Amateur Vs. Pro Architecture Photographer Shoot the 'Dome House'

Last week Mike Kelley and I competed to see who could create the best images of the iconic dome house in Charleston. We released the images and allowed all of you to vote to determine who won. Today, the results are in. 

Mike Kelley fanboys and internet trolls around the world, brace yourself... I won the competition. Yes, the second set of images is mine. In the video above you can see how each of us took these photos and then you can also see our reaction when 70% of people believed that my images were taken by Mike Kelley and 70% also voted my images to be the best. 

The video is long and covers a lot so I'm not going to type it out but I will show you the before and after images from each of our shoots. 

Mike Kelley's Images

Mike Kelley's Final Montage

Lee Morris' Images

Lee Morris' Final Montage

As I admit at the end of the video, I'm not a complete amateur. I actually shot real estate for years long before I ever met Mike. For the last five years, I've been working with Mike to produce the "Where Art Meets Architecture" tutorial series where he reveals all of his techniques. The only reason I was able to beat him is that I simply used his own techniques against him. 

At this point, Mike is out for revenge and I'm sure we will be doing another competition in the near future so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, you can check out all of Mike's architecture photography tutorials and all of the other Fstoppers tutorials at

If you happen to have an extra $5 million laying around, this house is still for sale. You can learn more about it on and follow on Instagram. 

Lee Morris's picture

Lee Morris is a professional photographer based in Charleston SC, and is the co-owner of

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Noooo freaking way!!!

Yes freaking way

Hahah WAMA 4 with Lee.

I had to go outside for a cigar and collect myself after this one.

I hope we hear from some of those who posted the comments you read. Greatest plot twist ever! Really wish Mike did take the extra steps to clean up that exterior photo though. That was a big mistake on his end

Ha gimme a break. It's a beach with a sand dune - was I supposed to grab a rake and start cleaning?!

Photoshop the sand, the power lines, and the house. Those were the biggest complaints with your whole series

Hey Mike, don't listen to them, ain't nobody wants to work for free ) Next time you in Boston I'm buying you drinks

The foreground just seems dirty/messy/distracting to me.

This reminds me of the Tortoise and Hare parable. Lee just worked harder and Mike sort of coasted IMO. In the first set #2 and #3 "after" pictures still look like "before".

Mike - time to re-watch your own how to videos :)

Ya but I was the Hare and I won... So the opposite of the parable.

Depends on how you look at it. To me, it's like Mike was the Hare where he figured it was an easy win, took a break and enjoyed the sunset while relaxing through the competition while you keep going and won in the end.

Ah ok that makes sense too

yeah exactly, it's more " The Grasshopper and the Ant " by Jean de La Fontaine

Wow! That was a shocker! In Lee's first image, though, looking through the eyes of a real estate agent that I am; wondering if the photoshopped view through the window might be misleading to a potential buyer... thinking he might have unobstructed ocean views, but finding out otherwise when they show up. I know, I know, this is a friendly contest, for fun, per say. And I also know that photoshoping and editing images is common in real estate photography. But we come down to the same dilema; how much editing is too much? I remember you posted an article about his topic a few years ago.

Both of you guys are great photographers nonetheless

"wondering if the photoshopped view through the window might be misleading to a potential buyer... thinking he might have unobstructed ocean views, but finding out otherwise when they show up."
--> I think it's ok for an architectural photo to do it. It's meant to display elegance in a magazine or in the architect's portfolio. Especially if in reality it only takes to cut the bush to see the actual ocean behind.
On the other hand if it's for real estate, then it's not ok (nor smart because it takes time) to remove it.

I agree, but you will notice that I actually lowered the entire ocean. To make it more realistic I should have raised up even higher in the frame. The tree could be trimmed by the owner so I thought it was fair game.

Yeah, from my real estate perspective, I wouldn't push the line so far with the excess PS'ing. ("Could" is different than "is".) But then again, this was a fun competition between you and Mike. Thanks for the show! :D

Congratulations to Lee Morris. You can now start your own series of tutorials on KelbyOne :D

I think the before/after of Mike's last shot is flipped

Nope, looks right to me.

So...I got it right. In the video Mike said at 7:15 exactly why I knew that was Lee's image. Nice fireplace. LOL and the lighting on the outlet did it for me.

Thought the same thing lol

I voted way wrong. And I've been friends with Mike for years and do this shit for a living. I would have bet my last dollar that image 4 was Mike's. Killer set of images Lee. Lick your wounds Mike I'll keep my feelers out for a rematch property for you guys to shoot in So Cal.

Everybody only looked at the lighting and not the composition. Lighting is interesting but doesn't highlight any aspects of the room...ot even the focal point fireplace. LOL

I didn't pipe up because the popular opinion made me feel like a lunatic but I was against the crowd on the previous post. I thought the first set had much more interesting compositions pretty much across the board with better use of light and color. I agree that the external landscape was messy and had the weakest use of light of the first set though. It showed good a compositional mindset but there was clutter/crap dragging it down.

In the second set, the balcony view is nice but color is not used as well as in the first series. The interior shot manages to feel dark and cramped and uninviting to me. The exterior is a nice shot overall, even if the composition is less playful than the exterior from the first set (those birds add a lot, especially with the use of 1/3s). On the whole, the first series make me want to visit this place more than the 2nd.

Your mileage may vary, obviously it did for 70% of the crowd!

Congrats Lee ! I was fooled too with my guess. You did an excellent job at it ! Mike on the other hand has been quite lazy on this one I think. Especially in comparison to the amount of details he displays in the WAMA series.
Now the question is: was he lazy on purpose or not ? 3:)

Netflix getting good mileage out of Lee's image already

Oh ya?


I guess I am part of 70% who thought Mike was the winner...the exterior shot with lights made all the difference!!

Exactly what I thought. Sorry Mike! Actually the clue was in the intro video where you see Lee holding the camera portrait orientation composing his interior shot. Good call on swapping out he view. This was my favourite of the six. All six are high end images that any client would pay the big bucks for! You two should team up more often!

Guess I should order a tutorial now for two reasons: 1) Lee won, 2) just to be in Mike's Facebook group to read the resulting posts. And count me in with the others who were wrong...

I had picked out Mike's pics and thought they were slightly stronger. What gave it away for me was the slightly heavy use of light on Lee's outdoor deck image. I've found Mike has a more natural use of flash in his images especially having viewed his latest work and seeing the progression in the WAMA series, and that one just pushed it a tad far for me. Also the lighter exterior image felt more MK, even with the other house in the background. Cracking set of images both of them, not too much between them in the end, great work!!

I could have done way better than both of you. Where are peoples imagination???

Says Mr. No Portfolio!!

Mark Niebauer based on your comment, clearly not in the comments section!

Holy crap, Lee! You totally knocked out Mike!
Super awesome and well deserved! He was too overconfident and mocking you :D
And well, who needs a cam ranger if you have feet to run, right? ;)
That was a really surprising plot twist! Loved that video and the results!

love this little game! spent these 30 minutes with pleasure +)

I want in on the next competition. Love to take on Mike, but now I guess I would have to look at Lee as being the top dog!

Only watched the intro, so far. Will watch the full video during unwind time later. Really looking forward to it.

Just from the intro, I already love this video without having seen it. What I love is this wonderful job you've created for yourself where you get facebook messages from strangers providing you with opportunities like this. That, to me, is the most significant part of this video. You and Mike could have gone in there and shot the two most horrible series of images in history and it wouldn't matter to me.

This incredible existence you've created for yourself is what's most relevant to me. I'm working diligently on my "incredible existence" plan. Stuff like this is inspiring.

I'm not Lee, but the crazy stuff that happens on a regular basis is definitely the best part of my life - such as this experience!

Mike mentioned using a 24-70 on the scouting shot but what was the wider lens he used for the interior?

What tripod was Mike using? What camera mount? I'm ready for an upgrade.

Congrats on the victory, and let me say that it was very classy to admit what you did at the end. No disrespect at all intended but having followed Fstoppers for years one of my thoughts was that Mike has developed tutorials for you guys and as you stated your not an amateur. Nice job by both.

Very impressed with these Lee! That was hard as hell haha I really liked both sets

This is an enjoyable feature. I enjoyed it start to finish. I have no idea how to layer in the many lit frames and would love to learn.

Congrats Lee on great job!!!
Honestly I also voted wrongly, but still I'm sure that Mike faked us a little bit, because his set of images definitely is not his cup of tea :)) . Composition, details, color, shaddows, no, no :)).
Anyhow, great project and maybe to include more contents about architectural photography on Fstoppers!

"Amateur Vs. Pro Architecture Photographer Shoot the 'Dome House'"

"Lee Morris is a ***professional photographer*** based in Charleston SC, and is the co-owner of"

What a bunch of disingenuous, clickbait garbage. And YOUR fanbois love it. Which is entirely and transparently why you posted this: For your fanboi kudos. It's also especially ironic since you mentioned the other photogs trolling fanbois in the same breath. The irony clearly alludes you.

I've never heard of either of you but the first guys shots are measurably better.

Also, what is up with replacing the interior window shots of foliage with the paraglider and sea scape? That's not a photo, that's an illustration. A photo is something that is supposed to represent a moment in time. An illustration is an idealized representation of a vision. What you created was an illustration. Additionally, as a real estate photographer, I would really hope you wouldn't pull that shit on a client.

By contrast I'm an actual amateur/novice photog as opposed to your fake claim (I suck, but I enjoy the challenge.) However, I'm also a professional in another field who deals with pixels/texels and polygons every single day, I live and breath photoshop. It's as if we need a term for something inbetween a photo and a digital illustration. As soon as you lazily stamp out powerlines or change the entire image in a window, you're no longer a photographer, you're a photo-illustrationist. Which is totally fine, but lets call a spade a spade and stop calling it photography.

Theme song of my day. Can't stop humming this haha

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