Mike Butler – Architectural Photographer


It used to be as a photographer one could find a niche and focus on that small spot in the world then toil away for decades, hammering out his or her craft. Well needless to say those days are coming to an end if not completely over. Technology is making our jobs as image creators much easier and thus creating more opportunities to expand our creative vision beyond our comfort zones. It allows us to do more with less, up to the point of doing it all ourselves without a crew or assistant. I had seen various “photographers” working in this way with good results. This essentially allows anyone motivated enough with a camera to be a photographer with seemingly endless on-demand magical powers that used to take years to learn and perfect.

This influx has put pressure on market rates as the supply is beginning to outstrip demand. So I am no fool I love my DPS and generators with huge productions but the boat is leaving and I ain’t on board. So much like an old ass trudging up the mountain, I grudgingly began to adopt these techniques.

So while on a shoot recently in Denver Colorado for Van Meter Pollack Williams Architects I went all in. In a one-day time span, I photographed day shots, drone shots, drone video, and a significant dusk shot, alone, which is, even with the fancy tech, pretty insane. A bit of a disclaimerhere, working with an assistant is I fell absolutely the best way to achieve a successful shoot. So much can go wrong while working alone. On this shoot, for instance, I did drop my 45 tilt-shift lens a $400 error which totally justifies the $300 assistant.

To achieve this solo act which would have not been possible a couple of years ago, I worked with a few devices. The first is a little device called a Cam Ranger which allows wireless control of your camera via your phone, ipad or laptop. It is not perfect and sometimes only barely acceptable but it works if there are no other viable options.

One of the many drone inspired shots.

The drone, nearly flys itself, one only need to keep it from crashing into a building or telephone wires. For lights, I ditched the old standard 1000w LowelDps and Honda generator for battery powered wireless strobes. All this tech is awesome but what made this possible was my years of production experience and years of long distance triathlon training to keep up the physical and mental pace of both the shoot and the travel with the equipment. I did want to use all this tech but I also wanted the images to have the same aesthetic value as my older higher production images.

In the end, I find it impressive how technology is changing the industry so fast and allowing these deep dives into production with little to no crew. And although this little experiment was successful it should not be the end result of this technological wave.

Good production is good production and cannot be generated by an algorithm or fancy device, or says the luddite! A skillful crew who keeps the wheels greased cannot be replaced. It is still true, a really great image is created by a magical elixir of bright minds working in unison towards a singular creative goal. That cannot be replaced by machines or algorithms. And this magical elixir is what separates those who solely rely on the skills of the engineers who create these electronic gadgets from those who can leverage those gadgets into a carefully curated creative vision.

And so the to the future.; My hope is a great creative vision will last, it will still be rendered as meaningful and worthy, a cost worth paying. Yet I have seen some troubling signs that maybe this will not be the case. I have seen that the more, faster, cheaper model is taking hold, image quality be dammed. Whether it is being driven by the technology or the other way around is hard to say, but the trend line is there.

Watch the video we put together for our Client Van Meter Pollack and Williams.

Let me know your thoughts.

Need My Photography Skills?

I have decades of experience in photography and have been hired all over the world for a range of drone, hospitality, architectural and resort photography. If you want to give your marketing a new, fresh and eye-catching look, get in touch with me and let’s start working together!

Leave a comment

Latest Posts

Behind the Scenes

More Posts