Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for October, 2006

To RAW or Not to RAW?

Posted by larrylohrman on October 24, 2006

I’m not surprised that I got several comments about my admonishment to shoot RAW on my recent post on adding zap you images. I know this is and issue with several RE photographers I’ve talked to recently.

Sure there are other lots of other ways to achieve the same result without shooting RAW as Geoff and Marc comment but it’s just too easy to adjust exposure, saturation and white balance etc when you open a RAW file instead of using layers. Call me lazy but moving little sliders and watching for the result I like is pretty easy.

As far as size, sure shooting RAW files creates bigger files but once I open the file and make the adjustments I want I immediately save the adjusted files in a 800 x 600 72 DPI JPGs of medium quality. This means that all the RAW files for a listing shoot take around 500 Meg (7 to 10 meg per image for my camera) and the adjusted sharpened  ready to use JPG images for the shoot take around 1.5 meg. At the current cost of storage I don’t find this a problem. I think it’s a small price to pay to have the ability to make easy, non-destructive adjustments without selecting exposure, white balance, saturation etc at exposure time.

If after we put a home on the market we decide to do a brochure, or some use that requires a better file than the 800×600 72 DPI JPG I go back to the original RAW version.

If you want to get into more depth on the subject of shooting RAW one of my favorite articles on this subject is the one by Michael Reichmann at


Posted in Workflow | 4 Comments »

Stunning Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on October 23, 2006

Several days ago I got this e-mail marketing piece (click on the image above to see the whole e-mail image. I think this is one of the best executed real estate marketing pieces I’ve seen.

Several aspects are noteworthy:

  1. The photography is stunning- the images are all well lit and attention grabbing.
  2. The e-mail piece has been professionally laid out and is distributed in a single 675 x 1550 JPG that shows off the photography beautifully.
  3. All the external shots are done in the sun with a polarizer to get deep saturated colors.
  4. The interior shots are all beautifully lit with a crisp, sharp look.

This e-mail piece presents much like a large brochure even though it is in e-mail format. In addition to the 675 x 1550 JPG there is a link to a PDF for added impact.

I think the most outstanding feature of this RE photography is the front exterior shot. Whether the photographer used some surrounding feature of the property to shoot from or shot from a pole, the elevated 3/4 angle gives this home an attractive look even though the architecture is not all that outstanding. When you look closely this is quite an ordinary home but the photograph presents it very well.

In our area e-mail marketing to agents is rapidly replacing hard-copy only flyers. I get 10 to 15 e-mail pieces like this a day promoting new listings or brokers opens. E-mail is replacing paper flyers.  Some agents consider this kind of e-mail SPAM but many don’t. It’s actually a much more efficient and effective medium to get this information in. If you don’t want it, it’s gone in a click. If it does interest you it’s a better form to keep the information than paper. The trick is getting your piece to stand out from all the others. The best way to make a marketing piece standout is good photography. This piece stands out and grabs your attention because of the photography. 

I think this piece is a great example of what great real estate photography can do for your marketing.

Posted in Marketing, Photo Technique, Real Estate Photo of the Week | 3 Comments »

How to Add Zap to Your Images

Posted by larrylohrman on October 22, 2006

I just discovered a great Photoshop (Both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements) tips blog called “Dear Debbie“.

Debbie has a post that shows how to ad zap to images. I think this is of particular interest to real estate photographers. You want your images to have that zap that Debbie is talking about. So many images on real estate sites have a dull look. This technique gives images that crisp punch you need for an image to stand out.

Notice that the technique Debbie describes works only if you shoot RAW. It makes use of the fact making image adjustments in RAW conversion does not degrade the image. I think this technique is reason enough to shoot RAW if you aren’t already. There is a complementary post that describes why it’s not advisable to do this adjustment with the contrast and brightness slider.

Posted in Photo Editing | 4 Comments »

Helium Ballon For Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on October 20, 2006

About a month ago I did a post on Bruce Vinal’s (Aerial Perspectives Townsend, MA) helium ballon he uses for real estate photography. Yesterday Derrick commented that he’s like to have a more detailed look at Bruce’s rig. So Bruce looked through his files and was kind enough to send us a photo of the ballon ready to fly. If you click on the cropped photo above a larger version is displayed. Although this shot doesn’t show a great deal of detail of the electronics it gives a good sense of the overall construction.

The larger version shows Bruce ready to reel out the control line with a power drill… Interesting.

By the way, in the first post I said Bruce was from Concord, MA. My mistake, he is from Townsend and the photos in the last post were in Concord, MA.

Thanks Bruce.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 2 Comments »

Use The Twilight to Cover-up Blemishes

Posted by larrylohrman on October 12, 2006

Twilight exterior shots can add drama to otherwise uninteresting exteriors. They also can hide blemishes. The twilight photo above and it’s companion daylight photo below is a great example of this dual purpose of twilight images.

The twilight version above is very simple visually. It shows the architecture through the lighted windows and barely lit roof. It also reveals the water and enough details of the dock so you know there is some kind of dock from the boat in the lower left. I like the whitish blue color of the house and boat and how it complements the yellowish light of the windows.

When you compare the daylight version with the twilight version you see there only a few essential details that are in the daylight version. The details of the decks, the grassy area around the house and the treed setting can’t be seen in the twilight version. The large tree in the right center becomes more obvious in the daylight version. In the twilight version you can’t even tell this is a wooded setting. Other unessential detail like the woodpile, the power pole and the power-lines are completely eliminated by the twilight.
This ability of a twilight image to exclude details can be very useful when you want to exclude ugly details like the street or the neighboring houses around a home.

One thing I’ve noticed about twilight shots is that you need to talk to the client or seller when using a twilight shot. Strangely, not everyone likes twilight shots. I find some of my clients ask for a twilight shot and some clients don’t like even what I consider my finest twilight shots. So be sure to talk the concept over with your client.

Usually, a twilight shot takes a special trip back so if you are photographer you’ll want to charge extra for a twilight shot. I find that there is never time to shoot a good twilight shot at the same time I’m shooting the interior.

Posted in Photo Technique | Leave a Comment »

Real Estate Photography Pricing and Services

Posted by larrylohrman on October 5, 2006

I get questions all the time about what real estate photographers should charge. I always give the following examples of what some of the independent real estate photographers around the Seattle area charge:

  1. $145 for 15 photos and a slide-show ($109 introductory price)
  2. $150 for 15 still photos
  3. $199 for 15 still photos and a flyer design

I now have a new data point. The brokerage we are with ( signed a volume discount deal with for the following pricing:

  1. A Standard Plus Tour with 5 panoramic images and 12 still images for $69.99.
  2. A Master Tour with 10 panoramic images and 18 still images for $89.99.
  3. Free audio with voice narration and music
  4. Free eTour- an email-able version of the tour (allowing portable copies to be burned onto a CD)
  5. Free flyer-building tools

This volume discount arrangement doesn’t mean that John L Scott agents have to use tours it just means that John L Scott agents have the opportunity to use tours for a discounted price.

I don’t have a feel for what kind of quality you get for this low price. For this price I don’t expect that the quality of the photography will be extremely high. A real estate photographer I was talking to recently called this the “Wal-mart” of real estate photography. However, this is the price point and services that independent real estate photographers need to be able to compete with. Real estate photographers need to be aware of the price, quality and services of their competition.

I’ve been telling real estate photographers for some time that they need to provide a tour on CD and Flyer design. This list of services confirms what I’ve been claiming. Flyers and a tour on CD are the most important uses Realtors have for photographs besides loading still images on websites. Realtors need flyers and tours on CD and usually can’t create them themselves.

Also you should be aware that these prices and services may not be the same in all areas of the US. The smaller towns may not have any real estate photographer services while the larger population areas may have many photographers competing for business. Be sure to research the specifics of your particular market. The best way to research your area is talk to the local Realtors.

Posted in Marketing Yourself | 28 Comments »

Photo of The Week – Twilight Shot of Sydney Area Home

Posted by larrylohrman on October 2, 2006

This nicely executed twilight shot was done by Con Poulos who is a real estate photographer in the Sydney, Australia area. I featured an interior shot of Con’s back on August 17. Con sent me a series of shots back in August when we were talking about natural lighting vs using a flash for interiors. An I ran across them again just yesterday and as particularly attracted by this one.

I think this is a particularly well executed early twilight shot. I like how the warm incandescent color of the interior lights complement the blues of the pool and sky. Also, the 3/4 angle (not straight on) illustrates the series of insets and decks that go from camera left to right. Con has cropped out the surrounding buildings. I know from experience that removing from view the neighboring properties and street is always a challenge.

This image would represent this property well if it were the only shot available on an ad. Although, a secondary shot illustrating the view off the balcony in the opposite direction of this shot would be interesting. I assume the opposite direction is street and not a wonderful beach.

The only short coming I see with this photo is that the outside spots are slightly distracting. I mention this since this is a problem I’ve run into myself shooting twilight shots. Some homes have more of these spots than others and they can be very bright. These are not as bad as some I’ve seen. It can be worth your while to spend some time finding how to shut them off. Sometimes they will turn off if you just stand still for long enough, i.e they have motion sensors.

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