Changes to Website and Blog

Landscape design for a private residence photographed for David Thorne Landscape Architect.

We recently made some changes to our website which may affect your ability to access photos from our photo galleries. If you are a client and you find you cannot access the galleries with your work here’s a simple fix: Replace the part of the URL that read “” with “” and that should direct you to the appropriate gallery. We’ve reorganized the website so that the URL “” will take you directly to the website. In the past entering “” would forward you to the URL “” If you run into problems let us know.

We’ve also moved our blog to a separate URL at

Tricks of the Trade – Part 2

Back in the days of film most photographers would use  lights to solve lighting problems. Adding light via artificial lights was called additive lighting. Many photographers still use lights. And a skilled photographer can get stunning results with effective use of lights.

I like to use subtractive lighting when it’s appropriate. Taking away the natural light when it’s creating problems. Here’s an example of how that works. Notice in the following image there is a bright highlight at the foot of the door cast by the sun coming through the overhead skylight.

I decided that this was a distraction from the overall composition. In the second frame you see my assistant, Ken, holding a card to cut the light.

The third image below shows the result of blending the first two images to remove the hot spot. Sometimes these hot spots can add to the composition, so I don’t have a hard rule for dealing with them. The same technique can be used to remove reflections on artwork or related reflective surfaces.

I like to work with natural light, since it tends to creates a sense  of drama and a sense of depth, and it helps show off design elements, particularly lighting that might not read as well with artificial light.

Trick of the Trade – Part 1

A number of years ago I was discussing photography with the creative director of a winery. She told me that their top bottle photographer was an expert at telling the wineries story in the reflections in the wine bottle. It could be a reflection of the vineyards in the background, or some other aspect of the winery.

Since then I’ve always looked for ways to use reflective surfaces to help tell a story relating to the photo. It could be using the bathroom mirror to show the shower, or some similar situation. Here’s a good example of how that can work. In this case the reflective surface is a TV screen. In today’s home there are no shortage of TV screens, most of which photograph as black holes with annoying reflections. When I set up the camera for this image, the TV screen was angled to show a stack of boxes onone side of the room; not very interesting. We angled the screen a bit, and voila, we were able to bring more of the outside greenery into the room.

Being Prepared on a Photo Shoot

One of the things that leads to a successful photo shoot is being able to solve problems on location. Besides our cameras the next item in our arsenal that gets the most use is a red mop bucket full of cleaning supplies: glass cleaner, towels, Goof Off and a variety of other items. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve reached for that bucket on a photo shoot.

On Tuesday evening though we had a situation that we hadn’t anticipated. We were scheduled to shoot a sun room addition with a fire pit. We checked ahead and confirmed that the fire pit was working. When it came time to turn the fire on we discovered that the propane tank was empty. To save the shoot I was able to pull the propane tank off my pop-up camper and use it to fuel the fire pit.


Save the Date: August 4

Berkeley Remodel Photographed for Studio Bergtraun

Save the date – August 4, 2018. That’s the date for this year’s AIA East Bay Home tour. We recently photographed one of the houses that will be on the tour, a remodel by Studio Bergtraun. An amazing project. Tickets will go on sale June 1. Mark your calendar and buy your tickets here.

Bay Area Remodeling Awards Winners

The Bay Area Remodeling Awards for 2018 were announced on  Wednesday evening April 11. The awards represent entries submitted by three chapters on NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry): San Francisco Bay Area, North Bay and Diablo Valley. A total of 19 awards were presented. We feel our photography was well represented with six projects representing six clients winning seven awards. One of the projects took the Judges’ Choice award in addition to winning in it’s own category.

Congratulations to Design Set Match, HDR Remodeling, The Architects Office, Leff Construction and Podesta Construction. The following photos represent each of the winning projects:

Winner of the 2018 Bay Area Remodeling Awards for Residential Bath Under $25,000.
Design Set Match
Winner of the 2018 Bay Area Remodeling Awards for Residential Detached Structure. HDR Remodeling, Inc. & Larson Shores Architects
Winner of the 2018 Bay Area Remodeling Awards for Entire House $750,001 to $1,000,000. LEFF Construction Design Build
Winner of the 2018 Bay Area Remodeling Awards for Residential Interior Under $75,000. Design Set Match & the Architects office
Winner of the 2018 Bay Area Remodeling Awards for Entire House $500,001 to $750,000. Podesta Construction, Inc.
Winner of the 2018 Bay Area Remodeling Awards for Judges’ Choice and Basement Over $100,000 Podesta Construction, Inc.


New House in Sonoma

Here’s a project we photographed recently for Leff Construction. We decided to photograph the exterior at dusk since there was no real landscaping and we thought we could emphasize the drama of the house without the emphasizing the landscaping or lack thereof. We had the homeowner mow the weeds, which resulted in a illusion of a green front lawn. In a month this is likely to be brown dried weeds. Is our success serendipity or the result of good planning? The photo shoot involved photographing both interior spaces as well as exterior. We started at noon since we wanted to have the sun high in the sky for some of the interior shots. After photographing the interior we took a nice break for dinner and then proceeded with the exterior photography.

Diablo Magazine

The April 2018 issue of Diablo Magazine has a six page spread of our photos accompanying an article about the 30th CSL Heart of the Home Tour. You can check out the the on-line version of the magazine here. The home tour is a fund raising event for the Children’s Support League of the East Bay. The tour takes place April 27 and 28 of this year. You can buy tickes for the event here. This is an opportunity to visit some amazing homes featuring some top designers, contractors and architects. We’ve been providing photographic services pro-bono to CSL for several years, and every year the investment time pays dividends on the business we get through the exposure, not to mention the fact that we’re supporting a worthy cause.




How Do Photographers Work?

Contemporary dining room in Marin with white finishes. Indoor view looking out to back yard.

I received a phone call recently from a prospective client. She wanted to know how I work. I had to stop and think about this for a moment, wondering if she wanted to know about pricing, or something deeper.

My business is photographing architectural subjects. That said, I think of myself as a storyteller more than a photographer. The images I create tell stories, and that story incorporates something about the client’s brand, what makes their work unique, as well as something about the project and what the client wants to communicate about the project. Were there unique challenges, interesting products, or special features that are an important part of the story?

Now it might be possible to show up at a location, sight unseen, and do the best I can to capture a project. This happens often enough when circumstances only allow limited access. However, it’s much better to plan a walk-through with the client to get a sense of the scope of work and any issues to address before the actual photo shoot. Some considerations include site access, the play of sunlight, and staging. Even recently completed projects can have problems with lighting fixtures or other features not working.

I like to have a client representative on the photo shoot. I consider this person to be the creative director, and I ask them to review the images as we shoot to make sure we’re capturing images that tell a compelling story. I work with the camera connected to a lap-top or iPad. This gives me the opportunity to view the captured images on a large screen and to share the previews with the client. It’s also useful to have the client representative as another set of hands, in addition to my assistant to help move furniture, clean the shower glass, or help with any one of a number of other tasks for a successful shoot.

As you can see, creating compelling images that tell a story takes some planning and experience.

Bay Area Remodeling Awards

The Bay Area Remodeling Awards (BARA), also known as the “REMMIES,” are coming up. For more information on how to enter visit the San Francisco Bay Area NARI website. These awards feature some of the top remodeling firms in the Bay Area, covering the North Bay, East Bay and Diablo Valley areas.