Random thoughts on art, technology, stuff, and occasionally Real Estate: Photography 101: First Homework Assignment

Photography 101: First Homework Assignment

Ok, photographers, time for the first Photography 101 homework assignment.

Put your camera way.

Yep.  Put your camera away, and head out to the your local bookstore or newsstand.  Pick up a copy of Architectural Digest.  Actually any magazine, book or catalog with photos of home interiors will do, but since AD is noted for excellent interior photography, its a good place to start.

Flip through the magazine and pick a photo of a room interior.  Now let's consider that photo with some of the photography concepts previously discussed in mind.

What objects in the photo first draw your eye -- the primary subjects?  A fireplace, maybe?  A table, a window?  Remember Bryce's post about the Rule of Thirds?  Take a pencil and draw Bryce's grid lines on the photo (If you want to preserve the magazine, make a photocopy of the page and draw on the photocopy.  If you don't care about the magazine, go ahead and have at it with a felt tip marker).  How are the primary subjects positioned on the grid lines?

Depth of Field/Boke:
Identify the foreground, middle ground, and background.  What area of the photo is in the sharpest focus?  The middleground, maybe?  Is there a vase, or a floral arrangement, in the foreground that is in soft focus?  What about windows?  Can you see trees or shrubs through the windows?  Are the trees and shrubs in soft focus?

Look for bright, highlighted areas.  Where is the light source?  In front of the primary subjects?  To the right or left?  Behind?  Look for shadows.  Do the primary subjects cast shadows?  Are the shadows dark and sharply defined, or soft and muted?  Do the shadows fall in a direction congruent with the light source?  Maybe there is more than one light source?   Look back at the windows.  Is it daylight outside, bright and blown out?  Evening?  Dusk? 

Pick another photo in the magazine, and run through the same exercise.  Compare a photo you particularly like to one you don't like.  Can you describe the differences between the two?

Don't worry.  There is no test, no right or wrong answers.  The object is to simply start increasing your visual awareness. And magazine photos are a remarkably good tool to help you do just that.


Cheryl Johnson // Bob Tayor Properties, Inc.


Bob Taylor Properties, is a progressive, independent, full service real estate brokerage located in Northeast Los Angeles. We have a small staff of experienced, veteran real estate agents who love what they do and work tirelessly for their clients.


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Comment balloon 12 commentsCheryl Johnson • March 10 2007 10:57PM


I think I love Cheryl Johnson...  I'm going to start carving that into my desk with a pencil...

Seriously - I read all your photography posts.  Thank you.  I don't comment on them enough so that you realize they are being read and enjoyed and I'm always looking forward to the next one.

Thank you.


Posted by Don Fabrizio-Garcia, Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate (Fab Real Estate) about 11 years ago
What a great way to start a photography class! Put away your camera and get out your eye. It all starts with what and how you see.
Posted by Sharon Simms, St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS (Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International) about 11 years ago


Are you a teacher? You should be. I read this and thought back to many many years ago when I first studied oil painting. The most impressionable thing my instructor taught me was how to "see"! You have taught that here in your post. Excellent article!

Posted by Karen Hurst, Rhode Island Waterfront! (RICOASTALLIVING.COM) about 11 years ago
Cheryl - I got such a big kick out of this post.  In another life I was an elementary school teacher.  I got out my red pen and went to town on AD.  You are absolutely right.  I knew the rule of thirds from taking portrait shots but I didn't really think how it applied to real estate photos.  Listing photos are all about piquing people's curiosity and motivating them to pick up the phone and make an appointment to see the home.  Thanks for the great post and the links to everything I may have missed.
Posted by Maureen Maureen about 11 years ago

Karen:  No, not a teacher.  Unless trying to show agents and staff how to cope with technology counts.  :-)  I do have great admiration for teachers, though!

Everyone:  Thank you for the kind words.

Posted by Cheryl Johnson (Cheryl Johnson, Bob Taylor Properties, Inc., Los Angeles, CA) about 11 years ago
Cheryl, I was thinking of ways to remember this info...camera ROT...rule of thirds. ok, I need more hobbies.
Posted by Sue Argue, NH Home Stager (Staged First Impressions) about 11 years ago

I hope folks are jumping in and taking a shot at Cheryl's suggestions here. Nothing will make you better faster than practicing 'seeing'.

Someone I respect very much said; "Do something photographic every day...which may just be thinking about it, or looking".


Posted by Bryce Mohan (Bryce Mohan Photography) about 11 years ago
This is a great suggestion Cheryl. Photographers are always talking about tech stuff like f-stops and ISO noise when it is visual awareness, framing and composition that arguably matter more. 
Posted by Aaron Leitz (Aaron Leitz Fine Photography) about 11 years ago

Cheryl - Thanks for your willingness to share!  Increasing the visual awareness makes absolute sense.

FYI - I'm still giggling about what Don posted (carving I love Cheryl into his desk).  Don - thanks for the laugh.

Posted by Kathy Nielsen, Atlanta Georgia Home Stager (http://atlantahomestaging.net) about 11 years ago

Cheryl -

GREAT information. I'm heading out to get the magazine right now!

All the best,


Posted by Minnesota Home Staging Firm, Minnesota (Minnesota Home Staging Network~ MN's Top Home Staging Firm) about 11 years ago


Thanks for reminding us of the basics.  Composition is the most important part of good photography.  We tend to get involved with the technical details and camera features that sometimes we forget the basics.  Good photography is not about equipment but about "art".  We need to keep this in mind and work on improving our compositions.

Thanks again for you usual excellent post.

Posted by Mike Stankewich, MBA, e-PRO - ZipRealty, Inc. (ZipRealty, Inc.) about 11 years ago
Cheryl, just running across your post. I will take your advise and stop and purchase a copy tomorrow. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Frank Rubi, FrankRubiRealEstate.com (Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC) almost 11 years ago