Prepping for a Shoot

A recent project involved shooting the interior of a bank for a commercial builder.  Now, we have photographed several banks in past years but this one particular bank was special. 

Banks are busy places, so immediately we know that the shoot will take place either before or after hours.  I also mentally tax myself when I think of how much cleanup the photos will require.  After all, who wants to see miles of computer and telephone cords?  Or all of the personal items that employees bring to their work stations to remind them of home?

Usually, we arrive somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30 am to ‘stage’ (read clean up) as much as possible.  Removing the above-mentioned clutter pre-shoot saves hours of time in post-production work.  The results for all the effort are always rewarding.

Another benefit of the early arrival time is being able to photograph the space during dawn.  This often provides dramatic painted sky views through the windows.  However, with this one particular bank getting in super early wasn’t going to be possible.  We had about one hour before the bank opened to clean up/stage AND get all of our shots in.  So the pressure was definitely on. 

Even more pressure was applied when the bank manager ran a little late.  The second the doors were opened we hurried inside to get the biggest surprise of all.  THE BANK WAS CLEAN, STAGED,  AND DESKS CLEARED OF ALL PERSONAL ITEMS.  We were shocked!  Even superfluous telephone and computer cords were carefully put away.  Never in our wildest imagination did we ever think that the bank staff would be so thoughtful.  As it turns out, they love their remodeled space and were flattered that it was being photographed, so they all took time the night before to have their offices and lobby tidied up for the photo shoot. 

Than you Colette!  We sincerely appreciate all the hard work.  Below are a few shots.

Creative Spotlight: Gander Builders

Steve Lecas of Gander Builders is one of the most conscientious builders I have ever met.  When you look at the homes he builds you find first-rate craftsmanship, spectacular designs and superb building materials.  Steve builds homes.  Real homes.  Homes that are designed to be enjoyed by families, spacious, comfortable and practical.  Homes that will stand the test of time. 

I have been photographing for Steve over 16 years now, and I can honestly say that the houses I shot back then still look outstanding today.  Here in the Midwest, that’s saying something. 

Steve also always seems to take the extra step for his clients.  I recall more than one occasion when I met with Steve at a new home to photograph.  There always seemed to be one or two other homes in the neighborhood that he constructed in prior years and here is the extra step:  I have seen him walk around the other homes and look at how the finishes are wearing.  Often he will check in with the homeowner to inquire if everything is okay long after the project is finished.  His clients love the attention and it comes as no surprise that the majority of Steve’s work is referral based.

If you are looking for that ‘special’ builder… Steve Lecas of Gander Builders is just what you need.  Below are a few samples of recent work. 

Waiting for light

When potential clients look through our portfolio and see an image photographed at dawn or dusk, they will inevitably give pause and stare for a few moments. There is nothing that can paint an interior or exterior as beautifully as natural light.  Capturing it at just the right moment requires patience.  I love the wash of cobalt blue through the windows as a backdrop to an interior.  Facing west, the light has a variety of hues - yellows, magentas and blues.  It’s a different painting every night and one that can really embellish a fine composition.

For those who are curious, we do not ‘drop in’ or Photoshop’ the sky and no we do not ‘gel’ the windows beforehand. The skies in all of our images are real.  Here are a few that we captured while ‘waiting for light’.


Creatvie Spotlight: Michael Buss Architects

Every so often you get a call from a client that you haven’t worked with in quite sometime. Michael Buss Architects is a perfect example.

We began working with Michael and his wife Sue back in 2005 when we were shooting a project for an architectural magazine. 

At that time, he took me through several neighborhoods encompassing projects of various home styles and sizes.  One of the builders that were working with Michael labeled him a genius and a hidden talent.  Hidden I wasn’t so sure about when I visited his then-crowded home office.  Sue met me at the door, pointed to a small waiting area and was off to find Michael.  While waiting the office staff hustled in and around each other all busy with clients, designs, phone calls, faxes, and meetings. Blueprints were laid out everywhere.  It was just what you would expect from a full-blown large architectural firm functioning like a well-oiled machine, but in a lower level ‘bunker’ style office.  It was fun to watch. 

I arrived with proofs of the work that we shot so that Mike could make selections for a magazine write up.  He suddenly appeared, told me he had about five minutes and then scoured the contact sheets and made his selections.  Our meeting was over in about three and half minutes and he was off taking a phone call and walking into another meeting.  To this day he holds the record for the quickest image viewing I have ever had.  In that incredibly brief amount of time, he selected 14 images for the magazine article and 59 for his business portfolio.  I can’t even imagine how quickly his mind works.  Stunned, I gathered my materials and was off.

Fast forward to last year, when out-of-the-blue we got an email from Sue.  They wanted to update their portfolio.  Wow!  No longer in the ‘bunker’ office, Michael had moved into a large commercial building complete with full office amenities and increased staff to support their expanding business.  Very impressive.

Meeting Michael and Sue again was like flashing back to the bunker days.  Mike still moving at warp speed, Sue still managing the office, clients, schedule and Michael.

We made arrangements to begin photographing new spaces.  As you can see, Michael’s designs are beautiful, open and have a spacious feel.  Among the things I noticed about a Michael Buss design is his skill in finding a practical use for every inch of space.   Some of my favorite shots are found below.

Creative Spotlight: Expressive Interiors by Marietta Calas

Interior designers are some of my favorite clients to work with.  This is largely because the work they do is all about details. They work hard to get even the smallest nuances just perfect, resulting in a finished project that is not only a statement of their vision and talent, but also reflects their client’s dream.

Few, if anyone, do this better than Marietta Calas of Expressive Interiors.  I’ve worked with her on many projects over the years and I’m always impressed with the finished product.  In fact, several images of her work have been featured in my own marketing pieces because of the visual interest she is so adept at creating. 

Everything from paint, wall coverings, carpets, furnishings, fixtures and art are brought together to wow, stun, and thrill at first sight. That was my reaction when I first walked into one of her projects, and it is still my reaction when I see her current work.  I can’t imagine how excited her clients must be when they see the final result!

Her work has been featured in CS Interiors, LUXE, Builders Journal, Chicago/HOME, The Chicago Home & Condo, TRENDS, Build My Kitchen, Architectural Leaders Today, Long Grove Living, Chicago Tribune and The Daily Herald, just to name a few.

Marietta has served for several years on the IFDA Board as well as the Long Grove Architectural Board, and has been consistently recognized with numerous design awards:

Chicago Design Team
Top 10 Designer
2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014

Best of Houzz
2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

The Daily Herald
People’s Choice Award for Interior Design
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

International Furnishings and Design Association
Best Interior Design

You can see more of her work at I have selected a few of my favorites to highlight here.

Creative Spotlight: Benvenuti and Stein

This month, our Creative Spotlight features Benvenuti and Stein, based in Winnetka, Illinois.  They are a multi-faceted firm known for building fine luxury homes, seamless additions, as well as being highly-skilled artisans of woodwork and cabinetry. The quality found in their work is hard to come by and is some of the finest I've ever encountered.

Geno Benvenuti heads up the company and I have often heard him describe the work that they do as a "labor of love".  Among their many specialties are handmade cabinets and furnishings.  Open any drawer, close any door, run your hand across any finish, and you will feel the impeccable quality and solidity of their work. During a photo shoot I will often have to adjust furniture. I once attempted to move one of Geno's  hand-crafted dining tables.  I couldn't.  It wouldn't budge.  I would guess you would need six men if ever you wanted to relocate it. 

This is the craftsmanship that they are well-known for and is seen in even the smallest details. I have photographed the work of many high-end builders and few would be able to stand in the ranks along side Benvenuti and Stein.

Below are just a few samples in a seemingly endless catalog of superb work.