It’s Saturday morning as I sit here typing this run-down of the past week or so in my world of photography. I’ve taken a break from shooting some product here in the studio, which is a nice change from all the real estate I have done this month. So far this month I have photographed 27 homes and I have a small queue of about 5 that I still have to do before the billing cycle ends. More will probably come in next week. I’m not complaining! This work is ideal for me as it gets me out of the house and I get to interact with other living, breathing humans, which is a real pleasure that you can’t explain to people who don’t experience the kind of loneliness that comes with working at home on your own.
The properties I have done this month range from dilapidated and neglected to spectacular and aspirational. Yesterday I had two homes on polar opposites of that spectrum. One was so bad I almost walked off site. The stink from the bathroom nearly had me retching. The other was an 80’s architecturally designed space that was immaculate and had me longing for a similar space to live and work in. The basement would have made the perfect home office and studio for me. Alas…
Depending on the size of the property it takes me between 20-60 minutes to shoot a listing. The editing takes a similar amount of time and if I could only find a way of automating the Lightroom HDR process I’d probably not have to break much of a sweat when it comes to editing. I did try using the Olympus in-camera HDR features which produce a JPG and .ORF file from about 4 or 5 exposures but they’re not a match for the way Lightroom does it. They tend to come out very flat and look weird. 3 frames taken stop apart and then blended in Lightroom seems to work just fine, but unfortunately I have to tell the program which 3 it has to blend together, so that forms the bulk of my “editing” time. I also apply a few presets, such as correcting verticals and distortion of the Olympus 9-18mm lens. It’s weird that the built in profile doesn’t seem to be able to do this.
So my typical morning involves photographing up to 3 properties in the same general area, then coming home, having something to eat and commencing the digital output of between 15-40 shots per listing. The rest of the day is spent contacting home-owners and making appointments to do the shoots. Kind of like herding cats.
During the course of the week I was pointed in the direction of Lumenzia which is a Photoshop panel developed by a photographer named Greg Benz and is offered by him for free. Basically it’s a thing Photoshop experts call “luminosity masking” which sounds frightfully intimidating, but after watching a few of his introductory videos I might just give this a go should I find the time and inspiration to enhance some of the landscape (and property) work I have done in the past.
The trouble with editing in Photoshop, for me at least, is that I don’t find the interface very intuitive at all and there are so many concepts and hidden shortcuts that are quite daunting. For instance, if you hold down ALT when you click on certain tools or masks, an entirely different set of editing parameters can be activated. Remembering what all this stuff does is difficult for me, but I suppose it will come with practice. But that in itself is another discussion. Do I want to be spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on editing in Photoshop, or do I want to be out and about with my cameras? I think that if I am shooting for myself then yes, I can certainly see the rewards in spending the time and effort learning Photoshop properly, but for cheaply commissioned jobs like real estate and some pack shot work like I am doing today, working with Lightroom is perfectly adequate.
I like the simplicity of Lightroom. If I could make an analogy between working with the two pieces of software, it would be to say that Lightroom is the smooth highway and Photoshop is the 4x4 track that lead to the same destination. Yes, you can do much more with Photoshop, but getting to your end result requires a lot more technical expertise than that of Lightroom. Just like tackling a 4x4 route.
Regular readers will be quite familiar with this space. This is what it looks like when I am shooting pack shots. I don't do too much of that these days - it seems that most online entrepreneurs are quite content to do it themselves even if they don't get quite the result they really want. It does have me thinking that I might very well develop a short course for this group of people showing them how to get a better than cellphone pack shot. Typically I am using my two Olympus FL-600R flashes, one fired into the ceiling at full power (it's the one attached to the orange clamp on the backdrop stand) and the other through an umbrella (which you can see just beyond my camera closest to the desk). In the past I had the huge a/c strobes set up but in this space it's just too much to trip over. This shot is taken with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye and then straightened with one click in Lightroom using a lens profile I downloaded from somewhere. If I get more pack shot work I am probably going to invest in a long active USB cable so that I can shoot this tethered, which will make it a lot easier to do.
This is the outcome of that setup above, deep etched in the dreaded Photoshop. It's not a finished shot yet.