architectural photographer

VLOG: Aerial and Exterior Photography of Vista Pearl by BORA Architects

Video Transcript

Hi, this is Lincoln Barbour of Lincoln Barbour Studio. Today I want to go over a shoot I did this summer and just give you a little overview of what we do here and how we get a job and how we deliver it and all the fun stuff that goes along with it. So this shoot was of the Vista Pearl building for BORA Architects, a firm based out of Portland Oregon. This building is located in the Pearl District of Portland.  BORA wanted me to capture some aerial photos of this building as well as retake some of the exteriors since the landscape has grown in after it’s been completed for a year or so.

They reached out to me and I’m an FAA licensed drone pilot so I can legally and safely fly a drone for commercial purposes. And the biggest difference between me, an FAA licensed pilot flying a drone, and anybody else is that I can get insurance. You can’t get insurance to fly your drone commercially unless you are licensed by the FAA. So safety and insurance are the main reasons why you want to hire an FAA pilot.

 This building in particular has a really interesting design feature on the east and west facades. There are these fins that change shape as they move down the building and we wanted the light to hit the fins to accentuate those different shadow lines that the building creates.  It’s a very exciting exterior and time of day was super critical for the shot. So we plan the shoot around getting this one shot in particular.

On the other side of the building we photographed the west exterior in the same kind of way.  We wanted to showcase the different shapes that were going on with the fins and the way the light affects them. This shot was actually taken from another building across the block. We were able to get access and go up to the fifth floor and shoot across. You can see there’s another building down here that we shot over. So pre scouting and coordinating with other building owners to get access is critical to these kind of shoots.

An unedited drone shot.

So now I want to show some of the drone shots that we got. This is the raw drone file and I wanted to show a before and after. So you can see what we get and then what we end up delivering to the client. This building was a beautiful building and it’s in a great setting. Unfortunately there’s a couple of things going on down in here.  There is some grass being grown and some water pipes and all this yellow fencing. It’s also early summer and the park here is starting to show some threadbare.  The green roof that they installed hasn’t quite matured. It’s supposed to look like this over here but it’s just still early plantings and so it wasn’t quite green yet although it is very much alive. So we were shooting this for their portfolio and as well as for a presentation. So we worked on the color and did some retouching. So you can see we sort of emphasize the sky. We richen up the sky. We retouched out the pipes and the orange fence. We made the grass down here green. And we made the roof look like a proper green roof. We also took down a sign that was here.  There was a blue leasing sign that was right here and we took that out.

The same drone shot as above after retouching.

So now we have a really beautiful, nice composition of the building. Again this is a drone shot, but it’s also architectural.  So the verticals have been kept all nice and straight and it has a very three dimensional feel.  It doesn’t look wonky and skewed.

Another angle of the Vista Pearl, this was purposefully shot underexposed to keep the highlights in check.

Here’s another angle. This was shot early in the morning and I wanted to save the highlights so I underexposed this photograph. And so I wanted to keep the highlight values in here to show that. But overall the photo looks kind of muddy and flat. We went in and worked up the color and brought it back to life.

The shot is edited to make the scene more interesting and still keep the highlights under control.

So now it’s a little bit more interesting. That’s got some nice drama. It’s got some great contrast. We also did the roof fix here and then the grass in the park has been retouched.  Going back, you can really see that the difference between the two.  So big change.   Some subtle adjustments and a bit of retouching as well.

An unedited drone shot highlighting several buildings designed by BORA.

Now here is this overview shot.  And this is really cool.  Several of these buildings are all done by BORA Architects and they really wanted to showcase this block that they’ve been working on over the last couple of years in Portland.  The only way to get this shot is with a drone.  Fortunately, the Pearl District is outside of the airspace of the Portland Airport, so I could actually get my drone back far enough to capture all these buildings. The day that I shot these drone exteriors was a little bit cloudier. I actually went twice to this project to photograph it and to shoot drone aerials. So on this day we have more drama in the sky. Again you can see the problems that we have. The grass is barren here. The roof isn’t green. This is looking a little rough and new.

The shot is now fully edited and being used by BORA for their own marketing and presentation needs.

So we went in and did some retouching and some color and contrast adjustments. Now we have a beautiful photograph. So this photo is now being used on their website, presentation and marketing materials.  It really does a good job showcasing the work that they do as a firm.

This patio image is a composite of two different photos.

This last shot is the patio area of Vista Pearl. I love the final composition but this is not a single photograph.  We got a composition of two different photographs.

This shot was used for the couple on the right and the overall lighting conditions.

The first one is the people on the right here.  We liked what they were doing, how they’re engaged with the people over here. With this shot there was a couple issues; we had some water spills and we had these kids which don’t really fit the building.  The building is designed more for people without children.

This shot was used for the couple on the left and the fire.

So we ended up using a frame later where we brought on this couple to sit with this couple. But the lighting wasn’t as good at this point. So what we did is we took these people and we added here to get this final composition.  So this is the final shot and the client was super happy and so am I.

It took us two days of shooting and about a half day of retouching to get everything done and we’re all very happy with these results.

If you have any questions and if you want to know more about how we photograph architecture please reach out to us. We would love to work for you and help you out with your photography needs. Thanks so much.

Back to Work

Me on set for Hunter Douglas. Photo by Anna Yumul
Me on set for Hunter Douglas. Photo by Anna Yumul


The move back to Portland is complete and what a journey it’s been! Today is my first day in my home office and it feels great. Since May 20th, I’ve either been packing boxes, flying across the country with my family (including three cats), living out of suitcases in multiple AirBNBs, unpacking boxes, building furniture, or have been on location for a 9 day photo shoot for Hunter Douglas in the Bay Area. It’s been a little crazy to say the least.

I am so happy to be back and my return has been well received. On top of a long photo shoot next month for Hunter Douglas, I’ve also booked three architectural shoots this month and have had over a dozen inquiries. It’s almost like I never left.

Okay, I’m off to it! Have a great day!


PS: If you have any projects you need photographed, please reach out to me.

Blackout the Glass House

If you’re a fan of architecture, you’ve probably heard of Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT. This famous modern architectural home has been photographed repeatedly over the past 50 years by the best photographers in the world. And just recently, it was my turn!

About five months ago, Hunter Douglas’ Creative Director Don Montgomery reached out to me with a uniquely challenging project. Hunter Douglas was releasing a new total-blackout shade system, which their creative team decided to promote by installing in the least likely of places: a famous all-glass house.

Because we only had 7 hours to document this entire project, I decided to shoot it on my Canon 5D Mk IV. It’s a very nimble camera with a lot of dynamic range. I also used Canon’s architectural lenses for their excellent sharpness and shift capabilities, both of which are necessary to properly shoot architecture. As for the lighting, it consisted of a mix of natural light, available lamps, and a set of Arri tungsten fresnels.

So how do you shoot something intended to eliminate light? Very carefully and thoughtfully! I employed every lighting technique I could think of to capture shots that favorably exhibit the product and its effect while still respecting the historical architecture. After all, this product really is amazing; when it’s entirely down, no light comes in whatsoever. Even when we opened certain shades, the room remained incredibly dark.

Alongside me were my digital tech Esteban Aladro and 1st assistant Mike Grippi. These guys worked extra hard due to some heavy late-morning rain and a lack of electricity in the house. We rented a gas-powered generator which Mike rigged up so it could function outside and be protected from the rain. Right before we’d shoot, Mike would run out and squeegee the windows clean. Overall, we had to work extremely diligently to get through each shot while proofing everything to art director Anna Yumul in Adobe Lightroom.

The final shots are some of my absolute favorites, and I feel tremendously honored that Hunter Douglas entrusted me to capture them. I don’t think we’ll ever see the Glass House look quite like this ever again. As such, it truly was a special shoot for me.

Case Study: Gallaudet Deaf Residence Hall for Dangermond Keane Architects

One of my greatest joys as a photographer is seeing my pictures help clients succeed. Just last week, I learned that my clients at Dangermond Keane Architects (DKa) were recognized by the AIA DC with the 2018 Presidential Citation in Universal Design for their work on the Gallaudet University Model Secondary School for the Deaf Residence Hall.

I shot this project for DKa during an icy cold snap in January of 2017. When we started with the dusk exteriors, it was a frigid 10° outside and – to add insult to injury – my laptop battery died within 20 minutes of shooting. Thankfully, we managed to have just enough juice to capture the shots we needed.

I actually set up two cameras to capture simultaneous dusk exposures from distinct angles. Bringing two cameras to shoots is a staple of mine, particularly beneficial during timely shots like these. After all, we only have a few minutes to get the perfect dusk shot and there’s never enough time to reset the camera. With two cameras going at once, I can easily double the effort.

The most interesting thing we needed to capture on this shoot was the DeafSpace principles used in the hall’s design. In essence, the spaces are tailor-made for visual conversation. From Gallaudet’s website:

“When deaf people congregate the group customarily works together to rearrange furnishings into a ‘conversation circle’ to allow clear sightlines so everyone can participate in the visual conversation.  Gatherings often begin with participants adjusting window shades, lighting and seating to optimize conditions for visual communication that minimize eyestrain. Deaf homeowners often cut new openings in walls, place mirrors and lights in strategic locations to extend their sensory awareness and maintain visual connection between family members.

These practical acts of making a DeafSpace are long-held cultural traditions that, while never-before formally recognized, are the basic elements of an architectural expression unique to deaf experiences. The study of DeafSpace offers valuable insights about the interrelationship between the senses, the ways we construct the built environment and cultural identity from which society at large has much to learn.”

DKa designed the common areas with clear lines of sight for visual communication (i.e. sign language). I worked with Chris Keane on the shoot to carefully set up the shots so that they would illustrate their technical understanding of DeafSpace. In addition, we had real students participating so there was an added challenge of communicating through an interpreter. I couldn’t just yell, “Hey – move over to left!” Instead, I was constantly running around set, doing my best to explain where I wanted them to be and what actions I wanted them to take. Through it all, the students were extremely cooperative, and working with them was a genuinely incredible experience.

Together, we produced some impressive work that I’m extremely proud of, and I’m elated to hear that DKa is (deservedly!) getting noticed for their efforts. Kudos to all!

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.

Industrial-Chic Shoot Featured on Dwell

I’m always so excited for my clients when one of their projects I shoot for them gets published on a major industry site. Last week it was the New York Times, this week my client Emerick Architects was featured on Dwell for this amazing industrial-chic Portland warehouse they remodeled. Definitely one of those #loftgoals kinds of places. Here’s a snippet from the article:

Blending raw industrial elements with elegant detailing, this one-of-a-kind home is a poster child for adaptive reuse.

Inspired by the loft conversions of TriBeCa, a pair of former New Yorkers were keen on an industrial-chic aesthetic when they purchased an 8,000-square-foot warehouse to serve as their new home in Southeast Portland. To bring their adaptive-reuse abode to life, the couple tapped local studio Emerick Architects,

Read the whole article here:

Want to Get Your Work Published?

Over the past 16 years, I’ve shot for and been published in the top home decor and architecture magazines. When you work with me, I will gladly help you promote your project to my exclusive list of photo editors, bloggers, and influencers.

Contact me today to book your next shoot.