Remember Photography is Writing with Light

Nikon D3s, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/500

I shoot a lot of exteriors of restaurants. The reason I am sent to cover these locations is often because they are in a new market. My job is to capture that they are in the new market.

Chick-fil-A opened a new restaurant in downtown Chicago by Loyola University. I wanted to capture they were in a major downtown location. So I shot up to show the skyscrapers.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/60

Later in the day I would shoot a similar photograph. I think the best time most of the time for architectural shoots is at dusk or dawn. I prefer dusk rather than getting up early. However, I shoot both most of the time. It had been overcast and raining earlier that evening and this is close to midnight in downtown Chicago.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 160, ƒ/7.1, 1/100

Later I was to return to Chicago and capture a new Chick-fil-A at an iconic location at the corner of State and Lake. I went up on the train tracks above to get this photo. I was doing everything I could to show that the most photographed location in Chicago–due to the Chicago Theater sign was next door to our new restaurant.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 125, ƒ/11, 1/100

I was shooting this from every place I could on the street. The problem with daylight when doing these photos is that everything thing is equally lighted. Therefore the lighting doesn’t help you emphasize anything. You are limited to the graphics of composition to make the photo work.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/100

Notice how shooting at dusk now the Chick-fil-A signage and the Chicago Theater signage now pop.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/80

Even though my composition takes more of the street in here, due to the red in the Chick-fil-A sign your eye is drawn to it. Compare that to this one below, even tho they are different angles you can see how the daylight overpowers the Chick-fil-A sign.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/200

My eye goes to the Chicago Theater, but I really have to work to notice the Chick-fil-A. For the reason I was sent to Chicago, this photo fails.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/6.3, 1/80

One of my favorite images from my time in Chicago was capturing this image here. I like the night time because the Chick-fil-A sign shows up, but now I can see inside the restaurant. I can see the customer chillin and just enjoying being inside the restaurant.

My tip to you is to plan your coverage to be at a location at dusk or dawn to get these photos that pop due to the lighting values changing from the artificial light verses sunlight. Remember that the word “Photography” means to write with light–so do it.

360º Panoramic and how it can engage the audience

Click on any of the thumbnails to see a Spherical Panoramic
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Columbia Theological Seminary Classroom
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Columbia Theological Seminary Courtyard
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Columbia Theological Seminary Tower
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Columbia Theological Seminary Front

This is a good place to compare and understand how you can use photography for a brochure and the web.

There is a building dedication in just a month and the building is still in process, but I was able to get into the building and make some photos.

The client needs still photos for a brochure which will be used at their dedication.  If you allow time for printing and a designer you quickly see we only had about a day to turn around the project.

This is inside view of the Tower. (Nikon D3S, ISO 200, f/11, 1/80 14-24mm)

As you can see of the still image of the Tower above this could work easily in a brochure.  It is strong graphically and pulls the reader to read a little more about the project.

This is a composite of 5 exposures and then some perspective correction to keep the building from leaning away from the viewer.

While both of these images give you an inside and outside view of the Tower.  Please take a look at the above thumbnails and compare for yourself.

If you want to engage the audience then on the web I think the Spherical Panoramic works very well.  The audience can spin around and feel like they are their and except for smell it would look pretty much the same if they were there.

I would probably still use some of the still images on a website, because for those who are wanting a quick read this will suffice.

When photographing a building to be used in a brochure you need to get some detail shots.  This is what replaces a typical drain spout on the gutters and is more environmentally friendly. (Nikon D3S, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/60, 28-300mm)

When the building is a further along we will go back and add hotspots to the panoramic where you can click on a detail and a photo will pop up so you can see the detail larger.  Since the workers are still wiring the building many of the details we wanted to show are not even installed.

Creating a unique image.  We used additional flash off camera to the left to light the bell drains.  (Nikon D3S, ISO 200, f/22, 1/160, 14-24mm)
This is the same as the above photo, but without the flash to light up the bell drains.

It is important today to not see “either or” as deciding what type of photography to use. You need to think “AND” as a possibility.

I can also see going back and interviewing the designer talking about a new feature in the building and having this as something you click on in the panoramic. Why not get some professors to contrast how this will improve their teaching.  Maybe getting a student or two talking about how much they will like some aspect of the new building.

While this photo works for the brochure purpose, I don’t think it compares to the 360º Spherical Panoramic.  (Nikon D3, ISO 200, f/4, 1/4, 14-24mm)
I like the covered walk way. (Nikon D3S, ISO 200, f/11, 1/250, 28-300mm)

If you enjoyed reading this and seeing the images, please take the time and comment below.  I really could use some feedback and if you have suggestions for future posts let me know in your comments.

Visual Branding for a local Chick-fil-A

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Chick-fil-A Roswell Town Center

Jim Waddle called me a couple years ago and asked if I could get a good photo of his Chick-fil-A and I assured him I could. 

Just a couple years later, which is this year, Jim asked if we could update that photo. The first photo was so successful in his ad campaign that he wanted to update it since he had done some landscaping and wanted a recent photo.

Now for those of you who only have one Chick-fil-A in your town you might not see why this is important for Jim.  Here in Atlanta you can almost reach out and touch a Chick-fil-A anywhere you turn. 

Each restaurant does their own promotions in addition to working with the market.  The problem through the years is his promotions were not always driving people to his restaurant.  Jim likes working with the area market, but also wanted to have some special events. 

Not all the Chick-fil-A’s look alike so having a nice photo of his store helped his customers know which restaurant was doing a promotion or an event.

When you think about it many of the brick and mortar businesses in a town are remembered by their location and looks, so why not use a cool photo of the business to remind folks–it is called branding.

Twilight or the “Blue Hour”

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Twilight hour helps balance the lighted signs of the Dairy Queen

Wikipedia defines it:  

Twilight is the time between dawn and sunrise or between sunset and dusk, during which sunlight scattering in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere, and the surface of the earth is neither completely lit nor completely dark. The sun itself is not directly visible because it is below the horizon. Owing to the distinctive quality of the ambient light at this time, twilight has long been popular with photographers and painters, who refer to it as the “blue hour“, after the French expression l’heure bleue. Twilight is technically defined as the period between sunset and sunrise during which there is natural light provided by the upper atmosphere, which receives direct sunlight and scatters part of it towards the earth’s surface.

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The sky is not black and give a great dark blue at this time of day.

If you know the time that is for sunrise or sunset then you need to be about 20 minutes from that time.  For sunrise minimum of 20 minutes before it and sunset 20 minutes afterwards.

My suggestion for sunrise is to get there one and half hours before sunrise and for sunset be ready about 30 minutes before sunset and plan for up to an hour after sunset.  Depending where you are in the world, due to the angle of the earth to the sun you might have a long time or a very short time to shoot this magical hour.

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Cloud patterns are still visible.  Sometimes you get the sun still catching the clouds.