When the camera senses there is not enough light present, it will use the flash to provide its own light for the shot. This can work for taking photos of people, but for shooting highly reflective concrete floors, I rarely find a flash helpful. In fact, on the contrary, a flash can often ruin the shot. Unless you have a professional diffused flash and know how to use it, I would avoid using a flash for any polished concrete photography.
One advantage to shooting concrete floors is that, unlike the subjects of other types of photography, floors really don’t move much. That means if you can stop the camera from moving, you can use a long exposure time to overcome a lack of light. In order to accomplish this you will need a way to steady the camera (most effectively done with a sturdy tripod). Then you can simply set the shutter speed on the camera to one-fifth of a second (or slower depending on the amount of light). This will leave the shutter open to let in enough light to properly expose the shot. In photos 5 and 6 you can see the difference between using a flash and getting a steady shot with a longer exposure time. With a longer exposure you get more even lighting resulting in a more attractive photo.
Composition of polished floor photos
When I go to a jobsite to shoot some photos of a polished concrete floor, I often catch myself taking the same photo over and over. I go to the far end of the floor, put the camera close to ground, go as wide as the lens will go and snap away. If the floor was done well and I set the camera properly, I will usually come away with the nice shots that really show off the floors reflectivity. While consistent, high quality photography is important when showing off your work, so is variety. Finding a few interesting ways of composing your shots can make the work you do on the floor really stand out. (See photos 7 through 12.)
Even if you are a contractor with solid knowledge of photography, there are times when putting your project photography in the hands of a professional is a good idea. On large jobs or projects with a lot of prestige, a professional photographer with professional equipment might be well worth the money if it means a bigger, more engaged audience for your marketing message.
In sharing this article, I am hoping to provide a little guidance and encouragement for those contractors who want to improve upon their photography skills and therefore improve their ability to market themselves. These tips are only meant as a base for further exploration. Even with something as seemingly straight forward as a polished floor, the possibilities are vast. And that brings me to my only universal rule in photography: practice, practice, practice. Shoot a lot of photos, see what works and what doesn’t work, then go out and shoot some more. Soon you will begin to build an impressive photo portfolio that you can use to show off and sell your impressive floors.
This article was written in collaboration with Gary Henry, Stephen Falls and Bruce Ferrell who also share in the photography duties at PROSOCO.