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Photography Question 
Stewart J. Wilkins


Bassam had asked a question regarding shooting outdoors toward the sun. Although an amateur still learning as quickly as I can, I am able to make income doing many photos for two real estate companies. Because I deal in many requests I'm not able to know where the sun will be relative to the house's exterior that I want to shoot. Besides a polarizer filter, do you have any other suggestions? I sometimes will travel a considerable distance only to find Ole Sol sitting directly behind the house staring at my lens. Most agents prefer a couple straight-on shots, so I am more interested in dealing with those rather than shooting from an angle.

Thanks in advance for your kind help.


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Jim Miotke
BetterPhoto Member
Owner,, Inc.
  If you have to deliver photographs on demand and can't control when you go out to the house, you are unfortunately really limited. I can feel your frustration. Filters and other accessories like a lens hood may help a bit but, for the most part, the direction of the light source will cause problems unsolvable.

If you can close in on the house enough to keep the sky out of the picture, you will be able to overcome much of the backlighting problem. Use a tripod if you do this in low-light - early morning or evening. If your real estate clients demand that you show the house in its entirety (with roof, sky, and all), you're only other option is to shoot the backside or shoot the "view from the front door" shot. Sounds like your artistic choices are limited by the bread and butter needs of your clients but, who knows, a creative detail shot might capture the romantic idea of buying a home better than a backlit shot.

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Stewart J. Wilkins   Just wanted to thank you guys for the response to this challenge. Good ideas that I will use.



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John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
First, absolutely use a lens hood. Even if you manage to keep the sun out of the frame, it can still be shining across the front lens element and can be a source of frustrating flare. If the lens hood isn't enough have a card to help shade the lens. I've used a baseball cap and my hand at times. Be very careful if you do that to keep it out of the frame (been there, done that too).

Second, enter the secret weapon of the architectural photographer, the PC Shift lens. It brings back some of the ability large format photographers have always had with "camera adjustments" to keep true vertical lines parallel (and very occasionally the horizontal, too).

What can you do with one? Sometimes you can move slightly off-center to block a sun with a tree, chimney or other object, aim as if you were on center and shift horizontally to bring the structure back into the frame. I've done this also to get objects such as street and building signs, and other distractors out of the view of larger buildings. It's not a complete solution; you have to be careful how far off center you get before the side of a structure becomes prominently visible. You can also shift vertically to rid yourself of distracting foreground clutter.

These "PC" shift lenses are expensive, and their best use is on a tripod that has leveling bubbles on its head (I've done it hand held and that's not easy). They are specialized and don't double very well as a general wide angle. Nearly all require manual stop-down before making the photograph. If you are doing enough lucrative architectural work to justify the cost they are a salvation.

I'm uploading two photographs giving the complete frame using a PC shift lens. The first is shifted up to get rid of foreground clutter (the street); the was second shifted down to raise the horizon and include more of the canal. If I had simply aimed upward or downward, the vertical lines would have been converging creating a very unnatural image. Wish I had a couple daytime horizontal shifts scanned to show you how that can work (they're on transparencies), but these should give you the idea.

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