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. 

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Previous comments
Lee Morris's picture

Yes there is. There is a tree in the way but you can still see the ocean. I think the worst thing I did was I put the ocean in the far right window. The ocean is still over there but those trees are not on the property so the owner would not be allowed to trim them.

Patrick Hall's picture

Was there...totally can confirm you can see the ocean in almost every view of the house. Lee just made the ocean view stronger in a 2D medium. No one would see his photo, enter the house, and then say "I can't see the beach!"

This was a major sticking point of my own argument. You're a realtor photog and you photoshop the view?!?! WTF. Stop it. That's an idealized illustration, not a photo.

Cristian Perotti's picture

I believe this could turn into a series like Critique The Community. Lee or Patrick could go one on one with other special photographers in any genre. Say portraiture, headshots, weddings, landscape, long exposure, etc. I really liked this. And, I don´t know why people give so much crap to Lee or Patrick. Gotta be objective people!

Lee Morris's picture

Go read the comments on this video. it went from 95% positive comments on the voting video for my photos to now the majority of the comments are against mine and "mike is the clear winner".

We have certainly learned that we have to put the pictures up online without names to get a fair result or else everyone is going to downvote me.

Grant Kennedy's picture

I think your spot on with what you predicted, everyone was going to vote for Mike with bias, so really the real pole was on who took what shots and who looked like mikes shots. I actually think your would have been better of with just 1 question, which images are better.

Cristian Perotti's picture

Yes, but my point is why people downvote pictures just because you took them. To me that is bs and the whole idea is to be objective. I personally thought your pictures where Mike´s. The reason being that he is an architechtural photographer and you are mostly (based on what you have said) a wedding photographer, and your pictures are much more worked on. However, I still think pictures 4-6 (yours) were better than Mike´s, regardless of who took them. Just downvoting or upvoting based solely on who took the picture is bs in my opinion. Keep it up Lee and just don´t pay attention to the negative feedback ;)

Colin Robertson's picture

Had me fooled! Hot damn Lee! NICE. Mike, you need to step up your game! I kid, I kid!

Michael Yearout's picture

Congratulations Lee.

DJ Toman's picture

For me swapping out the window views of Lee's interior shot with believable views with obstructions removed was ingenious and lifted the composition to a new level. I also loved Mike's balcony composition, arrangement, and lighting, but it wasn't enough to raise his three images on its own.

That doesn't take anything away from Mike, whose work has always been excellent and has only matured and become more nuanced over the years. I watched the entire video and thoroughly enjoyed this challenge.

Patrick Hall's picture

In almost every interior photo, you can see the beach! Not sure why people are so butt hurt about Lee photoshopping in a proper exposure of the view.

I might gain some enemies here...but i think that Lee's photos where focused to impressed, hence some heavy post on them (exterior shot)..and not so strong on compositing. on the other hand Mike's work is more natural and more moody, making the comp more elegant; he has refined his style so that he doesnt relay so much in post (the exterior of the balcony i didnt like so much though).
a bit less post on Lee's photos would have been great...and some more post on Mike's would have helped to get the win.

Charles Lynn's picture

I was totally wrong.

Lee, yours are actually much better, except for the last one. That one Mike won.
I think Mike's problem is that he has been doing this business for tooooo long time, everything is familiar to him, he just cannot be excited easily anymore.

The important thing with real estate photography is to composite, clone and heal out the actual property surroundings and views, so that prospective buyers have a pleasant surprise when they view the property.

Jonathan Reid's picture


I'm part of the 70%. For me, it was based on the interior shot. Lee's image was more architectural where Mike's was the super wide, real estate view which led me to believe that Mike shot Lee's image. In the previous architectural critique, Mike and Lee disagreed on an image based on this criteria - Lee liked the image as he said it would sell the house, Mike said it was too busy.

I think you put these in to trick us!

Abu Habeeb Stevenson's picture

I totally called it....and I agree with everything you both said anyways....but next time we should make a bet on the polls and the winner gets....idk something like a tutorial....

Can not believe so many people voted for Lee's. No offence Lee (they're still great shots) but there's so many blocked up shadows in those exteriors, if I'm buying a house I want to feel something positive and light and cosy which is what Lee's make me feel. You have that warmth in the balcony shot juxtaposed against the coolness of the night, the beautiful light and clouds in the exterior and that interior really shows you what you're getting. Sometimes I think photogs overthink things and don't feel enough and the real pros make you feel. Ultimately Lee's look like they're from a photography review site (makes snese), Mike's look like they're from an architectural magazine.

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm confused don't like Lee's exterior but like the natural light from the windows juxtaposed by the blue sky? What you see is what you get? Maybe you meant Mike since you used Lee's name twice?

Rob Davis's picture

Love the conclusion:

"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."

So after all of the effort put into this multi-part story in the last paragraphs you tell us the entire premise is BS. WTF dude? Have a little respect for your audience.

Lee Morris's picture

multipart story? the only time the word "amateur" was ever used was in the title of the second video. I never said in either video I was an amateur photographer but technically I am an amateur architectural photographer. 10 years ago I shot real estate and now I don't. Mike does it professionally, I don't.

Rob Davis's picture

The title is kind of the most important part. I don't think it's a stretch to say that for the vast majority of people the word "amateur" implies newness and inexperience.

Previous part:

"Mike Kelley Vs. Lee Morris: Whose Images Are Best?"

Nice job with the pics though.

Wayne van der Walt's picture

Let’s get all technical about the title, based solely on our hatred for Lee.

Rob Davis's picture

I only hate Lee's flip flops. Other than that I think he's a fine photographer. Titles are only the most important sentence.

R. Derrick Thomas's picture

Both sets were interesting. I watched the video after the voting had taken place so I got to see things start to finish without having to guess. The most interesting part was watching how the staging happened and what each of them chose to focus on given the limited time. In my own practice I try to balance capturing what is seen that initially caught my eye (light, scene, emotion, etc.) vs. what I can "fix" in post. I also follow that same rule with trying to manage a scene by rearranging what I come across.

Deniz Cakir's picture

The problem with both sets is that they convey a melancholic feeling and unless you are aiming to sell this house to a really melancholic millionaire both sets fail to convey that cozy warmness you expect to find in a house. The striking difference between reality and the images we take has always been a big concern for philosophers and common people alike. The point I am getting at is that if I had 5 million cash ready for a house in that area , I wouldn't trust your pictures and even if I did I wouldn't buy the house . What Mike really excels at is that he creates images that go beyond the limitations of the camera , his images make us feel as if we were standing there , experiencing the view with our own eyes.They are as dynamic as the real world. So when done properly Mike would be the Photographer equivalent of Francesco Martini fused with perhaps Jan van Eyck , However doing it properly and purposefully is actually a form of Art . Art is not merely a representation of the "Reality" , it is also statement about it.

In these sets apart from the artisanship there is no statement that is a statement which was intended by the artist.As we all know advertisements always carry a message, a "statement", almost always clarified by an actual set of words. Mike kelly's set says come buy this house where summers feel like scotland and Lee would be saying come buy this house and enjoy it while you wait to be abducted by strange beings while watching your fake sunset.

I wrote this comment on the basis that your educational series is called Where Art Meets Architecture. Art is a lot more than stacking images in photoshop or a balanced composition . I hope Mike reads this and understands what really has worked for him in his carrier is that his instincts and his education has led him to produce great art work . Ads are essentially Commercial Art.When we look at the history of images , most of the Greats were commissioned images either by kings, queens or Popes. So an effective advertisement, be it a photo , video or an radio ad is a form of art. It has to be, it has statement embedded in it.

I hope that all photographers here understand that they are in the business of art regardless of their genre of photography , their experience or their purpose for taking pictures.

Good luck to all and wish the best.


Dana King's picture

Exterior: Lee Morris hands-down. Balcony: both are extremely well but Lee's only a small bit better. You feel like you are in a chair looking at over the ocean and the greenery. The chairs lead my eyes out and gives you a feel of depth. Interior: I like the lighting on Lees (and windows) and I like the angle on Mike's. Draw on that one. So Lee wins this round. Either way, both did a great job and made you laugh along the way with them.

Brian Reed's picture

I really liked 2, 5 and 6. If I wanted to buy this house based on three images these would interest me enough to ask to view the house. Image 4 is nice also but doesn’t give enough of the room to know what it looks like. Image 2 does but maybe a little to wide. Image 3 makes it look like the house is on the beach rather than near the beach. Seeing all the images together would/should convince someone with the money to buy the house site in seen.

EDWIN CUPELY's picture

I enjoyed this video a lot. I think it's a very close tie. Both sets of photos are showing very different styles, being Mike's adventurous because of the open spaces in all his photos, and Lee's are glamorous and elegant because of the tones and lightning in his. I would say that Mike's interior photo is the tiebreaker giving Lee a little advantage over Mike. In my humble opinion that photo lacks some contrast in darks and highlights to make it a striking photo. Some more extensive photoshop like Lee did, would have made Mike the definitive winner.

I like Mike Kelley's images better. I really can't stand people photoshopping the view outside of the window completely with something not present at all. It's a window, not a LCD monitor! here are my collection of DIY projects: