Interview with luxury real estate photographer Cris Nolasco

Cristopher Nolasco is the owner of Nolasco Studios specialising in luxury real estate photography in Los Angeles.  

Cristopher Nolasco

Tell us about your background. 

My name is Cristopher Nolasco. I am a  Luxury Real Estate photographer living in Los Angeles and my company is Nolasco Studios.

I am a self-taught photographer that was formally trained in the Visual Arts.  Presently,  I specialize mostly in photographing high-end Real Estate and Interior Design.  I also photograph commercial real estate, hotels and restaurants. I have a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts from California State University @ Fullerton where I studied Illustration and Advertising Design.

After graduating, I found it challenging to make a good living as an Illustrator / Painter, which led me to find other avenues of making a living. I started photographing homes in Hollywood as a location photographer a few years after college. I continued shooting tv locations (mainly homes) for over ten years. I’ve probably photographed over 5 thousand homes from 2005 to 2015. Yes, you read that correctly – five thousand homes or more in ten years! I’m kind of proud of that- I might have broken a record or something but I was busy 5 days a week for over ten years.

Tell us more about you as a painter?

I made portraits in mixed media with my main medium being watercolour and pencil.  My subject matter was mostly portraits of faces that I found interesting. My style was very loose and had a sketchy feel. 

I started drawing at a young age, and I was always fascinated by good drawings, especially well-done portraits. 

There is more under my Bio on my website, if interested.

Why is your nickname “Sauce”?

My last name is Nolasco. Tobasco is hot sauce as you might know, hence the name “Nolasco Sauce” because it rhymes with Tobasco Sauce. Yes – super corny I know. What’s even more silly is that I don’t like anything spicy in my food.

But, if I want to sound cool, “Sauce” can mean “confidence” nowadays. With so many years experience, I now feel that I have reached the point that I bring “Sauce” to the shoot. I know that I’m good enough that I’ll give great service and I’m confident that I’ll produce a quality product for my client. It’s just being secure in myself because I put in the hard work.  My personal email address also refers to “Nolasco Sauce” which I have had since 2002.

How do you approach a shoot?

Preparation is key. When you shoot interior design, you are shooting for the designer, but you are also walking into the home of the interior designer’s client. I’ve got to be prepared for that. 

Once I get to the home, I do a quick walk through and ask the client a few questions.  I ask what’s important to them so I can get a better understanding of what they need. 

Questions like:  Did you want any close-ups of the finishes, like tile and the marble? Did you pick out the light fixtures? If so do you need any close-ups, etc?

After I get a better understanding of what they need I usually have an energy drink then start shooting. I spend a lot of time composing the image and moving furniture. Before I get to the home, it should be cleaned and decluttered – the cleaner the better. There have been many times that I’ve walked into a home that wasn’t ready – you need to know how to deal with these types of situations. 

Telling the story happens in post-production. It happens when you place the photos in order being always general to specific. It’s easier to tell a story when you have a lot of photos to work with, so I usually overshoot.

During a shoot, it can be mentally draining. Especially if the house is big and you need to get it done by a certain time and the light isn’t the best. 

If there is good natural light in the room then that’s great. But if not, you might have to start somewhere else or start using strobes. In LA, there’s a lot of sunshine and that’s a good thing. But then you have to be prepared for challenges like hot spots.  It’s always good to have an assistant to help out with moving furniture, so you don’t have to walk back and forth.

What is your main gear?

Two full frame DSLR’s. I’m a Nikon guy so my Nikon d850 16-20mm and my other Nikon D750 18-70 as well as two flash units and a tripod. I also have a Nikon D600 and Nikon D610 for backups both of which are full frame. I always bring an apple box to sit on if I need to get low.

How do you edit your images?

I use Lightroom and Photoshop. I tend to bring my highlights down and shadows up,  contrast up, and really pay attention to detail in post. Clients usually like images that are brighter.

What are some secrets for your success?

I am a nice guy naturally as well as dependable and good with people, which goes a long way in this town. I also add as much value as I possibly can for my clients which means I always over deliver. I’m guessing there are hundreds of photographers out there that know much more about gear, lighting, more passionate about photography than I, but probably not working as much as I am. There are tons that are more technically skilled, but that’s only half of it to become successful.  I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the best photographer but I think I’m better than average.  You got to be pretty good and if you’re not you won’t get work.

The other more important ingredient to success is how I work with my clients. Following up, responding to all emails and phone calls with speed is important. I know I’ll get calls back because I know I delivered a great experience for them. I was cool to work with and I over delivered on time or before.  Clients need to trust me and know that I won’t let them down. If I don’t get any repeat work from that said client, that means that they can’t afford me lol. If anything goes wrong always blame yourself and try to fix it. It’s an easier way to live and work by i.e. always holding yourself accountable.

What do you do in your free time?

Five days per week, I try to work out first thing in the morning at the gym mostly concentrating on weights. At my age, I think that this is important. Being a photographer is a physical job, so if I am feeling good then I do a good job, which is most important.

Advice for aspiring photographers?

Don’t become just an interior design photographer. Photograph Real Estate, Architecture, and have different streams of income. Try it all out i.e. shoot weddings, hospitality, kids, food, fashion, etc. Narrow it down after years of experience shooting different types of subject matter and then you’ll know for sure what you want to do.

If you really want to start out shooting interiors, buy a wide angle lens and start shooting Real Estate.  Reach out to a Real Estate agent that lives in the area and let them know that you will do it for free or very cheap and then turn the shots around in a few days. At first, your shots will look bad, but after a dozen photo shoots, you’ll get the hang of it. Do it for free until your shots are good enough then start charging based on your experience.

At the location, if the agent leaves you alone, practice shooting the rooms creatively – start shooting tights and verticals and use those shots for your portfolio.  If you are a good RE photographer, your next step is to shoot interior design. Learn to style i.e. use books, flowers, vases, etc to make the shot more interesting. When shooting a kitchen, style using plates, bowls, glasses and fruit, etc. 

Also, I think a successful Interior Design photographer should love interior design. If you love what you shoot, the job is so much easier. I really love good interior design so I get excited when I’m shooting it.  Subscribe to Architectural Digest and Elle Decor. Those photographers are the best at what they do.  See what their pictures look like and try to shoot like them. Last but not least, learn to use Lightroom and Photoshop – it’s absolutely essential.


If you would like to see more of Cris’ work, you can visit his website, Instagram or catch him on Stay Here on Netflix.

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About the author

Jennifer Venter

I am a passionate trained photographer currently living in China. I love travelling & meeting new people so my photos tend to fall into those categories. I love coffee, fashion & Christmas. The only thing that makes me run away in horror are scorpions. Contact me via email ([email protected]) or Instagram (@fleetingtimephotography).

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