Pole Photography 101 or How to build a better Pole

Architecture, DIY, Do it yourself, Estate Photography, Gadgets, Interiors Photography, Landscape Photography, Northern California Interiors Photographer, Northern California Real Estate Photographer, Real Estate, Uncategorized

***  I now have a video on my YouTube Channel showing you How / Why and Where***

Pole Photography 101 or How to build a better Pole Video Tutorial

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So you might think this shot is a nice exterior but what you may not know, this was shot from 18 ft. up on a painters pole using what we refer to in the Real Estate Photography industry as a “PoleCam” shot…

As the front yard of this home was slopping down the only way to get the composition I wanted was to get the camera up really high, but even though my tripod of choice is a Manfrotto 3046 and goes up about 7 ft. I still needed to go up higher and this is how I got this extra height.

Over the past year so many photographers have asked me about how I built and what I used and how I ended up with the pole I did so I am finally doing this Blog Post for anyone that ever wanted to get into pole photography but didn’t know how.

I started out by surfing the web for the various components I would need to accommodate a height of over 15′ and found several options such as a Manfrotto 269HDB-3U Super High Camera Stand which would get my camera up 24’…

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 3.20.59 PMNow this sounds like a really great option until you check out the $650 price tag plus I have received first hand feedback that in practice this is not really the best option and it’s as expensive as Hell.

Then there was always the low budget option ( which I personally liked ) and started researching Painters Poles..  So I went to where every self respecting DIY photographer goes to, Home Depot and went directly to the paint Department and started looking at what they had..  I found many quality poles ranging in size such as 4′   4-8′   and then there was the 8-16′ pole that I knew would be just right… easy to fit in my Ford Fusion and still close the door and even have room for 4 in the car…  but then I started really checking out the different poles, extending, descending, how do they lock, are they stable and most important, would I feel safe with placing my $2,500 Nikon D700 and $2,000 25-70mm and $300 CamRanger up over 16’…

Now this is where my review will really come in handy as I took at least 6 trips to various stores looking at everything I could find and in the end I came to the conclusion that the Wooster 8ft. – 16ft. Sherlock Extention Pole at $36.97 was the perfect pole. And the main 2 reasons I decided on this pole was due to the following…  Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 3.37.24 PM

If you notice this pole is not round like the majority of poles I found, but rather it is 6 sided and when compared to all the round poles was far far more ridged and stable.. I knew this first hand as I extended every pole I could and shook them back and forth. The other feature I really liked was this pole had a unique button extension & locking system unlike all the others that had a screw lock, and at first examination I felt would be a better, easier and more secure design and in fact after well over 200 shots with this system I am confident I made the best decision as it’s always super easy to extend and takes no effort to lock or unlock.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 3.42.47 PMSo now I had what I felt was the best pole solution but I needed a way to attach my camera safely to the end of this pole..  Again I started surfing the web and found all kinds of solutions  which led me to the company Pole Pixie  that specializes in this type of photography.. and I am confident was started by some guy like me just trying to build a better mouse trap. After checking out their site and looking at the price of their products I felt confident I could build something that would do the trick for a fraction of the cost.

So I went back to Home Depot to the PVC department and took along a short version of my pole to I could try out the fit of the PVC once I slid it on the pole.. I was amazed how perfectly the 1 1/4″ PVC fit , super snug with no worries of it falling off, cracking or breaking allowing my camera to fall.. I also found a PVC  threaded conduit that would allow me to screw on a metal end cap that I could fit with a 1/4″ bolt so as to eventually screw on some kind of head that would allow me to attach to attach my camera. Notice I spray painted the PVC to look a little more like metal but I am fine with my choice to go with a semi flexible / non rigid material other than metal but again the end cap is metal which I feel is very important to the overall strength of this product.

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And now on to one of the key components that after months of day to day use I have found to be the perfect solution to attaching my camera to a 16′ pole..   A ball head that came with my MeFoto BackPacker tripod complete with Arca Swiss compatible clamp… If you go back in my blog HERE you can find a post I did just about this tripod but have found this small ball head far more useful with my pole than as a silly little tripod head.. Only $139 for the whole tripod complete with this head so it was a great deal but you can use just about any head or camera clamp..

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And here is where I need to throw in yet another pitch for the CamRanger  Wireless Camera Control which completes the PoleCam as a realistic and practical tool for your kit. Honestly without this device I can’t really see using a camera on a pole. It allows you to get Liveview so you can compose your shots and it also allows you to not only adjust all your camera settings and trigger your camera remotely but also review your images without needing to raise and lower your pole several times to get the shot.. And with the purchase of the CamRanger you really need to get the Lifeproof ipad case so you can have hands free use while adjusting your investment on top of a 16 ft.  “Stick”

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And last but not least you need one item to complete this package, you need a good light step stool so you can reach the the lever and raise / lower your pole.. I went with a $19 stool from Costco but you can use most anything you want..

And if you someday find you need even more height you can do what I did. For one important cover shot for Luxury Home Magazine I needed to get up even higher than 16′ and worked on a DIY solution which actually got my camera up to about 26′ by putting the pole inside an 8′ PVC tube and raising it up within this tube… I am certainly not recommending anyone try this but you can get an idea of what can be done when the necessity comes up.

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So take it from me, I don’t think there is any one single investment under $50 that will get you as much “Bang for your Buck” as a camera on a pole.. as it will really set your images apart from the competition. I have found it to be reliable, easy & quick to set up and so far very safe for what it is… and you can even do Twilight Shots like this if there is no wind, just position your car, place your pole against your side view mirror and attach a bungee cord to secure.. my camera was up there for about an hour while I got many exposures to blend.

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I now use my Polecam on almost every shoot I do.. and my clients love and request elevated shots most every time.. Be sure to be safe and always lower your pole with camera slowly and carefully…

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If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them here or better yet, you can send me an e mail at   rich@richbaum.com

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Rich Baum Photography shoots the Best Western Roseville Inn with the CamRanger

Gadgets, Gear Review, Hotel Photography, Interiors Photography, Northern California Interiors Photographer, Northern California Real Estate Photographer, Real Estate

I got a call the other day to photograph the Best Western Roseville Inn  and this gave me the opportunity  to try out the newest addition to my ever expanding real estate photography package, the CamRanger. CamRangerProduct

CamRanger is a wireless camera controller which allows the photographer to have full access to all the camera controls on a wireless device. In this case it was my new Samsung Galaxy  7″  Tablet purchased from Costco for a mere $159 

Samsung-Galaxy-Tablet-7-FrysSo in a nut shell this device allows me to see the images I am taking as I am taking them on a nice 7″ screen and allows me to completely control every aspect of my camera remotely. From shutter speed, white ballence, settings like manual, aperature, bracketing and even “Live View”

Now, I don’t need to run back and forth from setting my lights to check out the little 3″ screen on the back of my camera, I can now take the photo right at the light and adjust as needed..  And after just one shoot with this “God Send” I will surely never leave it at home as it’s about the best add on device I have ever used and will ultimately help me produce the highest caliber work and save a ton of time to boot..

So here are a few of the images from this shoot..

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DIY Real Estate / Interiors Photography Lighting Clamps

DIY, Do it yourself, Estate Photography, Gadgets, Gear Review, Interiors Photography, Northern California Engagement Photographer, Northern California Interiors Photographer, Northern California Real Estate Photographer, Real Estate

As I shoot a lot of interiors and real estate photography I am always dealing with lots of challenging changing locations, conditions, angles and situations. On my last shoot I tried a trick that is often used by seasoned real estate photographers where you place a speedlight attached to a Speedlight Stand (which usuially comes with the flash) on top of an open door so you don’t need a light stand that will take up space as this is often for shooting a bathroom or bedroom where space is very limited to begin with. As you can see this process is precarious at best.

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So on this particular shoot I carefully placed my $300 Nikon SB800 with a $150 Pocket Wizard Plus II on top of the bedroom door of Chateau Trails Estate, a $2.3M home.. I took a couple of shots and sure enough… you guessed it, I kicked the door and off falls the light and transceiver. Luckily I was there to catch it just as it hit the carpet and no damage occurred but from that moment on I have been thinking of ways to temporarily attach a flash to the top of a door.

This led me to first posting on the Flickr Photography For Real Estate Forum    my quest for an existing idea  and then I made my way down to my local Home Depot. After about one hour trying to find parts for what I had in my mind was really a challenge especially dealing with the people at Home Depot.. They were nice enough but unfortunately they seem to have no idea of what they actually carry. So after a total of $22 I ended up with enough bit’s & pieces, nuts and bolts that surely I could make something that would work.

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My first project was to do the umbrella modification to my new Sunpak 620-060 camera tripod that I use for speed lights like my new Yongnuo 560II which goes for around $74 at Amazon .. With a 4″ footprint fully extended to 60″ it’s a supper tip and perfect for real estate photography.. I got this idea from the Scott Hargis video “Lighting For Real Estate” and it took about $ .20 and 10 minutes to do and I now have 5 tripods I can set up with Speed lights.. Life is good..

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Next was to move on to the speedlight on top of the door challenge.. So I found a perfect piece of metal flashing, screwed in a nut and bolt that I can screw in my speed light foot or an adjustable connector (forget what they are called) and I was off to the races…  So here is a before and after shot of my “Over The Door Speed Light Holder”

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One thing I need to say is, I will most likely re-do this design as the metal flashing is a little thin and if it were 2x as thick it would support more.. Heck, what do you want for a pre cut piece of flashing that cost a total of $ .65 each. As far as finishing the look and padding the inside, It is simply covered with Gaffers tape to protect home’s doors and, Well.. it’s pretty much ready to go.. Got to love it.. Simple and super cheap..

So next I went on to more traditional clamp modifications. I have 4 Manfrotto Superclamps that would work but I would really be afraid of the clamp damaging anything in a home aside from clamping to hard metal so I found a couple of common pony spring clamps (you all kn0w the ones) with rubber protection and I drilled holes in them and as with the “over the door holder” I simply attached a 1/4″ bolt with a nut on top…  then just take the light foot or whatever clamp you plan to attach by simply screwing it into the 1/4″ bolt and there you are… 2 side by side shots..  2 finished products “in action”.

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On top of the door, to the side, pretty much where ever.. I think you get the idea and best of all… a couple of bucks each, just figure out what you need to adapt to your existing hardware.. Easy Peasy, simple as can be.. less than lunch for 2 at Carl’s Jr..

Here is another clamp setup, this time a “Big Boy” for when I get something wider than a standard door.  And next to the red clamp is a closeup of how I attached my Manfrotto Quick Release and a small cheap hot shoe attachment, again, all existing hardware I use everyday.

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And last but certainly not least, here was an idea I got off the Flickr Photography For Real Estate Forum   that is just too simple..  I also got these at Home Depot and I think they were $3 or $4 so they are cheap and actually, aside from needing to put your flash on some kind of base so you have something to wrap the “Tie” around, this is by far the easiest, least involved and quickest way to attach your speed light to a door..

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So just take a trip down to your local hardware store and with a little imagination, a few dollars and some common tools and camera hardware you too can outfit yourself for your next shoot.. if anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me as I am always happy to help..

Rich Baum Guest Speaker @ PPSV

Architecture, Gadgets, Nature, Real Estate

Last month I had the honor or speaking in front of my fellow professional photographers at the PPSV / Professional Photographers of the Sacramento Valley monthly meeting. This was a short presentation of HDR tips and technique. My emphasis was on how HDR can be many things to many people. It’s not just a fun way to produce cool artistic images but it can be a powerful tool when dealing with very dynamic lighting situations and can often be the solution to a properly exposed image when the use of lighting and filters is impractical.
My talk only lasted about 30 minutes but the feedback was very positive and complimentary.

New Gadget for Rich Baum Photography

Gadgets, Gear Review, Wedding Photography

I just found a new photography gadget that is sure to be a welcome addition to my wedding photography kit.


It’s called the Capture Camera Clip System designed by Peak Design LLC and keeps your DSLR camera secure and accessible during any physical activity. Capture replaces your camera neck strap, camera bag, camera sling or camera holster by allowing you to safely carry your camera on any backpack strap or belt. Capture is designed for any DSLR owner – whether you’re a wedding photographer, music photographer, journalist, rock climber, snowboarder, hiker or a mother with small kids, Capture will make sure you never leave your camera behind again.

And if your having a hard time visualizing this unique product, here is a video.

So being the self promoter and gadget geek I am I decided to send the company an email to learn more about this innovativee new  product and to my surprise I got a call from Adam Saraceno the designer and owner of the company.
We discussed his design and marketing plans and he offered to send my a sample to try for myself. Well as always I love getting gear to review and I am confident this camera clip will surely become part of my wedding photography package.                                                                                      Peak on Facebook     Peak Design LLC