Fine Homebuilding editors take most of the photos that you see in the magazine, and we go to some lengths to take these photos on job sites. I've taken photos on a 12-in-12 roof in a Rhode Island snow squall and on a Colorado housing tract at five above zero. Keeping the camera dry in Washington's liquid sunshine is a challenge. Other editors have shot in a hot New Orleans attic, balanced in the bucket of an old Ford backhoe, and circled a Greene and Greene house in a helicopter.
Sometimes though, even the greatest efforts don't yield the photos we need. The reasons vary. Maybe it was impossible to light a photo properly on a construction site. Maybe the author doesn't have an appropriate job on his schedule in time for us to photograph for the article. For reasons such as these, we'll occasionally build a mock-up job site for the purposes of the photo. For example, the cover photo for the June/July 2002 issue (#148) is of a set we built in Fine Woodworking's shop.
Another example is the lead photo in "Vinyl Siding the Right Way." The author, Mike Guertin, didn't have a job available that showed all the details that we wanted. We kicked around the idea of a peel-away drawing, but decided to try building a mock-up instead. Following through on the original idea of a peel-away drawing, we built a peel-away mock-up in our parking lot.
Other examples include "Framing Corners" in issue #113, "Outfitting a Clothes Closet" in issue #134, "Setting Prehung Doors" in issue #136, and "Trimming Windows" in issue #137.
The articles above were written either by an editor or by a regular contributor to Fine Homebuilding, based on their real-world construction experience. It's good information -- practical and useful in day-to-day homebuilding. Even so, I'm on the fence about using mock-ups. On one hand, they can help us to present information clearly by providing something close to a perfect photographic opportunity. But Fine Homebuilding's stock-in-trade is articles written by construction professionals about the realities of the job site. Because of this fact, mock-ups feel a little like cheating, even though our motives are good. I'd like to hear what you think about mock-ups appearing in Fine Homebuilding. If you care to comment, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.