Posted by larrylohrman on December 30, 2006
I talked to Aaron Sperling, CEO/President of vflyer.com today and as I suspected getting all the great features of vflyer.com for free is too good to be true. Aaron said they plan to “introduce a pricing structure” in the next 2 to 3 weeks. He said he would send me a press release as soon as they decide on what the pricing is going to be. So as they say in Kansas, “make hay while the sun shines” because you may have to pay for some aspects of this service in the near future.
I pointed a slight bug in the photo formatting to Aaron… if the number of photos is not an even multiple of 5 there’s a formatting problem. He said that that would be fixed in the next few days. He also invited me to give him input on vflyer.com. So if you run in to problems or have any suggestions for Aaron leave a comment to this post and I’ll pass your feedback on to Aaron.
Posted in Marketing | 5 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on December 29, 2006
Carson Coots, a real estate photographer in the Houston area just pointed out a nifty new free service www.vflyer.com that creates “virtual flyers”. That is, if you supply the photos and words and it will create a flyer that can be used either in HTML form to e-mail around to people or in PDF form to print or e-mail. http://www.vflyer.com hosts the HTML flyer for you and gives you a simple, uncomplicated URL to use any way you want. The greatest feature is that it generates HTML code that can be pasted directly in to a craigslist.org ad.
To check out how vflyer.com works I made a flyer for a listing that my wife Levi and I have in Sammamish. It took me literally less than 10 minutes to create the flyer at: http://lohrman.vflyer.com/1/index.html. I just used all the MLS photos and ad copy that I already had. Notice the simple, logical URL you get. The rollover enlargement feature is very nicely implemented… very fast with large photos as you rollover the thumb nails.
Then I took the code vflyer.com generated and created an ad on craigslist.org. Here’s what the craigslist ad looks like: http://seattle.craigslist.org/est/rfs/255219826.html. (Of coarse this craigslist link will only work for the next 7 days) Not your typical crude looking craigslist ad. I’m impressed with how good this ad looks for the amount of time I spent on it. Another interesting feature of vflyer.com flyer’s is that you get stats that show how many people are viewing you flyer. For example, I put this flyer on craigslist about an hour ago and I know that 90 total people have viewed it, 55 were from craigslist, 4 were from wordpress.com, 6 were from the vflyer.com site and 25 were from some where from a unidentified source.
As some background I should point out that craigslist is becoming a huge factor in classified advertising. So big, that many newspapers are having difficulties economically because craigslist is sucking away all their classified revenue. That’s the loud sucking sound you’ve probably heard. Classified ads are what keeps newspaper’s going. For rentals, craigslist is already hugely effective. If you have rentals craigslist is the only place you need to advertise to find potential tenents immediately. And it’s free! Except in New York city. Craig has to make some change some where. In real estate listings it is also becoming a factor. We put all our listings on craigslist as as well as most of the real estate sites. We also put on open house notices. For some background on how vflyers fits in with classified sites Here is a NYtimes background article on vflyer.com
So if you are a Realtor vflyer.com has alot of uses: craigslist posting, e-mail flyers and even printed flyers. But if you are a real estate photographer you should use vflyer.com to provide services to Realtors. Why? Won’t Realtors just use it themselves? I’m here to tell real estate photographers that 60% or over of my Realtor friends probably will never use vflyer.com. The younger web savy agents will but that’s a minority of agents. I’ve been telling RE photographers they should sell Realtors flyer’s with the photos for a long time. Now here’s a way to do it without even learning graphic skills. Just create a vflyer and send it to your Realtor clients and have them add some add copy or since you’ve already taken a good look at the home when you photographed it, do some ad copy yourself and let the client refine it if they want. Realtors don’t like to do flyer’s and would gladly pay someone to do them. Flyers are definitely a potential profit stream for RE photographers.
Posted in Marketing | 3 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on December 27, 2006
On December 15 Adobe released a free beta version of Photoshop CS3. Because I’m a Photoshop geek, I was one of the first to down load and install the new beta version. I’ve been using it for all my work since Dec 15 and I like it a lot. Come to think of it, I can’t imagine a version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements that I wouldn’t like! This is the first time that Adobe has released a beta version of PS. They must like the way things are working with the Lightroom beta process.
Just today I discovered two great new features in CS3 that will help those of us that do panoramas and multiple exposures to battle burned out windows. The first feature is “auto-align” here’s a effective little demonstration video of how the new feature works. If you’ve ever taken multiple exposures of interiors to combine good window exposure with good interior exposure you will immediately see that this will save you a bunch of time.
The second feature is”auto-blend” which blends two adjoining, overlapping photos just like those of us that make panoramas need to do when we repair stitching defects in Photoshop. Hans Nyberg, a noted panoramic photographer has posted a comparison of how this new CS3 feature works compared to other auto-blending options. A tutorial on how to use auto-blend and auto-align by Russell Brown.
I’m hooked already. I can’t live without Photoshop CS3.
Posted in Photo Editing | 2 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on December 21, 2006
Last week I was talking to Dawn Shaffer a real estate photographer and virtual tour provider in the Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR area. Dawn is the second PFRE reader I’ve talked to that is happily using Real Tour Vision. Earlier this year Sharon Nymann, a Realtor in the Key Largo area, reported that she was successfully using Real Tour Vision tours to do her own tours since Key Largo has no tour providers.
Both Dawn and Sharon reported that they chose Real Tour Vision after extensive evaluations of all the alternatives for creating virtual tours. To me it appears that the distinctive feature of Real Tour Vision is that it’s a turn-key application that supplies software, some hardware and hosting that allows you to create your own virtual tours with 360 images. Other tour providers like tourfactory.com and visualtour.com provide hosting but users have to do stitching of 360 images and figure out how to shoot 360 images. RTV appears to help you through the whole process with hardware (You can use your existing camera) stitching software, hosting and support. Shooting and stitching 360 images can be intimidating if you are learning from scratch.
I’ve never used RTV myself but RTV appears to have all the essential components of creating professional looking tours. The 360 images that you create are cylindrical (image is projected as on a cylinder) in stead of spherical (image projected on a sphere) but that is not a big issue. 99% of real estate 360 images are done in cylindrical mode because spherical images take special equipment to shoot and special stitching software to create. If you are considering getting started with RTV be sure to talk to Dawn (allaboutvirtualtours.com ) she has been using RTV for 2 years and can give you tips on how to add virtual tours to your services as a RE photographer.
Posted in Photo Technique | 4 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on December 17, 2006
Dawn Shaffer, a real estate photographer that works in the Vancover, WA and Portland, Oregon area left a significant comment on one of the Staging and Styling posts. Dawn says:
“We provide a list of tips for the homeowner to follow before we arrive. You’re welcome to “rip it off” (across the bottom you can click on the page and print it). …but surprisingly, Realtors love that we send this.”
Her list of tips she is talking about gives sellers a check-list of things to do to get ready to have their home photographed. This list is useful for both real estate photographers and Realtors to give to sellers because the list are the same things a home seller should be doing to get their home “parade ready” to go on the market.
Ideally Realtors should be spending time with their home sellers to get their home ready for market. This is should be done before the home is photographed. Dawn’s list is a great starting point for this activity. All real estate photographers could make use of a list like this to help seller know what to expect during a photo shoot and remind them that there are things they can do to insure their home looks great in the photos.
Incidentally, I like the policy that Dawn states in the list of tips that points out that the photographer will not be “assuming risk of moving furniture”. I’m guilty of encouraging RE photographers to move furniture around if necessary to get good shots but Dawn is right this should be done by the Realtor and seller. If you don’t have insurance that covers damage that you to so someone’s home you shouldn’t be moving furniture.
Posted in Staging & Styling | 1 Comment »
Posted by larrylohrman on December 14, 2006
Last Tuesday ImmerVison Released Pure Player for Flash. ImmerVision is a company that develops software for displaying interactive panoramas. Up until last week there panorama viewing software was based on Java called Pure Player for Java. I’ve been using Pure Player for Java ever since they released it a year or so ago to create tours for all our listings. Here’s an example. The Gallery page on the ImmerVision site has a series of panoramas that you can display with either Flash or Java for comparison. As you can see Flash still not quite as smooth as Java but it’s very close.
Up until recently displaying full-screen spherical panoramas has been beyond the capabilities of Flash. Back in September I did a post on a breakthrough Flash spherical panorama player by Thomas Rauscher. This was the best Flash player for spherical panoramas I’d seen to date. The movement in full-screen mode was still noticeably jerky. This jerkiness prevented some virtual tour developers I talked to from using it. Real spherical panorama aficionados are use to the silky smooth movement of QuickTime panoramas.
The important feature of Immervision’s Pure Player for Flash is it is much smoother moving than previous players. I think the reason for this is that Pure Player for Flash only works with the Flash 9 player. Flash 9 has some new graphics rendering technology that makes it possible to make panoramas move much smoother than with previous versions of Flash. To date Flash 9 only has around 40% or less penetration because it hasn’t been out for very long.
The impact of these recent Flash panorama developments for Realtors, real estate photographers and virtual tour developers for the real estate market is that we are getting very close to having full-screen spherical panoramas that will work on all machines without any downloading of players.
Posted in Virtual Tours | 4 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on December 10, 2006
Over the last two years writing this blog I’ve come to believe there are some basic aesthetic guidelines that makes real estate photography effective. I see so many Realtors and even practicing real estate photographers oblivious to these fundamentals that I feel compelled to write them down. Here they are. I’ve also added an ad type link on the right side-bar to the PDF.
I’m not sure these ten are all there are and some of these ten are more important than others but I like the number 10. God gave Moses 10 commandments, I have 10 fingers, 10 toes and our number system is base 10. 10 is a satisfying number that I can keep track of so I’ve decided to have 10 commandments too.
The one that is violated the most by Realtors and real estate photographers is #6. I don’t know why this one bothers me the most but it does. Realtors that are beginning photographers at least have an excuse but if you are charging Realtors money to take their photos you should know better. I’ve had practicing real estate photographers argue with me about this one. They claim it’s not important or looks arty. My argument is: “…look at Architectural Digest”. The photographers who get big bucks to shoot the the photos you see in AD are the best on the planet! They take days to shoot a home, hours to setup a single shot. They consider every detail. There are never any walls in AD that aren’t perfectly parallel with the edges of the photo. Why do you think this is?
What is more, you don’t have to have a level on you camera or an expensive tilt-shift lens to get the walls straight; you can do it all in a jiffy in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
So I command Realtors to not put up with walls that are not perfectly vertical. And I command RE photographers to earn you fee and take the time to get the walls straight!
Seriously, I believe that if you follow these 10 essential guidelines your photos will be much more effective.
Posted in Photo Technique | 3 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on December 5, 2006
I frequently get requests for recommendations for real estate photographers from Realtors. Also, I know real estate photographers are interested in knowing what other real estate photographers around the world are doing. So to fill this need I’ve decided to do a real estate photographer directory. If you’re a real estate photographer and would like your contact information in this directory just click on the link above called “RE Photographer Directory” and leave a comment/reply that contains your contact information. Please include your name, website URL if you have one, and an email or phone number. Also, include information on what area or cities that you serve. I’ll then add you contact information to the directory.
Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »