Photo Tips

10 Creative Uses for Virtual Tours

Whether or not you’ve experienced a virtual tour online, this article will show you what a virtual tour is, how we make them, and 10 creative ways virtual tours could be useful to you.

Since May of this year, our studio has been offering Enhanced Virtual Tours to our architectural clients. We’re very excited about this service because it nicely fills the gap between still photography and motion to showcase architectural spaces from a 3D first-person point of view.

Here’s an example of a recent clubhouse we scanned for Prometheus Real Estate Group.

As you can see, our virtual tours are a collection of 360° scans compiled into a 3D showcase model that allows you to walk around, zoom in on details, and jump between large areas of the project by looking at the floorplan view. You can also take quick measurements of anything captured thanks to the point-cloud data captured during the scan. Just click the little “measure icon” to try it out.


The way we make virtual tours is very similar to how we do any of our photoshoots. If we’re scanning for marketing purposes, then we will start with a location scout walkthrough with you to determine the scope of the project and the best time of day to capture the spaces. We will outline production needs like prop styling, permitting, and shoot day logistics.

For small projects like homes and businesses under 10,000 sq/ft, we will capture the space in a single model. For larger projects, like multi-family and hotels, we recommend breaking out virtual tours to separate models to highlight key areas of interest.

Unlike photoshoots, the capture of a virtual tour is done in a single spin of the 360° camera. There is no retouching (yet) and lighting is limited to very basic on-camera lighting. Fortunately, the cameras we use capture images in HDR and do a beautiful job of blending exposures for a pleasing look. Still, the one-shot nature of the shoot means staging, and camera position is vitally important. Fortunately, we have 18 years of architectural photography experience to help guide you to the best way to get a fantastic looking virtual tour.

Here are 10 Ways Virtual Tours are Useful

Virtual Tours first became highly useful in the real estate market. Allowing homebuyers to virtually walk-through a listing before visiting a home in person saved a lot of time and wasted effort for the client and the realtor. These types of virtual tours are pretty much the standard now for real estate listings.

However, like you, many businesses and marketers are starting to see the value of virtual tours for their industry. Here are 10 great uses for virtual tours we think will become just as common as real estate:

College Campus
1. Colleges & Universities – Potential students seeking higher education will love a virtual tour of campus life and amenities. The virtual tour would be especially useful for out-of-state students who can’t make the visit in person easily.

Museum Theater
2. Museums – Virtual Tours of Museums are a great way to bring awareness and peak interest of potential visitors. It’s especially useful for out of town visitors who can research their museum visits on their vacation. A good virtual tour could sway their decision to see the museum in person.

Cool Office Workspace
3. Recruitment – Even though the pandemic has shifted the idea of a workspace, eventually corporations will want to bring their team members back in. In a competitive space for talent, a virtual tour of your cool office will make hiring a lot easier.

Retail Display
4. Retail – As the seasons change, a virtual tour of your shop can excite your loyal customers to coming back and seeing your new inventory. Plus, our enhanced virtual tours can be exported to your Google Business listing.

Baseball Stadium Box
5. Tourism – Virtual Tours are a great way to bring attention to tourist attractions like sporting arenas, famous homes, gardens, natural areas, and monuments. It’s a great way to sell advertising space at venues because the advertiser can previsualize how their ad will look in real life.

Knack Coworking
6. Coworking Spaces – With so many options for coworking spaces, a virtual tour will really help your protentional tenant determine if the layout and amenities will work for their needs.

Hotel Lobby
7. Hotels & Resorts – There is a ton of potential to increase room and event sales with quality virtual tours. Virtual Tours are fun and will help out of town guests get a real feel of your property. Plus you can tie in other marketing tactics like special offers placed as Easter Eggs in the virtual tour’s point of interest tags.

Restaurant Interior
8. Restaurants – If your restaurant is on Google, then you need a virtual tour to show up in your search results. It’s easy for us to export a virtual tour of your restaurant right to Google My Business.

Remodeled Kitchen
9. Remodeling Projects – No matter if you’re remodeling a kitchen or a whole building, virtual tours of as-built conditions can be super helpful in determining the scope of the project. You can show sub-contractors what they’re working with without a site visit. Plus, data collected can be converted into as-built drawings such as floor plans, elevations, cross-sections, and more.

Humanitarian Causes
10. Humanitarian Causes – A virtual tour could be used as a powerful example of a need for humanitarian non-profit organizations. Showing existing conditions in 3D can help drive donations and support.

There are just a few of the useful ways virtual tours can be used. But there are so many more creative ways a virtual tour can change how you share your projects.

If you are in need of a virtual tour for your business, please contact us today for a free estimate. With 18 years of architectural imaging experience, we guarantee you will be well taken care of and get the best virtual tour possible.


How to Find a Professional Photographer

Finding a photographer is quite easy. I could probably throw a rock from my window right now and hit one. With cameras in our pockets, everyone is technically a photographer these days. However, because of the sheer number of photographers out there, finding the right one for your commercial photo project can be extremely difficult.

This article will discuss the best places to find a professional photographer and what to ask them to ensure they have the proper level of experience for your project.

Where to Look – A Refined Choice

Google is great and all, but if you want to save a little time in verifying that the photographer you’re hiring is a professional, I would suggest using one of the photo industry trade organization websites. The photographers on these sites have been vetted and confirmed to follow best business practices.

Photo Trade Organizations



AIAP – (for finding architectural photographers)

ASMP's Find a Photographer
Since 1944, ASMP has been the most trusted photo trade organization.

Another resource is source-book sites. Photographers pay significant money to be listed on these websites and are only allowed to join if they meet the high-quality criteria dictated by the site. These sites are highly reputable and have upheld the industry standards for a long time. While there are a number of such sites out there, I believe the ones I advertise with cater best to art buyers:

Source-Book Sites

Wonderful Machine



Found Artists

On each of these sites, all you have to do is type in your specialty and/or location, and you’ll get a list of quality professional photographers that can serve the needs of your project.

Wonderful Machine's Find a Photographer
Finding a photographer is easy at Wonderful Machine

When in Doubt, Just Ask

At the end of the day, the best way to find a photographer is often through a referral. A referral can come from any trusted source: a client, a colleague, or even another photographer. I’ve personally referred plenty of other photographers to my clients if their projects weren’t a great fit for me.

Searching the Wild Wild Web

If you still can’t find anyone on these sites and the referrals are coming up empty, your next step would be to search on Google. Here’s my main tip for finding the right kind of photographer on Google: Be specific and use “quotes”. Don’t generically search for “Photographer.” Make sure to include the specialty and location you need for your shoot. For example:

“Architectural Photographer Virginia”


“Food Photographer San Diego”


“Fashion Photographer Brooklyn”

Now, it’s important to be particularly careful when reading the results. Contrary to customary wisdom, the photographers that come up first may not be your best fit. The first 3 will be paid ads, and it’s very likely they’ve not optimized their ads for your area. Personally, I would skip past the ads and read the other results on the first page. The photographers there are usually much more relevant to your search. If location is important, go to their contact page before anything else to make sure they’re listed in your area.

Google results for "architectural photographer virginia"

Portfolio is Important, but so are Words

Once you find a photographer, definitely head straight to their about page or blog if they have one. You can get a great read on someone’s personality just by seeing how they talk about themselves and their work. Are they humble or braggy? Are they quiet or boisterous? Are they confident or conflicted? Would you want this photographer to meet your parents? Do they seem like someone you can know, like, and – most importantly – trust?

Ask The Photographer These 5 Questions

Hopefully by now you’ve found a photographer or two you like and want to inquire about their availability. But how do you know if they’re as good as they say they are? Here are some fundamental questions you ask:

1. Hey photographer, can I see a complete job (proofs and finals gallery)?

When you visit a photographer’s website, you will usually only see the best of the best. A well-edited portfolio is probably what motivated you to reach out to this photographer. This is great! Next ask the photographer if you can see a complete shoot that includes the proofs and the final images.

This will give you two important things:

  1. You can see how consistent they are across the entire shoot. Getting one shot is easy. Getting 10 consistently good shots separates the pros from the amateurs.
  2. You can see how well they shoot in camera and how much retouching they do. This will help you understand their creative process and know what to expect for deliverables.

Here is one of my client galleries you can see as an example:

Lincoln Barbour Client Gallery

2. Hey photographer, can I see a full resolution image?

Megapixels and camera brands, though important, don’t matter much if the shot is not in focus or the retouching is inferior.

On the web, images are sized down and many technical errors are masked by the reduction.

Ask the photographer for a full resolution photograph from their website that closely matches your needs. Open that file in Photoshop and view it at 100% (Cmd-Opt-0 Mac or Ctrl-Opt-0 PC). Review the photo closely and look for sharpness, detail, focus, color fringing, dust, and poor retouching techniques like repeating patterns. Then print the image as you would print it for your own needs.

If it looks good to you, then great! You’ve found a photographer who knows how to handle their files.

Here is one of my high-resolution photographs as an example.

100% Crop of Full Size Image
100% Crop of Full Size Image

3. Hey photographer, do you shoot RAW?

A RAW image is a digital negative and is the industry standard.

It contains the maximum amount of color and uncompressed detail from the camera’s sensor. It allows greater flexibility for coloring and toning than a standard JPEG. You are able to save highlights and boost shadows. A RAW image provides total control for the highest quality output.

And it’s non-destructive, which means any changes you make to the file can be undone anytime, forever.

Here is one of my RAW files:

(Note, you will need Adobe Camera RAW 7.1 or later to read this file)

4. Hey photographer, how will I review photos during our shoot?

When you’re working with a photographer on set and it’s critical that you review the shots he or she is getting. You don’t want to be viewing them on the back of the camera. It’s just too small and too hard to judge sharpness, composition, detail, etc on that tiny little screen.

A photographer can tell what they need from the camera’s screen, but you need to see it big.

You should be looking at the shots on a large screen such as a laptop, external monitor, an iMac, or at the very least, a tablet.

5. Hey photographer, how will you backup the files from the shoot?

It’s not if the hard drive will fail, it’s when. There is a golden rule for backup of digital assets called the 3-2-1 Rule: 3 Backups, 2 Types of Media, 1 Off-site. I typically shoot to a card and a laptop simultaneously and then automatically backup to an external drive. My assistant will take the backup drive home and there we have the 3-2-1.

But that’s not secure enough for me…

After the shoot, all media is downloaded to a RAID hard drive and uploaded for cloud storage (RAW Files and all). After a shoot is delivered, final images, edit files, and RAW selects are placed in long term cloud storage and backed up on my studio hard drives.

At the very least, your photographer should be following the 3-2-1 Rule. If not, I’d request a copy of the files immediately after the shoot so you can back it up yourself.

I learned a lot about Digital Asset Management from Peter Krogh’s great book, The DAM Book (in its third printing). If you or one of your team members is in charge of media assets, I highly recommend it.

Here is a link to it on Amazon:

Thanks for Reading!

I really hope this article helps you find a great photographer for your next project. This is just an overview of some fundamental validations you can use to vet any photographer you hire. Definitely add your own to get a complete picture of who you’re about to work with.

If you have a project that I can help you out with, contact me today at [email protected] or 503-467-9470.

Have an awesome day!

What are the Four Types of Photographers

The other day, my barber asked me: “So what do you do?”

I told him I was a photographer, so he proceeded to tell me all about his buddy who shoots weddings. And while I wanted to relate on this shared commonality, I had to be honest with myself: shooting weddings is extremely different from shooting commercially.

As I was searching for a way to explain the difference, it dawned on me: All service-based businesses use similar “tools” in their jobs, but how they use the tools varies wildly.

For example: a plumber and a mechanic both use a wrench, yes, but would you hire your plumber to fix your car? Tools are just that: Tools.

In that same vein, just because a photographer carries around a camera doesn’t mean he or she possesses the necessary skill set to approach each assignment with the same level of expertise. As for me, I’m primarily an Architectural Photographer. Over the past two decades, I’ve filled my toolbox with the knowledge required to approach each assignment with care and consideration. If you need me to beautifully photograph a building with expert technical precision, I’m your man. If you need me to shoot your daughter’s senior portrait, I’m going to pass; frankly, I don’t know the first thing about shooting a teenager’s portrait.

To break it down, I feel there are four basic types of professional photographers, each of which can be very general or very niche. So, before you hire a photographer for your next project, take note of the following.

Commercial Photographer

Photo from my last shoot for Hunter Douglas

Commercial photographers are B2B. They know how to work with other businesses, collaborate in teams, and acquire the resources needed to pull off complex shoots with detailed creative briefs.

Need to secure a location permit and close down a street?! A commercial photographer knows a guy who knows a guy. But if you ask that commercial photographer to shoot your wedding, he’s going to overthink it and probably have you walk down the aisle repeatedly to get the shot just right.


Photo from Leah Nash’s series about Asperger Syndrome –

Photojournalists prime responsibilities include reporting on the news and shooting documentary photo essays. The ones I’ve met are some of the most talented, hardworking, and dedicated people with a camera.

But if you want them to shoot an architectural project, photojournalists are going to approach it like a war zone: “Shoot first, ask questions later.” They also probably wouldn’t even retouch it because to them, it would be unethical.

Retail Photographer (Weddings, Portraits, B2C)

Jen Fariello Photography –

Wedding & Portrait photographers are typically B2C: they get hired by brides and grooms, families, pet owners – basically, the whole gamut of consumers. Some W&P photographers will also dabble in commercial work like headshots for businesses. But their core specialty is the consumer and they are great one-on-one, just like a boutique business should be.

However, if you have an ad campaign to shoot, a wedding photographer is probably not going to have the resources to find a producer, cast talent, and pull permits for locations. I’m sure they know a really killer band and a wonderful caterer though.

Art Photographer

Photo from Holly Andres series “Fieldcrest Drive”

Even though photography is an art form, not all photographers are what I would call “artists”. In fact, I would consider most photographers to be craftsmen – myself included. They dedicate their careers to perfecting the craft and creating photographs for others’ use. Art photographers, on the other hand, shoot purely to create some of the meaning for themselves. Their work is an expression of their feelings. If you hire an art photographer to shoot your ad campaign, you’re letting them lead the vision and direct the creative. But, if you already have a clear creative vision in mind, then you’re better off finding a commercial photographer who can execute it properly.

Next Steps: Vet the Photographer

Now that you know the four types of photographers, you’ll be much better off finding the right person (or studio) for your next shoot. But before making your hire, you should ask them some questions to find out if they’re a pro or an amateur.

Questions like:

  • Can I see a full shoot (proofs and final images)?
  • Do you carry liability insurance?
  • Do you shoot RAW or JPEG?
  • How do you backup files from your shoot?
  • What can expect before, during, and after the shoot?
  • Have you shot this kind of job before?
  • How much retouching do you do?

How can I help you?

Do you have an upcoming commercial photography project you need help on? Contact me today and I will gladly help you out. If I’m not a good fit, I have some great recommendations for you. Click here to go to my contact page.

How We Photography Rejuvenation’s Catalog Without Installing Their Products

After shooting photography of architecture and interior design for over a decade and a half, it seems I’ve actually learned a thing or two. When I hired former Martin Agency art buyer Suzanne Sease to edit my portfolio a while back, she pointed it out to me: Above all else, I excel at shooting products on location.

We then tweaked my portfolio to highlight this strength, opening the door for home product shoots to become the focal point of my business. In addition to architecture and design firms, I also shoot for brands like Hunter Douglas, Oreck, and Rejuvenation.

Speaking of, Rejuvenation is one of my favorite home product brands to shoot for. Based in Portland, Oregon, many Rejuvenation shoots play to my specialty as they’re done on site. For each book, we’d shoot for multiple days – 5 at the minimum. My longest shoot with them even lasted 23 days in one location.

What’s particular about these location shoots is the logistics of shooting their product in places that may not actually exist. In fact, in many of the shots you see here, the product wasn’t actually installed. We rigged it in and then photoshopped the rigging out later. This is a brilliant strategy since it allows you to frame a perfect shot anywhere and then simply add the chandelier, sconce, or other product to optimize its aesthetic. Once the rigging is digitally removed, the shot becomes magical!

Here are a few more before and after shots:

Need help getting your product shot on location?

Though I can’t share all my tricks on my blog, I am more than happy to help you on your next shoot to make your products look amazing and magical.

Click here to contact me today!

The Best Time of Year to Photograph Architecture


August is rapidly coming to a close and I am super excited for September. Why? You may ask. Because we are approaching the Autumnal Equinox and that means great light… all… day… long.

For the few weeks before and after September 22nd, the sun angle is right around 40˚ which is like Rembrandt lighting for buildings. The shadow lines are perfect. There’s just the right amount of low angle light during early morning and late afternoon. And in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer haze has cleared for gorgeous skies with all the plants and trees still pretty much green. You really can’t go wrong shooting in September. Check out this diagram to see what I’m talking about.

Here are some of my favorite projects that I shot in September’s beautiful light.

Even if you have already wrapped up your project, if it wasn’t captured in September, you really should shoot it again to see what an improvement the light at this time of year makes.

Fortunately, I still have a few spots open in September and if you’d like to book a shoot, click here to reach out to me.

Bonus Guide for Architects and Interior Designers

Want to know some easy ways you can improve your architectural shoots? Check out my handy little guide called: 10 WAYS TO MAKE AN ARCHITECTURE SHOOT BETTER. It’s a free download! Just enter in your full name and email and I’ll send it your way.

[activecampaign form=7]

Play by Play of a Full Day Interior Design Photo Shoot

Saul Zaik is well known architect that’s famous for his Pacific Northwest take on mid-century modern design. He’s been practicing architecture since 1952 and I was lucky enough to photograph a Jessica Helgerson Interior Design remodel of one of his houses in the West Hills of Portland, OR.

For a different take on my typical blog post, I thought I’d do a play by play of each shot I took throughout the day and describe what it takes to pull off a typical one day interior design shoot.


1st Shot – South Elevation
Since my client’s needs were more interior design related, we only took one main exterior shot that showed off the work they did. This angle shows the new home color, new deck, and patio furniture. I debated long and hard about shooting this angle at this time of day. The house is in the shade and typically you want sun on a building. But because of the surrounding trees, the house wouldn’t be in full sun until mid-day and that light would be really bad this time of year (shot mid summer). Late afternoon wouldn’t have worked either because the shadow lines would have created a lot more distracting angles on the architecture.


2nd Shot – Patio Detail

This was a quick pickup that we went for since the light was looking good. Setup was pretty fast as we were all set from the previous shot. Exteriors go quick. The first two shots were done in about 30 minutes.


3rd Shot – Living Room

Though I love the look of mid-century modern, it’s typically a challenge to shoot the interiors. In this house, the wood walls and wood ceiling suck up a lot of light. In order to create the beautiful natural light look, I opened up 2 stops over the ambient light reading. This totally blow out the window frames, so I had my assistant walk around with a solid white reflector on the outside of the windows to cut the light at the window frames. This gave me some darker window frames to work with I photoshopped all the frames together for natural look and then used a separate outside exposure for the view. All told, I used 11 frames in the final composite. This shot took about an hour start to finish and about two hours in post.


4th Shot – Fireplace Detail

This was a simpler shot lighting wise, but the styling took a little longer. Jessica and her designers totally rearranged the bookshelf to create a balanced look. One tip when moving homeowners stuff: Always take a before picture so you know where things go back. This shot took about 45 minutes


5th Shot – Dining Room

This shot went pretty quick. I used available light and added a little fill from a strobe bounced off a white card on the right side of the frame to open up the dining room table and chairs. I always use fill light in interiors; meaning my light is under the main ambient exposure by a stop or two. This opens up the shadows, while not becoming the dominant light source. There’s nothing more unnatural looking than an overpowered strobe in an interior. We knocked this one out in about 30 minutes.


6th Shot – Kitchen

The kitchen area serves as a pass though from the dining room to the family room and bedrooms, which made it hard to find a good angle to shoot it from. We ended up at this spot because it best showed the height of the space and how it related to the dining room. I shot separate exposures for the open door and upper windows and dropped them in later. This shot went quick, maybe 3o minutes. After this shot, we took a lunch break for about 30 minutes. Don’t want to waste too much time when there’s more to shoot!

Saul-Zaik-House_LincolnBarbour-1309 Saul-Zaik-House_LincolnBarbour-1336

7th & 8th Shot – Family Room

I put these up together since we shot them back to back over about an hour period. We shot two angles because one just didn’t explain this cool space well enough. The first is more of vignette and the second is more the room hero. I love both these shots. They feel so peaceful. Pillows and plants take a long time to style to look right. Fortunately, shooting live view speeds up the process because you can see changes in real time.


9th Shot – Master Bath

The hardest part of this shot was that my camera and tripod were being reflected right in the middle of the shower’s glass wall. In post, I went in cloned out the reflection which was a little tricky with all that tile work. It was one of the those shots were post took more time than shooting it. This shot was all natural light. All in all, about 3o minutes to shoot and an hour of post.


10th Shot – Bedroom Vignette

We liked this composition to show off the design elements, but a couple of the clocks on the wall were out of the frame. We wanted to show all the clocks together as a group, but didn’t want to put any new holes in the walls. To make it quick and easy, Jessica and her designers hand held two of the clocks in place and I shot them standing in the middle of the room. I then photoshopped them out with a blank base frame. This is one of those times where it was faster (and less destructive) to do it in Photoshop than in reality. I used a fill light on the left because the room was so much darker than the bright bathroom. About 30 minutes total on this shot.


11th Shot – Carport

Not too much went into this shot. Mainly retouched out some oil stains on the concrete. Sweet car, huh? 15 minutes start to finish.


12th Shot – Office

This is one my favorite office shots. Mainly, because it’s the office of amazingly talented photographer Ty Milford. It’s fun to see another shooters workspace and what they put up for inspiration. The room was shot available light, but I put a strobe in the hallway to brighten that up. 3o Minutes on this one.


13th Shot – Kid’s Room

Small spaces are tricky to shoot. I don’t like to go too wide which distorts everything and looks weird to me. So, I usually get back as far as possible, sometimes with camera pressed up against a wall and shoot just wide enough to get the key elements in place. We didn’t do too much styling on this. Mainly, just tidied up and moved away some clutter. We spent about 3o minutes on this one.


14th Shot – Powder Room Detail

On this shot, we all went back and forth about having the sconces on or not. The sconces were the only real light source and turning them off made it really dark. The only daylight was coming from down the hall and around the corner. When they were on, the sconces were distracting because your eyes went right to them and overpowered everything else. Ultimately, we ended up going with them off and shooting a long exposure (8 secs, f/13, iso 320) to create a brightness that wasn’t there in reality. To the human eye it looked dark, but with a camera you can see a lot more. Quick shot though, maybe 20 minutes.


15th Shot – Hot Tub

Fairly simple styling on this shot. It mostly required some photoshop since the tub area was in shade and that blew out the view and the cool roof detail. I never shoot HDR for this kind of work because you have so much more control if you shoot separate exposures work in layers. HDR gives you a little too much information and can kill a natural look. We took about 20 minutes to shoot this and I did not jump in the hot tub, despite it being so inviting. Still had another shot to do 😉


 16th Shot – Master Bedroom from the Outside

Here’s another shot that I had to deal with reflections. I placed the camera and tripod on the center point of  the door frame, so all I had to photoshop out was one leg being reflected. I had almost wrapped this shot when I went back to review and realized I was standing in reflection of the glass. So, I had to shoot all the brackets once more, but fortunately hadn’t moved the tripod.

And that’s a wrap. The day started 8:30am and we finished up at 6pm. This shoot was pretty typical for an interior design / residential architecture kind of shoot that I do. We were able to get through so many shots because Jessica and her team are awesome at styling and know what they want. We’ve also been working together for over 8 years and have a good rapport. Most of my successful shots come from collaborating and great styling, whether by the client or an professional interior stylist.

Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.