Buchanan Studios Blog

news and events from Buchanan Studios

Archive for September 2008

Cookbook launch

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food photography for cookbookscookbook photographymaryland food photographer
Usually this space is reserved for a few tips, methods and general industry news that I think might be helpful and pertinent to my clients. This month it’s blatent self promotion. I just received word from the author that the cookbook project I worked on last year is now available for purchase. This was a wonderful long term project and collaboration between the chef, Konya Lindsay, my food stylist, Harry McMann, and myself. As I, and my waistband, can attest, these desserts are absoutely wonderful, and I consider myself somewhat of an authority on cake! You can purchase the book here and visit Konya’s catering website here.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Photographic Style

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food and beverage photographer

drink photographer

beverage photography

Whether you’ve spent a lot of time and money on branding your company, or are planning to, it’s important to find a photographer whose vision matches your own. Finding the right photographer is not simply a matter of finding one that can do the job – it’s about finding the photographer that understands your company and will craft images to fit. Give 10 photographers the same assignment and you’ll end up with 10 different images. How do you know if the photographer you’re considering is a good fit? The first step is to look at their portfolio.  If you’re an innovative technology company that needs to convey how far ahead of the curve you are, it’s probably not best to use a photographer who shoots in a traditional, staid style. Likewise, if you’re a financial company who needs to reassure conservative customers, then a contemporary bleeding edge style is not the way to go. You have a vision for your company, make sure your photographer fits that vision.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 29, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Digital standards for photographers

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color management techniches


More acronyms than a report from the federal government. If you’re in, or close to the imaging industry you’ve probably seen these and more. But what do they mean, and which ones are right for your appliction? This question and others like it have led to a group of imaging professionals and manufacturers, along with their associated trade groups, to form an ad-hoc consortium. This group is dedicated to establishing a set of best practices guidelines for working with digital images. Known as UPDIG (Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines) they have published their recommendations on everything from monitor calibration to long term storage of digital images available at http://www.updig.org. As much as we artists like to “march to our own beat” and to “think outside the box,” it’s nice to have a set of guidelines that we can agree on and work within.  No use in re-inventing the wheel every couple of days.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 25, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Photography best practices

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best practices for commercial photography


or, “What the heck do I do with this?”

Putting together visuals can be a lot like cooking.  There are several ingredients that need to be put together in a specific way in order to achieve the desired results.  Whether your cooking dinner or laying out the catalog, it all needs to be properly prepared. 

We do our homework ahead of time and speak with you, your printer or your production manager and figure out the best way to deliver files in order to have them look there best in the end.  As much as we would love to say that’s the end of it.  There’s still considerations to be made when working with images. From proper sizing to unsharp masking to embedded color profiles, there are few a pitfalls ahead.  Many of our clients are comfortable with these issues, many less so.  In either case we’re happy to answer questions, send variations and in some cases make a visit to the office to help establish best practices.  There are quite a few online resources as well such as UPDIG and Apple’s Pro Color.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 24, 2008 at 9:10 pm

How to photograph real estate

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maryland real estate photography

We photograph a lot of real estate interiors and exteriors. Some of our photos are for real estate agents, some for home builders, and some for interior designers and others in that trade (click here to see some.) As much as we would love to have every real estate salesperson in the Mid-Atlantic call us for every home listed, we realize that’s just not realistic. Instead we’ve put together a few tips for real estate professionals who want to make their listings look their best.


washington dc real estate interior photography

1.  Interiors
Interiors can be tricky. There’s usually relatively strong light coming through the windows which can ‘fool’ the light meter inside the camera. Also, the light coming from outside (daylight) is of a different color temperature than light traditionally used on the inside (incandescent.) When we come into a space to photograph we bring lots of our own lights to supplement the interior lighting. If you would like to spend the money on the equipment we’d be happy to come out in a consulting capacity and spend a couple of days showing you how to use it. Again, probably not realistic. Instead we’ll focus on a few small things you can do with the average digital camera to make things better.  



  • Use a tripod. This one factor will have the biggest impact in the overall quality of your photos. A tripod allows the camera to use a slower shutterspeed (more on that in a bit.) without the usual camera shake. A tripod also has the side effect of slowing you down and forcing you to look closer at the photograph you’re about to take.  
  • Use the manual exposure compensation. Most mid to upper level digital cameras have at least exposure compensation. Exposure compensation is simply telling the camera to brighten or darken the photo from what it thinks is the correct exposure. Today’s digital cameras are very smart, but you’re still smarter.  If you’ve shot a scene and it looks too dark on the screen, use the exposure compensation to brighten it up. This is also where the tripod comes in handy. Often when using exposure compensation the resulting shutter speed is very long. If you were to hand hold the camera while making a long exposure the image would be blurry due to hand movement.
  • Shoot at the proper time of day. The aspects of light changes throughout the day, and those shifting qualities can make a room shine. In some cases, it’s necessary to shoot different rooms of the same home during different parts of the day.
  • Keep the camera level. Using a tripod is a huge help with this as many of them have built in bubble levels. Nothing says greenhorn like a room that tilts.
  • Use a wide angle lens.  Most consumer level digital camera have a medium wide lens (35mm or equivalent)  While this is ok for the average user, it may be worth investing in a wide angle adapter or supplemental lens for your particular camera.  This wide angle will allow you to capture more of a room.
  • Consider adding supplemental lighting. Purchasing thousands of dollars worth of photographic lighting is helpful, but not required. Flood lights from Lowe’s work wonders in lighting up a dull basement.


real estate photographer maryland

2.  Exteriors – many of the same rules apply.


  • Use a tripod
  • Keep the camera level
  • Use manual exposure compensation. The sky is usually MUCH brighter than the ground. As a result, objects on the ground (ie, the home) can be underexposed. Use exposure compensation to help alleviate this. Even if your particular camera does not have an exposure compensation feature it may have a backlight feature that will brighten the exposure somewhat and help in this situation.
  • Use manual white balance. Daylight changes color throughout the day and using automatic color balance will neutralize these color shifts. Sometimes that’s ok, but one advantage to shooting at sunrise and sunset(more on this below) in the beautiful golden color of sunlight. We don’t want the camera canceling this color away.
  • Shoot at the proper time of day. Shoot with the sun hitting the desired side of the building. If the building faces east, shoot at sunrise or close to it. West, sunset. If the building is facing north or south it’s a bit trickier. The sun never moves to the north (in the northern hemisphere at least) so the front of the home will never get direct light. In that case a pre-sunrise or dusk shot my be your best option. With a south facing home, determining when to shoot can be tricky. Since the sun moves from east to west, along a southerly route, the face of the home will get receive sun at a very high angle. This generally results in a less than great look. In general, shoot either as late or as early as the site will allow. Try to avoid shooting during the middle of the day whenever possible.
  • Pay attention to the weather. It’s obvious that you don’t want to shoot on an overcast day but there are other factors as well. If it’s a particularly humid day the air will be hazy and the photos can be flat and dull as a result. If it’s very windy the camera can shake even when on a tripod which will result in blurry images. In general a nice clear day with high barometric pressure is ideal.  
A quality photograph can make the difference between getting a potential buyer to come and see a property or just throwing the listing away before even visiting. When the property warrants, call us and we’ll be happy to shoot the home and provide you with technical support on putting the pictures to good use. If that’s not in the cards use these tips to help make your pictures better and sell that house.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 24, 2008 at 10:26 am

Food photography site updated with new images

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I’ve just updated buchananphotography.com with several new images. Quite a few in the savory section and a couple in the sweet section.  More to come soon.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 23, 2008 at 5:32 pm

trust your photographer

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Quality photography is not a commodity. All photographers, indeed all creatives, are not equal.  There are many factors to consider when deciding which way to go. Of course this is a business, so cost is usually the primary concern – but by no means should it be the only. Each photographer has their own style, personality and workflow. Those need to fit within your’s, your company’s and with that particular project’s. Our best clients are those with which our relationship is not one of  “Client and Supplier” but as members of the same creative team. You  should be able to go to your photographer with a particular problem, give them your budget and say, “Make it happen.”  If you can’t trust them to do the job right and to price it fairly then it’s time to find someone new. 

We’ve been in business for a long time, and plan to be for a long time tocome.  The best way to make that happen is to build good relationships based on trust and honesty.  If we’re not comfortable with the job, we’ll let you know up front and try to find someone for you who is.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 23, 2008 at 6:58 am

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Respect the Copyright

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It’s unfortunately rare that we come across a small business that understands copyright out of the gate.  I work with a lot of photo editors, publishers and art directors.  Since they’re in the business, they understand the concept of copyrights and intellectual property.  Once we leave the realm of the publishing and marketing world,however, that understanding starts to fade away.  So I was pleasantly surprised when we went to a local bakery to order my daughter’s birthday cake.  She’s had her heart set on a Scooby Doo birthday party so we asked them to put Scooby and the Gang on the cake.  They say, “Sorry, that’s copyrighted material and we’re not allowed to do that”  They were able to do a cake in the proper colors with dog tracks and a bone on it.  My (now 4 year old) daughter was thrilled and the cake was really good. They were presented with a challenge, offered a solution and kept everyone (including the copyright holder) happy.  That’s a bakery I’ll keep coming back to.

Click here for their site

Written by stevebuchanan

September 22, 2008 at 9:46 am

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Digital Asset Management

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A picture may be worth a thousand words – but which words? Does the image have enough resolution for my needs? Do I have the proper rights usage? Many of our clients have large numbers of images that they work with on a regular basis.  Many of them from different suppliers and in different formats.  Programs such as Adobe Bridge, Apple’s Aperture and Adobe Lightroom can help manage digital assets.  Even without these Digital Assett Management (DAM) products you can still take advantage of technology to help keep things under control.  Using IPTC metadata, users can add keywords, copyright notices and a whole slew of other information.  Most metadata tags also include the resolution of the images and creation information such as date, time and camera used. Accessing this data can be done via Photoshop, Bridge or even the Mac OS Finder using the “Get Info” command. Regardless of the DAM system you use, if you have a large number of images to keep track of, having a consistent, simple program in place is crucial.

Written by stevebuchanan

September 20, 2008 at 8:59 am

The right tools for the business of photography

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food photography

Always use the right tool for the right job.

We try very hard to estimate our jobs properly.  That means sitting down, taking our time and going through all of the possible details.  Sometimes (ok, most) there are a lot of questions to ask the client and a lot of details to be worked out.  With many of our clients we have a history together.  We’ve done many jobs in the past and we all have a good understanding of what it takes to do the next one down the road. With new clients we don’t have that history so we spend time up front and work out as many details as we can. These details include an estimate of charges.  An estimate may include fees, usage and production charges like stylists, permits and insurance.  We also use contracts that spell out our responsibilities as well as the client’s.  Many new clients are surprised that we use contracts and other business forms like estimates and change orders, but this is a business and we run it as such.  In our experience, using paperwork like this helps avoid misunderstandings in the first place and increases communication between ourselves and our clients.  After all, this is a communications business.

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September 19, 2008 at 9:17 am