Design Home photography

I have had the good fortune of photographing the Philadelphia Magazine Design Home annually for about 10 years now. It is a specialized type of photography that we call advertorial; a combination of editorial and advertising photography. In this case, the magazine wants to present images that demonstrate unbiased, graphically interesting architectural views of the home. At the same time, paying vendors and sponsors need to have their product clearly and well presented.

The project is always very challenging for the builder. They face the task of trying to complete a large and unique project in a limited time with some unfamiliar subcontractors and changes that come along the way.  I need to be present during final completion of the project to help coordinate when we can start, what can be photographed and what remaining details of construction might need to be completed during photography.

Of course, one would like to think it is all very glamorous, but in truth, I am a project manager as much as I am a creative photographer. This time, the first day of photography was spent making the front elevations and preparing for the marathon of photography that would follow.  Here is a photograph of me at the end of the driveway at the position for the twilight elevation.

2014 Design Home dusk elevation preparation

You might be curious. Why here? These are the factors that directed my choice:

• Several interior rooms and rear exterior areas were not yet finished. The front elevation was doable if the vehicles, painter's ladders, construction debris, etc, etc, was removed from view.
• I always try to do the most challenging and important things first.
• We wanted to make a dramatic twilight photograph for the magazine that shows off the work of the builder, architect, lighting sponsor, landscape sponsor, ironwork sponsor, interior designer, etc.
• It was not raining and the timed exterior lights were functioning. 
• I needed to be about 8 feet high to see over the stone gate post. This was to essentially make it appear smaller. At eye level, it would be a huge object in the foreground if I wanted to show the light fixture on it. The extra height also allows you to see more of the landscaping and the shape of the driveway, etc.
• I don't carry an 8 foot tripod, the bed of a dump truck was too limiting and the roof of a car is too unstable. I have used scaffolding, but the wood spans were so flexible that the camera bounced with the rhythm of my heartbeat. This time we lashed the tripod to step ladders and stabilized it with a camera bag. A CamRanger was used to operate the camera remotely.
• The house was designed to have a pergola attached to the left side that would act as a cover over the parking space and visually complete the massing and roof pitches on the main part of the house. Without it, I wanted to avoid showing the truncated left side, mostly by highlighting other things that I would prefer that you look at. For example, I allowed that side to go dark and then highlighted branches on a tree in the foreground to mimic the missing shape of the pergola and create lead-in lines past it. We also lit areas of the back yard so that you would look beyond it. We wet the driveway to bring areas of interest and contrast to the front. We lit the gate in a way that its vertical lines lead your eyes back to the focal point, which is the front door.

This year, the 2014 Design Home is in Wyndmoor PA. If you are local, it is worth a visit. You will want to dream about all that is possible in your current or your next home. I can't show you the finished photograph yet, but you can go here to see it and find out more about the project.