Creative Spotlight: Orren Pickell Builders

We had the opportunity to shoot a beautiful home in the Northwest suburbs for Orren Pickell Builders.

The home is situated on a corner lot in an established neighborhood.  Simple, understated yet comfortable and elegant.  Walking inside, you get a modern, contemporary, European feel to the architecture and design.  


Rooms are open and spacious; hand-milled woodwork and wood flooring  reminds one of a clean Danish/Scandinavian style home.  As with everything Orren Pickell, the finishes and execution are all first rate with no room for improvement.  Upstairs houses a large primary suite with three additional bedrooms.  The lower level is quite large and is the perfect area for gatherings and entertainment.  It also features a large play area for the kids.  


Below are a few of my favorite shots.

Getting the Shot!

Every now and then you find that you need to get into a 80 foot lift to grab just the right elevation shot.

Shooting a remodeled hotel last month near a Chicago airport forbid the use of a high quality drone, so we went one better.  The Construction Super (thank you Nick!) asked if I wanted to go up into the lift to grab a shot.  You bet I do!

Using a high quality DSLR with an architectural lens will give you superior results when compared to using even our best drone.

Below is just one of the views we captured along with my business partner Mary Beths quick iPhone grab shot.


Creative Spotlight: Level X Group

A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to do a photo shoot for Level X Group.  LXG is a culmination of many talents including Level Hospitality, Level Capital and Level Construction. 


In this instance, they took a well-worn hotel, built back in 1958 and located near Chicago’s Midway Airport then transformed it into a showplace.  There is not enough space in this blog to mention the extensive design updates and construction improvements that are featured in this project.  The images below show the results of what an excellent team of high-end construction craftsman, and fine architectural designers are capable of accomplishing.  


We have photographed many hospitality projects for Level over the years, so we knew the bar would be high for this extensive rebuild.  I am certain, that Level exceeded everyone’s expectations with this one.  The attention to detail is impeccable.  Well done.    


Clean Shots:

I will often hear from other photographers and clients that our work is clean and sharp.  Makes me smile.   

It’s from high quality hand processing and using very good lenses.   A good photographer will know instinctively which lens to use for any given project.  We have an extensive arsenal of lenses to choose from, one of which dates back to the mid 40’s and is my favorite portrait lens when shooting 35mm film.  


We have specific lenses for architectural interiors, exteriors, product, art, landscapes, portrait, film and digital.  Using the correct lens is imperative to yield optimal results.  I can always tell when an architectural shot was done with a portrait lens, or when an architectural lens was used for a portrait.  Each lens has it’s own specific characteristics and it’s so important to use the proper one.  Take a minute and visit our website galleries, and be assured the correct lens was used every time regardless of subject or format shot.


Below are a few shots from a Benvenuti & Stein photo shoot a couple of years back.  

Shooting for Interior Designers

I have often said that one of my favorite clients to shoot for are interior designers. Interior designers are very decisive and know exactly what images they are looking for with regard to their online portfolios, prints and wall art for the office.


They also are fastidious about making sure that a project is ‘shoot ready’ when we arrive for photography.  Many that I regularly photograph for will arrive hours beforehand to stage the selected rooms, often bringing their own accessory items with them.  This result in images that not only looks great, but will need minimum clean up in post processing. 

The importance of using a high-end photographer to shoot your images cannot be overstated.  Still images have a captivating power and can be used for years in a client’s arsenal of marketing tools.  One wants to be sure to have a diversity of images for social media, website portfolios, brochures not to mention print and online advertising.

Be sure to select a photographer who has excellent composition skills and someone who knows how to actually run a camera and process an image to perfection.  When selecting a photographer be sure that their images do not contain blown out light fixtures or windows that you can’t see through, curved walls or distorted views. The image should be clean, accurate and beautiful, displaying every detail of what you do as an interior designer.


If you have a project that you need photographed, please contact me personally.  We have packages that will fit any budget.  

Shot on Film: Teamwork!

Taking a little time to archive some film.  I love doing this.  Pulling out archival film sleeves of outtake images and scanning them.  Stuff you’ve never really looked at because they were not shot as product for a project.

It’s fun, gives a quick flashback in time and always makes me smile.  


The images here made me think of the importance of assembling a good team to work with.  Something that we still do with every project we photograph or video.


When someone looks at a photo of a model, they really have no idea of the time, work and team effort that goes into producing a beautiful shot.


These outtakes, shot handheld without flash, were something that we regularly did between shooting sessions just to document the day.  They really weren’t intended to be seen by anyone other than our staff.


Back in the days of shooting film, post-production was critical.  Remember, print work was done in a chemical darkroom, not a digital one. Image adjustments were made by a skilled lab technician that could consistently give you perfect results.  For this we relied on ‘Film Guru’ Bruce Starrenburg, owner of LightBox Inc.  

Ann, one of our makeup artists touches up the pant leg of model Jill Fernandez, while photographer/business partner Mary looks on, camera in hand.  

Here Ann, preps the hair of model Jill.

The talent of a good makeup artist can never be underestimated.  Beautiful!

Creative Spotlight: Benvenuti & Stein

We recently photographed another outstanding kitchen for one of the North Shore’s premier Design/Build companies Benvenuti & Stein.  If you are a follower of this blog, you’ve read about the exquisite quality and attention to detail in their work.  

We met with Benvenuti & Stein Interior Designer Megan Sokolowske on-site and she walked us through the challenges and make over of this project.  The client was commenting on how the new kitchen changed the character of her home, making it so much more functional and inviting.  We could really see how happy she was with the finished product.


As with all of Benvenuti & Stein's work, the finishes are extraordinary.  The paint work is luxurious and smooth to the touch, handmade cabinets open with ease and close with a substantial feel uncommon in most custom cabinet work today. Of course, the design work is exceptional.


Below are a few of our favorite images from the shoot.  

High-end Update

About 7 months ago I was doing a photo shoot for Marietta Calas of Expressive Interiors, and she mentioned that she was updating a project that we had photographed back in 2010.  I remember thinking to myself, ‘well how is she going to do that?’.


In 2010 this particular project was featured in several magazines and was even selected as a cover shot for two of them.  Well, below you see the results.  Wow! 


The update gives the homeowner that comfortable familiar feeling by retaining the original custom furnishing with new upholstery and room finishes. The result is a clean transitional design.  Stay tuned as we will feature more from this project in the future.  If you’re looking to give your home a fresh new look, Marietta should be on your short list of designers to call!




Wow!  What a year.  I am confident that I am not the only one who is happy that 2020 is behind us.


Everyone here has managed to avoid COVID, but I know many who haven't been as fortunate.  Having friends worldwide, I have been able to speak with them and share concerns and anxieties about having to work in the midst of a pandemic.  It has been interesting to say the least.


In 2020, we had the privilege of continuing to work with many long-term clients.  But we also had the opportunity to work with some wonderful new ones.  Letitia, Anthony, Giovonna, Emil, Vishal, Vibhuti, Ryan, Benjamin, and Patrick have all been wonderful. 


We have learned to be as safe as possible both in the workplace and on-location. 


Despite all the confusion, new protocols and a little fear on everyone's part, we managed to stay extremely busy.  I found that most were able to focus on growing their business and staying safe.  We found new ways to interface with one another.  Zoom, FaceTime and Google Duo have become part of our daily working routine now and it has really been okay.   A little bit of a learning curve, but that is to be expected. 


So here we are, in 2021.  Already we have many nice prospects, new projects and since this is what we love to do….an edge of excitement as to what the year will bring.


We are so looking forward to working with you all.  I've said it in the past, but having gotten through 2020, I know that we can make 2021 the best year ever!


Below are just a few shots of some of our favorite commercial projects of 2020!