Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for July, 2006

$20 Million Home Deserves a Breath Taking Photo

Posted by larrylohrman on July 31, 2006

I was talking to a blog reader last week about the fact that most Realtors need some visual education so the can see what is a good marketing photograph and what images are lacking. This week’s Wall Street Journal’s home of the week is a $20 Million home in Honolulu.

I think the lead front photograph on a listing should take your breath away much like the lead front photograph on a home featured in a Architectural Digest article. I don’t feel this lead image does a good job of marketing a $20 Million home.

Here’s why:

  1. If I had only the four images of the home that are shown in the article I use the second or third image instead of the one used. They appear to be done with a polarizer and are far more interesting than the front shot.
  2. The front shot appears to be done without a polarizer and consequently is very washed out and dull. Some photoshop work could help this image out but it would be difficult to compensate for not using a polarizer. Shooting with a polarizer would make the clouds more defined and sky bluer and improve the over all color contrast.
  3. The composition is lacking although I do like the clouds. The clouds need to be more dramatic which is what a polarizer would do. The composition looks a little like a drive-by shooting done without stopping. I don’t like all the driveway in the shot. Franky, a shot of this kind of home needs to give some feeling of why it’s priced at $20 Million or it’s not going to generate interest.
  4. I want to see what this home looks like from the beach or water. That’s what home like this is all about… living on the beach! I don’t care what the driveway and garages look like. It would be different if the home was grand or architecturally stunning from the front but it’s not. The front of the house is rather boring… so don’t even show it.

This article happens to be formatted so you can see all 4 images by only scrolling but that’s unusual for a listing most of the time the single lead image must generate the interest to motivate people to click/look futher so you ideally want to take people’s breath away with the lead image. This one doesn’t do that for me. This feels to me like a $200,000 photo on a $20 Million listing.


Posted in Real Estate Photo of the Week | 5 Comments »

André Gant – Immaculate Imagery

Posted by larrylohrman on July 26, 2006

Last week I talked to André Gant who is a professional photographer working out of the San Antonio, TX area. As you can see from his web site André does mostly weddings and portraiture but is in the process of expanding his work to include real estate photography. The photograph above is one of the series he showed me that he took to for a proposal to a builder in his area. André took a series of shots of the builders new homes and made a presentation to the builder to show what he could do. This is an effective way to expand your business. Medium and large scale builders are constantly in need of recent images to promote their product on web sites and in brochures. For a real estate photographer, A few relationships with builders can go along ways to keeping a constant flow of business.

I André’s interior shots are nicely lit. He uses A Quantum flash system on his Canon 5D with a single umbrella when shooting interiors. For those of you not familiar with flash umbrella’s you setup your flash unit (triggered remotely from a wireless transmitter mounted in the hot-shoe of your camera body) to flash into a silver or white coated umbrella. The light from the umbrella is diffused and reflected towards the room you are shooting. For more information on umbrellas see “lighting 101” on the strobist blog.

I’ve not tried using an umbrella with my flash system but after seeing the results that André is getting with one I think I’m going to add an umbrella to my kit. Using an umbrella requires a lighting stand or extra tripod to mount the umbrella on so there’s more gear to carry but it may well be worth it. More on my results with a umbrella later.

Another tip André passed along it that with a given placement of the tripod he shoots shots with and without flash and then is able to pin register two images shot in different light as layers in Photoshop. By doing this you can easily blend elements of one image with the other image creating a composite of two or more images shot from identically the same position. This is similar to some of my previous posts on dealing with burned out windows.

As André says, “ is photography” so these techniques he is use to using in the wedding and portrait environment work just fine doing interiors.

Posted in Marketing Yourself, ReaderProfile | 3 Comments »

New Real Estate Photographer in Calgary Area

Posted by larrylohrman on July 20, 2006

Recently I’ve been in contact with Dennis van Beek, a new Real Estate Photographer starting out in the Calgary Canada area. Dennis is recent graduate (2006) from the Western Academy of Photography in Victoria and has relocated to Calgary Canada from The Netherlands to work and live. If you are in need of real estate photography in the Calgary area contact Dennis through his website.

Posted in ReaderProfile | 1 Comment »

Adobe LightRoom Public Beta 3.0 for Windows

Posted by larrylohrman on July 20, 2006

If you’ve not already noticed, Adobe LightRoom was released late yesterday or today. It’s available for download from Adobe Labs. This is totally new technology to me since I use windows and just downloaded it today. Jeff Schewe has some pretty good coverage of it at Jeff is an early user of Adobe products for Photographers and has been using it for some time. It’s been out for Macs for some time.

My feeling is Adobe LightRoom is going to be the next big thing in workflow for Photographers. It’s probably not too early to start understanding this technology.

Posted in Photo Editing, Photo Technique | 1 Comment »

Working With A TTL Flash

Posted by larrylohrman on July 19, 2006

If you’ve read some of the reader profiles on this blog you’ve probably noticed that many real estate shooters carry a flash but don’t always use it. Also, many readers that I’ve talked to directly have a tinge of doubt when talking about the use of flash. I admit that for most of my real estate shooting I felt the same way. I always felt that it was a variable and expense that I would manage to avoid.

I’ve changed my mind since I purchased my Canon 580 Ex Speedlite about two years ago. I now believe you can do a much better job in less time as a real estate photographer if you use a flash. When I shoot real estate I still frequently take non-flash shots of exactly the same frame as I shoot flash just for comparison (like the two shots above). However, 99% of the time I like the flash shot best. Before I used flash regularly, I spent allot of time satisfying our selling clients with great view properties that wanted an interior shot that showed the great view and insisted that I come at 2:00 PM on Tuesday. I could always be sure of delivering the goods if I shot at twilight… now I can shoot almost any time and still deliver.

If you’re using a digital SLR a flash that works with your camera body with TTL (through-the-lens) flash metering can make your life easier. The basic principle of TTL metering is simple. The flash fires and the light reflected off the subject is read by the camera, which squelches the flash when sufficient light is recorded on the sensor. The camera’s multi-pattern metering achieves an accurate exposure for the ambient light, while the flash delivers just enough illumination to fill in the shadows. TTL metering combined with the immediate feedback of the camera’s LCD (particularly the histogram mode) can give you confidence you’re getting a well exposed image.

I find there are more than one level of working with a flash. The most basic is with the flash mounted in the hot shoe. This way of working allows you to easily and quickly move about the home without a tripod getting good overall exposures. There are downsides of working with the flash mounted directly behind the lens. There will be reflections off reflective surfaces (see the door frame in the flash photo above). I find these can easily be removed in Photoshop.

A more advanced level of using a flash is to take it off the hotshoe and firing it with a flash trigger that mounts on the hotshoe. This mode of working allows use of multiple flash units. Use of off camera flash and multiple flash units requires more time to setup and think out each shot but results can be controlled to a higher degree and thus have the potential for better results. I’m still working at perfecting this level of shooting. I continually find myself under time pressure that doesn’t allow the time that this approach requires.

The four most popular wireless TTL flash systems are Canon, Nikon, Metz and Quantum. Unlike radio-controlled strobes that can only be turned on and off, these four flash systems deliver TTL functionality and provide the ability to control individual or groups of flashes.

Posted in Flash Technique | 1 Comment »

Daylight Balanced Light Bulbs

Posted by larrylohrman on July 13, 2006

I thought I’d highlight an an example that Mark Lacoste gave us in some recent comments regarding a tip that Kris Dick the real estate photographer from Sydney Australia. Kris mentioned that he carries a bunch of daylight balanced (5000K) light-bulbs with him when photographing interiors and replaces all the light-bulbs in a room when photographing. The idea is that daylight light coming in from the outside has a color temperature of 5000K. So if you replace interior light bulbs with bulbs that are the same color temperature as daylight coming in from the outside you won’t have a mixture of color temperatures. What will happen if you don’t replace the bulbs is the lights inside will have a reddish color because the color temperature of typical incandescent bulbs is red compared to daylight.

Mark Lacoste said that he purchased some 5000K daylight balanced bulbs and showed us the above example where he has replaced the incadesent bulbs in the three table lamps in this photo with 5000K daylight balanced bulbs he recently purchased. Note how the color of the light from the lamps is essentially the same color as the light from the window.

If you’d like to try this technique just Google the term “daylight balanced bulbs” to find suppliers of 5000K bulbs.

Posted in Photo Technique | 7 Comments »

Use the Magic Light at Twilight

Posted by larrylohrman on July 10, 2006

We have a listing client that asked for a twilight exterior shot so last night I shot a series of twilight shots of their home. Since we’d promised to put the home on the market the day before I’d already done a daytime shot of the home around 10 AM in the morning. This exercise gave me a chance to compare the results from different times of day… a chance I rarely get. First here is the shot I did at about 10 AM in the morning. At the time I thought it was OK… I didn’t like the fact there was no direct sun on the front of the home but I checked the light several times later in the day and because of the orientation of the home there was never direct sun light on the front of the home.

This home faces north and since the sun moves from photo-left to photo-right and is south of straight up in the sky, the front never gets good direct sunlight. There are always shadows on the front to some extent.

I use the US Naval Observatory site to find out when twilight will be on any day at any location. For this day it says sunset was 9:05PM and “end of civil twilight” (when it’s offically dark) is at 9:44PM. I took a series of shots in the same location and camera settings through out the 40 minute period between sunset and dark. Here’s the one I like the best. It was about half way between sunset and dark. In shots earlier than this the light from the windows was not bright enough and in shots towards dark the body of the house and trim were too dark.

If you use the criteria I talked about in the last post, that you should do everything you can to add to the focus on your subject and remove distractions, then this version works much better than the daylight version. In this version the lighted windows add focus on the home and the muted colors of the grass, trees and surrounding homes do not distract from the home (object of the photograph) as in the daylight version. Also the glow of the northern sky at the time of this shot kept the trim and body color amazingly bright.

Here is shot taken at the end of the twilight period. The trim and body color are more faded because the northern sky is now dark. The sitting porch however is better highlighted here because its so dark.

This exercise demonstrates the magic light during twilight. It also demonstrates that if you have the time to come back for a twilight shoot or if you can schedule the shoot so you’ll be shooting during that magical time between sunset and dark it is worth your while. This 40 minutes is the best time to shoot interiors and exteriors.

When you are shooting inside during this time the windows won’t burn out because the light outside is very near the level of the outside.

An interesting phenomena that I’ve run into is that some clients like twilight shots and will ask for them as this one did. On the other hand some times when I’ve done unrequested twilight shots when clients didn’t ask for them the client didn’t want me to use the twilight shot. So if you do twilight shots either talk to the client first or have a daylight shot to use if they don’t like the result.

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