Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for April, 2006

Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-R1

Posted by larrylohrman on April 30, 2006

This camera’s 24-120 mm equivalent lens plus a 0.8 x wide angle converter (Sony VCL-DEH08R ) make it an excellent choice for real estate shooters. Another feature important to the interior photographer is the hot shoe that is off center (not directly behind the lens). This means you don’t get those nasty reflections like you do when the flash is directly on the center line of the lens.

This is the first compact digital camera with a built-in lens to employ significantly larger CMOS sensor than previous. The CMOS sensor is significant in that they are low noise and produces images of quality similar to current DSLRs. See Michael Reichmann’s article.

I’m adding the DSC-R1 to my recommended cameras for shooting interiors.

Posted in Photo Equipment | 1 Comment »

The curse of the small JPEG

Posted by larrylohrman on April 29, 2006


Lately I’ve been running across bad looking photos on listings and even on Real Estate agent sites and marketing materials like the one above. I created the ugly image above by downsizing a 400 x 166 jpeg to a width of 200 pixels and sizing it back up to its original width. I think trying to enlarge images is the basic mistake that people make. When you enlarge the image like I did above sharpening doesn’t fix the problem.

Guidelines for keeping your images high quality:

  1. Keep a master file of all your images that is full size, just as it comes out of the camera.
  2. Make copies of the master file to downsize.
  3. Typically it’s a bad idea to increase the size of an image because the photo editor that is doing the increasing is making up pixels. That is, making guesses based on the surrounding pixel.
  4. Photos that are uploaded to the MLS and other website should be at least 400 pixels wide. Most websites will automatically downsize for you if needed.
  5. Photos that are used on the Web need only be 72 dpi. More resolution than this is wasted.
  6. Use as big a file as you can get away with- hardly anyone has a low speed internet connection any more.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Forget Your Polarizer

Posted by larrylohrman on April 27, 2006


We spent Monday and Tuesday of this week in Vancouver, WA. I ran across the above image while I was walking around downtown Vancouver. I noticed the lighting mostly because of the polarized sunglasses I wearing. The effect of my sunglasses reminded me to put the polarizer on my camera. I am continually amazed by the wonderful effect a polarizer has on an image. I’ve not significantly altered the saturation of this image. The color contrast and saturation of the greens blues and reds are due just to the effect of the polarizer.

I will go so far as to say every real estate photographer should have a polarizer and use it for all exterior photos. Its effect will be dependent on the amount and direction of sunlight. In the image above it was about 1:30 PM in the afternoon and the sun was at my back as I shot this image. As you look through the view finder rotate the polarizer so the blue in the sky looks darkest. If you are not using a SLR shoot several shots with the polarizer rotated by about ¼ rotation in each shot.

If you want some more details on polarizer’s see: www.dpfwiw.com/polarizer.htm

Posted in Photo Technique | Leave a Comment »

Creating Photo CDs for Clients

Posted by larrylohrman on April 26, 2006


Have you ever had a need to give a client photos on a CD? We do this for all of our selling clients and many buying clients. Sellers like to have a copy of photos and virtual tour as a keepsake of their home their leaving and buyers like to have a photos CD to show their friends and family. This is a product opportunity for Photographers.

The way the photo CD should work is all one should have to do is stick the CD in the drive and the photo display interface should automatically be displayed. A CD that works this way is called an “auto-run” CD.

The easiest way to create an auto-run photo CD is to put all the photos you want to have on the CD into a HTML photo gallery. You can make a HTML photo gallery with Photoshop Elements, Photoshop or many other graphics programs. One popular gallery program is a Flash gallery called SimpleViewer available for free at: www.airtightinteractive.com/simpleviewer.

Create the photo gallery in a separate folder. To make the CD auto-run you’ll need an auto-run utility. There are many but the one I use and like is called AutoRun III by www.typhoonsoftware.com for $49. Once the photo gallery is created in a folder, run AutoRun III and tell it which file to execute to display the photo gallery (usually index.html or something similar). After AutoRun is finished all you have to do is copy the folder that has the photo gallery and special AutoRun files in it to a CD and you’re done. Now the photo gallery will start up when you put the CD in a PC CD player.

For CDs I use little mini Pocket CDs called “Cool Pocket CD-R” by Memorex. They are 3.25 inches in diameter and will hold 210 Meg. I put a photo of the front of the home on the CD cover and a sticker on the back that has all my business card info on it.

Posted in Workflow | Leave a Comment »

Full Screen Spherical Panoramas

Posted by larrylohrman on April 25, 2006

I’ve been talking to a number of people in the last few months about their use of virtual tours. I’ve also been trying to decide what the next step should be for the virtual tours that I create myself.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that virtual tours are an opportunity to use full screen images and to go above and beyond what’s available on MLS sites and all the public real estate sites. There are all kinds of technology available for the web that can go beyond the small photos and relatively mundane marketing that is used by most sites. Of all the virtual tours I’ve experimented with in the last few years the most popular with buyers and sellers by far are full screen spherical (also called cubic) QuickTime panoramas. There is nothing like floating in the center of a room and looking in any direction you want.

There are currently three technologies that allow presentation of full screen immersive spherical images:

  1. QuickTime VR by Apple
  2. SPI-V by Aldo Hoeben which is based on Shockwave
  3. ImmerVision by the company of the same name based on JAVA

There are downsides to each one of these technologies based on the fact that not all PCs have the required software installed and the relative difficulties of users downloading what they need to view the spherical panoramas. However, there are enough people with the required software that I think it is well worth using full screen spherical panoramas.

Posted in Panoramas | Leave a Comment »

Styling and Staging

Posted by larrylohrman on April 24, 2006

I was asked recently to review a virtual tour by a virtual tour vendor. The tour had photos of empty rooms, photos of the garage, photos of a hallway and photos of the exterior with no landscaping. The problem is what to do when you need to sell an empty home or new construction. Photographs of empty rooms usually look terrible unless the space itself has some interesting aspect.

You need to remember that real estate photography is not documentary photography. That is, you are not simply documenting the property; you are trying to make it look attractive so someone would want to purchase it. I recommend that real estate photographers and agents work with interior designers sometimes called staggers who can move in furniture and décor items to decorate a home to make it look good. This service may seem expensive but it usually pays off in the long run for the seller.

Another variation of this problem is lived in homes that have too much furniture or furniture that does not present well. Let’s face it, not all home owners have a good sense of home decorating. Many times home sellers would be better served if they just move out and have their home professionally staged. Solving these problems is of course ultimately up to the real estate agent and owner the home. However, it’s the job of the photographer to raise the issue to who ever is having you photograph the home.

A photographer can do a lot to improve the look of a home by simply moving around furniture and making sure clutter is out of photos. Many times I spend half of my time moving stuff out of shots. That’s OK; remember your job as a photographer is to do what ever it takes to make a home look good in the photographs!

Posted in Staging & Styling | 6 Comments »

Real Estate Photos from a Helicam

Posted by larrylohrman on April 22, 2006


Have you ever had difficulties getting a great front shot for a real estate photo? I have that problem all the time. I keep wishing I had a “jetpack” that would let me hover 50 to 100 feet off the ground so I can get good angles to shoot from. The best I’ve done is stand on the top of my truck.

There’s another way. Hire a photographer that has a Helicam. That’s a radio controlled helicopter with a camera mounted on the bottom. The above photo is by Tabb Firchau of www.nwaerialphotography.com . Tabb has a electric helicopter with a Canon EOS 5D mounted on the bottom and for around $350 he will get the best possible exterior angle for you. Tabb also shots video, panoramas and spherical panoramas with his Helicam.

It turns out there are many aerial photographers around the world that use low altitude remote controlled aircraft to shoot stills and video. A directory of photographers that provide this service is at: www.helicam.org.

Posted in Aerial Photos, Photo Technique | 8 Comments »

Alternatives for HDR and Contrast Blending

Posted by larrylohrman on April 21, 2006

Back in my March 7th post. I introduced the subject of blending two images together each exposed for different parts of the room as a technique for dealing with the problem of burned out windows. This technique is generally referred to as Contrast blending or HDR (High Dynamic Range). At the time I suggested the DRI plug-in for Photoshop Elements and Photoshop from www.fredmiranda.com/software. Mark in Seattle pointed out an alternative for this plug-in called Photomatrix from www.hdrsoft.com .

There are actually several alternatives for doing HDR/contrast blending. So I thought it would be worthwhile to do a recap the methods I know of:

  1. Manual contrast blending using layers – see Michael Reichmann’s blending tutorial
  2. HDR processing in Photoshop CS2 – see Michael Reichmann’s HDR tutorial
  3. Eric Krause’s contrast blending actions and tutorial
  4. Fred Miranda’s plug-in
  5. Photomatrix from www.hdrsoft.com

When doing something that demands the highest quality and control using layer masks (method 1) is hard to beat but this method can be time consuming.

As Michael describes in his tutorial, the HDR function in CS2 (method 2) is the “holy grail” of HDR but for simply handling bright windows in real estate photography it’s like using a sledge hammer to crack eggs.

I’ve never used Eric Krause’s free actions (method 3) mostly because of their relative complexity.

I use Fred Miranda’s $20 plug-in (method 4) quite a lot for panoramas because they are so quick and easy.

I tried out Photomatrix (method 5) and it appears to give as good results as Fred Miranda’s plug-in but it is $99. It is far more adjustable but I haven’t decided if it’s worth the extra money yet. I need to try it out with more than two images and with some large panoramas. The examples shown on the Photomatrix website ( www.hdrsoft.com ) are quite impressive.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Doing a Large Brochure with 3.1 Mega Pixels

Posted by larrylohrman on April 19, 2006


When you are choosing a camera to use for real estate photography mega pixels are a relatively unimportant factor these days. That is, any digital camera you purchase in 2006 will have more than enough mega pixels to do everything you need to do. Yet I continually see people that recommend cameras to real estate agents obsessing about mega pixels.

The reason this is true is that 99% of the use for real estate photographs is for website use or small page size flyers. The typical application that most people think a large mega pixel count is required is for magazine or large brochure creation. In this application you typically need images that are 300 dpi.

I use the image above (the front and back of the folded brochure) as an example of how you get by doing large image 300 dpi printing with a camera that has 3.1 mega pixels. This is an 11”x17” 2 page folded brochure made from an image I shot in 2000 with the CoolPix-995 I was using for real estate photography at that time. I shot in the mode that created a TIFF file and only enlarged the image slightly to fit the 11×17 page. My point is that if I can create an 11×17 300 dpi brochure with a 3.1 mega pixel camera (designed in 1999) you’ll have no problem doing this with any camera on the market in 2006 that have much higher mega pixel counts.

This two page folded brochure is something we do in addition to flyers for the upper-end homes we list. We have them inside the home so only people being shown the home can take one. I print them on 80 lb glossy paper at Kinkos on a large laser printer. They cost between $3 and $4 each but impress both sellers and buyers. We find they are well worth the cost for upper-end homes.

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Shooting Low Will Help Keep Walls Vertical

Posted by larrylohrman on April 17, 2006

Marc’s comment on yesterdays post raises a significant point about keeping the camera level so the walls are parallel with the sides of the photo. That is, if you shoot from eye level while standing up straight there is a natural tendency to angle the camera down because the camera is higher than all the furniture. This causes the film/sensor plane to be sloped forward which is what causes walls to not be parallel with the edge of the photo.

The solution is to shoot lower. If you shoot at belt or stomach level the camera will naturally be level front-to-back because there is no longer any reason for pointing the camera down. I find myself on my knees when shooting all the time just to keep the camera level. Another solution is to keep the camera on a tripod with a bubble level in the hot shoe. This way you level your camera once and it’s going to stay relatively level from shot to shot. Since I use the hot shoe for my Canon ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter having a bubble level doesn’t work for me. I just keep watching the verticals in the view finder and then fine tune the verticals with a vertical guide in Photoshop when I’m editing.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Render that which is vertical vertical

Posted by larrylohrman on April 16, 2006


Recently I was having a discussion about verticals with a reader that illustrated to me that on the previous posts about perspective correction and verticals I’ve not made the point explicitly or strong enough about the importance of always making sure verticals are rendered vertical in architectural and interior photographs. I’ll go so far as to state it as a fundamental law of architectural and interior photography.

Always do everything in your power to render verticals vertical in architectural and interior photographs. Vertical is always judged in relation to the vertical edges of the photograph. So another way of stating the law is: do everything in your power to render verticals in an architectural or interior photograph parallel with the edge of the photo. A corollary to this law is, do everything in your power to make sure verticals are not curved by barrel distortion of your lens.

The reason behind this law is that human vision is designed around looking for patterns and making sense out of what is in our visual field. When we see a photograph of a building we automatically start comparing the photo to our internal model of buildings. When we see a wall or door or cabinet that is not vertical this automatic visual response keeps trying to figure out why it’s not vertical. Our attention keeps coming back to the non-vertical. This automatic reaction creates a distraction out of the non-vertical that can severely disrupt the real message of the photograph. This is why you always see verticals rendered vertical in high quality interior and architectural publications and this is one of the reasons professional architectural photographers spend over $1000 for tilt and shift lenses.

Posted in Photo Editing | 2 Comments »

In-camera panorama stitching

Posted by larrylohrman on April 15, 2006

Today a reader posed an interesting question. “…isn’t a panorama a replacement for a wide-angle lens without the problem of perspective exaggeration you get with ultra-wide angle lenses?”

I’ve never thought of it in those terms but yes it is. A couple of fames stitched together will in fact increase your horizontal field of view (HFOV). The key is that it needs be very fast and easy to stitch the frames together for this approach to make sense.

The concept of fast and easy panorama stitching got me thinking. There are cameras on the market now that have features that aid in shooting panoramas and some actually stitch the panorama in the camera.

In-Camera-Stitching

Camera assists shooting panoramas

These lists are probably not a complete, these are the ones I found in the first 5 pages of a Google search for “in camera stitching”.

Thanks Eric in California for getting me thinking about panoramas in this light.

Posted in Panoramas, Photo Equipment | 1 Comment »

Panorama Resources

Posted by larrylohrman on April 14, 2006


My last post on panoramas barely scratched the surface. I think this is a very important subject for real estate photographers since the use of panoramas is a very effective method of showing more of small spaces that is possible with traditional single frame photography. I’ve started a resource page with links to more information on this subject. If you are interested in the subject of panoramas I suggest that you look through some of the tutorials on panoguide.com. These are just a few of my favorite links. I’ll be expanding this list in the future.

Jook Leung’s work has been a great inspiration to me in the area of VR panoramas. Jook is professional Photographer and Illustrator that works out of New York and is a master in the area of creating full screen QuickTime VR panoramas.

Posted in Panoramas | Leave a Comment »

Reduced Sized Wide-angle Lenses

Posted by larrylohrman on April 13, 2006

I’ve updated my list of real estate cameras to remove the Canon 10-20mm and Sigma 10-20mm from being usable lenses with the Canon EOS 5D. Until Marc Lacoste pointed it out, I’d completely over looked the fact that these two lenses are two examples of the generation of smaller lenses designed to be used with only with DSLRs that have reduced sized image sensors. These lenses have a smaller image circle that works nicely with small image sensors but do not use the full 35x24mm sensor size of cameras like the Canon 5d, 1Ds, 1Ds II.

Marc also give us a link to his wide-angle camera list. He has some nice features like a table of focal length equivalences and links to detailed information. Check it out at:
http://marc.lacoste.googlepages.com/wideanglecameras
Thanks Marc.

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Panoramas for Real Estate Marketing

Posted by larrylohrman on April 12, 2006


An essential tool for real estate photography is the panorama. A panorama is just a photograph with an extra wide view. Panoramas can be just two contiguous photos like the example above or many more shots that make a complete 360 degree view. The example above is two shots with a 35mm lens stitched together with Photovista 3.0 to illustrate the view from a home we sold on Cougar Mountain. This view was just under 180 degrees and a single photo just did not show off the full view.

Panoramas like this are easy to shoot. It helps to use a tripod to keep the camera level from shot to shot but it is not essential. You need to have an overlap of about 30% from shot to shot so its easy to match up the images during stitching. The other thing you need to do is to put you camera in manual mode so none of camera settings change from shot to shot. Shooting all the shots in the panorama with the same exposure, zoom and auto focus settings will make sure the shots being stitched together nicely fit together in one smooth image.

I’ve tried a lot of stitching software including using Photoshop and Photoshop Elements but of all the stitching software I’ve used I think the fastest and easiest way to stitch this kind of panorama is with Photovista 3.0. All Photovista needs to know is what the focal length of the lens is and what the order of the photos is and it does everything else. And the results are usually flawless.

Panoramas are great for showing off a view property. They work very well using anywhere from a very wide-angle lens (15mm) to medium telephoto lenses (200mm) depending on the view. They also are frequently used for interiors. The problem with using cylindrical panoramas (photos projected on the inside of a cylinder) for interiors is it is always a struggle to get enough vertical field of view for interiors with one horizontal series of images. To increase the field of view you can use a panoramic head to shoot multiple rows of photos or the way I do it is to use a fisheye lens and create spherical or cubic panoramas. But using a fisheye lens requires special stitching software and techniques. More on this subject in some other post. Start out shooting a simple contiguous set of images like the one above.

Many virtual tour providers provide Java, Flash or QuickTime viewers that automatically handle rotation of 180 degree or 360 degree panoramas. Panoramas of up to 180 degrees work very nicely in print media on flyers and brochures.

Posted in Panoramas | 1 Comment »

Purpose Driven Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on April 11, 2006


When doing real estate photography it is always important to be thinking about how the shots are going to be used. For example, if you intend to use a shot as a full page background on a flyer if you’re not thinking about whether the flyer layout is vertical (portrait mode) or horizontal (landscape mode) you will make the job of the person laying out the flyer more difficult. I usually make an 8.5 x 11 flyer with a front shot of the home as a background for text and small interior photos of the home. When I shoot this front shot of the home I think about where all the text is going to go and make sure there is enough room on the sky and foreground for title lines and all the descriptive text I need. Vertical mode almost never works for this kind of flyer layout.

When shooting a series of photos for a website I never shoot in vertical orientation. The reason is 90% of interior shots work best in horizontal orientation and if you have 14 horizontal website photos and one or two vertical photos it’s just distracting in the layout on the website. Websites all allow vertical shots but I’ve never seen a real estate website that looks good with a mix of vertical and horizontal shots. I don’t think there is ever a compelling enough reason to even have vertical shots on a website.

The only time a vertical shot is required is if you are shooting for a full magazine page. Then vertical orientation is a must. Sure, you can make a vertical crop on a horizontal shot but you end up loosing a lot of the file. You are better off shooting vertical for a magazine page unless it’s going to be a guttered 2 page spread.

The bottom line is ideally when a photographer is shooting a home he/she should know how the photographs are going to be used to get the best results.

Posted in Photo Technique | Leave a Comment »

Strong Foreground to Distant View

Posted by larrylohrman on April 9, 2006

A compositional style that you see in many strong photographs is that of a strong foreground object combined with a distant view. There’s something about the contrast of seeing an interesting object close-up combined with an interesting distant view that is naturally draws ones attention. I’ve been looking for photographic examples of this composition the last few days and its amazing how prevalent it is in advertising images. You see this composition used all the time in landscape photography. This is a great composition for a home that has a view. Having something like coffee service and newspaper on a comfortable table setting with the view in the background can be a strong statement about a property.

The cover photos on last two issues (April and May 2006) of Architectural Digest are examples of this composition. As of today the AD website still has the cover of the April issue photographed by Andreas von Einsiedel. Since I got my copy of the May issue of AD last Friday the cover of the May issue by Durston Saylor will probably be on the site soon.

In the AD April 2006 cover by Andreas von Einsiedel as I’ve looked at it over the last month I’ve felt somewhat disappointed that the view in the background is overexposed and out of focus. However, when you consider that the purpose of the image is interior design it makes sense that the viewer is forced to focus on the objects in the foreground that sharply in focus. The overexposed view of the Bosporus in the background creates the feeling of a very hot sunny day.

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Color Saturation

Posted by larrylohrman on April 6, 2006


I woke up this morning to a new super-saturated world I haven’t seen for quite a while! All the photographs on my wall have deep rich colors and even the colors on my monitor look different than they did yesterday. No, I’m not taking drugs. Yesterday I had laser surgery in both eyes to remove a film that was forming on the lenses of my eyes. It’s a long story but the bottom line is as of today I’m seeing colors as saturated and beautiful as everyone else! At least I assume everyone sees colors this saturated. Maybe not! How would you know?

My new view of the world got me thinking about how people see colors in differently and color saturation can really grab your attention. One of my favorite interiors is the inside of the local Triple X Drive Inn. The equirectangular photo above is a representation of a 360 Spherical QuickTime VR image I took of its interior. One of the things I like about this interior is the riot of colors. I increased the saturation of this image when I made it originally so it better shows the environment. Neither the QuickTime image or the JPG above looks as saturated as the 13×19" print on my wall done with an Epson 2200 inkjet printer.

You’ve probably noticed in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements how when you convert to JPG images loose saturation when an image is changed to the gamut used for JPG. This is why I usually exaggerate the saturation before I convert to JPG. Of course you have to be careful not to over do it. A saturated image always grabs attention. Why not use that fact to your advantage when rendering marketing images you want to grab attention?

For those that have been photographing long enough to remember Velvia slide film, color saturation was the big attraction with Velvia. Modern day digital shooters have to increase the saturation themselves if they want to get that saturated Velvia look. With digital don’t have to increase the saturation uniformly all over an image you can use a saturation layer to increase the saturation of just a flower arrangement in a room or some flowers in the yard to make them stand out. Try it out, it can be very effective.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Recommended Real Estate Camera List Update

Posted by larrylohrman on April 5, 2006

Today I updated my list of recommended cameras for real estate photography. All these changes were as a result of the feedback I’ve been getting from readers. The changes I made were as follows:

  1. I removed the reference to a wide angle converter for the P880. The Kodak P880 doesn’t have a wide-angle converter. It only goes to 24mm. This was a misunderstanding on my part. Thanks to Marc Lacoste for pointing this out.
  2. I added the Olympus C-7070 and the Sony DSC-R1 with the indicated wide-angle converters go to 19mm which makes them ideal for interior photography.
  3. I added the Canon Powershot G6 and A620 which both use the WC-DC58 wide-angle converter to get to 24.5mm. Not great but OK.
  4. I removed the prices from the table since the prices change and are different places in the world… this blog has readers all over the world. It’s best to check prices at your favorite supplier.
  5. I added the Canon 430EX to the external flash units listed for Canon cameras. The 430EX is less powerful and fewer features than the 580EX but cheaper.
  6. I added a link to the wonderful review of wide-angle lenses by Ken Rockwell. This review is a must for anyone purchasing a DSLR and needing to choose a Ultra wide-angle lens. If you haven’t checked out Ken Rockwells site (www.kenrockwell.com ) by all means do. It has a wealth of Photographic information.

This list of suggested cameras for real estate is not exhaustive but if you are looking for a camera to shoot interiors it will get you started in the right direction. Thanks for all the great feedback readers been giving me on this list. If you know of a camera you think should be on this list be sure to let me know.

Posted in Photo Equipment | 3 Comments »

Perspective Correction Lenses

Posted by larrylohrman on April 4, 2006

As interior photographers you should know there is more to the subject of perspective correction than the image editing I’ve been talking about. Many professional photographers would shudder at our previous discussions about fixing perspective problems in photo editors. There are lenses designed for shooting interiors and architecture. They are called tilt and shift or perspective correction lenses. Canon makes the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L and Nikon makes the wide angle shift 28mm f/3.5 PC-Nikkor. Both of these lenses list at over $1000. With these lenses perspective correction is done while you are shooting. These lenses also allow more control over depth of field but that’s another subject. If you are interested in more detail about these lenses just Google their names and you’ll find more than you want to know.

The benefit of doing perspective correction while shooting is that you don’t loose a lot of the image like we did in the photo editing examples. Of course you can deal with most perspective correction situations while shooting by just keeping the camera level in the front to back plane. But there are shooting situations where you must tilt the camera upward to include what you want in the frame. There’s a nice description of this whole phenomena by Brad Finch over at www.f-stop.com/p-c.htm.

Whether you choose to do it with photo editing or with tilt and shift lenses having walls straight is an essential part of this craft.

Posted in Photo Equipment | 1 Comment »

Success with Hugin

Posted by larrylohrman on April 3, 2006


Notice that Marc left a comment on yesterday’s post which included a link to an excellent tutorial that shows how to correct the perspective in the photo of my living room that I posted yesterday. I like Marc’s tutorial better than the one he referred to earlier. As you can see from the photo above I got Hugin to do perspective correction. One addition to his tutorial is on the final step before clicking “Stitch Now”. Be sure you set the width like Marc’s screenshot (it is set to 500). On my first try this width was set to a default of 3000 and the result looked strange.

Thanks Marc for your understandable tutorial and not giving up on me. You are going to make me a Hugin user yet!

I think it is worth noting that a lot of folks in the real estate industry that find Photoshop and Photoshop Elements difficult to impossible to deal with. Any photo editor you use will take a while to get over the learning curve and once you become familiar with it you will resist change.

Posted in Photo Editing | 1 Comment »

Photo Editing with Hugin?

Posted by larrylohrman on April 2, 2006


Today I had the time to check out the Hugin software that Marc Lacoste pointed out in his comment on March 30th. I struggled for about 45 minutes and could not get Hugin to straighten out the sloping walls in a test shot I took of my living room. My conclusion is that doing this job with Hugin is much more difficult than the simple Transform>Distort feature in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Granted, Hugin is free and Photoshop or Photoshop Elements isn’t but I going to stick with my claim that the Transform>Distort feature is the quick and easy way to go to straighten out walls. Hugin can do the same job but it takes a significant investment in time to learn how to use all it’s many features.

Hugin is designed as a GUI for Panorama tools (a public domain set of panorama stitching tools) for creating panoramas. That is, stitching together a number of images into a panorama. If you want to make interior panoramas I think Hugin is worth your while to investigate and learn to use. If you are just fixing image that needs to have the walls straightened like the one above you are best to stick with Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

Posted in Photo Editing | 1 Comment »

Promoting Yourself as a Photographer

Posted by larrylohrman on April 1, 2006

I know many readers of this blog are Photographers that are in various stages of building a business of photographing listings for Realtors. Janie from Indiana fits that profile and asks two great questions:

1. What is the best way to market myself to agents?
2. What should I charge?

Here are my answers to Janie:

Promoting your self:
· Website: Eventually I would have a website where you could display your work. Agents are going to want to see examples of your work and a website is the best all around way to display your work.

· Direct Mail: If you don't have the money to start with to build a good looking website another great way to promote yourself is to make some good looking postcards that have your work. I would use a Jumbo postcard (8.5 x 5.5"). I use www.expresscopy.com for creating postcards. They make postcards from PDF files you send them. I use their Jumbo postcards that are laminated on both sides. These laminated postcards have a very elegant, professional look because of the lamination. The way to build an agent mailing list is to use websites for real estate offices in your local area which typically have the address of the office and a list of agent names. Once you build the mailing list send everyone on your agent mailing list a Jumbo postcard with some stunning examples of your work about every 3 or 4 months.

· Referrals: Once you get started if you do a good job for agents the will refer you to your friends.

· Visit agents at their meetings: Almost all real estate offices have meetings once a week where all the agents come and discuss various things. Vendors routinely go to these meetings and promote themselves to agents. If this is your kind of thing I'm sure you could just call the broker at the various offices in your area and ask them if you could come say a few words to promote your product. Have some thing to had out like business cards or better a jumbo postcard that has examples of your work and your phone number on it. Use the Jumbo postcards like business cards.

What to charge:
· Of course what you charge depends on what your services are… I see a lot of photographers just shooting conventional photos and delivering about 15 shots to an agent on CD or via the web. To me these photographers are defining their services too narrowly. What agents need is not only about 15 shots interior and exterior of their listing but they need flyers and virtual tours (here is one of our recent listings: www.johnlscott.com/79059 Be sure to click on the "Virtual Tour" link and then the "more listing info" link on the upper right hand area of the virtual tour). For our listings I do conventional photos, double sided color flyers and a virtual tour. Many agents would like to have someone just take care of the whole thing like I do for my wife's listings. And would be happy to pay up to $250 for the whole thing. You want to focus on the agents that do "upper-end listings" (that is expensive homes). In our area this is $900,000 to $1,000,000 and above but what is "high-end" will vary with location. Seek out these agents and look at their marketing these agents are likely to spend more on marketing.

· I think you have to charge $100 to just show up at any given location with in about 30 miles of your home just like any other service you buy.

· A local photographer charges $199 for 15 web images and a designed flyer. You could also charge about .25 to .30 per flyer to supply the flyers if you have a color laser printer. I have a HP-4650 laser printer that turns out double sided color flyers for about $.10 each.
· Virtual Tours: As you can tell from my blog I like buildatour.com virtual tours that you can buy for $9.95 each. You could easily charge $20 or more on to that for setting it up for an agent.

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