VisionEntriesArchitectural photography of retail spaces is more than creating images. This section is intended to showcase my procedures, thoughts as well as current and archived work. Please feel free to return again as this is frequently updated.

Global Shop Get Together

This year, GlobalShop returns to Chicago, a mecca of architecture and a huge contributor to the retail design world. The show gives me a chance to reconnect, recharge and renew my ties to an industry that I’ve served for thirty years. I’m walking the floor and have some fresh projects on the iPad to share. I’m setting up appointments both formal and informal at the show. 

Let me know if you are attending, it would be great to catch up.

I started reflecting on some amazing sites that I’ve photographed in the Windy City recently:  Dylan’s Candy Bar at the base of the Tribune Tower, City Target in the iconic Louis Sullivan Building, Verizon Destination Store on Michigan Avenue, two neighborhood themed grocery stores for Whole Foods, as well as the new prototype Value City Furniture in Elston.

Hopefully, the March weather will cooperate this year and we can enjoy some time outside.  If not, there are always deep dish pizza and amazing restaurants.  A taste of the five projects I mentioned can be seen here.  Please be sure to look me up with an email, text, call or shout.

Visions 03-Comparing Retail & Architectural Photography

For a few years now, I’ve billed myself not as much as an architectural photographer, but rather as a retail interior photographer.  Although related, I feel there are some major differences which I would love to discuss.  

First and mainly, architectural photography is about space and balance while retail photography focuses more on the story telling of the brand for which the space was created.  Thus, much of the story is about merchandising and the interior elements that enhance product placement.  These elements tend to focus more on the colors, signage, textures, merchandisers and products as well as customer touch points and pathways.

Because of the need to tell a branding story, retail photography lends itself to a much tighter vignette style of images due to the need for retail environments to shift between sub-brands or product. Detail imagery becomes more important because colors, type style and textures plays a more important role here.  Retail design tends to love its touch points with consumers and its documentation strives to show those points.

Another difference is how architectural photography is about the actual look and feel of an overall space, warranting clean overall images, while retail photography seeks more brand energy.  I like to say that I photograph the “design intent” of retail design due to the fact that I may exclude what I feel unnecessary from a particular image to reinforce a statement.  Since this lends itself to the more vignetted style versus the overall images, it allows firms to discuss each visual and touch points with better intensity.  

Another factor  that I will quickly touch upon is the use of lighting.  Architecture images tend to use a more natural light approach while retail images will often use enhanced lighting to focus on more important points within the environment.  I will often use lighting to bring out color and texture, focus on branded products, enhance the intended consumer path through a space or call attention to any important or subtle detail.

If you take a look at my site, you will see many instances of the above.  I feel that Lowe’s Manhattan in particular is a very nice example of the above.  You can view the images here.   You should notice how branding colors are more dominant as well as product merchandising instead of architecture elements.  Lowe’s branded coloring pops within the images and merchandise becomes more important over architecture details. 

There may be times when the architecture is part of the story.  In that case, there are ways to work the space into the branding story.  A great example of this would be the City Target story I photographed for Fitch and Target.  You can see the images here.    I feel this is a great merging of the two styles into a cohesive story that maintains the architecture as well as the branding allowing each its own part of the mix.

Visions 02-Previsualization

On an April morning in 1927, Ansel Adams stood on a granite outcrop of rock within Yosemite National Park.  He placed a yellow filter over his lens, inserted a plate (film nowadays) and made an exposure of Half Dome.  With only a single plate left, he realized that if he used a red filter, the sky would render as a near pitch black, thus emphasizing the sheer cliff opposite him.  He replaced the yellow filter with the red, made an exposure and realized, at that point, that he had in his mind the final image of the complete photograph, even before it was taken. 

This moment is legendary in the photography circles as it was the moment that Adams realized that he could pre-visualize this final image even before making an exposure.  He then took to creating a system using camera exposure, negative development,  and darkroom printing that resulted in The Zone System.

Coming from the “film days” of photography, my training emphasized the need to know exactly what the final image would be as I took the exposure.  I used transparency film, which required a complete knowledge of lighting, exposure, color balance and processing in order to achieve the results my clients expected.  

Nowadays, I have conversations with art directors telling me how easy I make it look on site. But what they don’t see is the experience of past days that allow me to instantly see problem areas.  Even though digital may make things a little easier on site, it can allow for problems later if I am not careful.

The differences between my RAW files and the complete high resolution images can be significant.  I follow a pretty strict routine once back in the office in order to make sure that color and exposure layering are correct.  You may see me turning lights on and off, even moving them, adjusting lens settings, taking multiple exposures, or a number of different things-all done to assure that I can complete the image later with what I have pre-visualized for the image in my mind on site. 

It is important to me, as having worked alongside designers in the past, I can create an image that is equal to what was in their mind as they designed the site.  This I call “photographing the design intent”, a way of making sure that the intended design of a space is close to the actual documentation that I deliver.  It's more about recreating the emotion and passion that were there when the space was designed, rather than documenting.

The images you see here are from a recent shoot in Atlanta of Holler & Dash for FRCH.  The top image is the final, and the one below, from the RAW file with minor color and density corrections.  Knowing how to photograph the scene to obtain the information I need is important, as you see from the differences between the two images.  Balancing the information in the scene, and  knowing how to work with that information, are vital to my pre-visualization process.

Visions 01-A Few Things About Myself

It’s been THIRTY years now (yes, 30!) that I’ve been in the photography business.  Wow!  It really doesn’t seem that long.  I’ve been to so many places, met so many people, and have photographed so many sites that the years have flown by!  I'm sure you can only guess how much experience that time can bring.  So much has become second nature and making it look easy is part of the sweat of the past.  Thus, I would like to spend this first edition filling you in on a bit of my past.

Stepping out of photography school in 1987, my hope was to work as a studio photographer.  That took me to Fitch (then Richardson Smith) as an assistant, eventually moving up to staff photographer.  The 90’s brought so much growth to the company in all the design practices, that I needed to be able to do it all-retail, graphic, product.

Leaving there in 1998, I hoped to build a studio based upon all that experience, but something happened that I wasn’t expecting.  It seemed that the Fitch 90’s powerhouse was very influential in retail design, and the people within the industry wanted me to photograph their sites as well.  

That was my start within the retail design photography business.  I was so busy with it, and with the changes in the photography market within the studio sector, I was driven to become a prime retail location photographer.  Since then I’ve worked with so many players, nd I look forward to many more.

I have been married for thirty years as well and have three children, play guitar, am a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and love landscape photography.  The color image you see above is from Cooks Forest State Park in Pennsylvania.  I grew up near this area and love to return when I can. A spectacular place that reminds me so much of my youth and spending time in wooded areas-mainly just observing.  The other is from a trip a few years ago to Alaska.  I’ve always loved the Orotone images of Edward Curtis, and have loved giving some of my images a personal effect similar, though I prefer more of a brown color than the warm gold.  It leaves me with a nostalgic reminder of the past and how the masters have influenced what I do today.

Fast Food Showdown

Wendy's Prototype

This year I’ve photographed four new prototypes within the fast food industry,  All feature ordering kiosks and better seating options. The intent is to improve service and give patrons a better dining room experience. Visit the links for a small taste of  Wendy’s in Columbus,OH, KFC Big Chicken in Marietta GA , Subway in Chula Vista, CA and McDonalds in Manhattan

Subway Fresh Prototype