Sterling Photo Digest

The Intent In My Photography

These are a few images that are examples which represents my vision and passion in what I do. I find that images that I capture must speak to me in a language of composition, inspiration, and information about the design it conveys. 

As a photographer my intention is not to redefine the architects design, but to show it in the context of my vision. The project is the story, I am here to show it off by hitting the "mark" with great images. Being passionate, intuitive, and having experience in creating great images will help my clients get their next project.

And, yes, I do wake up at 4 am excited about the project that I am about to shoot

Creating images that move you forward!


Sonoma Mountain Retreat
Sonoma Mountain Retreat

Lets face it; humans are visual beings.  What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel, and who we are. It should go as no surprise that visual content encourages engagement. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. [Source] When you are ready to begin marketing with visual content, be consistentMake the project experience real. Your firm exists on project experiences. Each of your firms employees works toward designing and building great structures. Reach beyond the traditional marketing methods and tell the story about how your firm is making a difference in the built world with authentic imagery. Ultimately, your audiences know when they are getting the real deal.

  1. Tailor visual content to reinforce your message with different target audiences.  Your clients, colleagues, and partners all have varying needs, wants, challenges, and priorities. Your visual content should appeal to your varied audience categories. Initially, organize a series of visual images by segment and incorporate them in your marketing efforts.  It will not be long before you will find out what will work and what will not.
  2. Give the audience details. Your project images should speak a thousand words and appeal to the senses. Capturing Interior Architecture That Appeals to Your Senses Images can also conjure up memories or experiences just from an image and a story.  Deliver a sensory journey; the more details you provide, the closer you get to your audience.
  3. Visual content needs to be timely.  When it comes to visual content, timing is everything. Be on the lookout for opportunities to build your firms brand awareness. There may be a project development or activity that reinforces your firms unique character. Strike while the iron is hot  capture the moment to tell your audience a little more about your firms practices.
  4. Create a story to support the project images. An image that reinforces your project or company story makes a tremendous impact.  A good story with pictures makes a human connection on an emotional level..  Making a visual memorable to target audiences will make the difference during a pursuit. In addition, you can differentiate your brand before the prospect offers you an opportunity for viable project pursuit.

If you are still debating whether to pursue a visual content strategy, dont let me convince you.  Research shows, 65% of senior marketing executives believe that visual assets (photos, video, illustrations and infographics) are core to how their brand story is communicated. [Source: CMO Council] What are you waiting for?  Lets work together to bring a memorable content experience to your audiences.

Digital marketing is a very effective and valuable practice for construction firms.  These efforts require a content management platform that incorporates a blog, social media, email marketing, and site pages to further build a companys brand.  According to a 2016 survey from the Construction Marketing Associate, sales prospecting and local SEO are the top lead generation tactics expected to increase this year.

Unfortunately, it is hard to break through all the digital content constantly placed in front of your prospective clients.  Due to the sheer volume of content, their attention span is limited.  To really capture their attention, it is much more effective to use authentic company images.  High quality, professional photography is too expensive to purchase and more time consuming to generate.

Digital marketing efforts require constant and consistent content generation.  Whether you are writing a post for your construction services blog or developing a email page that links to one of your site pages, you need images. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, content with images gets 94% more views than content sans images. It doesnt matter what industry, topic, or specialty…i.e. images matter.

Visual Content for Construction Firms

So why does this matter?

If you are participating in digital marketing efforts, you want to make sure is well worth the effort.  By simply adding visual content, you automatically boost traffic to your companys website.  Whether you are using visual content on a social media post, or incorporating images on a blog post, readers become all the more interested in learning more about your company. Most of these tools are inexpensive; why not add a little sizzle?

Visual content allows you to build your companys brand.  Images reinforce your companys unique character, ultimately spotlighting what differentiates your firm from the rest.  Regular posting of genuine images with an engaging message will help you further your firms reputation as an industry leader. In addition, these efforts will allow you to make a human connection and build trust by revealing what your firms brand is all about.

Like any other skill, digital marketing takes time to perfect. It is a practice that requires daily effort and attention. Take the time to evaluate the response, understand what is working, and give audiences more of what they want.

If your construction company wants to stay relevant, its apparent that digital marketing is a practice youll need. No longer can you rely on print advertisements or word of mouth; youll need to take a strategic, dynamic approach to marketing with engaging visual content.

Visual content is a more effective way to get in front of your users in powerful, interactive, and meaningful ways. Theres a huge upside to all of this. Youll build brand signals, grow your business reputation, and create fans of your brand.

Do you want to learn more about visual content solutions for digital marketing?  Read more.

Capturing Interior Architecture That Appeals to Your Senses

Interior images that appeal to the senses may evoke comfort or relaxation and cause viewers to want to spend more time in an environment.  High-end spas and resorts are particularly effective at using high sensory images to attract clientele.  With the ever-increasing importance of mobile devices, other industries, such as healthcare, transportation and retail, are looking to get in on appealing to the senses through imagery.  

Why? Sensory images can lure the most discriminating clients because they reach them on a human level. Images stimulate the senses through light, color, and texture in graphic or abstract patterns with a precise composition. Conventional images do not appeal to the senses. They observe each sense separately.  

As an architectural photographer, I cant help but be influenced strongly by my synesthesia, a sense impression relating to one sense stimulation of another sense. 'What I see, I taste and also feel orally'. My senses play a huge role in how I capture an interior spaces. I evaluate the composition of objects, the lighting, the colors, and the textures. These elements provide a range of cross-sensory relationships.   

I took a cross section of my interior images and provided the senses I experienced. How would you describe these images?

  • Cool, seductive images
  • Captures the feel for the space
  • Composition
  • Lighting
  • Colors
  • Surfaces, textures, materials
  • Clean
Balanced, soft, clean, cool Tangy, luscious, lingering, pleasing, warm, graceful, sultry 
Crisp, composition, balance, Serene, composed, mood, reflective, ghostly
Composition, tart, strong, clear, challenged Quiet, soft, reflective, organic, buttery 
Succulent, salty, turbulent, sizzle, vibrantProportion, balanced, concise, tactile, peppery 
Flavorful, coordinated, tension, savory, warmth, silky, Asymmetrical, transparent, graceful, wispy,  
Soft, pleasing, tepidDelicious, balanced, smoothed, satiny
Bold, bright, tense, clean, sour, preciseMusty, moody, smoky, cold
Composition, color, fluid, sculptured, bold, dynamicHarbinger, light, composed, soft, moody                

Tell me about your synesthesia experiences. Do you experience similar effects when you see your work or photographs?

Creating images that move you forward!

Visual content is essential to the design and construction industry. Images are used in brochures, presentations, qualifications statements, proposals, advertisements, website, social media, blogs, and the list goes on.  Let's face it; the need for great photography is not going away anytime soon.  A picture tells a thousand words, it shows clients the kind of work your do. Over time, great images show your firm's history.  

If you are wondering about when to start capturing great architecture, the time is now. Simply put, good weather leads to great photography.  The summer and fall seasons provide longer hours of light and allow the photographer [me] to plan for a range of images throughout the day.

In the summertime, the northern side of a building has good light. It is also a time when a range of building activities is taking place. Physical construction or demolition work is in progress.  Shots of staged construction equipment or materials may offer a nice illustration for a story. On buildings that are close to completion, it is best to develop a schedule to capture interiors in the mid morning and exteriors in the morning and evening. 

There are a number of characteristics and scenarios that capture the unique qualities of your project.  Looking at your active project list, consider whether project has a photographic opportunity for capturing a special technique, level of craftsmanship, and/or extraordinary design. Some scenarios may require an iPhone photo but others that may require a photographer.  Whatever the circumstance, it is important to evaluate the project phase and visual opportunities. 

Additional areas to consider include:

  • + The project's location.
  • + A notable architect designed the project.
  • + The project requires well-thought building approach.
  • + The project requires higher-attention to detail and craftsmanship.
  • + The project has great team engagement.
  • + The project needs to be phased to accommodate business.

Even though the summer and fall seasons provide ideal conditions for photography that does not mean there will not be a few hiccups. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a challenge with fog from time to time. Unfortunately, you cannot always plan for the infamous micro climates; it is best to wait until the fog dissipates.

Lastly, it is a photographer's job to make it easier for you to create a schedule for successfully capturing your firm's work. Take advantage of their experience and knowledge of the project's geography.  It will not be long before the fall and winter seasons arrive when planning new projects is well underway and eye-catching proposals will be needed.  Wouldn't it be great to add new visual content to your arsenal of qualifications?

Creating Images that move you forward

We live in a world with very short attention spans.  A photographer has a limited amount of time to get someones attention before they become distracted.  Most clients want a picture or image to reveal certain qualities about their products or services. Therefore, capturing the attention of desired audiences is pretty important.  

The four key ingredients to capturing the attention of desired audiences include:

  1. Image Content Uniqueness or of Interest
  2. Classic or Rule Breaking Composition
  3. Emotional Connection
  4. Work of talented people

These elements work in balance to keep audiences engaged. Photographers tend to have their own way of determining what works for them, either consciously or not.  For this post, I selected 5 images that in some capacity to address these elements. Ultimately, my goal as a photographer is to get you or your prospective clients to spend those 6 seconds looking at an image.

This is an experiment, an excursion into the process that keeps me fresh and conditioned. My mentor once told me Photography is about practice. Every time you pick up a camera you are learning to take a photograph, you may say, Really? Is he right?  I would like to hear from you about your perspective on my examples.

This image works because it has a proportionally balanced composition and an interesting simple design. I find images rendered in black and white tend to speak their own language.  Does this building look familiar?  It is located in downtown SF.

This image is about emotional messaging. Would you want to bathe in this environment? Yep, I bet you do.  A great room, well designed and furnished can entice you to want to spend time in that space. This image is composed with light and dark features leading to the casting on the ceiling. Vertical and horizontal lines, essentially a frame within a frame, along with the help of very talented interior designer, makes this picture very inviting.

This image has competing shapes and forms that are light and dark. There is a highlight in a dark zone. Sometimes, I like to add a little tension on the edges especially for a something as interesting as this silo.

Okay…. I am sharing this image with you because I like it or I what I mean to say is I really like the building it is in. If you have the opportunity to go to Santa Fe go see the Masonic Temple and take the tour. Its worth it!  There is a lot going on in this image so I needed to capture some of the iconic features while maintaining interest in the room with the composition and light. This image succeeds in making the eye explore the room.

I like this image because it is very composed and deliberate. I use the term deliberate, because it is about shooting it at the right time. Make it scream, Wow! Can you imagine having dinner here then relaxing outside on the deck?

This is what I do for fun to keep in tuned to my art.  Any thoughts?

There is nothing more exciting than to be able to venture outside with my camera when I am inspired.  However, it is whole other thing when I am just not feeling it.  Similar to writers, photographers can feel uninspired and need to find ways to deal with a conceptual block. This post covers the creative voids and how to overcome them. 

Subject Matter Boredom: There may be times when you may tire of your day-to-day surroundings and a change in scenery may be needed. Located in the Napa Valley, I am forever grateful for the natural light and beautiful setting. Fortunately, there is no shortage of new and exciting places to shoot.  Both Sonoma and Napa Valleys are forever changing and very inspiring.  In this respect, the geography truly inspires me. 

However, as a professional photographer, I am frequently asked to capture the areas renowned landscapes in combination with man-made structures. So what happens when the subject matter is not quite working with the surroundings? 

Uncooperative Subject Matter: There are times when the position of the structure may not be easy to shoot.  Instead of wringing your hands in frustration, I allow myself to look at the surroundings and structure in a new way.  I may choose to focus on the unique characteristics or geometries of the structure and let the landscape take a supportive role.

In this image of Blueline Vineyard, designed by Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design, I intended to create an impression of a structure floating in abstract form with the hills and vineyard in the foreground. The image is about composition, free form relationships to an illuminated man-made element. It was my intent to make the relationship between these elements work and while staying true to the design.  This vantage point was chosen to show this and with just enough of what it is there, but also eliminate a lot of equipment on the crush pad. Sometimes we have to create great images with what we have to work with like this one.

Good Ideas Gone Flat: Adversely to uncooperative subject matter, there are times when I thought I had a brilliant photographic perspective and it did not work out. I dont let these occasions hinder my progress. It is important to always challenge myself during these moments and continue to act on these photographic epiphanies. The only way to grow is to move away from what you already know. Take creative risks. With confidence and understanding of the creative risk taking, the higher the probability you will stumble upon a true creative gem. 

Conceptual blocks can be incredibly frustrating. I like to look at these moments as an opportunity for creative growth.  These moments are not indicative of a lack of creativity, rather a time to look at the world through a new lens.  Like any other challenge we face as humans, what matters is how we respond to these hurdles. 

What do you think about how I approached the geometry of Blueline Vineyard? I would like to hear from you. 

Creating images that move you forward! 

Douglas Sterling

Category: senior housing, case study, architectural photography tips, real estate photography

Author: Douglas Sterling

Keywords: architectural photography, affordable housing photography, architectural photography tips

Description: This Douglas Sterling post covers the approach used to a senior housing downtown revitalization project.

Photographing downtown areas can be challenging but also rewarding. The challenge lies in clearly pulling together architectural elements into one frame at the same time. Pre-visualizing in what the final image will end up looking like, composition, and on the technical size, exposure(s), correct white balance, filters, and layer blending.

When Dahlin Group and Eden Housing hired me to photograph Monteverde Senior Housing in Orinda, I was presented with these challenges. The project is a part of a downtown revitalization that required affordable senior housing. Located close to public transit, the project provides 66 affordable rental apartments for older adults along with one unit for the resident manager. The development has a number of sustainable features including solar hot water and photovoltaic systems. The contemporary design is supported by a wood podium structure situated on a multi-tiered site location. All of the architectural building characteristics needed to be captured methodically. The following describes the photography projects unique challenges and approach to meeting each challenge:

  • The shoot needed to take place in January. Monteverde is very shaded due to the time of year and its location behind a set of hills. It is not a HDR processed image but a series of multiple exposures layered, blended and adjusted in Adobe Photoshop. Producing images like this takes time. I wanted the sky to tie into the tonal range with the building and so I added a slight magenta graduated filter to accomplish that.
  • The downtown area had many sources of traffic. The development is adjacent to a community center, church, park and public library. There is a bus stop at the bottom of the paths. Issues we addressed were parking, minimizing impact on pedestrian traffic, and an accessible location to shoot this perspective from.
  • The development has a steep incline (17% slope, 40-ft. grade increase). The foreground terraced cement structure was a problem that I overcome through my experience of knowing that what was important in getting it right as well as make the image look real. And in making it look real, I stitched 3 different horizontal images together in the effort to keep to the equivalent to a 24mm lens. A very effective method to minimizes the distortion factor that you would typically see when other photographers would make this image.

Ultimately, the photo shoot was a success. The project images were incorporated in marketing materials, which generated great exposure for my clients. The project won 2 awards, the Gold Nugget 2014 for 55+ and NAHB Best of 55+ Housing Awards.

Creating images that move you forward!

Douglas Sterling

Im pleased to present The Sterling Photo Digest, a blog devoted to photography and visual storytelling. It almost goes without saying; the greater Bay Area community is full of photographic moments. Inspired by the New Year, I gathered images of our community to illustrate photography basics, as well as tips.

I am so excited to share my work and ideas with you. In turn, I look forward to your feedback and engagement. From professional shoots to serendipitous moments captured via mobile device, our region is experience rich. The Sterling Photo Digest looks to sharpen your visual eye, hone your understanding of photography, and provide pathways to thinking visually.

The Power of Visual Storytelling: Creating a Human Connection

Photography tells a story without words. When you capture a moment, you draw upon your own emotions, senses, and experience. It is the lens from which you look upon the world. Your inner self to shows others how you see the outside world. When you are aware of your own personal story, youll be able to tell a more powerful message through your photography. View the world around you - how you would convey joy, comfort, or amusement.


Text and Image Weaving

Whether you are a marketing manager for a design firm, an architect, a general manager for a hotel, or winery, there is something for everyone in this blog. It is my hope youll be inspired by the imagery and develop ideas for your next photography project. In this digital age of lifestyle marketing, there is an insatiable demand for visual content. Along with providing a feast for your eyes, I look to offer up some thoughts on how to develop great visual content to support your marketing endeavors. In return, I ask you to offer up ideas on what content youd like me to specifically cover. Hopefully, we strike up a valuable conversation helpful to our readers.

Lets explore the world around us together! 

While this blog is aimed to provide the basics, along with tips, please share with us how you applied these techniques to a personal project. The Sterling Photo Digest aims to be that resource where you can share your own personal visual story and over time well see your photographs evolve in a great way.