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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

I honestly believe that every photographer has at least one good horror story with a happy ending, so I thought I’d share mine.

Hopefully, someone, somewhere will gain something from reading this. Even if it’s just a good chuckle.

The Good

It started out great.

We booked a residential real estate photo shoot on a one-million-dollar plus home on the really nice side of the Oklahoma City Metro.

Interiors, exteriors, aerial photos, and twilights; the whole package.

This house had it all:

· An intricate gate opening to a grand entrance with perfectly, evenly-spaced trees lining both sides of the drive-in;

· Lighting everywhere (and all the same color and temperature bulbs)

How often does that happen?

· Beautiful architecture

· Great lines

· Exposed wood beams

· A well-lit living area with vaulted ceilings

· Professionally staged and cleaned

· A gorgeous, extremely illuminated concrete pool and stained concrete back patio

· An expansive, magazine-worthy yard with a lake and white picket fence (literally)

...and most importantly…..great weather and six hours to shoot it all

We did a walk-through consultation two days prior to make sure that we knew what to expect, as far as lighting conditions, potential paint and color cast challenges, and sunset direction.

A fortuitous turn of events also saw us arrive for the consultation at the same time as the home staging company, so we were able to give a few insights into what works and doesn’t work well in real estate photographs.

Did I mention that the homeowners were out of town?

No one to show up in frame, reflecting in the occasional mirror in any shots.

Except maybe for me.

Or Cliff.

Or me.

That’s the real reason that photoshop exists.

I mean, all we really needed to do was turn on the cameras and hit the shutter, right?

So, day of the shoot, Cliff and I are feeling pretty good about ourselves.

Armed with freshly charged and cleaned gear, a couple of Salted Caramel Cold Brews, and a decent mental catalog of the shots we each planned to take.

We split the shoot in half. I took the master bedroom, with the pool view and walk-through closet, as well as the immaculate, and a rather large master bathroom. I also took the drone shots and the day/twilight photos of the back of the home.

The home was beautifully staged, bright, with flash-friendly white paint on the walls in every room. I mentioned that the main living area and master bedroom had great views of the pool, right? The exact right amount of natural light poured in from the skylight over the front door and the floor-to-ceiling panels along the back of the home. It was like walking through an architectural magazine spread.

The Bad

My hands forgot that they had fingers on them. I managed to drop my “photon cannon” (Cliff calls his “Thor’s Hammer” – so I don’t feel that bad -- It’s not that weird), 600-watt moonlight as I was taking out of the car and broke the fun-to-replace bulb in the process.

I knew that the vaulted ceilings would be a challenge without the big light.

Yay for compositing photos.

Then, Cliff’s speed lights started turning themselves off after each time they triggered.

We spent some time trying to diagnose the problem. We checked the channels to make sure that we weren’t on the same channel, argued about whether or not I was pranking him (I wasn’t), and switching out gear to get through the shoot.

The master bathroom was also fun. White walls, white granite countertops, crystal chandeliers, huge mirrors all the way around, and literally nowhere to hide to stay out of the shot.

This is the part where I don’t mention how frequently I hide in the shower to take bathroom shots.


It’s not that weird.

Moving on…

I moonlight as a ninja so I was able to move around easily without detection.

Okay, not really.

I actually lowered my tripod and lined up a single-point shot with the mirror seam, then took a “fake tilt-shift” shot angled slightly upward. A little vertical correction and voila’.

The Ugly

A few hours before the shoot, I received a call from the primary real estate agent informing me that the stagers broke a large mirror in one of the bathrooms right off of the main living area and they had no plans of replacing it.

Easy enough I say. I’ll go get one real quick because:

a.) I’m also a real estate agent and a team player,


b.) It seemed easier than trying to photoshop one in.

Somehow, I forgot, or rather, underestimated the impact of the Covid virus. Since the wall behind the mirror hadn’t been painted, I would need to find a substantial mirror.

So, after visiting three home improvement stores, three home décor stores, another coffee shop, a gas station, and a therapist, I was on my way to the house.


Also, it turns out that those tiny, easily faded white marks on drone propellers actually mean something. I haven’t used it as often this year as I usually do, so I was a bit rusty on maintenance processes. After watching my drone (I did not name it. yet) try to barrel roll on the ground for ten minutes, I realized that I had managed to put the wrong propellors on the front.

Lessons learned:

1. Six hours on a shoot is a long time.

Bring food.

2. Wearing my wife’s deodorant was a questionable decision.

Even if it was the only one I could find. See also: carpooling when wearing said deodorant.

3. Leave the photon cannon in its protective case until ready to use.

4. Make sure your fingers work prior to handling expensive equipment.

Refer to lesson 3

5. Use the correct propellers in the correct position.

6. If you’re going to split up a shoot, have each person start on opposite sides of the home.

…So you don’t keep popping up in each other’s frame

7. Check your equipment again once you’re on site

Just in case.

8. Don’t let a couple of challenges get you off your game.

9. Take a minute, decompress, reconfigure, and OWN the shoot.

We had some challenges, but I feel like we genuinely rose to the occasion and knocked it out of the park.

Yay, us!

All is well that ends well.

If you have an entertaining story about a shoot, drop us a line at

We’d love to read it.

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