Boot Camp II: Assignment #3

For assignment number three in Boot Camp 2, your job will be to use light to create an interesting architectural interior shot.

And if you are as creative as this entry in a previous Boot Camp, you won't even have to completely make the bed. Details, inside.

I expect that this one will bring a lot of entries. The introverts don't have to talk to anyone and the single-flash folks will be able to use other, ambient sources to augment their lighting. Then there are the cool prizes, of course. We turned this one up a notch in that category.

And for the amateurs, this will be good practice for what could very easily be your first $5-digit assignment.

How so? Let me 'splain.

How can I put this delicately, other than to say that the vast majority of real estate photography is a fetid, pile of steaming excrement?

I mean, why would you bother to take nice photos when all that is at stake is the first impression of the single most valuable transaction you will ever make?

My Experience

When we sold our house last spring, I spent a little time shooting the rooms and setting up a website showcasing the house. Not a lot of work, and zero expense. It also was kinda fun, and left us a nice package of photos to remember the house by.

To be fair, we still have no way to remember Ben's room as it really was because we had to clean it up to shoot it. Kinda like an overenthusiastic mortician. ("Wow, uncle Bob never looked THAT good ...)

But the upshot of going to this extra trouble was that in the spring of 2009 (The Great Potato Famine of Real Estate) we sold the house in three weeks for the full asking price -- twice.

(The first contract fell through on finances and we turned right around and sold it again.)

We priced it accurately, which you absolutely have to do to sell a house these days. And we put it out there with house shots that were far-and-away better than any other house in its price range. Which, believe me, was not hard to accomplish.

The result was an insane amount of buyer traffic from the moment the house hit the market. We basically could not go home except to sleep there. I am absolutely convinced the photos generated much of the traffic, as there was a huge inventory of houses in our price range on the market.

Shortly after that, I shot real estate pics for some good friends of ours, too. Their house also sold very quickly, for close to the asking price. In this market, that's a pretty big coincidence if the photos had no effect.

But then, it is hard not to look better then direct, on-camera nuclear flash in the other house photos...

Your Assignment

For Boot Camp 2, assignment #3, you'll only need to shoot one room -- any room -- but try to light it in a way that makes it look like something special. Light can create a moment, a sense of place or a feel. The photo at the top of this post is an excellent example.

[UPDATE: Someone asked in the comments if this can be a commercial space. In the sense of keeping the playing field relatively level for everyone, let's keep it to a residential space. -DH]

Try to go beyond merely recording the room and stretch yourself into making an artful photo. I say this, because you will be up against lots of very well-lit rooms, and the ones that stand out will have that little something extra.

No people in this one -- it's a room shot. The scantily clad eye candy on the couch is not gonna push you over the top.

For basic resources, consider the earlier post on doing my own real estate shots. For the spartan of gear, there is also another post from a ways back on shooting a log cabin (at left) with one SB-800. Lastly, there is the post from the hotel in Costa Rica.

Just some basics to get you started. But again, the ones who rise to the top will have some special sauce that seals the deal. And don't think you have to go over the top on this one either. The special sauce might be a perfectly sparse-but-elegant composition -- as in the photo up top, for example. Make a picture.

How You Can Help

If you are looking for the charitable component from this one, it could hardly be more obvious. If you have a friend selling a house, consider spending a few hours shooting it for them.

It will almost certainly improve their odds over the typical real estate photo dreck. And better yet, it should get you a pass on helping them move.

Besides, you might actually turn out to be good at it. And who knows where that could lead.

Prizes, We Gots Prizes

You can never be too rich, too thin or have too many light sources. So we are going to "plus two" the winner with a full LP120-based multiple-flash Strobist Kit courtesy the folks at Midwest Photo Exchange.

That is a $450 value, and features (2) very versatile, slaved LumoPro LP120 flashes, an 8-foot stand, an Interfit combination boom/stand, (2) white umbrellas, (2) shorty swivels, a Universal translator (to sync the flashes up any camera) lotsa gels, a 16-foot sync cord, gaffer's tape, bongo ties (similar to ball bungees) and a padded carrying case. Hit the link above from more info and pictures.

FYI, the LP120s have proved very popular and the second manufacturing run is expected to sell out within about three weeks. And the lead time on run #3 (in progress) means that they will be out of stock until late September. But as the winner, yours will of course be reserved and unavailable for purchase by the unwashed masses.

But wait, there's more.

As with the other prize packs, we are throwing in a set of Strobist DVDs, which themselves are currently out of stock in the US. (The next US run should be arriving in early September, and EU-types can still get them duty-free in the UK via The Flash Centre.)

And for those of you who clearly are not yet playing with a full deck, a set of Trade Secret Strobist lighting cards.

How's that for some cool prizes?

The Fine Print

Because someone asks in the comments every single time, please refer back to the first assignment post for the basic info on how to enter your photo and where to go if you have Flickr problems questions.

But PLEASE NOTE that the tag is different for this assignment. It is:


So don't screw up and repeat the tag from the first assignment. The photo must also be in the Strobist pool (so remember to add that lighting info) to be entered. If you are successful, your photos should appear in this search within a few minutes. Please, only submit one entry.

If you want to ask questions, or otherwise discuss this assignment, you can do so in this thread.

And you can check out some of the other bloggers following along, here.

The due date for this assignment is end of day, local time, August 14th, 2009. Don't be late.

And for the verification shot (which will be required of the winner to prove he or she took it after the assignment date) reach around that camera and make a second version of the same shot with your hand giving the "thumbs-up" sign in the foreground.

Just to keep it legal.


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Blogger Niall said...

Immediately my brain start ticking... What room should I clean???
Good luck to everyone and HAVE FUN as this is the main aim of these competitions.
Hint, hint, nudge, nudge!

July 28, 2009 12:52 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

knew this one was coming. i move into my college dorm the day after the deadline, so much for that.

July 28, 2009 12:53 PM  
Blogger carlos benjamin - said...

Dang! I may have to wade in on this one..... I'm really happy with my LP120 flashes and could use a couple more.... plus all the other stuff would just be gravy.

July 28, 2009 1:02 PM  
Anonymous eric said...

I am so on this! Looking forward to seeing the results from everyone.


July 28, 2009 1:23 PM  
Blogger Timo said...

Question: Can anyone take part in these assignments? Even if they haven't taken part before? Was there a sign-up going on earlier? Sorry I'm relatively new to this blog.

July 28, 2009 1:37 PM  
Anonymous leewmow said...

Uhh, Does the inside of the birdhouse count? That's easier to clean than any room in my appt. :| Why, David?! Why?!

July 28, 2009 1:38 PM  
Blogger TweakMDS said...

Awesome assignment, definitely one that I can relate to. I think I'll pick my office as a subject. Just so happens our office resides in a "refurbished" castle :)

July 28, 2009 2:01 PM  
Blogger Bill Burge said...

Looking forward to this one!

July 28, 2009 2:12 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

I knew MPEX would come through. Thanks guys! Thanks Dave & Good luck everyone.

July 28, 2009 2:22 PM  
Blogger spencer said...

Does this have to be residential, or can it be of a commercial interior space?

July 28, 2009 2:28 PM  
Blogger alice said...

how did you know i'd be needing this?! my sister just called me up last night to ask me to take photos for her condo!

July 28, 2009 2:43 PM  
Blogger John said...

Cool assignment! I'm moving into a new place shortly, so hopefully I will have time to get this in.

LOL - on a side note, it never ceases to amaze me how many people will not read the rules.

I clicked on the search option in the post to see if anybody has already got their assignment done, and there is one post flash used, and the date taken 7/17/08!!

...priceless *rolls eyes*

July 28, 2009 2:46 PM  
Anonymous MagicNikon said...

I live inside a Heineken bottle, and I have a great idea for a shot...

July 28, 2009 3:03 PM  
Blogger Winged Power Photography said...

Wow. Great assignment... already have a few places I can check in at and ask around. ^_^ (Dang... a refurb'd castle!? That rocks!)

July 28, 2009 3:03 PM  
Blogger Vicnaum said...

ohhh, man.. not again... to shoot a house, i need to get one first...

July 28, 2009 3:12 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Aww, just a few weeks too late. I recently did exactly this for actual listing photos for my partner's former condo. I used strobist-style techniques, a bit from here and a bit from here (mentioned in the OP).

That being said, I might be able to do this all again, with our new place.

July 28, 2009 3:19 PM  
Blogger Brittney said...

Hahaha I am right in the middle of renovations, naturally :) Very glad for the longer deadline -- we might actually have a room put back together by then! Thanks!

July 28, 2009 3:30 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

"Wow, uncle Bob never looked THAT good ..."

Oh man, that's awesome. :-D :-D :-D

July 28, 2009 3:36 PM  
Blogger ken said...

I assist a few Architectural photogs and they all p-chop the heck out of their shots. Is that allowed? or do we have to get it in "one frame"?

July 28, 2009 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Wesley Hort said...

Well if that isn't motivation to finish the decorating at my house I don't know what is!

July 28, 2009 5:46 PM  
Blogger Gus said...

Awesome! I'm having my house painted and was planning on taking "after" shots anyway. Now I have an excuse to go all the way with lighting and a real wide angle lens. I'm looking forward to it.

July 28, 2009 6:34 PM  
Blogger bored_stupid said...

I have a one light system " sb900 "; got to try this. ps David love your blog.

July 28, 2009 8:27 PM  
Anonymous moritz said...

Just for the record, here is the link to Scott Hargis's website which was mentioned in one of David Hobby's earlier posts on real estate photography:

July 28, 2009 9:28 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

i feel like this is not my assignment at all. I lost my light meter a few months ago, my camera is now broken and no longer metering internally, and I have no interior space that I can use. If i'm going to try to attempt this one and expect decent results I'm going against pretty steep odds...

why oh why...


July 29, 2009 1:34 AM  
Blogger Murakami said...

Kinda asking the same question as spencer up there, but do the shots have to be of a 'real estate' kinda vibe of a living area etc, or can it be interior architecture?

July 29, 2009 3:13 AM  
Blogger King Of Not said...

Cool stuff here! Wonder if people from Malaysia can join?

July 29, 2009 5:01 AM  
Blogger Wayne said...

Hey David, is this open to overseas folks - say Ireland?

Please say yes.

July 29, 2009 9:28 AM  
Blogger herbsandspices said...

Sorry - why are commercial spaces not allowed? The argument can EASILY be made that the average person has access to modern/high-end residential properties more than that of commercial. Interior architecture is interior architecture.

July 29, 2009 10:18 AM  
Blogger WilBoucher said...

Hmm, I have the opportunity to shoot a hotel room. Is that an acceptable space?

I love BootCamp!



July 29, 2009 10:36 AM  
Blogger Gilbert Wong said...

Cool~ will try to join this one~!

July 29, 2009 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Aspen Photography said...

I may just have to enter the assignment. Never done one before but i really want to. Now which room to shoot.......
I'm well excited i'm like a kid.

July 29, 2009 3:10 PM  
Anonymous mayy said...

great assignment! can't wait to try it out =) =) =) but first i need to find a house lol

July 29, 2009 9:27 PM  
Blogger John Classen said...

Dave, this is completely off subject. May need a different post, but check this out: Talk about "lighting your subject"!! My son who works at NASA sent me the link.


July 29, 2009 10:25 PM  
Blogger Cameron said...

Hey David-

Can I share your story about how important (in your considered opinion) good photography was in selling your house twice and your friend's as well?

Thanks, and I think I'll have to jump in on this one!


July 30, 2009 12:24 AM  
Blogger David said...


That depends on what you mean by sharing. Excerting, linking, paraphrasing -- fine. Wholesale cut-and-paste to your site -- not so much.



July 30, 2009 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Adam Bolt said...

What about internals of someone's living quaters on a boat. Talk about difficulty level to create an image from such a small space.

Something like this

These guys have asked me to shoot another of their boats. Would be good excuse to shoot it for this assignment.

Cheers Adam

July 31, 2009 7:46 PM  
Blogger Bob Joziasse said...

Wow, this is harder than I thought. I'm searching for a nice room... Time is running out. But again, I love the assignment to have a goal and try something new!

August 06, 2009 5:41 AM  
Blogger Taposh said...

Do I have to use a strobe? I captured a shot using ambient only and it was removed from the Strobist group on Flickr.

August 09, 2009 5:41 PM  
Blogger David said...


Yes, you do. This is a flash-based lighting blog, so it is logical to assume you have to use lighting in the boot camp.

August 09, 2009 5:53 PM  
Anonymous RyanJ said...

I've checked back on the search a number of times and 50% of the time my image does not show up. Just want to be sure it is there on the day of the judging. Seems to be happening to more than one photo. I searched this morning and it said there were 135 entries. I didn't see mine so I searched again and it said there were 151 entries. Just a heads up!

August 11, 2009 12:08 PM  
Blogger Facesofdfw said...

Last night I submitted my entree but it was removed. I now see entrees that have been uploaded after mine so that leads me to believe that it was not a deadline issue (I got it in there just before midnight). Just wondering what was wrong with it. This question is for Dave or any of users that can shed some light.

A link to it.

Thanks and for the great site and loads of info.

First time poster, first time comment, long time reader.

August 12, 2009 7:36 AM  
Blogger Dennis Dixson said...

That was fun (now that I'm done)... At least it was until discovering that one of my flashes was broken.

I've always wondered what it would actually be like to own two matching flash units. I guess you could say that it's been my fantasy almost my whole life.

I couldn't find anyone who wanted me to take pictures of their houses for them. I guess I should have been more careful with the glassware the last time I was helping people move. Word gets around I guess.

Thanks again for the inspiration and examples to try a few new lighting techniques. Did I mention that my flash broke? I was real fond of that flash... had it for fourteen years... it's going to be real hard to get over it... taught it to fetch and roll over...

August 13, 2009 11:16 PM  

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