Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for May, 2006

Photo size is important

Posted by larrylohrman on May 28, 2006


Yesterday I came across a brochure presenting a new upper end home that just came on the market in our area. The photography was stunning. Large, beautifully exposed, bright, crisp photos of nicely lit interiors were printed on 100 lb glossy paper. Several of the shots took up full and half of an 8.5×11” page. This brochure was easily the best done photo brochure that I’ve seen.

After drooling over the photos for a while I thought about finding the online version of these photos so I could show them to the readers of this blog. I found some of the photos but they are so small and disappointing they are not worth showing. Even though many of the online photos are professionally done some of the exact same photos printed on the brochure they are a disappointment because they are so small (many are just 3×2”). The reduced photo size completely removes the impact and excitement of the brochure.

For me this experience demonstrates some important trends in real estate marketing photography:

  1. The impact of a photo is highly related to its size. That is, large high quality photos create high impact in what ever medium you are using. Small photos don’t have the same impact.
  2. Websites in general still don’t complete with flyers and brochures for creating impact and excitement with photography because they restrict photo size.
  3. Websites typically restrict photo size because in the recent past internet users didn’t have bandwidth enough to easily view large photos. There are exceptions such as www.buildatour.com that uses 800×600 photos.

Even though virtually all real estate websites currently restrict photo size most consumers of real estate photography that I’m aware of have high speed cable access. So what do you do about this contradiction? I believe as consumers of real estate websites you should use every opportunity to get real estate website operators and virtual tour providers to increase the size of photos. The choices of virtual tours you use are one way to get larger photo sizes than the standard real estate websites. So choose virtual tour vendors that give you large photos.

I host my own virtual tours so; I’m going to start using full screen tours. For example this is the format that I’m going to use for my virtual tours.

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Posted in Photo Composition | Leave a Comment »

Any furniture is better than an empty room

Posted by larrylohrman on May 18, 2006


Back on my April 24 post on Styling and Staging I a pointed out that interior photos of empty rooms should be avoided. If you are the listing agent you should convince the seller not to have empty rooms. If you are the photographer you should convince the listing agent to not shoot empty rooms.

Marc Lacoste gives a great example of what a difference a little furniture can make in the feeling of a room. About the before and after example above Marc says, “Bring your own furniture: I shot today an empty flat. It's depressing, very hard to project yourself in living inside it.We bought some folding chairs and a bench, so I bring them, a Matisse reproduction, a ficus benjamina and a portmanteau. I placed them around the scene a bit, and shot.It's not gonna look like it's inhabited, but it's much more easy to believe you can live in it.I have to bring a carpet and a Coffee table next time.”

As this example shows a few folding chairs, a print on the wall and a potted plant or two can make a big difference in how the empty room feels.

Posted in Staging & Styling | 1 Comment »

Fast, Cheap Technique for Getting a High Point of View

Posted by larrylohrman on May 11, 2006


Marc Lacoste of Nantes, France contributed an important technique in a comment on yesterday’s Helicam post. I think it is important enough to repost so no one misses this discovery. Marc says, “I’ve found a trick for getting a high point of view, fast, cheap and suitable for crowded locations. I extend my tripod the max, set a ten seconds timer for the shutter, grab the feet of the tripod and stand it arms extended over my head. The camera is 4 meters tall and there is an interesting perspective”.

This is a remarkable difference in raising the position of the camera by 4 meters. The feel of the image changes from a “down in the bushes” feel to a Helicam” feel where you can see much more of the attractive features of this home. The difference between not being able to see the tile roof to having the beautiful orange tile roof as a major part of the photo is striking.

Marc, thanks for sharing this great technique!

Posted in Aerial Photos, Photo Technique | 12 Comments »

Spherical Panorama Taken from RC Helicam

Posted by larrylohrman on May 10, 2006

More news from Tabb at nwaerialphotography.com. Tabb has now well on his way to perfecting the process of creating spherical panoramas for his Helicam. Tabb sent me this example shot today. Tabb uses a Canon 5D suspended under the Helicam with a Canon 15mm wide angle lens. The Canon 15mm lens is produces a really crisp, sharp image. Tabb says this particular QuickTime VR image was stitched from 24 shots with PTgui. Anyone who has stitched handheld panoramas can appreciate the difficulty of producing this kind of image from a Helicam! Great job Tabb!

Posted in Panoramas, Photo Technique | 3 Comments »

Legal Resource for Photographers

Posted by larrylohrman on May 9, 2006

I know a many readers of this blog are photographers rather than real estate agents. I recently ran across Carolyn E. Wright’s PhotoAttorney blog which appears to be a good resource for legal information for photographers.

As a real estate photographer there are legal considerations associated with photographing people's homes. One example is that the external shot made for a listing that is going to be placed on a MLS becomes public domain once the property is listed on the MLS.

One question that comes to mind is if you photograph the interior of someone’s home does the photographer have the right to use those interior photographs to advertise his or her business without getting a signed release from the home’s owner?

Another question relates to virtual tours of peoples homes. Some people are concerned about the security risk of having detailed interior photographs of the interior of their home posted on the internet. Is their any risk in this area for photographers? That is could a photographer that shot the virtual tour be legally responsible for harm done to the home owner as a result of having their photographs of the interior of their home on the internet?

Hmm. Maybe I’ll pose these questions to Carolyn.

Posted in Legal | Leave a Comment »

Draw Attention With The Vignette Effect

Posted by larrylohrman on May 5, 2006


A classic effect used by photographers for many years is the vignette effect. That is to use a vignette of focus or vignette of light to draw attention to the subject of the photograph. For external home photos the vignette of light technique frequently works well. The way this works is that the viewer’s eye is attracted to light areas in the image. So if you subtly darken the outer edges of an image and make the subject of the image lighter the image the viewer’s attention is naturally drawn to the subject of the image. I used this technique on the image above.

Here’s how to create a vignette of light with Photoshop or Elements. After you’ve corrected and sharpened your photo create a levels adjustment layer that makes the photo slightly darker. Then with a soft, fairly large brush erase the area of the adjustment layer you want to draw attention to. Where the adjustment layer is erased the image will be lighter. You can adjust the opacity of the adjustment layer to control how dark or light the overall vignette effect of the adjustment layer is.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

How to get free shipping at B&H Photo

Posted by larrylohrman on May 4, 2006

Yesterday I attended the Photoshop CS2 Power Tour in Seattle. In the next few days I’ll be passing on some photo editing ideas that I picked up.

B&H Photo had a booth there and I discovered that NAPP members get free shipping for anything they order at B&H. To get this discount NAPP members have to call a special NAPP Hotline (800-686-3660). For anyone that purchases equipment from B&H this is significant!

I also found that B&H stands for Bertha and Herman. Bertha and Herman are the founders. If you’ve ever been to the actual store in NY, that takes up a whole city block, you may have thought B&H stands for “Beards and Hats”.

Posted in Photo Equipment | Leave a Comment »

Recent NAR Articles on Virtual Tours

Posted by larrylohrman on May 3, 2006

There are two new articles published this month by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) on the subject of Virtual Tours that are of interest to anyone involved in real estate photography.

The first article titled “Create grade A shows” by Jack Cotton published in the May issue of Realtor Magazine. Cotton says “I can’t overemphasize the need to high-quality photos in a virtual tour. If you have the time and money, consider investing in a professional photographer who has the best equipment to do the job.” He also emphasizes the need to use a good wide-angle lens and an external flash. He must be a reader of this blog! Cotton says, “The external flash allows you to equalize the outside light and lets any views of a yard or mountains show up in the windows, creating a dynamic shot.” He goes on to say that although great photos make a critical first impression the photo descriptions are critical in making the home seem more appealing. Unfortunately this article is not online so I can’t give you a link to it.

The second article by Mike Antoniak is online. This article reviews some of the recent new tour features like satellite images, visual commercials (movies), high definition zooming, interactive floor plans and do-it-yourself audio recording.

Posted in Virtual Tours | Leave a Comment »

Over Sharpening Can Create Moiré Patterns

Posted by larrylohrman on May 2, 2006


Notice the funny looking pattern in the blinds on yesterday’s photo I posted. This is called a moiré pattern and it’s caused by too much sharpening for the particular image. The sharpening process creates a pattern in the image that can combine with existing patterns in the image to create a moiré pattern. See www.mathematik.com/Moire for a great example. Patterns like these are frequent occurrences in interiors and exteriors. The horizontal pattern of on exterior home siding is creates this situation. Notice the similar moiré pattern in my Apr 27 post in the siding of the yellow house.

All I did to the image above to eliminate the moiré pattern was to reduce that amount of the of sharpening.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

How Keep Your Photos Sharp

Posted by larrylohrman on May 1, 2006


Digital image sharpening is a deep subject but for real estate photography there are some key things to be aware of.

Your camera does some sharpening in the camera before you even get your hands on the image. Most cameras allow you to set how much sharpening is done in the camera. Understand what you camera is doing for you in the area of sharpening. Those of you shooting in RAW mode have the option to adjust the sharpening when you convert from RAW to JPEG or TIFF.

The typical time you will need to sharpen your image is when you downsize it. After you downsize an image from the size it comes out of your camera to the size you will upload to the MLS or other website you should consider sharpening. The best way to sharpen is to use the Unsharp Mask in the filter menu of Photoshop Elements or of you use Photoshop CS2 the Smart Sharpen filter. There are three numbers to set when using the Unsharp Mask: Amount, Radius, and Threshold. Just consider these magic numbers. If you are sharpening for the web use Amount=200 to 300, Radius =0.3 and Threshold = 0. To get the amount right slide the amount slide to the max and back off until it looks right.

For sharpening an image that’s going to be printed, like a flyer or brochure, use Amount=225, Radius=0.5 and threshold = 0.

Posted in Photo Editing | 1 Comment »