Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for January, 2007

They Need Real Estate Photographers Down Here In Mexico!

Posted by larrylohrman on January 31, 2007


We were walking on the beach North of Puerto Penasco this morning and ran across a great ocean front property. I has it’s own marketing website. The setting is stunning. Right out on a rocky point on the Sea of Cortez (no big surf or bad storms because it’s protected). 4700 SF and 2.2 million USD. Very remote and fairly private. You have to go on a several mile dirt road just to get to this point. It is so remote it has it’s own desalinization unit.

This is a for sale by owner and the photography is probably by the owner. This is the kind of home I would love to photograph. There are many opportunities for really stunning interior photos here but of course the owner’s photos just barely shows what the place looks like. The photo above is mine that I took from the beach with my CoolPix. If I had more equipment down here with my than a CoolPix I’d go offer to photograph the place just for fun but I didn’t even bring a tripod… I’m traveling light.

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Posted in Real Estate Photo of the Week | 2 Comments »

Lightroom for $199 Introductory Price

Posted by larrylohrman on January 30, 2007

I’m on vacation in Puerto Penasco, Mexico struggling with the spotty Internet connections. I’m going to make a post while the wireless connection is “very low” before it goes away completely. Aaron pointed out this morning that Lightroom was just released the other day. I missed the announcement since I’ve not been online much. I was pleasantly supprised that the introductory price for Lightroom is $199. This seems well worth the price to me. I was expecting it to be $300 or $400.

I’ve been using Lightroom allot here in Mexico. It’s to much stress for me to travel with my Canon equipment in Mexico so I just brought a CoolPix with a wide-angle adapter and a fish-eye adapter. I figure if it’s stolen I can live with the results. Everyday after shooting all day I import everything into Lightroom to review the day’s shooting. I’m getting so I only open images in PS when it’s something I want to make serious photo-editing.

One of the things I like about Lightroom when traveling with my Coolpix that does not create a RAW file is that Lightroom allows one to work with JPEG files exactly as I work with RAW files from my Canon back home. That is, you use the camera raw sliders on JPEG files just as if you were working with a RAW file. If you then open in PS there will be layers or alpha channels that are automatically created to make the adjustments indicated by the sliders.

Posted in Photo Editing | 3 Comments »

Why Bother With Lighting Equipment?

Posted by larrylohrman on January 23, 2007


Recently I was having a discussion with a local RE photographer friend about the pros and cons of using an external flash as opposed to using natural light. The discussion arose because of the images my friend had seen of the Sam Hill Mansion (an old Historic Seattle land mark) that is currently for sale. My friend claims that all the images on the listing (click on the photo above to browse through all the images) are done with natural light only. I’m not sure who the photographer is.

After looking through the images carefully I think my friend is right. On some of the windows you can see evidence that the windows are a separate PS layer because the edges of the windows are not perfect. That is, if you don’t use lighting equipment to raise the light level inside the room to near the light level outside you have to combine two images, one exposed for the windows and one exposed for the interior.

I’ll have to say, the style of the Sam Hill images is distinctive and have a certain elegance. They have a desaturated, soft look. This soft, desaturated look is I think, a result of not adding any artificial light. I can see where many people would like this understated, elegant look for marketing photos. I think it is interesting to compare these images to the Thomas Bliss image I featured a few months ago. Two very different styles and a whole different level of work making each style of image.

One needs to understand the amount of Photoshop work that is involved with this technique when there are windows in the scene. For example, to get shadow detail on the near side of the bathtub (darkest part of image) and highlight detail in the distant clouds (brightest part of image) you have to use photo-editing gymnastics.

The main point I wanted to get across is that for real estate photography, there is a trade off you have to make between carrying lighting equipment and spending time in Photoshop. The less lighting equipment you carry the more time you’ll have to spend in Photoshop to get a use-able image. My guess is that Thomas travels with a pick-up truck load of lighting gear! An the photographer that shot the Sam Hill Mansion spends a huge amount of time in PS to get good looking windows.

What I advocate for Realtors and RE photographers that have to shoot a home in 1 to 2 hours is to carry an external flash unit and a tripod. Use the external flash unit most of the time to minimize the amount of Photoshop work you have to do when you get back to the office and use the tripod for that kitchen full of stainless steel appliances that want to cause reflections no matter what you do.

Posted in Photo Editing | 30 Comments »

How Would You Like to See vFlyer.com Support Video

Posted by larrylohrman on January 22, 2007

Here’s your chance to give some input to the folks at vFlyer.com. They are thinking about adding video to vFlyers and would like some input on how it should work. Aaron Sperling at vFlyer.com asks:

“…I had a questions regarding video support for Real Estate. I wondered if you or your blog readers have a perspective on this. We are looking at options to support video in our service.

There are several options.

  1. Have people host the video on external site like YouTube. Have vFlyer user enter link. We then frame the Video similar to how we frame the Slideshow photographs.
  2. Allow direct upload of videos on our service. Stream Videos in High resolution 3. Allow direct upload of videos on our service. Stream Videos in Low resolution

I wonder what people expect to pay for video hosting and how important is high resolution streaming…”

If you’d like to give input on this subject just leave a comment on this post for Aaron.

Posted in Marketing | 4 Comments »

Sizing of Photos on Real Estate Sites

Posted by larrylohrman on January 22, 2007

I’ve been “head-down” in Realtor work the last few days since we’ve been working on putting a new listing on the market. While putting on our new listing and sizing the photos it occurred to me that I’ve never mentioned my process for photo-sizing.

First of all I like to make sure photos area as big as RE sites allow. The bigger the better, but 800×600 is about the biggest that is practical for the layout of most sites so I size all my photos 800x600x72 (50% JPEG compression) and let RE sites automatically downsize at upload time. Typically they will downsize to their maximum allowable size but if your photos are smaller than their maximum they’ll leave them alone.

There’s a good reason for 800×600 pixels or an aspect ratio of 4×3. It’s because some RE sites force or assume a 4×3 aspect ratio (my brokers site www.johnlscott.com for one) and thus have display quirks if you give it photos that aren’t exactly 4×3 aspect ratio. The quirk on this site is that there are little blank lines on the top and bottom of the photo thumbnails (see the thumbnails on www.johnlscott.com/65079). I find that this size (800x600x72) also works just fine for all other uses that come up for RE images, like newspaper publication, flyers and small magazine photos. For large magazine photos of course you need bigger files.

Many cameras these days produce images with 4×3 aspect ratio but since I use a Canon body and the Canon sensor is not 4×3, getting images in 4×3 is an extra step. I just do it as part of downsizing and cropping.

Posted in Photo Editing | 3 Comments »

Sigma 10-20 Flickr Group & Lens Review Site

Posted by larrylohrman on January 16, 2007

I wanted to highlight some links that Marc Lacoste, our French contributor, passed along.

Remercie beaucoup Marc .

Posted in Wide-angle lens | 1 Comment »

Real Estate Photography With Sony A100 & Sigma 10-20 Zoom

Posted by larrylohrman on January 14, 2007


Richard Clafton working in Seabrook, Texas sent us a link to a gallery of his real estate photography work done with a Sony A100 and a Sigma 10-20mm zoom lens. Richard says:

“I have some sample images on my site over at www.riroc.com/gallery.aspx. All the images in the gallery were taken with a Sony A100 10.2mp Camera fitted with a Sigma 10mm – 20mm lens. No flash was used and all images were taken with long exposures on a tripod at ISO80.

The detail from this lens is amazing. I have some other images over at www.clafton.com (my personal photoblog) that were also taken with this lens. The exif information is attached to each and every image so you can see which ones were shot with that lens.

A recommended buy!”

This is the first time I’ve seen results with the Sigma 10-20 used on the relatively new Sony A100. Thanks Richard.

Posted in Photo Equipment, ReaderProfile | 4 Comments »

How To Find a Real Estate Photographer

Posted by larrylohrman on January 13, 2007

Several Realtors have asked me how to find a real estate photographer that works in their local area. These inquiries are what got me started compiling a real estate photographer directory but it is early in the process so the directory doesn’t cover all areas. So if you are a Realtor and you have realized you need the help of a real estate photographer how do you find one?

Here’s what I recently told Jim from the Charlottesville, Virginia area when he said:

“…I really enjoy your site – enough to know that I need to hire a professional photographer for a new listing I have; I have read your directory and have not found any photographers in the Charlottesville, Virginia area.”

First take a look at “10 Essentials of Real Estate Photography“. These guidelines will help you increase your awareness of what’s important for real estate photography. It is important for Realtors to understand what effective real estate photography looks like and why. You don’t have to be able to do it yourself but you need to know what it looks like. I also suggest that Realtors look at Architectural Digest to get a feel for what top-notch professional interior photography looks like. The hard thing to do when looking at Architectural Digest is to separate the topnotch photography from the stunning properties being photographed. Also be aware that many times AD images are selling a designer’s work instead of the property.

When you’ve got a feel for what good interior photography looks like browse through your local MLS and look at the photography. With a little practice you’ll be able to spot effective interior photography easily. When you see photography on a listing that catches your eye call the listing agent and ask who did their photography.

The fact that Realtors don’t immediately know where to find a real estate photographers indicate that RE photographers are not marketing Realtors as much as they should be. I think if you are a RE photographer you should be getting your name and website address in front of the top 1000 Realtors in your area at least 2 times a year and preferably 4 times a year. You should use both e-mail and direct mail (postcards). Don’t be bashful Realtors appreciate good marketing and will respond to it.

Posted in Marketing | 30 Comments »

Vflyer.com Releases New Pricing Structure

Posted by larrylohrman on January 10, 2007

Here is the vflyer.com pricing structure press release that I promised:

VFLYER INTRODUCES NEW PRICING PLAN

Free Service to Continue via Ad Supported Model

REAL ESTATE CONNECT CONFERENCE, NEW YORK, NY, JANUARY 10, 2007vFlyer, the first comprehensive online classified ad creation, management and submission platform, today unveiled its formal subscription-based services that includes usage-based tiered pricing. vFlyer will continue however to offer its service for free to sellers for up to 10 published flyers using an ad-supported model. vFlyer’s new subscription service plans are effective immediately.

As part of this announcement, vFlyer has also introduced new branding enhancements to its gallery tools, which turn a typical classified ad into a personalized or branded “micro-website,” so sellers can showcase other products or inventory they have for sale, as well as include their personal or company profile, pictures, professional associations and contact information.

vFlyer enables consumers, power sellers and businesses selling online to quickly and easily create eye-catching “virtual flyers” that can be posted on numerous leading online marketplaces such as Trulia, Propsmart, Jobalot, HotPads, Vast, Google Base and Craigslist among others in a few simple clicks. vFlyer’s new subscription plans include:

  • Ad Supported – Free: supports up to 10 published flyers.
  • Basic – $19.95/mo.: supports up to 25 published flyers.
  • Premium – $34.95/mo.: supports up to 50 published flyers.
  • Professional – $79.95/mo.: supports up to 125 published flyers.
  • Custom Pricing Available: contact vFlyer (sales@vflyer.com) for price quote.

“Since our beta launch in October, we’ve been actively speaking to and soliciting feedback from our users on a number of different subscription plans and options,” said Aaron Sperling, vFlyer’s CEO. “We believe that this array of options is both flexible and appealing given the value and benefits that vFlyer’s service provides to our customers.”

Sperling adds, “The traditional process to get even just one classified ad posted was cumbersome, restricted and exorbitant. vFlyer offers sellers a range of subscription options to sell and promote their goods and services in a highly appealing, efficient, unfettered and affordable way. Sellers, such as real estate professionals, are actively promoting their goods and services through the use of vFlyer’s powerful promotion and syndication services, demonstrating their desire to reach out to the broadest pool of interested buyers in a highly efficient and effective manner.”

About vFlyer

Based in San Francisco, Calif., vFlyer is raising the bar in the distribution of a seller’s online ad with its “create once and post everywhere” capabilities coupled with distribution to relevant blogs, Websites, classified search engines and ad networks. For the first time, and with a click of a button, sellers can create professional, eye-catching classified ads to better promote the sale of any product or service, accelerating the time it takes to sell items and generate income by maximizing ad exposure. For more information, visit www.vflyer.com.

Posted in Marketing | Leave a Comment »

Are vflyer.com Ads Being Deleted From Craigslist?

Posted by larrylohrman on January 9, 2007

Highlighting a comment below by Ian, it appears that for some reason vflyer.com ads may be being deleted from craigslist. Ian says his was and my example post below indicates it was deleted also. I’ve re-posted may example vflyer.com ad and I’m going to track it closely to make sure it stays on CL a full 7 days without being deleted.

Are there any other examples of vflyer.com ads being deleted from CL?

UPDATE on Jan 14: Since I re-posted my demo vflyer.com ad on craigslist on Jan 9th it’s still there. It’s still there. So the issue with vflyer.com ads being deleted that Ian reported is I believe an anomaly.

Posted in Marketing | 2 Comments »

More News on vflyer.com Today at inman.com

Posted by larrylohrman on January 8, 2007

An update on vflyer.com. Inman.com had a article today on vflyer.com that released some aspects of the new vflyer.com pricing. Inman says:

…San Francisco-based vFlyer announced the launch of its subscription-based services Friday. While the company will continue to offer free services to sellers who create up to 10 published fliers, the new subscription plan includes basic services for up to 25 published fliers for $19.95 per month and premium services for up to 50 published fliers at $34.95 per month. Professional and custom pricing packages also are available….”

I’ll have the complete press release by (Wed 1/10) when it is publicly available.

Posted in Marketing | 4 Comments »

Why Do So Few Realtors Use Virtual Tours?

Posted by larrylohrman on January 7, 2007

While browsing through the listings in our office today I noticed that out of 60 listings that our office has only the listings my wife and I have have virtual tours. This was surprising. I decided to look at a wider sample so I spent some time on our local MLS service and did some searches in the area we do most of our business (area 540). This area is on Seattle’s eastside (East of Lake Washington) and includes the city’s of Issaquah, Sammamish, Snoqualmie.

Here’s what I found:

  • Out of 445 active listings only 36 (8%) had virtual tours that agents paid for.
  • In the $300,000 to $600,000 price range (132 listings) 7.5% had virtual tours.
  • In the$600,000 to $1,000,000 price range (217 listings) 4.6% had virtual tours.
  • In the $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 price range (96 listings) 16% had virtual tours.
  • In the $1M to $5M range there is a huge mixture of types of tours services being used (13 different services for 16 virtual tours)
  • In the lower price ranges there was less variety of tour vendors but no vendor really dominated.

I’m sure there are several messages in these numbers. But think the main question is “Why do only 8% of these listings use tours?”

One possible explanation of why tour useage is so low is that for the last several years the market in this area has been very brisk. Homes have been selling without much marketing. As a result most agents think they don’t have to do much to sell properties so they don’t.

I think another explanation of the low tour usage is that Realtors are not very impressed with what they get for the money. I think this is the reason that in the highest price range where more sellers expect and demand virtual tours Realtors are trying everything almost every Realtor that used a virtual tour in this price range used a different vendor. The only vendor that more than one Realtor used was tourfactory.com, Russell Productions (a local guy) and Circlepix. No one is making much money selling tours on the Eastside of Seattle!

I’m going to start asking Realtors why they don’t use virtual tours.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 25 Comments »

Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington

Posted by larrylohrman on January 7, 2007

I wanted to highlight Aaron’s recommendation of John Harrington’s book “Best Business Practices for Photographers“. Sounds like a great Photography business resource. This sounds like useful for real estate photographers.

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Photographers Legal Guide – By Carolyn Wright

Posted by larrylohrman on January 7, 2007

Back in May of last year I pointed out that there’s a blog ( photoattorney.com ) that covers legal issues associated with photography. A few weeks ago Carolyn started shipping a book on the subject called “Photographers Legal Guide”. I purchased the e-book ($9.95) version and allthough I haven’t had time to read it from cover to cover (128 pages) I think it would be pretty useful for real estate photographers. The book gives some good basic business tips as well as covers issues like copyright, liability and contracts.

Posted in Books, Legal | 4 Comments »