If an Englishman’s home is his castle, then an American’s pool is his ocean.

If an Englishman’s home is his castle, then an American’s pool is his ocean.

Though I’d never consider myself a travel photographer, I do think the closest I come to that specialization is when I’m offered the opportunity to photograph a pool. Of all the architectural structures and environments I shoot professionally, pools are more “destination” than most – and my job is to make them look their most attractive and inviting. They’re some of my favorite subjects of summer.

This indoor pool comes complete with sunroof.

This indoor pool comes complete with sunroof.

To be honest, I’ve long had a fascination with pools and how they’re depicted in various media. Be it the opening scene of Sunset Boulevard, where William Holden is seen floating in a pool after having been shot, to The Graduate, in which Dustin Hoffman relies on a pool as a refuge from family, to the hijinx of the Beverly Hillbillies around their “cement pond.”

When planning a series of photos that’ll be used to sell a property, the “pool shot” often gets the most attention.

When planning a series of photos that’ll be used to sell a property, the “pool shot” often gets the most attention.

What is it about a small body of tepid water that makes us yearn for it? The promise of escape into a dimension of calm blue? The need for escape into the primal element of water after a busy day? These are questions that run through my mind as I plan and set up my shots.

Twilight, the best time for a swim and a photograph.

Twilight, the best time for a swim and a photograph.

First thing we do is close down the pool so we don’t have any non-models in the shot. The subject is always the pool, not the people in it.

This urban pool isn’t much bigger than a large bathtub, but what an incredible invitation to dive right in.

This urban pool isn’t much bigger than a large bathtub, but what an incredible invitation to dive right in.

We then line up the chaise lounges with OCD precision. The pool and its surroundings should look untouched, inviting the viewer to be the first to dive in (though, in some cases, we’ll use a pool hook or net to add a slight ripple to the water).

You pick  –  warm, swirling jets or calm, cool H2O.

You pick warm, swirling jets or calm, cool H2O.

We’re also careful to avoid having water drips on the pavers. Though Photoshop can remove them, it’s more work.

Rooftop pool on a Philadelphia high rise, as seen from a helicopter. Drones also come in handy on these sorts of shots.

Rooftop pool on a Philadelphia high rise, as seen from a helicopter. Drones also come in handy on these sorts of shots.

With everything set for the shot, I try not to show all of the edges of the pool to make it appear larger than it really is. Here what the camera doesn’t see is just as important as what it does.

In the Northeast, the short summer season makes outdoor pools special.

In the Northeast, the short summer season makes outdoor pools special.

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