Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Example of a Well Done Property Website –

Posted by larrylohrman on March 29, 2007

I just got a e-mail ad for a property in Snohomish (North of Seattle). I get 20 to 30 of these things a day as all Realtors on the Northwest Multiple Listing. The photos most of them put you to sleep. This one grabbed my attention. All the photos are on a property website:

I think this is a stunning example of 1. A good property website and 2. Stunning real estate photography. If you look closely at the images they have the look of blended images and/or HDR processing. The website of the company that did the site (Vista Estate Imaging) indicates these images are done “with natural light”. There are many images that have indications of some manual blending and many have indications of HDR processing. All in all though, this is one of the best jobs of blending images I’ve seen.


19 Responses to “Example of a Well Done Property Website –”

  1. aaronleitz said

    Vista Estate Imaging is the same company that shot the pictures of the Sam Hill Mansion. The owner, and main photographer, has been shooting for a while now and pretty much owns a large percentage of the market here in Seattle. He gives agents what they want for a low price. He’s a nice guy too.

    I agree that they have their HDR down to a science. Maybe layering HDR on HDR? These particular images look better than most Vista Estate Imaging shots, which can be hit-or-miss (Many of their images have uncorrected barrel distortion, keystoning, and weird colors). I think the “iFlyer” thing is a new service they are doing. It’s pretty slick.

  2. These images look much better than the ones on the Sam Hill Mansion. This could have a lot to do with the fact that these images were shot on a much brighter day. Many of these images have a nice sparkle to them.

  3. mvus said

    Photos loook great and the flyer looks really nice. The only problem is many use widescreen laptops these days (outselling desktops) so with verticle thumbnails you have to scroll down to see/clickthem then scroll back up for each image which would get tiring after a while. Horizonal thumbnails would probably work better thought it may mess up the layout

  4. Clean merging, but suffers to a degree a case of the ‘flats’ in the exterior portion of the view, almost like a computer illustration drawing. I guess that, for me at least, I’ve never quite liked alot of HDR merged images cause they seem to loose photo-realistic quality.

    Then again, we are talking RE images, not an art gallery quality image, and these photos are outstanding in that sense!

  5. Mvus,
    Good point. For the reasons you mention and many others I see no reason for EVER using portrait mode photos for properties unless you are shooting for a magazine cover or full page portrait mode flyer. I find mixed portrait and landscape images very distracting and of no positive benifit.

  6. Well, I agree that the HDR processing can look pretty bizarre. I’m definitely in the “light it on-site” camp! That said, he’s doing a lot of things right. Importantly, he’s avoiding one issue that’s all too common – shooting from standing position! Almost every room will benefit from shooting from a kneeling or squatting position – putting the camera about 30″ to 45″ off the floor. This emphasizes the floor more than the ceiling (making the room appear more spacious), and in my opinion, more readily mimics the human eye’s perception of the room. Check the living room shot in the listing we’re talking about.

    Of course, there’s always exceptions, especially kitchens and baths where you need to show the countertops.

    Another think I like about the website generally is the tabs, and the inclusion of Google Earth. A link to driving directions is also good, I think. A weird note was that the house comes with an art collection?? Huh?

  7. I think that the idea of a property website with such great depth that includes a “property-specific” web address is a FANTASTIC idea, and most any agent would be thrilled with the end result…including the photos, despite the HDR processing. There are critics, of this type of processing, I know. However, for an agent that is marketing a “view” property, this would be simply an outstanding option, especially given the fact that the photographer’s fees are reasonable (based on the information posted on their website).

    I mean, think about it…if you included a Professional Property Website with Professional Photographs in your listing presentation, what seller wouldn’t HAVE TO HAVE IT?!? You would be a shoe-in over your competitor who probably places little emphasis on Internet advertising and takes their own property snapshots with her point & shoot camera! Or, it would give you the extra power to justify a higher commission. Among a pool of agents, I think you would find it difficult to find one that would find fault with the photos or the site.

    Also, I must wholeheartedly agree with the comment made by Scott Hargis. I am constantly coming across photos taken by professionals, so to speak, and the photos are taken from a standing position. This especially throws you off if the photo was taken from the perspective of a taller than average person. Despite the subject of the space in the room, it simply makes the image look unbalanced and from my 5’3″ perspective it gives me the feeling that I am looking into the space from a flight of stairs. Unappealing, at best.

  8. Note that the Art Gallery tab and home theater tabs are ads. They are both well done ads. They feel more informational than ads.

  9. aaronleitz said

    I really like what they have done with this property site. They are going to make a lot of money with this iFlyer thing.

    I think it is also worthy to note that the content on each page is simply a single .jpeg or .gif image inside a table. This way, you can design and arrange text and images and links, without doing a lot of complex html and css work. Create your content in illustrator or photoshop and you’re done. All the links are just map boxes. Also, the entire website is all simple html (no flash, java etc) except for the 360 panoramas which use an applet. Anyone can view this website…even those running MS Vista! (shout out to Cherie) πŸ˜‰

  10. I think too that even if they are impressive, the HDR images seems unrealistic, and this is distracting. Even if the average viewer doesn’t know the processing, the unusual image unconsciously distract him, and he’s going to ask himself what is not right with it.

    As Larry said many times, the goal of a professional is to avoid distractions to let the viewer immerse himself in the image, and I follow him blindly on this. It’s the same problem with too much interior light. The compromise is hard (if not impossible) to attain.

    Note that they aren’t really high dynamic range images, but HDR compressed to fit in the normal dynamic range of screens and prints. A real HDR would mimic at least 20 stops light range of the reality.

  11. mvus said

    I like the photos and think they do give it a wow factor. However, I can see that if it was done all the time and everyone started doing it there’s a danger people would quickly get bored with them as they do look artificial

  12. I have to admit that I prefer lighting at the spot – but these are some of the best HDR examples that I have seen. Someone looking for a home is not going to give even a second thought that the images look a little contrived. We as photographers tend to look at things as photographers and analyse the pictures whereas the new home looker is looking at homes and what qualities they have. Stunning Views comes to mind with these images – I almost don’t bother looking at the rooms.

    The part that blows my mind is that he can do this so inexpensively – Prices opening at $200.00 and incremental additonal costs that are as low as quoted boggle my mind.

  13. Drew King said

    First let me say the site and the photos were stunning. I bear no issue with the photographers work in this medium. But…..

    I showed the page to a few agents around the office and the general feeling was it looks fantastic, but it looks more like artwork and not a real property.

    I pride myself on my “big skies” that the agents and owners love and they are usually reworked hard in some cases and I get the ocassional, “that looks fake”… the pictures here were just too beautiful. Our broker where I hang my hat most of the week has a real issue with altered pictures as the whole truth in advertising issue has been a problem in the industry down here in NJ.
    I really think you need to remain true to the location, show what you see, not what you want to see. If you need to edit out trash cans or a badly placed parked car thats cool, but I really think that I should be able to reproduce the look of a home with the buyers eyes, when they visit the property. Thats the best description I can offer.

    Just my 2 cents

  14. And, that’s where the difference in what a camera is able to capture and what the human eye actually sees differs greatly. In a situation like this, without HDR processing or artificial lighting, you simply cannot capture in a single shot what the human eye is actually able to observe. Yet, our eyes are TRAINED to know the type of images that a camera produces, and that is how we are able to determine which images look a little “fake” and which ones are “natural”. In contrast, if you were the owner of a property that boasted vibrant & vivid views like those displayed in the images that are in question, you would be thoroughly disappointed to see your Real Estate agent market your home with photos that washed out your views. You would want the images to show the breathtaking landscape that you so clearly see through your windows every day! I must say that the things I see with my eyes are much more incredible than anything I could capture through a lens. I am ALWAYS amazed by the sky and vibrance of nature, and I can hardly wait to take a picture of it…though, it is never the same.

    Tell me, if the photographer’s website didn’t almost scream that they utilize HDR processing to produce these images, would you “really” know the actual method the photographer used to capture these fantastic views? Without knowing anything about the photographer or, might you have guessed that he used special lighting techniques to produce the end result?

    Perhaps it is because view properties are so few and far between where I live, but I still think that an agent would be very proud to be able to produce such fantastic results for her client! And, the homeowner would want EVERYONE to see the awesome property site that was created just for his home!!! And, that’s my take.

  15. Ted Barrow said

    As a Realtor, my job is to present a home as well as possible, to attract the maximum number of potential buyers to a property. If this presentation doesn’t attract buyers, then I’m not sure what does. If the National Association of Realtors had an award for “best presentation” of a property, this should certainly be in consideration.

  16. it’s easy to recognize the processing once you saw a few examples:

  17. Mark said

    When I started shooting real estate in the Seattle area my enthusiasm was somewhat tempered by my perception that this company (Vista Imaging) had a lock on the entire city and I wasn’t going to get in. Fortunately, that has not been the case. Almost, but not quite. I find some of his work stunning but, as Aaron says, from my observations, it’s somewhat hit and miss. This may be the work more of his associates then the owner himself. And some of my realtors have commented that they don’t like the unnatural look of his work. But, I’m sure there are lots of them who prefer his work to mine. (No accounting for taste πŸ™‚ ) I’ve noticed that he will get the view out the window come hell or high water, whether it’s appropriate (subjective, I know) or not. Sometimes putting to much of the exterior in the windows can distract from the interior view, imo. In the shoots I’ve done where the view has been critical, I’ve never failed to capture it well with the use of artificial lights. However, I always keep a tripod in my vehicle and I’m going to start carrying a hot light with me because I almost got into trouble on a recent view property but fortunately with PS work it came out really well.

    As someone else commented. I’m puzzled. How does he do it for what he charges? That’s got to be very time consuming.

  18. […] tours which are a product offered in the Seattle area by a company called Vistaestate. I did a post last March on an earlier version of this companies property site. At the time we had quite a discussion about […]

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