Ashley Morrison's Blog

September 10, 2012

Real Estate

Back at Doonbeg last week…
The courtyard at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in County Clare.
.. to shoot a number of cottages and suites that are currently for sale – so basically we were being asked to do what some would call ‘Real Estate photography’, which really is the same as ‘Advertising photography’ as far as I’m concerned, as these images will, in fact, be used to advertise & market that these properties are for sale.

“Real estate at Doonbeg Lodge combines luxury accommodations and five-star amenities for good times with your family and friends. Each of the cottages and suites has been constructed to the highest specifications, with French limestone floors, marble bathrooms, expansive bedrooms, spacious living areas and gourmet kitchens – as well as spectacular panoramic views across the fairways and surrounding coastal landscape”.

Anyway, started as usual by taking a quick picture of the first of the cottages to get the ball rolling…
First picture taken of the living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. and then as usual turned off the lights to see how the natural light looked…
One of the first picture taken of the living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. and so while Carl then started to work on the lighting…
Carl Czanik setting up the lighting gear in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. Marie, as usual, added the finishing touches to what was in front of the camera – and so before too long, we had our first image of this room…
Living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. in the bag.

A quick bedroom shot and then it was over to the next cottage, where once again I started by taking a quick shot…
Living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. while Carl worked this time on blocking the light…
Carl Czanik setting up the lighting gear in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. as well as adding some too – and after Marie had done her thing, it wasn’t long before we had the living room area in this second cottage done…
Living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. which when compared to this bedroom in that same cottage…
First picture taken of the bedroom in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. was a doddle – as I reckon it took us twice as long to create the final image of this room, as seen here…
Bedroom in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in County Clare.
.. due mainly to me struggling to control the light.

Anyway, lots of beautiful detail area throughout the place, so we also produce a series of images like this…
Dining area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in County Clare.
.. as well as the main overall room images too.

Lots of pushing and shoving at times, so it was great to have Carl with us…
First picture taken of the living room area in one of the bedroom suites at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. to not only help with that but to also help with the lighting of course – as I often needed him to hang-out the windows with the 3k, to give me some directional light like so in this living room area…
Living room area in one of bedroom suite at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in County Clare.
.. in this suite which was on the top floor.

“Imagine a coastal haven, hidden on a sheltered corner of the wild Atlantic Ocean – luxurious yet unpretentious – where world-class golf meets an intimate spa – where every taste is catered to and every request considered.
Imagine a rugged landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see, across rolling waves and sand dunes and thousands of years of stories, buried within them.
Imagine a grand, Irish country house, where the staff welcomes you home”.

And so it was very much a team effort this one…
First picture taken of a bedroom in one of the suites at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. but what an amazing place…
Bedroom in one of the suites at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. as I just loved these rooms.

Anyway, they say a picture is worth more than 1000 words
First picture taken of the living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. so we changed a few words here…
The living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. as we weren’t there to just take some pictures…
First picture taken of the living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. we were there because they wanted us to create some images instead…
The living room area in one of the cottages at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in the Irish County of Clare.
.. to help them complete the story they wanted to tell – or should I say sell in this case – as they are wanted to be able to use these images to advertise & market these properties are for sale, in various media for the next few years throughout the World.

So that’s Real Estate photography for you – done the ampimage way – by Marie, Carl & me at this coastal haven known as the Lodge at Doonbeg.

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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 worldwide 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 crossover 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 keepsake 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, with 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 fingertips. 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. That’s 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 has 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 outside 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 YouTube 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 Hasselblad 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 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 rising and fall movements, it’s 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.

December 11, 2010

How good…

.. do the images need to be to help sell a home ???

That was the big Question-of-the-day, during the shoot yesterday …
First picture taken in the sitting room of Mairead and Owen McIntyre's Victorian terrace in the university area of Belfast.
.. where there was much discussion, about whether or not the owners of this particular home…
The sitting room in Mairead and Owen McIntyre's Victorian terrace in the university area of Belfast.
.. in the university area of Belfast, should perhaps invest in better images than these:
The sitting room.

The dining room.
.. which are being used by the estate agency – to at least help get more people through the door – which after all, is a big part of what ‘advertising’ is all about.

It’s a difficult one to answer – because if someone is looking for a certain type of home in a particular area, will they find it regardless?
Is it really therefore all about: Location, Location, Location ?
Or will better images…
The dining area in Mairead and Owen McIntyre's Victorian terrace in the university area of Belfast.
.. perhaps widen the net ?

For the most part, we know there really isn’t the budget set aside for Estate Agent photography, to be more than a series of quick shots – so that does need to be taken into account – even though their actual Usage requirements are often a lot.
(Which usually is the thing that will determine the importance of the images to the client – and therefore their budget).

With Estate Agents – because of their pricing structure – which is more based on the final sale value – it’s very different e.g.
1% of 300,000 = 3,000
1% of 275,000 = 2,750
So as you can see, the difference between them is relatively small – and therefore it’s not worth their while worrying too much about this.

By comparison, shooting an editorial feature for magazines, will usually mean the photographer will have a much larger budget to play with – even though the client’s actual Usage requirements are often less – so the photographer can afford to spend more time on the job – light, style, hire others to help, and even re-arrange the furniture, etc, if need be.

Naturally, the Editors of the magazines will be more demanding as a result – and will want their Readers to be “drawn into” the home, rather than simply show them the space…
The upstairs living room.
Make it look real…
Mairead and Owen McIntyre in the upstairs living room of their Victorian terrace in the university area of Belfast.
.. but complete the dream as well.

Having said that, the features are usually more about the decor, the homeowner’s style, what they did, and even the homeowners themselves in some cases.
So a different set of images is required – all be it the same subject matter and even the same framing (as seen here) – for these two different clients – who are actually targeting very similar markets, in a different way.

Still, back to the original question: How good do the images need to be to help sell a home ?
.. and where does one draw the line between: Good, Very good and Good enough ?

Do you simply just need to show the ‘Steak’ …
Bedroom.
.. or should you be actually trying to sell a bit of the ‘Sizzle’ too …
Guest bedroom in Mairead and Owen McIntyre's Victorian terrace in the university area of Belfast.
.. more inline with what you expect to see in the magazines you buy & read each month.

It’s a huge market – and for many, it will be the single biggest ‘thing’ they will ever sell – which means there is often a lot of money on the line.
So should they invest more money in this .. and if so, how much?

Note: In the world of Advertising, the rule of thumb is up to 5% of your media spend.

We don’t have the answers – but we often hear of the homeowner’s disappointment, as to how their home looks – at a time when it’s important to them. So we kept coming back to these questions – to see if we can find the answers.

Any suggestions or comments are most welcome.

(Added note on the 18th January 2011: Ideal Home – Britain’s best-selling homes magazine – said ‘Yes’ to this home, so you will be able to see the full set of images we produced in their magazine later on this year.)

November 12, 2010

Selling the Sizzle…

Filed under: Photography,Web links — Ashley Morrison @ 9:12 am
Tags: ,

Any interesting story in the news at present…

Ilyuka’s vendor has spared no expense in an effort to sell the historic home in a softening property market. $200,000 has reportedly been spent on a five-minute, mini-movie of “The story of 24hrs in Ilyuka”.

More on the story here: $200,000 plus to sell a house?

But what’s even more interesting to me, is how they choose to spend their budget, in terms of the media they used. Very much web-based which includes this great YouTube video…


.. which is all about selling the Sizzle, rather than selling the Steak.

Love it !!

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