When Things Go Wrong In Mexico: Mike Kelley's Behind The Scenes Episode 5

With the launch of Mike Kelley's 3rd Architectural tutorial, we released eight new episodes of behind the scenes madness. In this episode, Mike continues shooting one of the most extravagant homes on the Mayan Rivera, Lee's nightmare trip becomes worse when he comes down with food poisoning, and I make the most of the situation and explore everything the coast of Mexico has to offer. 

For this photography tutorial, Mike wanted to focus on a very specific genre within the architectural photography market: hotels and resorts. You might think that shooting hospitality requires the same approach as real estate or high end architecture photography but there are actually a lot of small nuances that make this sub genre completely unique. The main differences are that the budgets are typically much higher, the staging and overall production are more involved, the final images need to be absolutely flawless, in many cases there are a lot of guests and people walking around the properties, and the overall number of photos needed are usually much higher than with other less commercial properties. Mike tackles all of these issues as well as the business side to architectural photography in this full tutorial.  You can see the promo video below.



Since a big part of this tutorial was also teaching the business of architectural photography, Mike wanted to include a real world client shoot so that you could see exactly how he put all of his photography techniques and business tips into practice. To make everything as big and complicated as possible, Mike decided to invite everyone to one of his larger architectural client's homes in a foreign country. This amazing 13,000 square foot home located directly on the Gulf of Mexico has become the most expensive home to ever sell on the entire Mayan Rivera. Through a series of images, Mike shows you some of the real world problems he is faced with when shoot for a large architectural client, and he even goes through every image he wound up delivering to the architect after completing the shoot. Here are a few of the before and after images as well as some of the final photos taken from this unbelievable house. 

Using flash to brighten up a contrasty scene.

Using the SunSurveyor app to align the sun into the frame.

Sometimes the designed lighting is so perfect you only need a few small tweaks.

A few more of the 51 images delivered to the client.

As you can see from the behind the scenes episode, this house was perfect for the overall tutorial, but not everything went as planned in Mexico. Lee arrived to Playa Del Carmen with a fractured knee from kiteboarding and then got food poisoned a few days into the trip. Even though we had an amazing place to stay directly on the beach, I don't think Lee left the bed more than two days total. Mike, Adam, and the rest of the team had a blast in Playa but unfortunately Mike had to head back to Los Angeles immediately after the last day of shooting. With my partner in crime sick and crippled, and the star of the tutorial heading back to the airport, I was left to find my own adventures in paradise.  

Cenote diving is a pretty intense excursion that I highly recommend



With only a day left in Mexico, I did my best to pack it full of as many fun activities as possible. If you are scuba certified, I highly recommend driving to one of the many cenotes scattered around Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum. A cenote is basically a cave filled with cool freshwater. When you arrive, you begin your dive in the open cave area where other tourists are swimming, but as you descend you discover that there are other water filled openings to explore. It's definitely not for the claustrophobic and at times I did find myself a little anxious, but it was definitely one of the coolest dives I've ever done anywhere. Another highlight was visiting the little town of Tulum which has the ancient ruins of the pre Columbian Mayan people. It was extremely hot when I visited so make sure you pack some sunscreen, but the coastal views are absolutely worth checking out. Finally, if you enjoy theme parks and water parks, check out Xplor. This place is filled with ATV excursions, ziplines, rivers you can canoe, and other tropical jungle themed activities. Since I was already exhausted from the heat, I wound up doing their night event which in my opinion was probably way more interesting than doing it in the day.  

Explor is a great time with a large group....and just weird by youself


For more information on Mike's full architectural tutorial, head over the Fstoppers Store, and subscribe to our YouTube channel because in the next episode Mike comes to Charleston where he learns to kiteboard while he wraps up the final post production side of the series.  
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6 Comments

Cris Magsino's picture

Love the final shots! Amazing work as always Mike and fstoppers team 😃

Christian Berens's picture

yay there's an additional BTS after this!
I'd rather see 10x's more Moon boots than those white sunglasses Patrick

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm not disagreeing but those white sunglasses are made for water sports...there is no way I would have kept that that long if they were normal glasses. Plus they make me look "special" haha

Wes Jones's picture

Sick or not, you guys have the best adventures. ¡Aclamaciones!

Lee Morris's picture

This was a horrible trip for me but my misery was pretty entertaining after the fact.

if it makes a good story then it's a good trip (after the fact).