Kitchen Magician

No trips to Home Depot for this small remodeling job. This is a job for Photoshop! I had to take that blinding reflection from  the mirror on the far wall in the dining room (not visible in the shot) off the freezer door. The mirror itself is reflecting the patio door in the living room which is on the other side of the kitchen wall (also not visible–duh). But how to wipe out the reflection but keep the texture and the shadow of the handle on the freezer door without a LOT of cloning? I SHOULD have put a black cloth over the mirror. But…you know. Here’s the Before…kitchenbefore

  1. Noticing the refrigerator and freezer handles and their reflections (shadows really) were very nearly mirror images of each other, I made a generous selection (I thought) of the lower door with the lasso tool that included the area around the handle and copied it onto its own layer (CMD+J Mac, CTRL+J Windows).
  2. I used the Move Tool (CMD+V / CTL+ V) to place this selection layer over the freezer door, lowering the opacity of the selection layer to 50% so I could see how it lined up. Next I enabled Free Transform (CMD+T / CTL+T), flipped the image vertically, resized and adjusted a bit to fit. Had to warp the right side a touch because (dang!) I didn’t make a big enough selection on that side.
  3. Added a (white) layer mask and painted away the excess with a black paintbrush at 100% opacity and flow. I prefer this to using the Eraser tool, because I’m a clod and sometimes erase too much. At least with a layer mask you can fix your oopsies.
  4. I brought some of the reflection back in for realism by painting white and using Blend If and also using a dodge preset I had previously purchased in a preset bundle from Phlearn.
  5. I could have taken out the glint between the two doors, but I thought since that was metal, it would look too flat, so I left it. Probably did a few other adjustments too, but I’m old and I’ve already forgotten all I did because I merge layers as I work so I don’t accidentally move something and screw it up.

Here is the result of reflection removal. Handle shadow is still there, slight reflection from mirror is still there (or there’d be no handle reflection, eh?), but much less distracting. And that’s when I saw them. You see them too, don’t you? Heart sink!


No, not a heart-shaped sink. MY HEART SUNK. Before I took any shots in the kitchen, I had the owner remove all the stuff hanging from the front of the refrigerator, the plastic bags stuffed between the refrigerator and wall, the dish towel off the door handle, the dog bowls from the floor. All the things an observant photographer is supposed to do, right? But as soon as I finished the reflection fix in post, I finally saw them. There they were, mocking me: the dreaded REFRIGERATOR MAGNETS! How had I missed them?! I had taken my first shot of the kitchen from the other direction but forgot to walk back and evaluate the room from the other angle. When I did set up to get this shot, I was overly concerned with trying to work around the ginormous slab of counter top that was photobombing my frame. You can see I clearly gave up on it. [Sigh] Maybe the magnets were messing with my brain.

But now it was time to go back to Lasso Tool & Copy Ranch, lil’ buckaroos! As I did with the front reflection, I copied clean sections of the side of the fridge and placed them on their own layers (as close as I could to the object so the color and luminosity were at least in the ballpark), first over the white clip magnet, then the bottle opener. Did a few more touchups on those pasted patches to get them to match: reducing brightness, adjusting levels, painting and using Blend If technique*, etc. When it came time to do the larger items, I lassoed a big ol’ chunk of the now kinda-clean side, pasted the copy and cleaned that up using various previously-mentioned methods.

The result…


*For more information and excellent instruction on how to do some of the methods I used, go to And don’t forget to look at the WHOLE room before you take your first shot!




Getting Artsy on the Lakefront

Every now and then I get to photo something that is outside the box. This highrise apartment has some architectural features that are definitely not box-like! Thanks to Robert at Mfive Chicago for giving me the opportunity to not only see but photograph the amazing work he did in this apartment.

M5-Prairie-165 M5-Prairie-173 M5-Prairie-159


Dream Studio!

This first one especially–would love have something like this as a photo studio. Look at all that great natural light!

Checklist for Preparing Real Estate for Photography

Thank you to photographer Oliver M. Zielinski of Berlin for this comprehensive list of things to do before photographing a property. Some things are obvious to us photographers that may not be as obvious to others. Agents, FSBO homeowners, other photographers: this checklist is here to help you (and save us time in Photoshop!). This article was copied with permission (with a few minor “Americanizations” to the language ) from Oliver’s website, See the original article here, and be sure to check out Oliver’s amazing real estate photography.

1. Slenderize Furnishing

  • Create space – remove all unnecessary pieces of furniture.
  • Place furniture and decoration only where they are appropriate. Put children’s chairs and toys back to the children’s bedroom and the computer to the office.
  • Remove all used-looking furnishings (worn upholstered couches, stained carpets, scratched sideboards etc.).
  • Move all domestic animals to another place – sounds tough but promotes the success of the presentation.

(On a personal note, I can attest to this last item, not only so you don’t capture Fido and Fluffy photo-bombing in the mirror, but to make the shoot go easier on you. On one occasional I did a shoot where the family hound kept stealing items out of my equipment bag! Another time, one of the family dogs–or so I thought–wandered into the front yard while I was setting up a twilight shoot. Time being of the essence, I ushered him quickly back into the house–only to discover that I had just let in the neighbor’s dog! NL)

2. Perform Basic Cleaning

  • Let professionals clean the whole space.
  • Clear all floors, furniture’s surfaces, wall tiles, mirrors and windows from dirt, streaks and dust.
  • Remove spider webs, especially in corners and around ceiling lamps.
  • Remove all lime and drop marks from faucets, sinks and bath tubs.

(I would also add: remove/hide all the personal items from the bathroom. No one needs to see razors, goopy bars or soap, and  six bottles of shampoo in the shower. And for Pete’s sake, CLOSE THE COMMODE LID! NL)

3. Create Clarity

  • Care for uniformity. A table should only be surrounded by chairs of the same model. In a glass cabinet only display dishes of the same series.
  • Align all chairs at dining tables, kitchen counters or working places.
  • Sort books according to their size. Remove extreme formats and very colorful publications.
  • Straighten all lampshades.

4. De-Personalize all Interior

  • Hide all family-related photographs and other mementos.
  • Remove any signs of religious or political preferences of the owners (unless you want to sell only to a specific target group).
  • Clear the whole property from hints to preferences in sports, hobbies and brands.
  • Don’t show records and certificates of the owner.
  • Remove all kinds of souvenirs and trophies from walls and shelves.

5. Minimize Decoration

  • Hide all small images, any bric-à-brac items and hobbyist collections.
  • Remove all pillows and blankets from the living room.
  • Place only one piece of deco on one table.
  • Remove all newspapers and magazines.
  • Remove trash cans and waste baskets.
  • Clear all tables, trays and cabinets in the kitchen.
  • Keep only one or two items per panel of glass cabinets.
  • Remove all magnets, photographs and children’s drawings from fridges and pin boards. (Don’t forget to wipe the smudges from stainless steel appliances that appeared right after the cleaning crew left! NL)
  • Hide all cables and electricity distributors.

6. Straighten Fabrics

  • Straighten blankets, bed sheets and bed covers.
  • Plump up the cushions and smooth them out.
  • Care for evenly hanging curtains.
  • Remove all waves from carpets.
  • Take down all towels from their hooks, fold them and stack them near the sink.

7. Control Stocks

  • Display only new packets of expendable items (toilet tissue, paper towels etc.).
  • Remove all opened bottles from a bar.

8. Check Lighting

  • Switch on all lamps and replace broken light bulbs. Maintain the same wattage/performance for all bulbs within one lamp.
  • Check the proper function of all outdoor lighting (garden lamps, door lights, patio lights, pool lamps).

9. Get the outdoor area ready

  • Remove all vehicles from driveways.
  • Hide the garbage cans.
  • Put garden tools, garden hoses, sprinklers and used barbecues into the garage.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Rake garden beds and drive ways.
  • Sweep pavement areas.
  • Give the pool a professional cleaning.
  • Shut all doors and windows for the first outdoor images.
  • But open all door and window shutters/shades.

We recommend to check this list again on the day of shooting. Often there is some time at the beginning – when the photographer takes a scouting tour around the property – to conduct last small corrections. Have some cleaning equipment (floor cleaner, feather duster, bucket, dry and wet cloths, vacuum cleaner, glass cleaning liquid) ready.