Oakland Kitchen and Dining with Yumi Interiors and Andrew Lee Architecture by Jean Bai

Andrew Lee of Andrew Lee Architecture and Kyoko Jackson of Yumi Interiors collaborated on this two-toned kitchen for a young family in Oakland. Aided by a few skylights, it was nice to shoot these pretty much all in natural light. It’s a challenge to work with brighter color as a photographer, but always good fun when you are able to get it exactly as a client wants.

San Jose Shoot with KBG Design by Jean Bai

I was thrilled when Katelyn Gilmour of KBG Design called me to tell me about two more projects she had in store for me this year. An interior designer who knew this was her passion ever since she was a child, Katelyn mixed metals and played with different wood tones to put together a gorgeous kitchen, living room and bathrooms for a young family in San Jose.

It was raining buckets outside for parts of it, but we both loved the rainy day look for this space ever since we saw the raining day scout photos. There’s a soothing silence in the way the light traveled.

Two Bathrooms with Andrew Lee Architecture by Jean Bai

Two very different approaches to photography were used to shoot these bathrooms created by Andrew Lee. The downstairs bathroom only had artificial lights, so strobes were needed, and the upstairs bathroom was all natural light. Tiny rooms (i.e. 90% of all bathrooms) are the hardest to shoot, but it helped that both of these had interesting geometry.

San Jose Eichler Shoot #2 with BLAINE Architects by Jean Bai

There was something classical about the design of this project. It exuded elegance and simplicity. Shot on a cloudy day, the light filtered through this Eichler and really brought out the rich textures and tones in the woods that framed Karina Marshall’s design. Megan Blaine of BLAINE Architects created quite possibly my favorite bathroom shot to date. Dark tiles were offset by brilliant light shining from the skylights above. A gold tray cut through the long space, catching the light and leading your eye. From a photographer’s perspective, it was treasure trove of leading lines.

San Jose Eichler Shoot #1 with BLAINE Architects by Jean Bai

It’s been a busy start to the new year, wrapping up images of amazing work by BLAINE Architects, KERF Design and Urbanism Designs. This project was a house remodel for a young Silicon Valley family. We started the shoot off early to get the atrium BLAINE Architects recreated in that soft morning light.

It was pretty nice that the two girls were on their way to school. Kids add a nice sense of scale to these family homes. They were so adorable that I think I’m raving about them more than the architecture itself. A third career in shooting portraits is in the back of mind though.

The NanaWalls were a major feature to her project, so I worked to find as many angles to feature them in their different positions.

Oakland Hills Shoot with Andy Morrall by Jean Bai

This was definitely the largest project I’ve taken on. I loved working with the light throughout this space - even the direct sunlight that shined through in the early morning. I usually shy away from direct sunlight, since it’s usually so hard to work with. This space was all about light though (and we had so many to shoot in one day), I couldn’t help it. I’m realizing that sometimes, it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and grow.

Danville Shoot with See Architecture by Jean Bai

Shot this Wayne Littlejohn mid-century remodel with the design-build team of See Architecture and NMT Financial back in December. A major feature we wanted to capture was the presence of an enormous tree the house was built around. I tried capturing the dramatic branches sweeping across the sky and backdrop of the house.

With all those post & beams and Nanawall systems, I couldn’t help but wait for the beautiful late afternoon light to shoot the living spaces. By the late afternoon, I was working on my own to shoot the living room and patio shots. I was transfixed by the quiet and tranquility of the hidden treasure in the hills of Danville. Not sure if you can capture “quiet” in a photo, but I tried!

Pacific Heights Shoot with Isolina Mallon by Jean Bai

This Thanksgiving, I’m not only thankful for my friends and family who have been supportive this last year of me starting my business, but also the great clients who have trusted me with their hard-earned projects.

Only a year ago, I made the final decision to follow my longtime passion. I promised myself that I’d give it my best shot, then look back after a year to decide if I’d go back to business school or find a job in tech again. I knew I’d regret it the rest of my life if I didn’t give it my best shot.

Last December, I started creating an Excel list of all the architects and interior designers I hoped to work with one day, and so began emailing them one by one earlier this year. There were absolutely no expectations for any responses, but thankfully, some people started contacting me back.

With each shoot I took on, I did my best to learn from each job and client I was working with. I met some wonderful people along the way and will always remember and appreciate those amazing experiences and challenges that helped me grow.

I’m glad and grateful that things worked the way they have. I now have steady income from Airbnb and have been working with more and more gorgeous projects that I only dreamed of shooting a year ago.

It’s been quite a difficult journey, but I’m giving a heartfelt thanks to all the clients who gave me an opportunity this year. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families out there!!

Below is are photos from a recent shoot with interior designer Isolina Mallon in Pacific Heights. Gorgeous natural light flowed through the wall length north-facing windows in this one-bedroom penthouse. The hazy weather created an ethereal glow and added a little of that San Franciscan touch.

Concord Shoot with Celine Coly by Jean Bai

One of my favorite things about working with Celine is that she’s able to work with any budget and make her clients happy. The results came out great in this updated small family home in Concord. I don’t think I could’ve imagined another way to shoot it that use mainly natural light. After shooting this year, I think I‘ve realized my ideal style is somewhere between Dwell and Architectural Digest. The Dwell look suited this one though. The cozy interiors with family photos littered across walls warmed my heart.

Airbnb Plus Shoots by Jean Bai

Emerald Hills Shoot with Atelier Noel by Jean Bai

I photographed this modern farmhouse new construction for Noel Han of Atelier Noel earlier this month and think I fell in love with this space the moment I stepped in.

Airbnb Plus Shoots by Jean Bai

Photographing Airbnb listings for the Airbnb Plus listings has been a pretty amazing experience so far. You get to meet people from all walks of life and see how they design their spaces. Perhaps best of all is that you get an office full of photo editors to handle the post-processing for you.

Not all the apartments and homes that I’ve shot make it to Airbnb Plus, so they don’t go to post. Below are some of the highlights from my recent photo shoots for the Plus team so far. I went ahead and did some quick editing on my own for these.

Listings featured:

  1. Oasis of Peace Garden: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9925725

  2. Modern 2 Bedroom House in Glen Park: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21120542

  3. Luxury Apartment Oasis w/ Hot Tub: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/295240

  4. Sunset Garden Apartment: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19228248

  5. Spacious, Private Bernal Suite w/ Garden Patio: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21057777

  6. Cute Full Service 2BR: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/25368785

  7. White Swan Inn - Luxury King with Fireplace: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22908078

Colorbloq Shoot with Aetypic Architects by Jean Bai

Colorbloq, a warehouse space converted into a coworking space/event venue, was recently finished by Aetypic Architects + Engineers. My 3rd project for Aetypic now, this fun and very colorful space reminds me of the Frietag Tower during my recent stay in Zurich. Definitely missing those vacation vibes right now.

Reflections on Being Hired by Airbnb Plus by Jean Bai

I’m about caught up on my blog posts this morning, finally! Now only a little bit jet-lagged from my 16 day vacation abroad with my new fiancee, I’m ready to work on the images from the trip, update my very neglected Instagram (which I hope you will follow!), work on some images from my third shoot for Aetypic Architects + Engineers, and of course…get my butt out there to shoot some more Airbnb Plus listings.

August flew by too quickly. Towards the end of July, I was hired by Airbnb and completed their photographer training. During August, I had 7 Airbnb Plus shoots and 4 other client shoots to wrap up prior to departing for my trip abroad at the end of the month.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I’ve slowly established myself as a photographer, as I’m usually caught up with how I could’ve perfected a shoot.

When I finally mustered the courage to get myself out there earlier this January, I had all the trepidation in the world. Friends, family and my loved one all expressed their concerns about launching into an industry so unfamiliar to my background (rightfully so, I suppose).

It hasn’t been easy navigating the business side of things, understanding the equipment essential to professional images, and learning to handle common concerns clients have hiring someone perhaps half their ages. If I were to build a project over two years, I am sure I’d have my own reservations about hiring a fresh face to document the project as well!

I still believe that one of the hardest part about starting out is looking past the external influences. Each time you feel someone may not believe in your ability, you need to try to prove to yourself that they’re wrong. After each shoot, be dedicated to seeking all the ways it could’ve been done better.

My fiancee has found it odd that after I landed a job with Airbnb Plus, I was only pleasantly surprised. Many of our mutual friends who had reservations before are now warmly congratulating me as if I made it. What’s funny is that my mother had never heard of Airbnb before! However, I believe that when you are truly dedicated to your craft rather than gaining approval, a title or award will not matter much to you outside of a marketing perspective. It’s the small tricks and skills you come up with working on a set or working in Photoshop that satisfy you. It’s the fact that you are collaborating with other dedicated creatives that drives you.

It has been a journey looking from the extrinsic to the intrinsic rewards, but now that I have, I don’t plan on having it any other way.

San Pedro Square Kiosks Shoot with Eaton Hall by Jean Bai

Chris Hall and his team at Eaton Hall Architecture designed these kiosks nestled into foot of a large parking structure near San Pedro square. Part of an urban redevelopment project for San Jose, these kiosks were designed to increase the amount of foot traffic in the area. We wanted to capture a sense of the vibrant community around these kiosks as well as the geometric folds of the overhangs.

Way Station Shoot with Studio Skaggs Kennedy by Jean Bai

Another project completed in August. This one was for Studio Skaggs Kennedy in the East Bay. Way Station is a small restaurant located in the very quaint downtown Fairfax area. Sean and I wanted to emphasize the “grittiness” and authenticity of this gas station converted into a small restaurant.

I definitely recommend head chef Max’s beans and pulled pork sandwiches, both of which were made from recipes carried down from his grandmother.

FACES SF Shoot with Andrea Faucett by Jean Bai

 

By far one of the technically challenging shoots I’ve done, this FACES SF project was completed early August. Andrea Faucett designed these teacher lounges for a non-profit school serving under-privileged youth. We wanted to bring out the richness of the wood to show that design can be cost-effective, environment-friendly and beautiful.

Andrea Faucett and I collaborated heavily during the shoot, styling the sets, as well as after the shoot, deciding on the true color of walls, furniture, etc.

The problem with high end cameras is that they capture every nuance to color, yet tungsten and daylight color temperatures don’t mix well. It’s why I always opt to start the post-processing shortly after the shoot while the true colors are still fresh in mind.

Below are side-by-side comparisons of the scout photos and the finished product.

 

Hartford Street Shoot with Holly Kopman by Jean Bai

It's hard to describe how I felt when I first walked into this 3-story Edwardian designed by the very talented Holly Kopman of Holly Kopman Interiors. As someone relatively new to the bay area interior design scene, I was moved that Holly entrusted me with such a gorgeous project. Beautiful natural light could be found everywhere: it was bright and powerful on the top floor, a bit more subdued in the middle floor and moody on the bottom floor. I loved how she even designed the interior artificial lights to be nice and soft - I barely needed flash to fill in anything extra.

 

Atherton Shoot with Laurie Ghielmetti by Jean Bai

Laurie Ghielmetti did such an amazing job filling this large Atherton 3-story residence with modern artwork that it was easy to see all the different shots we could take to showcase her curation. This assignment was pretty unique - the goal was to find shots that could show how artwork fits in the context of the space as well as how each work paired with one another. 

There was some challenge in that we could only access the property during limited times and the light can be quite hard to deal with in the middle of the day during these summer months. I'm always up for a good challenge and there's nothing flash strobes, diffusers and hours of post-processing can't handle. There were some nice 100% natural light shots to be had though :) Can you tell which they were?

Berkeley Hills Shoot with Claire Taylor by Jean Bai

Claire Taylor was one of the first designers to contact me back early this year. I was thrilled when she told me about a large project she had planned for this summer. 

As a modernist with a love for natural light, I was a little nervous to find that her project was in a craftsman in Berkeley. I was floored when I first saw what she did during our scout and could not wait to shoot it for a full day. It's rare for me to be able to shoot for the length of an entire day, which allows us to find the most ideal lighting for each shot. The results were great and I cannot thank Claire enough for her teamwork.