Mike Kelley vs Lee Morris, The Rematch

One year ago to this very day I competed with Mike Kelley to see who could take the best photos of the famous "Dome House" and I won. For 12 months Mike has been plotting his revenge and today, we meet again, at an even more extravagant home in Charleston. 

In all honesty, this rematch came about extremely last minute. I ended up going on Zillow and searching for the most extravagant house currently for sale in the area and found 1926 Maybank Hwy. I called the number on the listing and to my surprise Ruthie Ravenel picked up. I told her who I was, and asked her if we could film this video at this house the following day. She called the owner and within an hour, we had been given approval to film for 6 hours at the house. If you have $6 million bucks, you should totally buy it. Tell Ruthie Lee sent you. 

To make this competition a little more interesting, and to help pay the bills, we got three sponsors and seven products for this video. Mike and I would have to each use the exact same gear to take our images. 

Gear used

Manfrotto RedBee -310



FUJIFILM 32-64mm

Profoto B10

Manfrotto MT190 Tripod

MHX Pro 3WG Head

I'm not going to spoil what happens in the video but I will post both of our montages below. Can you guess who took which one? 

If you enjoy architectural photography I highly suggest checking out the full length tutorials we've made with Mike Kelley at the Fstoppers Store

Lee Morris's picture

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

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Hi Mike, I think that you´re images work very well in the final composition. The negative aspects of the image you took with the two flower chairs don´t weigh that heavily when the image is sized down as it is and placed beside the large vertical. Also, I think as an overall composition, it was indeed a good idea to take a picture of the front of the building - it gives a better overall impression of the whole estate. Also, the tree that some found distracting is not really all that "bothersome" anymore.

I haven’t had time to watch the whole video, but I scrubbed through to quickly confirm my belief that the skyswap in the second set couldn’t possibly be from the guy with his own skyswap tutorial. I was relieved to find I was right... no offense Lee.

Really interesting because the last shoot really brought home the high percentage of non pro shooters on f-stoppers...

We all love Lee for his directness and coming up with the idea in the first place but like most amateurs he is kit obsessed ( saying that in a nice way Lee) and it shows in his images.

This time around it’s even clearer who is the pro and who is the non pro...

Speaking as a 20+ yrs as a pro Mike wins every time (as he should do).

We all love the way Lee goes about trying to find different angles etc but if he put those images from both shoots in a portfolio it wouldn’t be quite weak and say ‘final year student’ to many art buyers in that field ( sorry Lee).

Mikes work is cohesive, has a style that is together and this shows the character of each property. Lee shows more technique and less aesthetics.... and it’s all about aesthetics... all $6 million of them


I commented on the YT vid, but a quick question for Mike (if he happens to see this). On the shot through the living room, it's difficult to 'see' the pool because the water is perfectly still. Would it have been better to disturb the water to have ripples in it, so that it was easier to see that it's a pool? Or does the still water come off better for sellers?

Lee thinks about photography with too much editing in mind. He's been with Elia for too long, and it feels like Patrick does the same thing when doing those contests. Mike did the other way around : he used to do a lot of fancy editing, sky swapping etc... and now aspires to more simplicity (successfully IMO). So here he simply wanted to show how the place feels like when being there in person. He didn't necessarily wanted to sell the house for the realtor, it was more an artistic point of view. And ultimately that was what the contest was about : who took the best photos. Not whose set of images would sell the house the quickest. A good indicator was the fact that Mike liked that driveway photo, with the trees and stuff. It's what made him like the property, so he shot it, it's something we can relate to.

Ha. That was awesome. Nice work guys.

I enjoy these competition videos. I would like to see match 3 (the tie breaker) where each photographer chooses their own gear to use, shows up when they feel it is the best time to show up and take the photographs, etc ... do it "Their" way ... not be limited by sponsor gear or any other limitations.

I think the crops helped Lee a lot. I liked his montage over Mikes more. But when seen full res, like the kitchen with all those cast shadows I liked it better less before the crop. So I still prefer Lee's montage overall.

As for guessing who shot which. My thoughts were Mike would have made the room interior more symmetrical. His strive for composition with positioning and crafting led me to believe he would not make that shot, but I was wrong.

All in all, a great competition, now we need best of 3!

I've got an idea for the next rematch and I'm serious. Photograph a very average house. Say $200k range in Charleston (or wherever you can). But do a very average, common home.

Now, I didn't expect to watch that entire video. But I did. Very interesting and I think that Mike's overall experience with photographing homes gave him the edge. My opinion, Mike's photographs did a better job of conveying the story of the home - not that 3 images is really enough for that especially on a property of that size but I get the constraints of the contest.

Great job both of you! Looking forward to more!!

We've thought about that. I'm fearful the video and images would be so bad that it would be difficult to watch.

Wouldn't mind the video version of the same competition? You could get Parker Walbeck on or someone else who's known for real estate videography on youtube. The post-production would play a pretty big part to it as well. Waddya reckon Lee? Loser buys the winner a bottle of Patron Silver.

Slept on it and I still think it's a great idea. When was the last time Mike Kelley photographed a $200k home?

I think the pressure and honesty of the challenge for the both of you - no matter the results - would be beneficial and of interest to some of us in the Fstoppers community who photograph real estate and architecture.

Also would love to see the editing process. Though I know for this video, time was not your friend.

I like this idea. Photographing a 6 million dollar house is like photographing epic landscapes. A lot of the work has been done for you, so it’s less impressive when someone of Mike’s skill level get amazing shots. They should do this challenge at an Olive Garden, haha.

Always is pleasure to watching you guys and always some new detail can be learned. Tnx for sharing and lets go for 3rd episode! :)