Bart Edson took the scenic route on his career path to becoming one of the Bay Area’s premier architectural photographers.
“I’ve lived like three lifetimes, Edson said. “I have a degree in genetics from UC Davis and interned at Genentech in the ’80s before realizing I didn’t want a career in molecular biology. Then I spent the next few years in Sun Valley as a ski bum before parlaying a background with Lotus 1-2-3 into a role as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.”
Photography, however, remained an interest and a creative outlet, a hobby he picked up after receiving a camera from his stepmother for his 17th birthday.
About 10 years ago he started photographing homes for Realtors. After shooting multiple properties, Edson put together a marketing postcard of his pictures and hand-delivered them to real estate brokerages in Santa Rosa.
Business: Bart Edson Architectural Photography
Jobs started pouring in. His portfolio blossomed, enabling him to position himself as a premium photographer of luxury real estate in recent years.
“Making a living off photography is a dream,” said Edson, a Marin County native who resides in Sonoma and works out of Santa Rosa. “Also, if I’m not working, I get antsy. I’m used to creating. I consider my work art, and I feel the need to to create art on a daily basis.”
In this interview with The Chronicle, Edson talks about technique and shares one of the best compliments he ever received.
Q: What kind of camera do you use?
A: Nikon D800. I’ll use a 16- to 35-millimeter wide-angle lens for interiors. About 10 years ago I learned how to light spaces using an off-camera flash, and learning that technique led to the opportunity to start shooting real estate.
Q: When did you become interested in photography?
Q: How has tech changed architectural photography for real estate marketing?
A: Photoshop is the modern-day darkroom. All my photos are composites of different exposures (flash, natural light). I composite, blend and piece different parts of an image on top of another.
For every hour I’m shooting, I’m spending two to three in Photoshop.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A: Making sure I’m meeting Realtors’ deadlines. The nature of the business is that they need photos and they need them yesterday.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of the job?
A: Taking pictures, doing what I love is the most rewarding. But I also get satisfaction when I feel like I’ve done right by the Realtors in helping market a property. One of the best feelings was when a Realtor told me a buyer from Texas made an offer on a house in San Rafael based only on photos he saw online.
Q: What’s your favorite type of architecture to photograph?
A: I’ve shot a lot in Wine Country, where you get a lot of Tuscan villas and Spanish Mediterraneans. I also enjoy older architecture in San Francisco. But my favorites are modern contemporaries with clean, dramatic lines.