Behind the Scenes with James Bowles, Property Photographer



I always say to my clients that content is everything. If you can produce high quality images for your website you are already ahead of the game. A few months back we designed the new website for Future Homes Estate Agency based in Estepona, Spain. The design had to be sleek and sophisticated, and so did their property photos. There's no point in spending money on a fantastic new website, to then fill it up with mediocre content. 

The key behind Future Homes' amazing photos lies with property photographer and videographer, James Bowles. We met up with him for a cheeky behind the scenes look at how he produces these beautiful photos.

1.    How did you get into photography? Has it always been a passion of yours?

To tell you the truth I kind of fell into photography! Filmmaking has always been a passion of mine, I studied it for my degree and so you could say it was a natural jump into photography, but it wasn't until I was randomly commissioned to do a last minute shoot of a property that I started to take it seriously. I went on to purchase some basic equipment and learn as much as I could. And since then it has just been a journey to try and produce the best shots I can.

2.    What steps do you take when you set up for a shoot?

I like to work with as much interior light as possible and so the first thing I do when I enter a property is walk through the house switching on all the lights and opening up any curtains. While I do this I also keep a mental note of any good shots or angles that I might want to shoot later on.

3.    What’s the best time of the day to take great photos?

The bottom line is that when doing real estate shoots, you have to be flexible on what time of the day you shoot. The agent or the owner may only give you a certain time slot due to a variety of reasons and so you don't always have the luxury of choosing the time. However; if you get a choice, as a general rule it is best to shoot either when the sun is facing the front of the house, or alternatively just after sunrise or just before sunset where the light has a tint and is softer than when the sun is higher in the sky.

If you are choosing to do a daytime shoot and you want the sun facing the front of the house then you need to find out the property's orientation to identify the best time. Here in the Northern hemisphere it's best to shoot in the morning for East facing properties, for West facing it is best to shoot in the afternoon, for North facing properties your best bet is between 10:00-14:00 and then for South facing properties you can be a lot more flexible as the sun will be on the property all day long.

Being based in the South of Spain we are blessed with all year round sunshine and very minimal overcast days, however; particularly for interior shots it is actually better to shoot on a slightly cloudy day. This gives the light outside a more diffused look and you don't get as many harsh shadows coming in from the windows.

4.    Do you do a lot of post production? What programs do you use?

Post production is massive part of my work. I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, both fantastic programs and must haves in my opinion for any photographer. A standard shot of mine would tend to be a blend of at least one flash and one ambient shot. Photoshop gives me the perfect tools to blend these together to give a realistic shot of the room, and then I will use Lightroom for the rest of the edit and to finalise the shot.

5.    What’s in your camera bag?

Currently I am looking at:

Canon EOS 70D
Canon EFS 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6
Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
Canon Kit Lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
Neewer TT560 Speedlite Flash
Gary Fong Lightsphere Diffuser
Light Reflectors
Wireless flash triggers
Spare batteries

6.    You’ve taken some amazing photos, do you have any favourites that you are most proud of?

Thank you! If you ask me tomorrow I will probably give you a different answer altogether, but right now the two photos I am most proud of is one of a golf course right before sunset, with the sprinklers on. I really like the colour mix in this photo. The trees have this very cool blend of green and purple coming through and then you have this warm orange from the sun dissecting the sprinklers.

My second would have to be from a recent shoot in a luxury apartment in Estepona. It is a shot of the dining room, which in itself is actually quite small and not particularly spectacular, but there's something about the colours and the big windows that does it for me and really shows the character of this apartment off in one shot.

7.    What lens would you recommend is a good one for the amateur photographer?

One of the best buys for me was the Canon EFS 10-18mm, you can pick one up for around 200 Euros and it's amazing value. A wide angle lens is a must have for property photography and although you may not want to/need to go as wide as 10mm, having this option is very nice. However the lens really depends on what you will be shooting and what camera body you have. 

8.    Can you share any tricks with us?

Interesting question! I guess the best way to answer this is to walk you quickly through my process of setting up for any given interior shot:

•    First I will tidy the room and remove anything that doesn't need to be there. It's important that whoever sees these photos, sees the room for how it is and so removing any distractions like keys on the table will make a huge difference to the overall shot. 
•    Another key tip is to always use a tripod and make sure your camera is level. Therefore all vertical lines in the shot, for example, door and window frames, should be vertical and not converged. By also lowering your tripod height, you will make the rooms feel more balanced and larger compared to a shot taken at head height. A good rule of thumb here is to keep your camera at a height just above the general furniture and surfaces of the room.

9.    What are your plans for the future?

Haha we'll have to wait and see! I love what I do and so I am in no rush to change things up, but I have one eye on sports and more specifically actions sports production. Action sports is a huge passion of mine and with plenty of it going on in the South of Spain, from Sierra Nevada to Tarifa, it's something that excites me...

James is also a great videographer. Here is one of his latest videos for Future Homes. A behind the scenes look at how he produces videos coming soon on the blog!

Check out James' work by visiting his online portfolio, you can also find him on Instagram.