Sharon and Graeme Cleland's new-build house near Portstewart in County Londonderry.

High gloss white kitchen in Robinson Interior's Belfast showroom.
i love love love this guy’s lighting, but can’t seem to get anywhere close via my umbrellas or bouncing the light off of walls, joints, corners or ceilings. no idea how he fills a space so evenly and without any blatant falloff or hot spots.

Have you considered that maybe he isn’t using any artificial sources?

He states that he does in all of his shots, which I believe, unless he is the jesus christ of exposure blending.

Why don’t you just ask him?

The highlights are clearly coming from the windows, which leads me to believe that either A he isn’t using much artificial lighting and it’s very bright outside, or B he is blasting some really high powered sources through the windows and doors. The bounce in the room all looks very natural to me, which is obviously the goal, but I think the best way to get natural looking bounce is to use natural bounce. Would he have the budget to have some 5-10k HMI sources placed outside? If that’s so he’s still probably using something else for the one with the giant window (unless it’s a crane), but that one also looks like it could easily be entirely natural.

Thinking something along the same lines outiside of the windows or just natural light on bright sunny days.

i actually found a before/after page of his:
http://www.ashleymorrison.com/behind-01.htm
they are definitely all lit from the inside. this dude is pretty big and does international assignments all over the place, so i would not be surprised if he had the budget for some serious lighting. it’s also impossible to squeeze that much dynamic range (outdoor sun to interior shadows) in one shot out of any camera unless the natural lighting is perfect and you aren’t directly facing any windows – if you were, you’d get some serious light bloom around the window frame.
———

Flickr / Real Estate Photographers of America™ – A Master At Work: Ashley Morrison.

Each of us has a few favorite photographers that we admire. Ashley Morrison is a high-end interior/advertising photographer from Ireland who sometimes posts images on Flickr. He is a true artist and gets paid handsomely for his creativity and hard work by clients who know and appreciate his work. If you go to his website, you can view some of his “before and after” images. I’m sure that many REPA shooters will be inspired and appreciate viewing the links below, plus his many other You Tube videos.

Love his pricing page.

This is great – thanks for sharing!

I’m a big fan.

I’m interested to see and learn about the lights and specifically the modifiers he’s using.

Andy,
I think that Ashley is pretty secretive about his lighting and techniques. From what I can tell from viewing some of his videos, he uses a lot of available light with large reflectors to create soft shadows, bounced monolights, sometimes adds warm CTO strobe lighting through exterior windows to simulate window light on gray days, large diffusers on windows to soften hard mid-day light, an occasional grid-spot, and exposure blending. I do know that he uses a Mac, CS3 and a P-25 Phase 1 camera.

What makes you think he is secretive about his lighting techniques? Have you tried asking him?

In any case, I imagine he uses the usual truckload of strobes, hot lights (spot and flood), and light modifiers (snoots, grids, barn doors, gels, scrims, silks, Cinefoil, etc.), and that his use of this equipment would vary widely depending upon the subject and his client’s needs.

I believe that he only uses a Phase One digital back, and that the “camera” is a pre-digital-era Hassleblad Flexbody (basically just a bellows; the shutters are in the lenses).

If you want to get an idea of what kind of lighting kit interiors photographers typically use, try this Luminous Landscape discussion:
www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=23264.0

David, I probably should have used a word like “reluctant”; yes I did ask him. You’re right, we all use the same basic lights and modifiers etc. Back in the late 90’s, when I retired from school teaching, I hired myself out on a per-diem rate as a photo assistant to several Boston location commercial photographers for a few months and am very well aware of what professional commercial shooters use daily . These were pre-digital days and we were using 4″x5″ view cameras and 30 pound Elinchorme strobe power packs. I’ve experienced the same equipment being used by different shooters and was amazed by the slight variation in use and the difference in light “quality” achieved by different shooters. Using a giant sheet of translucent “Rip Stop Nylon” duct taped to a giant picture window can create a soft /directional light quality that cannot be matched by a commercially made softbox or or umbrella. These are some of the nuances that some photographers have discovered that make their work a cut above the rest. From my experience with working with commercial photographers, I found that they are the shooters who really know and study light quality and this made some of them stand out amongst their peers. Some people think that if they own a hammer, a saw and can pound nails, they are a carpenter. The same is true in photography. Studying the work of others that we admire, much can be learned that could make a difference in what our images look like.
I’m not sure if he is using the H’Blad Flexbody or the Arcbody or not. He mentioned the Phase One P-25. If he is using one of the H’Blad bodies with rise and fall movements, its an incredible tool that is the next best solution to using a view camera for perspective control.
———

I hope I did not over-step my boundaries here by using their words – but if I did, I will remove them.
In the meantime, ‘Thank you’ all for your kind words – they mean a lot to us – as we work very hard at producing these sort of images, for our clients to use.

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3 Comments »

  1. Hi Ashley
    No problem whatsoever in using my ‘words’, infact I think it’s great 😎

    Like you say an image can appeal to people in many different ways, there isn’t a right or wrong way. I just need to find ‘my way’ and try to market it.
    Seeing your work really has inspired me. I want to produces images like yours and besides, here in Marbella (Costa del sol) I’m sure clients won’t be too hard to find.
    Regards
    Martyn

    Martyn Wilkes (Spain)
    http://www.martynwilkes.com

    Comment by Martyn Wilkes — February 10, 2011 @ 8:20 pm | Reply

  2. Hey Ashley,
    I’m flattered that you used my Flickr post!

    It was interesting to read the other person’s post about your lighting and how he as tried to figure it out. I can totally understand how an artist holds-back information on technique/style that has taken many, many years to perfect. I was never happy with flat, direct strobe lighting when I did songbird portraits at the nest from 1975 to about 1985. It wasn’t until I began to study the work of great portrait painters and photographers that I developed soft umbrella lighting and had custom made high-speed battery operated strobes built. Other photographers asked me why my work was so soft and 3 dimensional and I told them. To this day, no one has taken the time or spent the $ to duplicate what I pioneered back in 1985.

    Good enough is not good enough for me as a photographer.
    You’re work is so refreshing and I find myself moving more and more toward an editorial style of interior shooting which is the style of the majority of ! interior design publications.

    I still have lots of energy and would like to pick up a few home design magazine assignments each year and work on doing shoots for custom kitchen cabinet makers in a style that makes a statement about them. I hope to work in conjunction with a great local stylist in hopes that we can become known as a team that people want to hire.

    BTW, your stylist is great and you guys do incredible work together. Its very entertaining and informative reading your blog! Keep up the great work.

    Peter

    Peter Urbanski (USA)
    http://www.peterurbanski.com

    Comment by Peter Urbanski — February 10, 2011 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Ashley,
    Feel free to quote the true things I said.

    While mostly I do artist’s portraits and performance work, I occasionally get offers to do real estate pictures by a developer in New York. These are expensive apartments, but the photography budget is not up to the level needed to support your kind of work, and they like in this case a naturalistic HDR treatment with lamp/window light. I can do this cleanly, unlike most, so it mostly works. But I also know its limitations.

    In the process of doing that, I came to appreciate the many areas of detail that one has to take into account. The 90 minutes that I spend dressing a room using only what is at hand just scratches the surface of what has to be done. Most of the elements of design in these productions are in microscopic details as you know. I’d have to get at least a couple of people in there and work flat out all day to have any shot at it. And obviously the effort pays off in your case. The quality is unmistakable. Yes, knowing when to turn a pillow 10 degrees is everything sometimes, I know.

    Funny thing is your time-lapse movies have some unexpected suspense content. I’ll be trying to anticipate where you’re going…nonono, move the chair, move the chair…a moment later, the chair is gone, replaced with a better chair. Betcha your going to change the pillows out….wait for it wait for it…poof. But these films also prove to be useful to show to real estate people…I say “you want to know what it /really/ takes, have a look at that.”

    But the lighting, that takes the cake. Of course that is the way to do it. The architecture of the space is completely oriented around what comes in through the windows. Conceptually straightforward, but practically difficult.

    Best wishes…if you like my work, feel free to add me to your blog roll.

    Luke

    Luke Kaven (USA)
    http://www.lukekaven.com

    Comment by Luke Kaven — February 10, 2011 @ 4:07 pm | Reply


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