Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for September, 2006

Adobe Lightroom is In Your Future

Posted by larrylohrman on September 29, 2006


For anyone that shoots allot of digital photos Adobe Lightroom is probably going to be in your future. A public beta 4 for both the Mac and Windows is now available for download. Adobe Light Room will eventually replace Photoshop for photographers. The first release of Lightroom is expected some time in early 2007. This first release will probably not replace Photoshop but later releases probably will.

Lightroom is designed specifically for digital photographers whereas Photoshop was designed for graphics designers 16 years ago and has been widely adopted by photographers because it does allot of what they want. Lightroom is a database that manages all the photos you have and allows efficient sort, comparing, cropping, adjusting and printing. Although you currently can do all the adjustments that camera-raw allows my guess is that photographers are going to fall in love with Lightroom and demand that pixel editing functions currently missing from light room be added.

I’ve been using Lightroom for as long as it’s been available for Windows (couple of months) and it is a very smooth and usable already. I used it recently to do a project where I needed to create a photographic presentation for a home owners association regarding the use of new darker colors on homes. I drove around the Seattle area for a couple of days shooting shots of new construction homes that illustrated the use of new dark colors. I ended up with over 100 shots. Lightroom allowed me to very quickly sort through and choose the photos I wanted to use, do minor exposure, saturation and tonal adjustments and them print the photos for a printed presentation. This whole process would have taken at least 5 times as long using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements than it did with Lightroom.

Lightroom is a very different environment than Photoshop but once you use it a while it’s a very quick and easy way to do all the things you need to do with photos except pixel editing. For now, if you need Photoshop you can pass an image to Photoshop much like the CS2 Bridge works. I think Lightroom will become a big part of how I work with images.

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Posted in Workflow | 3 Comments »

Photographing Architecture And Interiors by Julius Shulman

Posted by larrylohrman on September 28, 2006

Today while going through some of my old books I ran across one of my favorites: Photographing Architecture And Interiors by Julius Shulman. Shulman, who is now in his 90’s, has photographed for many of the great American architects of the last 70 years. In particular Shulman’s clients were architects like Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano and Frank Lloyd Wright. Shulman is kind of the Edward Weston of Architectural photography. Frank Lloyd Wright said Shulman was the best architectural photographer that he had ever worked with. How’s that for an endorsement?

The book has essentially all black and white photos and the technical discussions are all about 4×5 view cameras and Hasselblads but the photographs are all stunning. I remember originally being turned off by this book when I got it because it didn’t seem technically relevant to present day real estate photography. But over time the elegance of Shulman’s interior and exterior architectural images has “grown on me”. He has many sequences of images taken at different perspectives or in the same place with different lenses that are very instructive. He has taught and lectured extensively about architectural and interior photography.

If you are serious about photographing Architecture this is a book you should spend some time with. Shulman may well be the greatest living Architectural photographer.

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Aerial View Real Estate Photography: Comment Highlight

Posted by larrylohrman on September 27, 2006

Fred from www.NashuaVideoTours.com made a comment on the subject of using a mast to get a aerial view that deserves highlighting. Fred said:

I use a SkyPod (www.studio1productions.com/skypod.htm) both indoors and out. It’s a monopod that extends up to 10′. Gives you the opportunity for some interesting shots, especially over cars, etc… if necessary.

I’ve been thinking that it would be nice to find a solution that was higher than just holding your camera over your head on a tripod but not as high and expensive as Adam Mauer’s 40 foot telescoping mast. I like the size and cost of the skypod. I think I’ll explore this size of mast more. I’m thinking I can get my camera almost 20 feet high with this mast while standing on the roof of my truck.

Posted in Aerial Photos | Leave a Comment »

Aerial Views: A Big Factor in Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on September 26, 2006


Adam Mauer from www.aerialview.com.au proposed that the solution to my problem of a home that is not photogenic that I was talking about in my last post is to shoot an aerial shot from a mast. Adam sent the street level example above and the aerial shot below that he took from his telescoping mast at a height of less than 40 feet.
 

I’m becoming a believer in high-angle low aerial photography. Adam’s examples above, Mark Lacoste’s example and Bruce Vinal’s example of what you can do with fairly simple techniques of getting your camera 10 to 30 feet off the ground are very compelling. I think being able to do aerial photography is a very important component of real estate photography. As many as 10 to 20% of homes I see in traditional front shots can benefit from an aerial view. A shot like Adam’s example above is extremely effective.

As far as re-shooting the front of my home we are selling, I lost most of my motivation for reshooting any of the photos since I think we have a buyer. Three days on the market is all I can handle. Being a home seller is hard work! Now I have to focus on starting to pack.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 2 Comments »

What to Do When the Front View is Not Photogenic

Posted by larrylohrman on September 24, 2006


The reason you haven’t heard from me for a while is we’ve been  working hard to get our home of 37 years ready to put on the market. We put it on the market today and had a open house. Wow, putting your home on the market is hard work! All agents should do this periodically to understand what sellers go through.

Here are the pointers to the photos and virtual tour. The John L Scott website address is www.johnlscott.com/36341 and the direct pointer to the 360 photos is www.levicannon.com/vr/cannon/porch.htm  and the direct pointer to the buildatour.com tour is www.buildatour.com/tour/buildatour.asp?id=1393.

Our home is a case study of the problem with the front of a home not being very photogenic. This home sits about 10-20 feet below the street so most of what you see is the roof and the driveway. Yuck! Allot of the structure is covered by vegatation. We took 5 or 6 different shots. Daytime shots, twilight shots, close-up shots and shots from the street. We came up with this solution. The shot that has the best feel to it is the close shot of the front entry (the shot above). It communicates very little of the overall feel of the whole setting and architecture. The shot we like second best is the wider shot that shows the front of the home, garage and some of the treed setting shot at twilight. We used this photo as the second photo on the johnlscott.com website and the MLS.

This is a case where a high-angle aerial shot wouldn’t help much because all you’d get it a shot of the roof.

Posted in Marketing | Leave a Comment »

Same Room After Rearranging Furniture

Posted by larrylohrman on September 16, 2006

This photograph is of the same room as my last post but with the furniture rearranged so that the furniture doesn’t block the beautifully designed fireplace mantle. Also, the wall of windows is now more visible. It took about 20 minutes to move the furniture and then move it back after the shot but I think you will agree it’s worth the effort to get this shot.

This photograph shows off the main two architectual features of this room, the fire place and the windows, and the furniture only serves to give scale and style to the shot where as the photo in the previous post is more about the furniture than the room.

To get this shot I had to move the large (very heavy) table that was in front of the fire place completely out of view and the second couch out of the way. Ideally to do this kind of rearranging on a photo-shoot the home owner would be there to help or at least have given their permission to move around furniture. Also, this furniture movement was a two person job. I couldn’t have done it by myself without dragging furniture on the floor that would risk making marks on the tile.

Another detail worth mentioning making this shot my zoom was set at 24mm whereas the shot below on the previous post it was more like 16mm. The ultrawide 16mm shot acentuates perspective giving the room a “bowling alley” look which is not appealing. I think in this situation its better to show an important corner of the room instead of trying to include the whole room.

Posted in Photo Composition | Leave a Comment »

Photograph Architecture Not Furniture

Posted by larrylohrman on September 15, 2006

I just got a comment from a Realtor that is starting to do her own real estate photography because she is dissatisfied with the work that professional real estate photographers in her area are doing. I think her comments amplify the previous post I did on “Your Mission: Photograph Homes and Rooms“. She said:

“…As a Real Estate agent that is disgruntled with some of the local options for Real Estate photographers, I am definitely to the point where I am ready to do my own shoots. It seems a far better alternative than paying top dollar for photos with burned out windows and bad composition. I refuse to pay even another dollar for a photo in which the television becomes the focal point of a room…I’d rather keep creative control in my own hands than pay someone to give me a photo of a Great Room with gorgeous architectural appointments, yet the TV still somehow entered in as the focal point…”

What a real estate photographer needs to do while shooting is to have a feel for the architecture. Think about the architecture and what architectural features are important in the home you are photographing. Shoot photos that show architectural features. Many times furniture needs to be moved out of the way because it blocks an architectural feature like a beautiful fire place. Furniture is important mainly to establish scale and suggest elegance and style. Don’t be afraid to move furniture out of the way to get the view you need.

An example of what I’m talking about is the photo above I took of my rec room recently. An astute Realtor pointed out to me that the most important architectural features of this rec room are the fireplace and the wall of windows and in this photo you can see the windows very well and I have the fire place completely blocked with furniture.

Posted in Photo Composition | Leave a Comment »

Photo of The Week: A View From The Water

Posted by larrylohrman on September 14, 2006

Here’s a photo of a 2.5 million dollar Lake Washington water front home taken from the water front. Wow, what a concept! I think that the water front view is the most important view for any water front home. I see too many photos of water front homes taken only from the homes point of view. Not that the view from the home is not important but the view from the water usually shows the bank and dock better and frequently shows the architecture of the home better than any other view.

I’ll have to admit that getting a shot like this adds some logistical challenges to the real estate photo shot. You’ll need a boat. Preferably a boat that is as high off the water as possible. This is one situation where a heli-cam might be the best choice since you could take shots from different heights and different distances.

This photo gives a good feel of all the water front related features in addition to the yard and architecture of the home. The only thing that bothers me about this image from an aesthetic point of view is the big boat moored on the right hand side is a little distracting because you really can’t see the whole boat.

Notice the three rubber duckies on the arms of the chairs on the dock.

Posted in Real Estate Photo of the Week | Leave a Comment »

Adobe Announces Photoshop Elements 5

Posted by larrylohrman on September 13, 2006

Adobe announced Photoshop Elements 5.0, an upgrade to its popular consumer photo editing software. As well as lots of new ways to share your photos, Elements 5.0 adds serveral new tools including Black and White conversion, Curves and lens distortion correction. For press release see Dpreview.com. Also see Adobe.com for more information.

The lens distortion feature is probably the same technology that is in Photoshop CS2. This feature helps you remove barrel distortion in images, a useful feature for real estate photographers.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Aerial Photos From a Helium Balloon

Posted by larrylohrman on September 12, 2006

Today Bruce Vinal of Concord, MA showed me some of his recent aerial  real estate photos that he took from a helium balloon. My favorite one is the one above that was taken from about 75 feet. Bruce says:

“I’ve got about $2,000 into my equipment right now but that number is sure to rise. I bought bits and pieces all over the web and fabricated the rest.The actual balloon is from Southern Balloon works I use a Nikon CoolPix-7900. It’s a good, lightweight (very important) 7 mega-pixel camera. The Nikon is mounted on a homemade aluminum frame that, using r/c servos, can pan tilt and trip the shutter. I bought a video down-link from Black Widow AV that allows me to see, on the ground ,what the camera sees in the air”

It seems to me this technology (a helium balloon) is a great alternative for doing real estate photography since it is relatively inexpensive compared to a mast or heli-cam or flying around in an airplane and it seems like it would be versatile and easy to operate.

My comment to Bruce was that I’d be inclined to use a camera that you could put a wide-angle adapter on so you could get a wide view without having to go up so high. I don’t believe a CoolPix-7900 has lens threads so you can add a wide-angle converter… I could be wrong but I think 38mm is the widest angle you can go with the 7900.

UPDATE:

I was wrong the CoolPix 7900 does have a wide angle adapter It can go down to 16 or 20mm.

Posted in Aerial Photos, Photo Equipment, ReaderProfile | 5 Comments »

Rentals Need Real Estate Photography Too

Posted by larrylohrman on September 12, 2006

We have several rentals and in the last year we’ve moved completely to finding renters on www.craigslist.org. Craigslist has become the rental marketing medium of choice worldwide because it’s free and it is extremely effective. When ever I put a rental ad on craigslist I link to a 360VR tour or a buildatour.com tour. We always find a renter within a week or two at the most and many times we have our choice of multiple parties that want to rent. More than once we have had out of state parties commit to rent without physically seeing the property. This phenomena is obviously a result of extensive photos.

I’m puzzled that more ads on craigslist don’t link to more  and better photos. Craigslist ads allow four small photos but having more has obvious huge advantages. I suppose it’s just like homes for sale listings, people putting up the rental ads up don’t understand how much difference good photos make.

You real estate photographers should realize that people renting properties are a market for your work as well as people selling homes. In fact I think it is easier to justify the cost of hiring a professional photographer to promote ones rental properties. Photos for rental ads can be used over and over again each time you need a new renter.

Posted in Marketing | 1 Comment »

Fullscreen Flash Panoramas Now Possible

Posted by larrylohrman on September 9, 2006

Earlier this week Thomas Rauscher (http://www.pano2qtvr.com/) released a beta version of his pano2qtvr converter that has the ability to convert a fullscreen QuickTime panorama or an equirectangular image to a fullscreen Flash image. What this means is that it’s finally possible to create fullscreen Flash Panoramas of reasonable quality. Here’s my living room as a fullscreen Flash spherical panorama.

This is a significant development because up until now you could only use QuickTime, Java or Shockwave to display fullscreen panoramas and not all users that you want to view your panorama have one of these technologies installed. As I’ve pointed out before here are Adobe stats on how many people have each viewing technology installed. If you want someone to look at a virtual tour they’d better have the particular technology you use to display images loaded on their machine. Very, very few users are going to bother to do an 11 megabyte download and install of QuickTime just to look at your image! According to the stats above you have the best chance of having your images seen if you use Flash- 97.3% of users will be able to see your work.

You’ve been able to use Flash for small panoramas for several years but my theory is that displaying small panoramas is not worth the bother. Large images have a bigger impact and give the effect you want. After all this is the age of 52″ plasma TVs. Once you’ve seen a movie on a 52″ High definition TV is hard to go back to an ordinary 27″ TV. The same thing is going on with computer images… you have to use big images to grab peoples attention.

So the bottom line is whether you are a real estate photographer or an agent you should be looking for oppurtunities to use large images that everyone can see and the best way to do that on the web is with Flash.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 1 Comment »

Photo of The Week – 1.5 Million Dollar Aerial Shot

Posted by larrylohrman on September 8, 2006

This shot is the primary shot for a rural home on Seattle’s eastside listed for 1.5 million. It demonstrates a very effective solution to the classic problem of a wonderful home that you can’t see because it is so surrounded by vegetation that every angle from the ground is blocked. As you can see from the photo above, there’s just no way to get a good shot of this home from the ground. There is a secondary photo on the listing taken from the ground on the driveway side but it doesn’t reveal the real class of this home.

I don’t know the details of how this shot was taken but it is clearly an aerial shot perhaps done with a heli-cam but it cost the agent at least $350 or perhaps much more depending on how it was shot. It is well worth the cost because it clearly shows the home’s setting, the unique design, the interconnecting decks and the story high wall of windows. This angle and renders the home very attractive where as all other exterior shots in the listing show very little of the home. This is the kind of shot that will attract the right kind of buyer. In the overall scheme of things a shot like this can be a major factor in selling a home.

I give this shot two thumbs up!

Posted in Aerial Photos, Real Estate Photo of the Week | 1 Comment »

Your Mission: Photograph Homes and Rooms

Posted by larrylohrman on September 7, 2006

The cover of September 2006 issue of Architectural Digest got me thinking about the difference between Real Estate photography and many interior photography shots you see in Architectural Digest. Notice that the shots on the cover and many shots in the articles featured in this issue on designer’s own homes are tight shots that don’t show the whole room. This is because these shots are about design and design elements, not rooms.

I think it is important to be clear about the fact that your mission as a real estate photographer is to sell whole rooms and whole homes. To do this you need wide shots that show as much of a room as possible and even the relationship between rooms. It’s frequently useful to shoot design details like mill-work or leaded glass doors but those kind of shots should be secondary to a shots of the whole room.

I’ve always been a little puzzled why these great interior photographers that whose work you see in AD don’t shoot as many wide-angle shots as I do. Part of the reason is their mission is different. They are featuring interior design more than whole rooms. The other reason really wide angle shots have perspective distortion that magazine editors don’t like. I always find myself trying to show as much of a room as possible but I must admit that shots with my zoom on 16mm that make a ordinary living room look like a bowling alley can be offensive. I try to keep my zoom between 20 and 24mm to control perspective distortion.

Posted in Photo Technique | 4 Comments »

Canon Full-frame Sensors Have Big Pixels

Posted by larrylohrman on September 6, 2006

I try to control my enthusiasm for Canon full-frame CMOS sensors because full-frame sensors are not essential for real estate photography but recently Ron Galbraith posted an interesting Canon white paper on Full-frame sensors on his site. As Ron says, this white paper has some marketing hype but it also has a great explanation of why you would want to own a full-frame CMOS sensor like those in the canon 1Ds, 1Ds Mark II and 5D. My reason is simple I just want a 16-35mm zoom to behave like a 16-35mm lens! Although I learned another reason… big pixels!

The subject of full-frame sensors has always been dear to me. When I gave up film in 1999 I had the mistaken expectation that I would some day be able to use my favorite Nikon wide-angle lenses and continue shooting interiors as I’d done for years. When I figured out that my 24mm Nikkor lens would effectively become a 38mm  lens if I used it on a Nikon D1 (current DSLR at the time) I was not impressed. More accurately I was crushed. Needless to say when Canon introduced the 1Ds was introduced I fell in love with the 16-35mm zoom and the full-frame sensor. I know, it’s not necessary for real estate. But it sure creates wonderful images!

Posted in Photo Equipment | 1 Comment »