Shooting the Pool: David Patterson on Commercial Location

David Patterson ( has specialized in the photography of architecture, interior design, and related projects for twenty years, creating images for firms in the built environment and illustrative images for editorial and advertising clients.  Based in Colorado, he works throughout the nation with a concentration in the Rocky Mountain region.  His work has been published nationally and internationally in magazines and books.  Principally commissioned by architects and designers, clients appreciate David's aim to interpret the intent of the design, volume, function, and setting in his images through carefully considered and precisely composed single images creating an interpretive story.

David:  "One thing that is dramatically different in the digital world than it was in the film world is the possibility of compositing multiple images.  Now, I think of an image as piecing together a composite of moments.  I did wait until the sky turned in this particular shot, but I shot through that time period and used pieces that were acceptable to my final style of the photograph.  We initially looked at this image from down low near the pool, but there was nothing that seemed to work really well.  We then decided to actually use a lift and get higher so that we could put the pool in this great context that existed in the Beaver Creek [Colorado] area.  What was important here was how the pool overlooked the valley.

"After we found that point of view, then we set about to create the lighting that would build on the concept of what mood we wanted to portray. This period of shooting the light lasted about an hour for me.  For similar commercial photographs, I have spent up to four hours getting exposures that I would later composite.

"Compositionally, I shot this vertically.  I then cropped it to a square.  With film, we would shoot the whole frame, work the corners, and if you presented them to clients you might tape them down or recompose them as you would like to present them.  Now, digital has removed all of the hassle, and we are able to cut and crop anyway we'd like.  Here, my initial intention was to crop some of the pool. I do like squares, and I feel like squares present themselves very well.  On this one, there was no great story behind this composition.  The horizon I left high, and it all seemed to come to together rather well.


"One way to approach the problem of distortion when I shoot architecture and interiors is to use a tilt-shift lens, and when I shoot editorial work and other things, the Canon tilt-shift lenses are just awesome. The 24 mm, the 17 mm, the 45 mm, and the 90 mm are all great lenses.   I would start there when you really want to correct for distortion in the camera.

"The other thing I do is shoot with Zeiss lenses (the VE versions) for the Canon, and those lenses have a remarkable quality to them.  Oftentimes, if I only need a little bit of control, then I will shoot one of these lenses and go into post-processing in CaptureOne and do regular perspective corrections in the RAW format. This way, you don't have the pixel degradation like you might going through Photoshop after you've opened the RAW file.  You have to shoot wide enough to make the correction. I believe that CaptureOne is just awesome to help with this.

"Finally, I say use the longest lens you can.  For Canon, my "go-to" lens is the 45 mm and on my PhaseOne, it is the 55 mm.  I feel like this is how I see anyway, and this is how I want the image to look.  I really try to avoid letting the viewer see how the image was made, meaning that it should look natural to them."


Camera: Cambo WDS with a Phase One P45+ back
Lens: Rodenstock 4.5/55 mm Apo-Sironar
Other: MacBook Pro for tether with Capture One, RAW process in Capture One.  Scissor lift  that was not elevated above the base, parked on elevated drive, about 10 feet off the ground (camera height).

Stay connected to David:  Website


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Architecture photographyAugust 2012Beaver creek resortColoradoDavid pattersonHow i got that shotInterior photographyPerspective controlPicturelineProfessional location photographyUtah