Shooting a Row Home in Philadelphia

Real estate photography is a wonderful market to be in.  It’s an opportunity to show off how amazing homes can look for perspective owners.  Real estate agents love having professional photos of their listings for two main reasons.  First it improves the responses they get once their listing is posted and secondly it helps them gain more listings to have a photographer that they know will deliver for them.

Philadelphia is one of the most densely populated cities in the country.  Many of the single family homes you’ll find are row homes.  They can be both challenging to shoot but also fun and creative.  Here are some tips and tricks from my most recent shoot in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood.

Reserve the parking in front of your listing and across the street.  

Find out whoever it is you need to talk to make sure there isn’t going to be someone’s car in front of the home you’re trying to shoot.  This is going to take a little bit of work but save your hours of waiting to trying to find the owner of a car in your way.

Plan a walk through with your agent.

I always suggest to agents that they complete a walk through so we can go over all of the shots that I want to cover and any that they might want to add.  This gives them opportunity to have their voice heard and prevent from having to make a 2nd day to come and shoot the property.

Go wide but not too wide.

A wide angle lens is key for these types of shoots.  You want to make sure you’re giving the perspective buyer as much of the room as you can but still seeming very natural.  I use a Canon 16-35mm lens on a 35mm size sensor and my shots typically live in the 18-24mm range.  You do not want to use a fisheye lens or build panoramas that are going to give a false sense of actual size.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with lighting.

I always carry at least two strobes with me on every shoot.  I use cheap tripods as light stands for the because they have a minimal footprint.  You want to give the room a very natural feel but still be able to highlight certain points.  This is why having multiple strobes is key.

Set expectations.

Your contract should already do this for you but it’s important that your clients understand early and often what it is you’re going to deliver.

Here are some photos from this listing.  If you’re interested in my services please check out my Real Estate Services page.

If your interested in the house here’s the listing.

My Journey into Street Photography #HelpPhillyHomeless

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Recently I’ve been getting into Street Photography.  Surely, there are a number of ways to define street photography but as I’m learning more and more about my particular style I really prefer the most candid of shots.

Now some people are exactly the opposite and will seek out strangers in the moment to model for them because they appeal to them in one way or another.  I’ve seen some amazing work in that sub-genre but it’s really not for me.  But really what that means is that it’s not in my comfort level.

Philadelphia is full of culture and natural history.  It should be a photographers dream to live here.  Street photography for example can be a bit stressful.  What would you do if a stranger walked up to you asking to take your photo?  I’m not extremely interested in asking strangers to model in the streets for me just yet.

So I set out shortly after getting my Canon 6D and thought I’d take a nice long walk of the city and fire from the hip.  Firing from the hip refers to a term of shooting a gun without aiming down the barrel.  Same can be said with photography.  For me to get my level of comfort in street photography I wanted it to be truly candid.  That’s not always easy when you’re carrying around a large DSLR camera with a noisy shutter.

Who was going to be my first subject?  I’ve always had a large level of sympathy for the homeless.  Homelessness in Philadelphia is a huge problem.  One that is incredibly difficult to overcome.  One thing is undeniable is that these individuals have a ton of raw emotion.  Remember not every homeless person has a drug or alcohol problem.

I thought to myself that perhaps a photo series of showing the raw emotions of the homeless in Philadelphia would help spark a larger awareness and sympathy for the less fortunate.  So I started shooting.

I quickly learned that firing from the hip isn’t easy and I didn’t really have a telephoto lens to capture from the distance where I wouldn’t be noticed right away.  I was able to leave that day with a couple of shots I was pleased with but more importantly the motivation to do this project right.  I went ahead an ordered a proper telephoto lens in hopes to capture some more of this raw emotion on the streets of Philadelphia.

What I hope to accomplish is some wonderful images that will help tell the stories of these less fortunate individuals.  Perhaps next time we won’t ignore them as we walk by because a simple “Hello” can go a long way.

If you want to help spread the awareness of homeless I invite you to share you own photos all over social media use #HelpPhillyHomeless.

(Click to enlarge) (Updated 5/16/2017)

Why Real-Estate Agents NEED to Hire Good Photographers.

It drives me crazy as I’m shopping around for apartments and houses and see the poor quality of photographs that agents and individuals listing their properties with.

As an agent not only do great photographs help you lease apartments and sell houses but they also set you ahead from other agents that you may be competing against.  Philadelphia is a booming housing market and agents are constantly looking for more listings. Quality professional photographs are the way to do that.

Let me show you a top-notch example.  I live in a small studio apartment in Philadelphia, PA. I love it here!  My apartment is small, only 280 Square Feet.  Here are the photos that were on the listing for my apartment.

Not much to look at.  Other than knowing this apartment is only 280 square feet already I wasn’t exactly turned on by these photos.  However, I loved the neighborhood and the price was right so I thought I’d give it a look.

Boy was I glad I did.  I signed the lease within 48 hours and set a date to move in.  Now as a photographer I thought I would take the time to show you how much better the space can look.  I have done zero renovations on property just set up my standard camera and lighting setup and this is what you get.

Which one looks more welcoming to you?

This is a perfect example of why agents and anyone listing properties need to have high quality photographs.  If you’re one of these individuals be sure to check out my rates in getting high quality images for your property.

How to Edit and Share Your DSLR Photos on the Go.

Everything is portable these days.  Smartphones and tablets have only enhanced that.

Today I’m going to talk about all of the ways we can use these new mobile devices to enhance your Digital SLR shootings on the go.  I will not be including any talks about the use of laptops since the interface is the same as desktop.  Instead my focus will be primarily on Apple iOS and Android based operating systems and the hardware/software to go along with it.

Wired & Tethering Options

IMG_6059Lets start with our hard connected devices.  Apple makes a ton of accessories that allow you to connect your camera, USB card reader, or SD card directly to any iPad or iPhone.  The Apple Lightning to SD Camera Card Reader is just as straight forward as it sounds.  It allows you to plug you camera’s SD card in and upload the photos directly to your camera roll.  This is great because it does not use the battery of your camera but even with some of the fastest SD cards the download speeds using this adapter are pretty slow.

Next we’ll jump into Apple’s Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter.  This adapter gives you a traditional USB-A style port along with the lightning port. (So you can continue to charge your device). This is a noticeably faster way to load your images to your iOS device but keep in mind you’re using your camera’s battery to help that transfer as well as losing the ability to shoot photos while it’s happening.

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If you happen to shoot on micro SD cards with a standard SD card adapter (not recommended) you can simply enter that micro SD card into many Android devices.  For example I use the Samsung Tab S2 tablet and I’ve downloaded content directly from GoPro using this technique quite a bit.

Tethering Options

Tethering options have been around for a while when it comes to traditional computer tethering.  These options are somewhat limited in the Apple’s iOS ecosystem.

Apple doesn’t allow the type of tethering that we’re used to but if you’d like you can shoot refer to the USB 3 Camera Adapter mentioned above for the quickest way to upload photos.

Android on the other hand offers much more.  By downloading the app DSLRController you can tether to any supported android device and do a ton.  DSLRController gives you full control over the camera including Aperture, Shutter Speeds, ISO, White Balance, and more.  It also acts as a live screen with very little or no delay.  There are however a few cables you’ll need to make this work.

Micro USB (or whichever your mobile device uses) to a female USB-A Adapter   ($5)
Mini USB (or whichever came with your camera) to USB-A ($5)

I recommend that even if you have the cable your camera came with to invest in a longer one like the one linked above from Amazon.  6 Feet for five dollars.  You’ll thank me later.

I’ve used the app on a number of occasions.  I would say the most valuable part of this app is when you’re shooting video.  I like to use prime lenses to shoot video with a shallow depth of field.  So for me it’s important to know that I’m in focus and having a 9.7″ screen on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 really helps with that.

Wireless Options

Welcome to 2017 where almost everything can be done wirelessly.

Well Digital SLRs in most cases are no exception.  First thing you’ll want to find out is if your camera body has WiFi capabilities built in.

Here is a quick list:
Canon T6 Rebel
Canon T6i Rebel
Canon T6s Rebel
Canon T7i Rebel
Canon 70D
Canon 77D
Canon 80D
Canon 6D
Canon 5D Mark IV

Nikon D5600
Nikon D7200
Nikon D750
Nikon D500
Nikon Df
Nikon D810
Nikon D810A
Nikon D5

If you don’t see your camera body here don’t worry, you’re not completely out of luck but fist let me focus on these bodies.

Canon and Nikon both have mobile apps for both iOS and Android operating systems that you can download for free.  These apps will walk you through exactly how to pair you’re camera to that device.  Once connected you have a ton of control over your camera including but not limited to Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, White Balance, and most importantly viewing the shots that you’ve taken and uploading them to your mobile device.  iOS 10 even supports photos in RAW now making your editing even more precise.  Don’t worry we’ll drive into editing tools soon as well.

I’ve found that pairing these devices after the initial pair isn’t as simple as it should be.  This causes me to avoid using it much.  I only find it worth the pain of re-pairing the device when I really want to share a photo in the moment.

Wireless Options for Bodies That Do Not Have Wireless Built In

As I mentioned earlier some bodies simply do not have wireless built in but that doesn’t completely cripple you from doing this thanks to our friends at EyeFi.  EyeFi is an SD card with wireless capabilities built in, making any camera that shoots to SD cards now WiFi capable.  EyeFi can send photos to any iOS, Android, or even desktop operating systems including raw files.  Now you’re not going to get the controllability of the camera like you do when WiFi is built in but you can still view and transfer your photos very easily on the go.  The one major drawback is the speeds aren’t incredibly fast and you cannot shoot with your camera while the photos are transferring.

Canon also has an add on wireless option via SD card known as their W-Ei WiFi Adapter. Keep in mind to use a system like this you need to have a dual slot cards like the Canon 7D MkII.  Early reviews on this have not been good at all.  I’m hearing that it’s very slow and really just not worth the hassle.  I’d steer toward the EyeFi if you absolutely need that option.

Mobile Software

IMG_6060Editing on the fly has become extremely simple and there are some great options to use out there.  I personally use Adobe’s Creative Cloud.  Subscription based softwares are becoming more popular and Adobe offers some pretty great options.  For as little as $10 a month you can get going with Photoshop and Lightroom on your desktop and mobile devices.

Lightroom for iOS and Android is actually free to test out and edit photos.  As someone who doesn’t do much re-touching and focuses more on exposure and color correction these apps are amazing for editing on the fly.

There are way too many apps out there to go through all of them.  If you’re using one that you love leave a comment below and I’ll try it out for sure.

 

One Year Ago Today I Left Corporate America For Good.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Today I celebrate the one year anniversary of my new job at the University of Pennsylvania.  I have worked for Apple, Western Digital, and Keyence all leading up to this job but it wasn’t easy.

After leaving Apple my career path slowly turned toward outside sales.  I was really good at it, but after being laid off by Western Digital (not for performance reasons) and moving to Keyence my territory was much larger than what I was used to.  This meant spending 5 days a week (at least) on the road and away from home.

I knew when I took the job that it was going to be a lot of traveling but I didn’t realize how much it would impact my personal life.  It was difficult to maintain friendships, get involved in my local community, and have any type of routine.  All things that are important to me.

When I got the call that I was being offered the job at the University of Pennsylvania it was a very difficult decision.  The offer was much lower than what I was making in outside sales but the the job would allow me to take back all of those things I was missing by being away so much.  Plus I could go back to school.  What made the decision more difficult was being away from all my friends and family since I was training out in Chicago for 8 weeks.  My gut told me it was the right move.

Accepting the position was one thing, telling my current employer who just spend thousands of dollars training me and flying me around the country I was leaving was another.  Fortunately Keyence took the news very well and sent me on my way back home.

I will never forget the feeling after landing back in Philadelphia with my new career on the horizon.  It was a really warm sunny day (which is rare this time of year) and coming from freezing cold and cloudy Chicago, it was just the validation I needed that I made the right choice.

I was completely pivoting away from sales and primarily focusing on technology at Penn.  If you can’t tell from my website I’m way more interested in technology.

Here I am one year later excited to go into work (most days).  This balance of work has allowed me to go back to school, adopt an amazing dog, start a relationship, work other jobs that I find interesting, build a website, and rediscover my passion of photography.  Sure some of those may have happened either way but I’m certain that decision helped.

We shouldn’t need to be reminded that life is short and money isn’t everything.  Make sure you enjoy what you do.  If you don’t love your job that’s okay too as long as it allows you to do the things you love to do.

This has been on of the most entertaining years of my life and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me.

Moving From a Crop Camera to a Full Frame Camera.

I purchased my first DSLR in 2007.  A Canon Rebel XT (350D) with 18-55mm & 70-300mm kit lenses.  I had ZERO idea how to use it or any of the theory behind proper photography.  I did have a strong desire to learn.

I would bring it with me everywhere and read as much as I could on forums about how to use the Rebel.

Finally I used a college elective to enroll in an entry level photography course which would teach me the basics of Apertures/Shutter Speeds and how they compliment each other.  They didn’t teach anything about ISO at the time because I think anything over iso 400 at the time was almost unusable.

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One of the first portraits I took with my Canon Rebel XT, 50mm 1.8 and 430EX Flash.

I upgraded to a Canon 20D, 30D, 50D and the 60D that I use today.  All of the cameras I’ve ever owned use what is called a APS-C or “Crop Sensor”.  These sensors are a bit smaller than a traditional camera and part of those drawbacks are that they give you less color definition and less light.  One small advantage is that they give you 1.6x further focal length on your lenses.  Example a 200mm on a Crop Sensor would really be closer to a true 320mm using Canon’s 1.6x Crop Factor.

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Notice the much larger mirror on the 6D.

This is great if longer focal lengths is what you want.  But for me I enjoy shooting a lot of landscape and live music photography which really needs better low light capabilities as well as a wider focal length.  The width is much easier to achieve with a Full Frame camera that true to spec of a  35mm film sensor.

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Let me share an example.  Since I’m currently using a 60D which has an APS-C Crop Sensor, every lens I put on there is really 1.6x further focal length than it actually reads.  So right now I use a Tokina 11-16mm lens almost exclusively for my landscape shots.  This lens was designed specifically for cameras using an APS-C sized sensors.  So if you were to mount on a full frame camera you’d have more of a true 7mm focal length which would give you an almost unusable shot.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Reid from ESOHD.com

So to recap, I want to go Full Frame for the light and color advantages but the Tokina 11-16 Lens I’m currently using isn’t going to work on that camera.  Anyone want to take a guess on what focal length I’ll need to achieve similar results to my Tokina 11-16 lens?  Hmmmm about 17-25mm.  Fortunately Tokina makes a 16-24mm lens and Canon makes a fantastic 16-35mm lens.

So now that you have a small understanding of the difference between a Crop Sensor and a Full Frame Sensor you can see that it’s a pretty major transition.  My main camera body and favorite lens are going to need to be replaced as a pair.

As you may have read, I had the ability to test out a Full Frame Canon 5D MK3 and Canon 16-35mm 2.8L Lens for a weekend.  I became obsessed with the image quality I was getting and I’m very happy with how the photos came out.  Let me know what you think.

A week or so after I was obsessed with finding a Canon 6D (Canon’s prosumer level full frame camera) with a reasonably low shutter count (similar to mileage on a car) that was within my budget.

After about two weeks of searching high and low, I was able to pick up a Canon 6D and Canon 16-35mm L lens to replace my 60D and Tokina 11-16.

Now I haven’t had a ton of time to test it out but with the 500 shots I’ve taken with it so far I’m blown away.  The colors are more true to life, the high ISO shots are much less grainy than any crop sensor I’ve shot with, and the true 35mm focal lengths are fantastic as well.

I’ll do a full review on the Canon 6D after I’ve had a few weeks to play with it.  Sure I know it’s nothing new.  In fact The Canon 6D MK2 is rumored to come out in Q2 2017, but it’ll be a good article for those considering switching on a budget.

Here are some of the things I sacrified going from my 60D to a 6D.

  1. Rotating Display – This might not sound like much but it was great for protecting the screen when not being use as well as being able to get a preview of your image in those awkward angles you sometimes shoot in.  (Especially if doing long exposures)
  2. The Continuous Drive – The Canon 60D can shoot up to 5.3 full resolution raw images per second.  The Canon 6D just 4.5.  That might not seem like much but if you’re the type of person that shoots actions shots or sports this will make a huge difference.  For me I don’t do much of that, so I’m alright.

That’s really about it.  When I do my full review of the Canon 6D, I’ll make sure to talk about all the new amazing features I love about the 6D but for now I hope you got some good insight if you’re considering moving from a crop sensor camera to a full frame camera.

Can iPad Pro Replace a Laptop?

I typically use my 13″ MacBook Pro for everything.  It links into my desk and becomes a desktop and follows me to most meetings outside of my office.  I use the iPad Pro 9.7″ for taking a lot of notes and research on the fly.

Since I’ve been using Microsoft Office 365 and BOX, I have been able to really utilize the cloud more .  With all of my documents available there and all of my systems being web based I’m going to ditch the MacBook Pro for a week and use the iPad Pro exclusively for both personal, educational, and professional use.

Now let me say that as far as computing power goes the iPad Pro is no where near my MacBook Pro but everyone uses their technology differently.  My initial thought is that an iPad can replace a laptop for very basic users.  So as someone who is much more needy than your basic user I’m going to put it to the test and let you know what I find.

Work

Thanks to Apple’s vast App Store I’m able to load up the apps I use the most on my MacBook Pro.  This includes, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote, Canvas, and BOX  Keep in mind I use built in apps such as Messages and Safari a ton as well.

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I struggled a bit with one of my employers websites getting to a source we use to take meeting minutes but with some cleaver multi-touch gestures I was able to get where I was going.

The Microsoft Suite of apps works brilliantly and makes saving within O365 and BOX very easy.  This means I’ll be able to pull them up on my laptop next week when I come back to it.

The iPad Pro Smart Keyboard is fantastic and has become very easy to type on very quickly.  I would say it’s about 80% to scale of the keyboard on the MacBook Pro.

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Since my office work isn’t very demanding the iPad Pro handles a lot of my 9-5 duties extremely well.

Photography

Now one of the things I use my laptop for the most is for my Photography.  I use Adobe’s Creative Cloud with Bridge, Photoshop, and Lightroom .  Much of what I do with those applications is simple color and light corrections.  I do little or no touching up of photos so perhaps Adobe’s Lightroom for iOS is enough.

 

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Adobe Lightroom on the iPad Pro


Just like my new MacBook Pro my iPad is all about dongles…  Since we’ve only got the Lightning port I needed to get a SD to Lightning adapter to be able to upload my photos on the go.  The preview and upload speeds of the lightning to SD card reader is dreadfully slow.  This is huge drawback even if I just want to preview some photos on a larger screen. I understand that I’m asking for 30Mb Raw images to load fast but again this is a real world test against my MacBook Pro.

 

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The iPad Pro is a decent tool to have but it by no means is ready to completely replace my MacBook Pro for photo use.  I was really hoping to even just have it to dump photos off of my SD cards on the go but since it’s so slow, I don’t think I’ll be doing much of it.

Personal Use

I’d have to say what I miss so far about the MacBook Pro is the true multitasking.  Sure the iPad Pro allows you have two windows open at once (3 if one of them is a video) but it just doesn’t feel as fluent.  Now granted when I’m in the office I’m connected to two 27″ displays with my MacBook Pro so it’s not entirely fair to compare but this is something iv’e gotten very use to.  This may be just growing pains at the moment but it does slow down my productivity.

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True Multi-Tasking on iPad Pro (Safari, Photos, and Watch ESPN)

The iPad is a nice addition to my laptop but I feel much more productive using my MacBook Pro as my primary device.

School Work

There are a lot of times I still prefer hand write my notes with pen and paper.

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Apple Pencil working in Microsoft OneNote

Sure it really defeats the purpose to having a keyboard but the Apple Pencil does allow me to do more than just write.  Being able to annotate and highlight readings I have for class has been a HUGE help for me.

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iPad Pro and Apple Pencil using Microsoft OneNote

I store ever reading that I’ll need to do for class digitally so I can take advantage of this technique.  It’s really helped me stay prepared for class lectures and discussions.

Multitasking when using the Microsoft Office makes a bit more sense than it does for most other applications.  I admit I really don’t use the split screen option very often.

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Split Screen using Microsoft OneNote and Word

I know students that use this device as their only device for school.  I wouldn’t feel as comfortable with this because you’re relying a lot on the cloud.  Call me old school but I still prefer to store much of my data locally.  I frequently have to pull things off of my computer via a USB flash drive and move it over to a classroom machine for presentations.  This would be much more difficult only using the iPad Pro.

To sum up, the iPad Pro is an extremely capable device.  For some people I think it really could be their only device.  Me on the other hand have too many needs and am set in my ways too much to make this type of change to a completely mobile based operating system.