Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for February, 2007

How To Build A Aerial Photography Mast

Posted by larrylohrman on February 28, 2007

 

VDeStefano

Vince De Stefano in Dingley, Australia sent me a description of how he built his Aerial Photography mast that he has mounted on the rear of his car. I’m not sure why but I don’t hear of these kind of masts being used outside of Australia and Europe. Perhaps the masts are not as available in other locations. Here is Vince’s description:

“The 350d connects to the laptop via 4 PORT USB hub, I use a 20m USB cable with a booster to connect it to the laptop. I use software from breeze systems to control the shutter and I have full control over aperture, ISO and exposure. This software means I can upgrade the camera to any of the Canon SLR’s or to a canon power shot giving me full control over the zoom.
I hope to upgrade the USB cable to a wireless USB extender when one becomes available, this would mean no more messy cables!

“The mast is made by a company called Clarke mast and was purchased from a armature radio operator for about AU$250 (very good deal!) new they cost about AU$5000+ new

“I have a 12v air compressor that pumps the mast up, it runs of the car battery.

“The pan tilt head is controlled via the USB port on the computer and interfaces via a board made by a company called Parallax (www.parallax.com) The pan tilt head is from a company called www.servocity.com.

I have taken the software from breeze and the software from Parallax and made simple visual basic based program that uses the commands to control the pan tilt and shutter.

The only disadvantage to my system is that I don’t have live video, So I have to take a photo then adjust the pan tilt head and take another, I may fix this later by adding a USB web cam to the view finder so I can frame up shots faster. I got most of the bracket parts for the tow bar mount cut out of steel with a CNC laser cutter. All up including camera and laptop the system cost just over Au$2500″

Thanks Vince!

Updated on 3/1/07:

Vince says: “The controller board is Stock#: 28823 Parallax Servo Controller (USB). For the pan tilt (not sure on part No), its just a 2:1 ratio from Servo City, I used plastic gears but would recommend people buy the unit with the metal gears.”

Posted in Aerial Photos | 4 Comments »

CD Slideshows Are Good But DVD Slideshows Are Better

Posted by larrylohrman on February 27, 2007

J Dhaem makes a good point, “CD’s are nice, but DVD’s are even better.” The thing I like about DVD slideshows is that almost everyone has a DVD player at home and all someone needs to do is pop it in the DVD player and they can see your slideshow on their big screen TV. The DVD format has the potential of getting your photos in front of more people.

The question I have is what is the best software for creating slideshows on DVD. I know there’s some out there because I’ve made DVD slide shows several years ago. At the time it seemed like a struggle but there must be an easy way to do it these days. If you Google “DVD slideshow” there are tons of software that comes up.

Can anyone recommend a good DVD slideshow maker?

Posted in Virtual Tours | 10 Comments »

Customize Lightroom Flash Slide Shows

Posted by larrylohrman on February 25, 2007

Thew, busy weekend. Just got back from a ski trip in Whistler, BC with great snow AND I had a new grandchild (Avery Lohrman) this morning. Can’t wait to get down to Salem, OR to meet him!

To continue the discussion from the previous post about Flash slide-shows. The Blue Fire blog has some tips on how to customize the look of the Flash slide-shows that Lightroom creates.

I think that Flash slide-shows are significant in real estate photography for several reasons:

  1. They look good and typically have nice smooth transitions between photos.
  2. People can’t steal your photos by right clicking and saving the photo.
  3. The slide-show format with thumbnails and a “play” button is a very intuitive way to display a series of photos.
  4. They make a nice virtual tour of for real estate listings.
  5. You can easily burn CDs with Photoshop Elements 5 or from Lightroom created tours.

All in all I think they are the preferred form of real estate virtual tour. You can either create your own customized tour with Lightroom if you have web space some place to host them or

Posted in Lightroom, Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Boost Your Revenue by 25% With Custom Slideshows on CD

Posted by larrylohrman on February 20, 2007

Real Estate Photographer Cherie Irwin‘s two comments on the previous post are worth highlighting. Cherie says says she has increased her revenue by 25% just by offering custom slide-shows on CD.

I can attest to the fact that both sellers and buyers love photo CDs with a slide-show or virtual tour on it. I’ve been doing this for years for all our sellers and many times buyers actually ask for them too. Being a Realtor I give them away to get referral business in the future and because I like doing it. Real estate photographers be aware that Realtors are always looking for a nice little gift to give their sellers at closing so if you can offer Realtors a snazzy little CD with all the photos you took of the home and have it packaged nicely like Cherie describes you can sell your photos again on a different medium.

I think packaging for kind of product is important. Cherie’s comment describes how she prints on the CD. This is a nice touch but if you don’t have the right kind of printer to do this you can also print CD labels and/or CD cover labels. What I do is use mini-CDs (3.5″ in diameter) that come in little plastic CD covers. I print an insert for the the CD cover that has a front shot of the home, it’s address and our phone number and logo on it. One seller liked the CD I gave him so much he ask for one for each of his 5 kids.

Cherie creates her CDs with Photoshop Elements 5 but don’t forget, you can also burn a cd like this for free with Picasa 2.

Posted in Photo Technique | 1 Comment »

Lightroom 1.0 New Features

Posted by larrylohrman on February 20, 2007

From Ohs Remodel

Yesterday downloaded the Lightroom 1.0 trial version to use until the distribution CD I ordered gets here. I was pleased to find so many new features have been added since the last beta version.

I particularly like the straighten feature that allows you to rotate an image. There’s still no way to distort an image to fix converging verticals but maybe in a later version. I don’t know if the lens correction controls are new or I’d just not noticed them before.

The shots above are of an neighbor’s remodel project that we looked at yesterday. I’d never noticed before that my Canon 16-35 zoom has so much light fall-off (vignetting) at the edges when zoomed out to the widest angles but seeing images in the “before and after” viewing mode it’s immediately obvious. It was easy to quickly fix the problem with the lens correction slider.

I also like the way Adobe has improved the format of the Flash web slideshows in the Web module. Much nicer than the beta.

Posted in Lightroom, Photo Technique | 5 Comments »

Nick Stubbs’s Property Photography Site

Posted by larrylohrman on February 20, 2007

I need to highlight a comment that Hojin Chang a Realtor in SW Orlando just made so that everyone sees the link he pointed out. Hojin points out that there is a excellent free Property Photography e-book/site on Nick Stubbs’s All Things Photography web site. This property photography site has a huge amount of information on it. It has many excellent examples of how to deal with all the classic interior photography problems. Thanks Hojin for the link!

Posted in Photo Technique | 13 Comments »

Lightroom 1.0 is shipping – 30 day trial available

Posted by larrylohrman on February 19, 2007

As of today Lightroom 1.0 is shipping. John Nack’s blog has a a good summary of links and info on the release. There is a free 30 day trial version for download.

Posted in Lightroom | Leave a Comment »

Real Estate Photography Resources

Posted by larrylohrman on February 18, 2007

Last week I got several good reader suggestions for products that real estate photographers and Realtors might want to use. I’ve decided to make a page to list all these reader suggested resources and things that I comment on. This page can be accessed directory by just clicking on the “Resources” link in the horizontal link bar just below the main banner of this blog.

If  you have something you’d like to add to this list just leave a comment on this page in the comment form at the bottom. As time permits I’ll go back and add the resources I’ve commented on in the past.

Posted in Resources | 4 Comments »

Lightroom Can Streamline Real Estate Photograhy Workflow

Posted by larrylohrman on February 16, 2007

The more I use Lightroom the more I’m convinced that it has the potential to nearly take over a Real Estate Photographer’s work-flow. I know, I’ve been chastized by my Mac user friends for not including Aperture... if I had a Mac I’d try it out.

I’m anxiously awaiting delivery of my copy of Lightroom 1.0 which from all reports has several features that the beta versions didn’t have. The most significant is cloning and healing for spots. It looks to me like Lightroom 1.0 is only missing one feature essential for Real Estate Photographers. That is image distortion required for making sure walls are perfectly vertical. However, if you are careful, and use a bubble level or carefully watch the verticals in relation to the edge of the image frame in the view finder you don’t have to straighten walls after the fact. I’ve gotten so used to straightening walls in Photoshop that I don’t even pay much attention to keeping them perfectly vertical when shooting. I like straighting walls when I have a vertical guide to help get it perfect.

For now if you need to straighten walls you’ll have to continue to do it in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Hugin.

The other image adjustment Lightroom won’t deal with is barrel distortion correction. That is, if you use a wide-angle converter or have a wide-angle lens that has barrel distortion you need to correct it. All zoom lenses have barrel distortion but if you don’t have straight lines near the edge of the frame you usually won’t notice it. As I’ve mentioned in other posts PTlens is an effective way to deal with barrel distortion.

I just love the wonderful interface that Lightroom has for fine tuning white-balance, exposure, color etc. This interface combined with the quick and easy interface for selecting and cataloging images is superior to anything I’ve used. For those who shoot JPG you get all the same benefits as if you were shooting RAW.

For all the latest tips and info on Lightroom see:

Posted in Photo Editing, Workflow | 2 Comments »

Use Google Checkout to Collect From Your Clients

Posted by larrylohrman on February 16, 2007

Susanne Hayek reports that she is using Google Checkout to collect fees from her clients. She says:

“…thanks to one of your readers for mentioning google checkout. I had been trying to figure out how to accept credit cards without the hefty fees. I signed up for it and as soon as I let my clients know, they started using it!”

Checkout her pay online page

Posted in BusinessProcess | Leave a Comment »

Windows Vista Mucks With Your Metadata?

Posted by larrylohrman on February 13, 2007

Stephen Shankland over at Cnet reports that “…Windows Vista and the Microsoft Photo Info tool can cause problems with metadata or the image itself.”

I’m an old Mac user (1985 to 1992) that moved to Windows because for a long time our local MLS did not support Macs. But now days that’s not no longer the case. To me the Mac Powerbook Pro is looking better and better.

Posted in Photo Editing | 2 Comments »

Making Every Pixel Count – Article in New York Times

Posted by larrylohrman on February 12, 2007

Marc Lacoste just pointed out an outstanding article to me that was published in yesterdays (Sunday Feb 11, 2007) New York Times.

This is the kind of article that Real Estate Photographers should make copies of and pass out to their clients. It’s a sales presentation for hiring a Professional RE Photographer. This also great material for incorporating into RE photographer marketing materials. Realtors can also use it to explain to sellers why the use top quality photography to market their home.

The quotes it uses are not surprising to any of us but there’s an added credibility that being in the NY Times. Some of my favorite are:

“IN real estate, a picture can be worth more than a thousand words. Much, much more. When selling properties online, agents and Web designers say that the pictures buyers see of houses and apartments for sale are often the first — and sometimes the only — chance for a seller to make a good impression.”

“Eighty percent of people across the country who bought a new home last year used the Internet while house hunting, and they rated photographs as the most useful tool in their search, according to a survey of buyers and sellers “

“she uses only pictures taken by professional photographers, because “if things look shoddy or unprofessional, not only are buyers going to find the property unappealing, they’re going to associate you with being shoddy and unprofessional.

Updated on 2/13: as Scott points out in one of the comments below be sure to see Vivian Toy’s multi-media presentation that gives examples. Click here or on the link on the left side-bar of the article.

If you want to send Vivian a thank click on her name to send her an e-mail.

Posted in Marketing, Staging & Styling, Virtual Tours | 11 Comments »

Useful Features of Picasa2 For Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on February 10, 2007


I have a hard time keeping up with all the free network-centric software that Google is acquiring and creating. It’s been a while since I’d looked at Picasa. Picasa is a photo-editing and management that Google acquired several years ago. Back when I used blogger.com for this blog I used an older version of Picasa because it had a pretty easy way to post photos to blogger.com.

Recently I took a trip to Phoenix and Mexico. While staying at my sister-n-law, Jeanne’s house I shot some photos of her home in Anthem, AZ so she would have some marketing photos to use when she starts renting part of her home. I wanted to put them on a online gallery for her to use. Since I had all the photos in Lightroom I decided to try the Web module of Lightroom to create a flash gallery. I didn’t like the layout of the galleries that the Lightroom beta version created because if you make the photos 800×600 the thumbnails are off the screen. I hope this is improved in version 1.0.

While looking around for a better format that was quick and easy I stumbled across the new feature that was added to Picasa2 that links the Picasa2 application with a free online photo sharing feature of Google at www.picasaweb.google.com . You need a Google account, but that’s free too. Everything at Google is free! Someday after everyone gets hooked on this stuff they are going to start charging then what? Anyway, the desktop Picasa application seems remarkably like a light-weight, free Lightroom. I don’t know what came first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to give up Lightroom 1.0 for Picasa. Once you get a Picasa album like you want it on your desktop you just upload it to an online gallery on picasaweb.google.com with one click (here is my gallery). This could be a easy and free way to deliver photos to clients or to just have clients review your work. The files on picasaweb are downsized significantly but that’s to be expected. However, I like the way the slideshow feature works and you can jump into the slideshow at any slide with a link like this. You get the first 250 megabytes of picasaweb storage free.

Now before you start criticizing my photos, these were done with my CoolPix-4300, no external flash and no tripod, just using the “Best shot Selector” CoolPix feature. That’s why some are not as sharp as you might like. I did use a WC-E63 wide-angle converter. The downside of the converter is it creates significant barrel distortion (requires -8 lens correction in PS) that I took out in Photoshop CS2 (you could also remove barrel distortion with PTlens).

Now for the killer feature for RE photographers and Realtors. With any desktop Picasa2 album you can create a CD with the slide show on it to give or sell to clients with two clicks. You just click on the “GiftCD” button at the top right and then click “burn CD”. The resulting CD will auto-start the slide show when you load it. Very cool! This is significantly easier than other methods I’ve described for creating Slideshow CDs.

Posted in Photo Editing | 1 Comment »

Another Name For Virtual Tour – Property Website

Posted by larrylohrman on February 8, 2007


Susanne Hayek, a Real Estate Photographer in Arcadia, CA sent me a request to be in the RE Photographer Directory today and I was looking at her website and noticed several interesting ideas I though others could benefit from.

The first is the concept of a property website. For $300 she creates a web site for a property with it’s unique registered domain name for 6 months (here is an example). Her property web sites consists of a slide show of photos of the property along with the agents branding. She also supplies a unbranded version for use on the MLS. The interesting aspect of property websites is that they are an “upper-end” name for a virtual tour with a registered domain name. For those RE photographers with a few HTML skills this is a good way to add to your basic services. Susanne says she has competitors charging $600 for property websites.

Another feature of Susanne’s business model I like is charging by the hour. When you are charging by the hour if then when additional opportunities come up during the shoot (like consulting on staging) you get paid for your time. Susanne says she started charging by the hour because “…that I was spending a lot of time staging and clearing clutter and cleaning that I wasn’t getting paid for”. I think this is a great way to provide a higher level of service and make sure you are getting paid for it.

The third thing that caught my eye on Susanne’s site is the way that she makes use of PhotoSite.com to provide a large gallery of her work for the site. I’m a big believer in using extensive galleries to promote your work and using an external site like PhotoSite.com or flickr.com or one of the many other gallery sites is an easy way to do this.

Thanks Susanne for all the great ideas!

Posted in Marketing, ReaderProfile | 8 Comments »