Retouching Architectural Photos

When you are selling new homes you should show the buyer the home that they will move into and show it with lush spring of summer landscaping. They don’t buy the sales office so why show it? You will lose money if you wait till spring to get photos of your new models.
BeforeIt took 12 photos to build the image of the home that the homeowner will move into.

AfterWhile on location I photograph all the components needed to reconstruct the model home to make it look like the one that the buyers will move into. I need garage doors and driveways. I also need wood, stone or brick textures to rebuild some areas. I keep a library of photos of trees, bushes and grass to use to cover winter landscaping and construction around the home. The key here is that it has to look real.

Here is a link to the 2 minute video in my Video Portfolio: “Retouching Architectural Photos”

Now here’s the technical stuff:
Screen Shot 20 layersThe content aware delete tool (Spot healing Brush) and the clone stamp tool are used all the time.

Making good selections is one of the most important skills to have. I use the lasso tool, the quick select tool, the magic wand, the pen tool and the color range selector.

Most of the time I need to change the color of the garage door. I may desaturate the existing color, use levels to lighten or darken the door and then paint the color on a new layer with low opacity to keep the texture of the door.

For the brown grass I may be able to select the grass and change the hue or I may add a blank new layer and paint with green or patch green grass in from another photo. Sometimes it takes a combination of these techniques for the grass to look real.

All added layers are carefully selected from their original photo, pasted onto the working photo and they are always changed using the Free Transform tool to closely align with the new image. Then I need to “Skew” the layer (driveway or door) to match the perspective in the new photo. I use levels, brightness/contrast and color adjustment layers to match the new layer to the existing photo.

Green leaves are selected using a selection tool to pick the tree and then the color range selector to get just the green leaves and not the trunk or branches. I always leave the original bare branches under the new leaves for the final image.
video still bare treesOne of the final steps is to blend all the new layers with the main photo. Since the original exterior photo is usually taken at dusk I may have to reduce the contrast on new layers to match the lighting. I may darken it and adjust the color to blend in.

I will often flatten the image and vignette the image to darken the outer areas. This is often done manually to have individual control of the the tones from the sky to the foreground.

Be patient when you are retouching architectural photos. The first exterior images took me 5 hours to retouch when there was construction and dormant landscaping to cover. Now I have it down to 3-4 hours for an exterior.

More before and after images can be seen in my retouching portfolio.


The Power of Video

If you are not sure whether your company should use videos on your web site then you may want to read this Testimonial. It was sent by Denise Nojaim, The Executive Administrator to Shane Albers, CEO of Investors Mortgage Holdings, Inc. Scottsdale, AZ.

“I just wanted to drop you a note and thank you for all the good work you and your team did on our video shoot.  What was supposed to be a quick, 20 minute video address turned into a 40 minute production that you and your staff handled flawlessly, not once, but twice!”

“The final product has been a huge hit.  Communicating our message to our investors via video, instead of via a printed letter, really added to the sincerity of the message since our investors were able to see our President and CEO “in person,” as it were.  Its positive impact cannot be overstated; I have had several investors write to say they didn’t understand the Conversion Transactions until after they watched the video.”

“Again, thank you for your professionalism and guidance through this project and I am looking forward to working with you again in the future!”

Sincerely,  Denise


  • Producer, editor, cameraman:  John Trotto
  • Sound, lighting:  Frank Salle
  • Makeup:  Giselle Fox
  • Teleprompters:  The Prompter Posse
  • 2nd camera assistant:  Ryan Nelson

Photographers Learning Video

The ASMP, a guild of professional photographers, has set up a Tutorial on their web site to help still shooters who want to learn video. Providing motion as well as stills is seen as an important step to remain competitive in this industry. I was flattered to be chosen as one of the 14 photographers in the US to contribute information and experience to this new feature for members. This would have been helpful information for me 3 years ago when I began to purchase equipment and software, and learn the video production industry.

Although the 14 photo-videographers use different equipment and provide a wide variety of services, the tutorial can guide those interested. The equipment and software is more complex than that which is used in digital photography, and the learning curve is longer.

The tutorial on video addresses many business questions such as usage rights, whether to be a camera person or producer, rates for the various people in a production (DP, camera, director, etc.), invoicing and marketing the two businesses.

Here is a link to the new video page on the ASMP web site. (American Society of Media Photographers)

You may need to be a member and log in to read beyond the first page.


Speed Dating for ASMP Photographers, Phoenix

I was honored to be a part of this evening with so much creative talent in one place at one time. I was also humbled by my peers.

I must thank those creatives who participated in the Speed Dating event on October 28th. Your attitude and energy made the evening a pleasure for everyone. Right to the very end you were friendly and smiling even after listening to 40 presentations and viewing hundreds of images from Valley photographersPhotograpers setup for Speed Dating.

For those of you who were not able to attend, the Speed Dating event was set up to allow 40 local photographers to present their work to 20 companies representing the valley’s advertising, design and editorial community. The event was held at the Levine Machine on 7th Street in Phoenix. Several photographers contributed lighting equipment and labor to transform the warehouse environment into a cool, warmly lit, creative environment in which to view portfolios. First, of course, there was food, drink and chatting and time to view the 40 framed prints that were gifts to the creatives at the end of the evening. Then the photographers descended on the agencies like… well, you know, we’re all looking for work these days.

I must thank Jeff Noble for conceptualizing the event, and Steve Dreiseszun for all his hard work as the Phoenix chapter president of the ASMP, and all the board members. Thanks also go to Professor Penny Dolin and her students of the GIT Commercial Photography Studio at ASU’s Polytechnic Campus for helping during the event.

Exhibitors were: Tempe Camera Repair, MacMedia and Through Each Others’ Eyes.

Let’s do it again…maybe in two years.