Vote For Mike Kelley VS Lee Morris Architecture Shootout Part 2

One of the most popular videos we have produced in the last year was with Mike Kelley and Lee Morris as they battled it out in the Amateur Vs Pro Architecture Photographer Shootout. This week Mike and Lee have set their rematch, and you our audience will be the judges! 

If you are a reader of Fstoppers then you obviously know Lee Morris, a jack of all photography trades but master of none. Mike Kelley is a master of architectural photography but rarely shoots anything outside of that field. Since all three of us a great friends, we figured it would be fun to revisit this shoot off and see if Mike can redeem himself after losing last year to Lee. 

The Previous Shootout

What is interesting about the previous shootout is that when the photos were posted anonymously, the overwhelming consensus was that Lee's photos were taken by Mike and that Lee's photos were the best out of the two sets. This is pretty ironic because Lee basically learned everything he knows about architecture photography by producing three of Mike's real estate and architectural tutorials Where Art Meets Architecture. The other irony is that after the results were revealed, much of the public changed their tune and opted for Mike's photos after they knew who was behind each set of images. 

All this being said, when the votes were pulled to reveal the winner, Lee Morris was the clear victor with 65% of voters preferring his images of Mike's photos. You can see the votes here on this article and you can view the final photos on the Dome House Shootout Article here

Who Will Win Round 2?

For this second competition, the stakes have been raised. Instead of shooting an exotic hurricane proof house like the Dome House, this competition will focus on a massive $6.25 million dollar riverside chateau located on the Wappoo Creek in Charleston, SC. Unlike the previous house, this massive 6 bedroom, 7 1/2 bathroom mansion has plenty of variety in terms of hero shots. 

The rules for this competition were simple. Each person had to produce 3 different photographs that could be used by the architect or builder, and all three images must be placed in a single 16x9 montage.  Each set of images would be voted on by you our readers anonymously and the winning set of images will be revealed live on camera in 24 hours. 

Single Manfrotto Backpack filled with FujiFilm 50s, two FujiFilm lenses, and 2 Profoto B10s

To make things a bit more challenging and interesting, both Lee and Mike had to shoot on the FujiFilm 50s Medium Format Mirrorless Camera and could use either the FujiFilm 32mm - 64mm zoom lens or the FujiFilm 23mm wide angle lens. For lighting, the two photographers were given two Profoto B10 flashes with no modifiers. Since Mike is known for using super expensive tripods and geared heads, the competitors also had to use the Manfrotto MT190 Go Tripod with Manfrotto MHX Pro-3WG geared head. 

Here are the two sets of images. 

Set 1

Set 2

Below, you can vote both for who you think took each set of images as well as which set of images best showcase this amazing house on the water. 

If you want to find out the results, make sure you subscribe to our Youtube Channel where we will be releasing the full shootout video and the final results!

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Vladimir Ambia's picture

Can we see the photos bigger? or click on them to make them bigger?

Patrick Hall's picture

Right click the photos and open the url. They are like 3000 pixels wide

Vladimir Ambia's picture

thank you sir!

Dennis Herrera's picture

Wow.... that view from the living room!!! I will say that Lee lost on purpose because he didn’t even try to light up his photos. Great job Mike! 😂😅

marcus brown's picture

Set 2 just seems more comforting and classic for the style of the house, and I think Mike Kelley did those shots.

John Dawson's picture

No comped birds?!

Jerry Qiu's picture

I don't think set 2 is even usable. 4 like a snapshot, 5 is so bad at the edge of the sky. 6 is alright but still very amateur. Did you shot these to lose in purpose, Lee? I get it, to make a sale on the tutorial. That is so cheating.

Tanmoy Roy's picture

pretty sure that mike took that set 2 images..

Pete Whittaker's picture

This is going to be even tougher than the last one.

I think the composition of the second set of images is more interesting. That said, image 4 could definitely be improved - it's not just the foreground-background exposure balance but if you look between the two columns, up near the top there's something weird going on like motion blur. It just looks like someone with an eye for composition fired off a quick snapshot.

I'm also bothered by image 3, all of the rooms in the house are lit up except the one on the top right. Was the photographer running out of time? Did they not have access to that room?

Patrick Hall's picture

That room was actually the study and the walls were all dark wood. There wasn’t a whole lot of light coming out of it.

James Ngai's picture

That's when skills are put to test😊

Dennis Herrera's picture

I thought you gave them a strobe light Patrick. No excuses for how dark those photos are.

John Thompson's picture

I think what you are seeing as motion blur is just the way that tree looks, it has that dangly grey stuff hanging from the branches?

Pete Whittaker's picture

Maybe. The gray stuff looks fine to me in the shadows. Only at the top of the split between the columns where there is the transition from shadow to sun light does it look weird to me. Maybe it's a trick of the light and maybe my brain could make sense of it if it was at higher resolution but to me it looks like either motion blur or bad Photoshop.

Alan Bilsborough's picture

Not a chance Mike took set One - 2 pictures square on, swimming pool hardy visible? So obvious that I think Lee's thrown this one. This is my first vote and comment on fstoppers - if I'm wrong I promise I'll retire from ever voting again.

Shawn Clabough's picture

Sure you want to wager that much? There's a high chance that was your last vote.

John Thompson's picture

Considering he said this is his first vote, i don't think he's wagering very much

Romain Sandt's picture

The first set is better, I see more of how the house is, and the photos are nicer, but set 2 has more value as for where the house is and the value of its environement. Set 2 with the light of set 1 would be great. But neither are perfet. Set 1... we can barely see the nice pool, the sea/river is too light. Set 2 is too dark, unless you open the photos in a new tab you can't see anything.

shadai perez's picture

Wow this comment section is brutal all the videos are for entertainment and at the end of the day it's a business but it's fun I don't think anyone cheated.

That being said that sky replacement on 5 is kind of rough and the masking on 6 the window frame looks really dark. 4 looks like it was just exposed for the sky and that was it. no fill light just maybe spend a few minutes on composing the shot.

Photo one looks nice there is a purple Hue in the sky maybe from a variable ND or a gradient in Lightroom to bring the highlights down. Two and three simple and nice.

I really think there was a very small amount of time to make these pictures happen.

Can't wait to see the video I know it's going to be hilarious.
Your next challenge should be with a landscape photographer shooting like an active volcano or just something crazy lol.
Thanks for the great content.

B In SEA's picture

I think set 1 is the "better photos" from a technical aspect, BUT I still think set 2 is the better set because it has a much greater focus on the river and pool, and therefore would work better in any sort of real estate listing.

Photo 1 serves no purpose that is not accomplished with photo 3, and photo 2 is such a standard living room that the only point of interest is the river, which you can barely see. Photo 3 is great on its own, but then put next to photo 5 you realize that 5 has a much better composition with a more visible pool and a glimpse of the lake.

Photo 4 is technically the weakest of all, I think it's a poor composition and could have benefitted from some directional fill in the foreground, but at least it emphasizes the pool and the river. Photo 6 is similar to photo 2 in that there's nothing special about that kitchen (in the world of mulit-million dollar homes), but I still find it a more emotionally engaging image (vs 2) because it's easy to picture yourself sitting there enjoying the river view with a cup of coffee in the morning.

Tyler Chappell's picture

Lee had to have taken set 1. The living room shot is too busy to be Mike's shot again after he had a busier living room the last time. Plus the obvious HDR, whereas Mike appears to have simply taken advantage of the camera's native dynamic range in capturing his shots in set 2. The lighting on the exterior pool shot in set 1 is nice and looks like Mike's work, as well as the composition to an extent, but I don't think Mike would make the pool appear so small by showing such a thin sliver of it.
The frontal exterior shot in the set 1 looks like something a rent-a-realtor took with their smartphone. It's a snapshot on Lee's photo quality scale of images. ;]
Mike simply wouldn't punish the viewer with an exterior shot like that with a distracting tree on the right that takes some of the focus away from the house.
All 3 of Mike's shots in set 2 tell a story. They tell a cohesive story of perhaps a morning breakfast in the kitchen to start the day, and a relaxing evening by the pool enjoying the view.
If I am wrong, then I feel like they switched strategies on purpose to be exactly the opposite of the last contest to throw people off. ;]

Gilmour Dickson's picture

Its hard to say who shot what as both photographers are capable of a LOT more than set two. The dome house images were overall much better.

Damir Secki's picture

I think second set is from Mike (wider exterior shot). I like some parts of both sets though. the photo #3 is impressive because of the lights (you can see Morris' skills there)... but the pool is not very visible... so perspective is better on #5.. combined would be amazing. Think the combo of #3 &5, #2 and #6 (with better lighting) would be the best set

Martin Potgieter's picture

Ok, voted, but not really too impressed by either set, as a set.
In set 2 image 5 and 6 is nice, but the sky replacement in 5 just looks rushed with the halo around the tree.
Set 1 you can hardly see the pool in image 3, crop is weird, Image one is from any real estate website. Image 2 is very busy, with the two chairs straight from the back, I would have moved them a little at an angle, like Mike explains in his tutorial.
Personally I love the lighting in image 6, except for the dark "blob" on the window frame.
Image 4, well the lines are straight, but thats it.
Love these challenges though...

Daniel L Miller's picture

Agreed about the poor sky replacement on #5.

The window on #6 looks like someone used a soft brush to darken the exterior which didn't extend all the way to the edges of the windows. I can't imagine Mike not using exposure blending to get the outside scene just right.

Post production aside, these challenges show the mental approach and shooting style to an architectural site. Really like them.

Deleted Account's picture

I vote for Gabriele Basilico…

Mike Ditz's picture

For real estate photos the winner IMO is set 1, the house looks warm and inviting.
The 2nd set looks somewhat cold and gloomy, maybe good for the opening credits of a Netflix mystery series, all you need is a body floating in the pool...

Matthias Dengler's picture

At first I thought "wow that is going to be tough". But after taking a closer look, it was quite obvious. Mike would not deliver such an underexposed picture like #4. Picture #5 also has a weird distortion and tilt that Mike would not shoot; neither would be go over the top with the saturation in the sky. Overall, the first set looks cleaner, not that busy. So in my opinion, set 1 is Mike's, set 2 is Lee's. At least, I hope so for Mike. ;D

Jakkapat Kosoltrakul's picture

Interesting... I think set 1 is Mike's, solely based on how they were exposed. Set 2 seems to underexposed, especially no.4 & 6, and I can't remember Mike did that with his works recently. On the other hand, Lee's photos from previous competition are underexposed with strong shadow-highlight transition (the living room from the dome house), just like no.6.

Frankly, I really do like no.6 composition. But as a set, I prefer set 1, because of, again, how they were exposed. It feels roomier when they were NOT underexposed. The composition of no.1 & 3 are a bit off (no.1 is somewhat offset to the right, no.3 is cropped too tight), but still less off compares to no.4 & 5 (no.4 is left heavy, no.5 is right heavy). Anyway, they are collages. I know it's harder to properly compose, so I didn't put the composition into account that much.

Tri Nguyen's picture

I like set 1 a little more because it have both the front and back exterior shot, Even tho the Front shot of the house is kind of shitty, Don't like the tree on the right side and i feel like it's too wide for it own good, it'd be better if the shot was closer that just show the front of the house instead of both the garage on the side. I think an aerial shot of the front would be good with a wide lens that show both the garage.

Set 2 i don't like the patio shot, composition wise it don't make sense.

Nacona Nix's picture

Lee took set 1, and they're better photos. Better editing, better lighting. I get the impression that Mike isn't even trying. But neither set is as good as the last time around.

Michael Borisenko's picture

Set 1 has better consistent light across the images and is better exposure-balanced. However the composition in all three images is lacking a little bit here and there. The tree in #1 is too heavy and makes the composition imbalanced, and there's too much of the empty foreground.
#2 has too much of the ceiling, the camera had to be lowered a bit as there's an impression my head will bump into the ceiling bars.
#3 is cropped too tight, and the camera is too low so I'm not sure what it is in the front of the house, a pool or a puddle.

Set 2 looks a bit too dark, #4 doesn't have a good light at all and the shadows had to be lifted, and I'm not sure what the composition is about. Is it trying to invite me to jump into the pool? But I'll have to jump over the chair first and dodge the flowers before entering the seemingly cold and uninviting water.
#5 looks good, but the house is pushed too far to the right.
#6 has good light but overall exposure had to be lifted by some 0.5 stops.

I struggled to choose who is who and which set is the best.

Miguel Santos Novoa's picture

Lee used hard light from strobes to lit the living room in the last competition, now the hard light is on the kitchen, that leds me to believe that Lee is taking the second set. I believe that Mike would take the time to diffuse that light if he had the time.

Mike's style is to change the hue of the artificial lights to a champagne color, not leave them in this extremely yellowish/orange glow (image 3). Probably he wanted to make the property moody that way. And the pool is not visible, that throws me off.


Really Mike?! You went Michael Bay this time opposite to the last time?! Really?!

Gergö Nyirö's picture

Mike's style is easy to recognise if you follow his work, he took the first set obviously, which is clearly better!
What's also obvious is that Lee tried to save his with a colour grade :P

Aivis Veide's picture

Set 1 is Mike Kelley. Too good retouching and sky replacement. Set 2 is not so clean retouching, sky replacement looks dirty too.

Jamie Zollo's picture

Strong one point perspectives, light and elegant interior, tight exterior crop - set one is unmistakably the refined work of the renowned Mike Kelly. 'A' for effort Lee.

Scott Darby's picture

I like set 1 but #3 is the worst image there. Its so cramped

Ben Preece's picture

Cannot wait for this video, Ftoppers is the best photography channel out there.

Separating the two photographers here is tough. I believe set 1 is Lee and set 2 is Mike. The highlight on the picture frame in image 2 is something I believe Mike would have controlled if enough time was given but the sky replacement on image 5 throws me off. The second set is a more complete set and compliment each other with the tones and the lake is visible in every shot which sways me more towards Mike.

David Andrew's picture

I think set two is Lee, because I do not see Mike Kelly adding such a dramatic sky to his images, but I do see Lee plugging the sky replacement tutorial and I wouldn't be surprised if that's where the sky came from. I'm calling it now, "And you can find more skies like these and how to use them in Mike Kelly's Sky Replacement tutorial on the Fstoppers Store." I don't have a problem with that by the way, I think its great if you guys use the products your trying to sell.

I am saving to buy that tutorial as it is something I often find myself doing as I'm only 16 and live in Northern Ireland where basically 300 days a year it is overcast and I don't have the luxury of choosing when to shoot so I find myself replacing skies quite a lot

My favourite image is probably number one, I love how the house is framed and it just feels right. Although as a set I think set 2 has to be on top as it has a variety. I think when you are only showing three images you need to show three different aspects and I think set 2 gives me more of an idea about the property than set 1.

Tom Beckman's picture

A lot of people seem so confident. Personally I this one was pretty hard to tell who did what. I do feel the angles in set 2 are a little more thought out. Something you'd see with more experience. The lighting in set 1 is a little more appealing. Though I think set 2 is more inviting because of the lighting.
Call me crazy but this was a hard one.

John Smith's picture

I thought pic3 was a bit over the top so I originally thought that Lee did set 1 but then I noticed pic4 is such a nothing shot that I knew that set 2 could NOT be Mike Kelley. Therefore, Mike Kelley Set1 and Lee Set2.

Pat Black's picture

the best part of this comment section is that who ever took the second set of photos I am going to relentlessly bully

Bob Jones's picture

I'm kind of surprised there's any debate about this, folks. A) Mike uses a tilt-shift lens for his interior photos. The first set has an interior shot with a tilt-shift. The second has an interior that wasn't shot with a tilt-shift. That's a dead giveaway. B) It's important to look at the photos with a proper screen -- if you do, then it's easy to see that the second set is underexposed, especially #4, which wasn't lit properly in the first place. Professional photographers wouldn't make that mistake. Hence, Mike didn't shoot the second set. C) The first set is shot by someone who wants to provide a sense of the most important features of the house. That's why there's a wide exterior front, living room interior, and tight crop of the back. The second set is more random. It includes a decontextualized shot from the back porch toward the pool with few architectural details of the house, as well as a shot of the kitchen, which isn't generally as important as the living room. A, B, and C all support the idea that Mike shot the first set. For the same reasons, the first set is also clearly superior. They're also better conceived, better lit, and better post-processed.

Patrick Hall's picture

They were forced to use the Fujifilm 50s so no tilt shift lenses were used.

Bob Jones's picture

Oh, I see. Should have read the details. To revise A), then, whoever shot the first set was attentive to their vertical lines for the interior shot despite not using a tilt-shift. The photographer who shot the second set was not careful with their verticals. That evidence would still point to Mike shooting the first set.

Dragan Jereminov's picture

set 2 has better angles (perspective) and overall mood but poor sky replacement and ps work

Eduardo Sanchez's picture

Set 1 is more architectural and Set 2 stirs my emotions. Both sets are effective for different purposes. For my viewing pleasure I have to vote for Set 2. My guess is that Lee took Set 2.

Justin Punio's picture

Everyone seems to think that the best set of photos must mean they're taken by Mike. Lee is more than capable of winning again. Set 2 is the best in my opinion. Not sure who though!

Paul Pitt's picture

I prefer the angles on set 2, but there is definitely some fuckery going on with the sky in pic 5. It almost made me switch.

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