Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for August, 2007

Review of A New Benchmark In Property Sites/Tours

Posted by larrylohrman on August 31, 2007


I was googling around yesterday and ran across an interesting example of what I think is a state-of-the-art property site or tour. I think property sites and tours are morphing together into a single entity since it has become so inexpensive to purchase domain names these days. Why not get a domain name for a tour since it’s only a few bucks a year.

I want to point out a few points about these (i-Flyer) 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 the HDR only approach that this company uses so I won’t revisit that subject other than to say I think they do a good job of HDR and there only a few weird looking images.

I think this property site/tour has some significant features that are not unique but I keep seeing them over and over on tours I find appealing:

  1. The design is simple, elegant and straight forward.
  2. The navigation is clean and simple showing you thumbnails all the possible images and allows you to decide what to look at when instead of automatically marching through the photos and not allowing the viewer to control the slide show (I call this latter approach the Everett Fenton Gidley approach). Gidley’s contention is that it’s better to do everything for viewers. If they have to do anything they are likely to leave.
  3. The images are BIG. 800×600 or bigger. Big images can create more impact than small dinky ones. Small image tour and sites are a design left over from back in the days when bandwidth was a big issue. I just tested the effective speed of my Comcast connection and it’s usually around 6 megabits per second… so I want BIG images! Most real estate viewers are no different than I am.
  4. Notice that it looks like they are selling advertising to local companies… tasteful yes but still ads. Or maybe the business of a friend of the founder.

The images are by-in-large pretty good looking. There are some inconsistencies; the fourth image from the top has a serious converging vertical problem. This distracts from the otherwise very professional look of the images. A few of the image have the “dirty shadows” so characteristic of HDR images.

The last thing I want to rant about is the mixed use of portrait mode and landscape mode. I haven’t talked about this much but I’m becoming more and more annoyed by this phenomenon. I have nothing against portrait mode photos if used in an appropriate design that requires portrait mode, but I feel mixing them with landscape mode in a horizontal mode slide show frame is bad design. The horizontal images are displayed big and beautiful and the vertical ones are scrunched to fit the height of the horizontal frame. Yuck! The vertical mode photos are frequently vertical not because vertical is the only way to convey the image but because the photographer was oblivious to how the image was going to be used. I this particular slide show that has so many images I’d rather they just left out all the vertical images. Nothing would be lost and It would result in a much more pleasant viewing experience!

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Posted in Propterty Sites, Virtual Tours | 13 Comments »

The PFRE Flickr Group is an Amazing Oppurtunity

Posted by larrylohrman on August 30, 2007


I’ve been pleased an amazed at the way the Photography For Real Estate flickr group has been working. This last weekend we went over 300 members on the group. I want to publicly thank Aaron Leitz for proposing this idea and helping me get it started. Earlier this year I’d been looking for a way to be able to discuss photos when Aaron pointed out how to do it. It was just push I needed at just the right time.

I think it is an amazing opportunity for photographers just getting in this business as well as those more experienced. There is not many other places one can see such a high quality of real estate photography and at the same time be able to pose technical questions to the photographer. You may not realize it but there are many top professional real estate photographers participating in this forum.

There is an amazing amount to be learned from just studying the images and reading the posters technical comments. Like Aaron’s image above (where are the 4 strobes?) There’s even more to be learned by posting a few images for feedback. If you haven’t posted images yet don’t be bashful everyone is remarkably polite.

In addition, you can post questions on the discussion part of the group.

Thanks Aaron for a great idea!

BTW, check out Aaron’s new site redesign at www.aaronleitz.com. This is a good example of how to display and promote your work!

Posted in PhotoDiscussion, Video | 5 Comments »

Malcolm Waring’s Comments on PAP

Posted by larrylohrman on August 28, 2007

Malcolm Waring sent me the following comments on his experiences with PAP:

  • Now I wish I would have taken the time yesterday to photograph the rig.
  • I was getting aggravated trying to shove the pole up in the air and point it in the right direction, so the first thing I got was a monitor.
  • I picked up a Coby 5.6″ LCD at “Gateway Cosmetics and Electronics” in Newark when I was working in that area recently (“Electronics” isn’t really part of the name but darned if there isn’t a large amount of space dedicated to it in that store).
  • You may need some adapters depending on what your camera has, and just threw out the video cable that comes with the TV. Mine got a discontinuity after about 4 uses.
  • Also, be advised that I shorted out one of my rechargeable eneloop batteries. They are fat and there was a sharp solder blob in the battery case.
  • Next I wanted to go higher so I found 4′ sections of military tent pole cheap on ebay. I shove the window washer pole into the open end of one of these sections and connect 4 more sections to it. That’s 28′ which is all I can walk around with. You can add one more for 32′ but that’s about all you can swing up, any more and the fiberglass will break on the open end. I think these are meant to be put together straight up, with two people.
  • When I was looking for poles, I see that people in the UK use 11 to 13 meter carbon fiber carp poles for PAP. I can’t for the life of me figure out how you would use a 45 foot fishing pole, or even why you would go to so much trouble for carp (yuck, muddy tasting). They must either use it to get to the bottom of the pond, or use it to fish on the neighbor’s fenced in property. I don’t know.
  • OK, so now 10 seconds really goes fast with all this stuff so I had to rig up a remote shutter release. No IR or anything available on the Lumix FX-01, and I wasn’t ready to hack into it. I may do something using radio controlled servos later but there is a lot involved with that so I went mechanical.
  • Basically, I took a flat piece of vinyl that goes across the top of the camera and bent a paper clip that hooks into where the wrist lanyard goes. Then I glued a blob of vinyl on that flat piece that sticks down and pushes on the button. On the other end, I tied a piece of mason twine that goes down to where I can pull on it.
  • I happened to have some 1/4 cross sections of vinyl picket fence pieces that slide over the end of the camera and keep the lever lined up.
  • I have some rubber band bungee things from MPEX that keep the video cable from flopping around and they also hold 5 more paper clips that are bent 90 degrees like fishing rod eyes to guide the shutter release string.
  • Works like a charm. I can walk and turn and take shots as I please.
  • I still have to figure out a way to clamp the tv to the pole. I am also working on a PVC stand that should let me get up to 50 ft but it’s low priority.
  • I’ll try to get some shots of the rig and post some photos I took around the house later this week.

In the meantime, see these links:

See this link for the TV:

RCA cable:

Poles:

Example:

Thanks Malcolm for all the details.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 4 Comments »

Content Aware Image Resizing – I Want this in Photoshop!

Posted by larrylohrman on August 28, 2007

Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch shows a small video of an image resizing concept that researchers Dr. Ariel Shamir and Dr. Shai Avidan have come up with. I’ll bet this is in Photoshop soon.

8/28 late Update: John Nack over at blogs.adobe.com/jnack/ reveals that Dr. Shai Avidan one of the researchers that came up with “Content Aware Image Resizing” described in the video above has joined Adobe in the Newton, MA office of Adobe… Hmm, I wonder what he’ll be doing?

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Adobe Offers Elements Users an Upgrade to CS3 for $299

Posted by larrylohrman on August 27, 2007


Cherie Irwin just pointed out that Adobe is offering to upgrade Elements to Photoshop CS3 for only $299 This is a savings of $350! If you are an Elements user and you were dreaming of CS3 better take advantage of this!

Notice that in the lower right corner of the e-mail that Cherie got is says to use Promotion code C5B775F3 and the promotion only lasts through 9/16/07.

Thanks Cherie.

8/28 Update: Apparently the promotion code above works only once. If you are a Elements user that wants to do this upgrade you’ll probably have to call Adobe customer service to get your own unique Promotion code.

Posted in Photo Editing | 10 Comments »

Inexpensive Pole Aerial Photography (PAP)

Posted by larrylohrman on August 26, 2007

Elevated shots of the front of homes are extremely important. More important for some homes than others but an elevated view always seems to help. For years, I’ve been limited to standing on the top of my truck. The roof of my old 1995 Tacoma was permanently concave from this activity. For some reason, I’m having a hard time starting the denting of the roof of my new 2006 Tacoma. Besides standing on the cab roof or even using a ladder in the back doesn’t get you all that high.

So my discussion with Mike Martin last week about how he does his pole photography got me going on building my own PAP rig. Today I finished the lash-up you see above with just stuff I had laying around. Well, I had to buy a 3/8×20 bolt but that was only $1.69.

I started with a window washing pole that telescopes to 16′. I’d noticed that the head on the top of my Manfrotto 3016 monopod unscrewed so I found a bolt that would screw into the bottom of the Manfrotto head and it turned out that the 3/8 bolt nicely screwed into the top of my window washing pole. Just like I had planned it that way. Now all I had to do was attach my old Nikon CoopPix 4300 (I’m not ready to put my 1Ds and 16-35 on this thing… call me a chicken) and I had a camera on the end of a 16′ pole.

This is similar to the pole that Mike Martin uses. Except he doesn’t use the monopod head on his. He takes the camera mounting bolt directly into the top of his pole. Also, he uses a 32′ windsock pole. Something like this one. Mike said that he uses the 30 sec timer to trip the shutter. Much to my surprise using the 30 second timer works OK. I feel I could get by just fine using the 16′ pole and the timer. This is a remarkably easy rig to use.

The above is my first PAP shot in my backyard (Couldn’t do it in front because of the sun angle). I’m always amazed at how little elevation it takes to appear really high. This is only 16′.

After I’d built my 16′ pole rig I was reading the Photography For Real Estate flickr discussion group and noticed that Malcolm Waring was talking about a similar PAP rig that he’d built. Malcolm said that he rigged up a mechanical remote shutter release with a paper-clip and a $60 TV down-link from his camera. This sounds good to me! I think I can come up with a mechanical shutter release for next to nothing and since I only have $1.69 invested at this point a $60 portable LCD TV would make this a pretty smooth machine.

I think PAP is going to become a permanent part of my process!

Update: If you don’t want to guess at what you are shooting you can purchase a small portable LCD TV and plug the video-out from the camera (many compact cameras like the CoolPix 4300 that I’m using have a video-out jack) and run down the pole with a long cable and plug in to the video-in jack of the LCD TV. I’ve not done this yet but Malcolm Waring talks in the flickr discussion group that I cited above about doing this on his rig. Hopefully he’ll tell us how his works.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 12 Comments »

And Wed Was Nikon Day – A Full Frame Nikon!

Posted by larrylohrman on August 24, 2007

It’s that time of the year- Wed Nikon announced 2 new bodies and several new lenses. For interior shooters the most significant announcements have to be the new full frame D3 and the Nikon AF-S 14-24 mm F2.8G ED

I’ve always felt that Nikon would eventually break down and offer a full frame DSLR. I’m just puzzled why it took them so long. The combination of the 14-24mm and D3 looks like a sweet combination for shooting interiors.

Notice that both the D300 and the D3 have CMOS sensors similar to the D2X. The Sony/Nikon relationship where Sony is making the CMOS sensors for Nikon must be working well.

Update on 8/25: According to Ron Galgraith, Nikon designed the D3 sensor but won’t reveal who it’s manufacturing partner is… maybe Sony, maybe not.

Posted in Photo Equipment | 8 Comments »

The Demise of Professional Photographers?

Posted by larrylohrman on August 23, 2007


I ran across an article by Andrew Brown in The Guardian (newspaper in the UK) via John Knack’s blog, titled We all helped to speed the demise of professional photographers. It talks about the commodification of photography.

This brings to mind the complaints that I hear all the time from RE photographers that so many Realtors don’t want to spend the money to hire a professional because they think they can do just as good or good enough. Yet I see very few RE photographer websites or RE photographer marketing that demonstrate the difference between a good RE image and a bad one. I think examples like the one above from Vivian Toy’s article last February in the New York Times are needed to educate Realtors and others about what a good professional real estate image looks like.

Mike Martin sent me a good example below:

The large background image is one he took with his Canon SD430 perched on top of his 32 foot windsock pole and the small overlaid image is one a Realtor took. To me this is a striking example of what you pay a professional for. In his case the equipment that he uses is unique and worth his fee. In other cases it’s the lighting experience you bring to the table or just having a ultra-wide-angle lens. In many cases it’s just having a good eye for composition.

In any case, I think if you demonstrate and sell with examples the strengths you have, Realtors will see that photography is not a commodity.

Posted in BusinessProcess, Marketing Yourself | 11 Comments »

realestateremix.com – Directory of Real Estate Marketing Professionals

Posted by larrylohrman on August 22, 2007


Carson Coots over at realestateremix.com is putting together a directory of real estate marketing professionals. Carson describes his inspiration for the site as follows:

“Working in the marketing department for a major home builder, I have had a very tough time locating qualified vendors to outsource our marketing initiatives to… and although I would like to do it all myself, I simply don’t have enough time to get it all done. It really is all about who you know. And I didn’t really “know” anyone who specializes in these marketing services that also understands the unique needs of home builders and real estate. Searching Google for “real estate photography Houston” or “real estate web design Austin” will result in scattered and somewhat useless results. Also, many photographers have pure flash sites, and they don’t rank well. So I decided to make my own directory of marketing professionals who specialize in the real estate industry. I hope to create an outlet for companies to get more reach, while simultaneously providing a great resource for marketing executives to find specialized talent”

Carson’s invitation to join the directory is here. In addition to the directory realestateremix.com has a forum and a podcast.

I notice that there are already some Photography For Real Estate readers signed up in the realestateremix directory.

Posted in Marketing Yourself | Leave a Comment »

Monday 8/20 Was Canon’s Day For Announcements

Posted by larrylohrman on August 22, 2007

As the dpreview.com weekly newsletter said, Monday was Canon day since no less than 11 new Canon products were announced. Perhaps the most significant to real estate photographers was the Canon EF 14 mm F2.8 L II USM.

I associate this lens with real estate photographers because several accomplished real estate photographers I know use it. This lens is famous as a rectilinear lens that from what I hear it is one of the handful of ultra-wide-angle lenses have no barrel distortion. This means you don’t get those curved lines near the edge of the frame that have to be corrected. This is a pricey lens ($2100 list) and is a redesign of the current Super Wide Angle EF 14mm f/2.8L USM Autofocus Lens .

If you have seen Scott Hargis’s images on the Photography For Real Estate flickr group you may have noticed from the EXIF data that the currently available version of this lens is what Scott regularly uses for his real estate shots. Of coarse this lens is effectively a 22.4mm lens on small sensor camera bodies like Rebel XTi/D20/D30/D40 etc.

Posted in Photo Equipment | 1 Comment »

vFlyer Now Allows You to Turn vFlyers Into a Property Site

Posted by larrylohrman on August 18, 2007


Wow everyone is getting into the property site act! vFlyer.com Introduces Domain Plus – Search for, Purchase and Host Domains and Build Single Property Websites. Domain Plus is a new service from vFlyer that enables subscribers to quickly find, purchase and host Single Property Websites directly from vFlyer. With Domain Plus, subscribers can purchase and attach any number of available domain names to their flyers (micro-site) or galleries!

Posted in Marketing | 2 Comments »

Julius Shulman Photos this Month on ArchitecturalDigest.com

Posted by larrylohrman on August 16, 2007


This month ArchitecturalDigest.com has images by the great Architectural Photographer Julius Shulman. These photos are a retrospective look at photos of architecture designed by the famous architect Richard Neutra.

Is that a light reflecting in the far window? We have to cut Shulman some slack… he didn’t have Photoshop to fix reflection problems.

Posted in Great Architectural Photographers | 3 Comments »

Good Use of HDR

Posted by larrylohrman on August 16, 2007


Sometimes HDR is the only way to get the shot outside. Photo by Maciek Duczynski. Here for more photos by Maciek Duczynski.

I find it interesting that you can spot a HDR image instantly… HDR processed images have a strange unearthly look that is unmistakable.

Posted in Photo Editing | 2 Comments »

New Tech Blog for Realtors: Geekestateblog.com

Posted by larrylohrman on August 14, 2007


There was a new Zillow founded blog called Geek Estate Blog, launched on back on July 31 that is intended to bring together real estate professionals and tech professionals who are interested in learning how technology can increase their business.

I’ve recently been invited to be a contributor to geekestateblog.com in the area of Photography so I’m planning on doing a real estate photography post over there about once every two weeks. This will be a great opportunity for me to have an even wider audience and spread the word to more Realtors about improving the level of their photography. The first post is going to be today 8/14.

Posted in Resources | 3 Comments »

Strategies to Stay Within the Law When Editing Digital Photos

Posted by larrylohrman on August 13, 2007

I hesitate to do another post on photo editing ethics again since we have pretty much beat this subject to death in the recent past. However, the Real Estate Trends + Technology Magazine of the California Association of Realtors have a pretty definitive article by John Edwards, titled Have you crossed the line?

I think this is a great summary of the issues on this subject. And I feel like it pretty much summarizes the conclusions that we collectively came to on the ethics of real estate photo modification.

I think the statement in the article by Teresa Hoffman, president of the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, a Montgomery, Ala.-based organization that represents governmental agencies and other organizations that issue real estate licenses, regulate real estate practice and enforce real estate law gets at the essence of the issue. She says:

“Remember, if a consumer claims they relied on a representation as real and true, and it turns out to be an enhancement and false, the licensee will have to defend the action. Why would anyone wish to incur this risk?”

That is the Realtor is the one that is at risk of having to legally defending themselves from a potential law suit and if they are smart they will error on the side of caution.

Posted in Legal, Photo Editing | 3 Comments »

Agencylogic.com – a Turnkey Way to Build Property Sites

Posted by larrylohrman on August 11, 2007


On my morning bike ride this morning I passed a real estate sign that had a URL of a property site (www.568inverness.com) so when I got home I checked it out to have a look at who in the neighborhood is building property sites. Much to my surprise it was done by a Realtor.

It was done by a local Realtor himself using a site called agencylogic.com. This is a pretty inexpensive way for a Realtor to put up their own property site or for even less technically oriented Realtors (there are plenty Realtors that choose not to do this themselves) a real estate photographer could add this service into their photo shoot. I like this better than many virtual tours. It cost $50 for a single property site for a year with the price decreasing down to $35 per site if you build 25 property sites. I think it is important for people out there doing property sites and standard virtual tours to know what the competition is.

Posted in Resources | 4 Comments »

Postlets.com Another Way to Create Ads for craigslist, etc

Posted by larrylohrman on August 6, 2007

Also while I was gone, Karl Hoelscher pointed out there is a new site available called www.postlets.com that is similar to www.vFlyer.com. Both of these sites help you create professional looking HTML for real estate and other classified ads to post on sites like craigslist.org, ebay.com, edgeio.com, propsmart.com,vast.com and many others.

Thanks Karl.

Posted in Marketing | 6 Comments »

A Comparison Between PTlens and Photoshop CS2 Lens Filter

Posted by larrylohrman on August 6, 2007

I’m back from a relaxing several day break at the Oregon beach (with very little Internet access).

While I was gone I heard from Drew King who pointed out an interesting article by Alson van der Meulen that compares PTlens to the lens distortion filter in Photoshop CS2 (not sure if this is the same one that is in CS3). This article relates to the post I did last week on alternatives for lens distortion correction. The bottom line is that Alson finds that PTlens is as good or better than the lens distortion filter in PS CS2 and easier to use because PTlens uses the EXIF data to recognize what lens was used to shoot the image and apply the appropriate correction where as PS CS2 is a trial and error visual correction.

Thanks Drew.

Posted in Photo Editing | Leave a Comment »

Alternatives for Professional Looking Delivery of Photos to Clients

Posted by larrylohrman on August 1, 2007


Recently I was talking to reader Jeff Cospolich about ways to setup an online delivery method for his real estate photography clients. As usual I was promoting my do-it-yourself method of getting space at a web hosting company and using website maintenance application like Dreamweaver or Lightroom to create galleries and e-mailing links to each client’s gallery to them.

Jeff pointed out that there are easier ways these days if you don’t want to get up-close and personal with HTML and FTP. There are at least a couple of websites that are aimed at providing photographers gallery space and a mechanism for delivering photos to clients.

One is www.pixoasis.com. This site allows you to upload galleries of photos and then e-mail links to the galleries to clients. The first 50MB are free and more storage space is charged. Functionally this does the job but it doesn’t allow you to have your own domain name and make the whole thing look professional. I just created a free account ant uploaded some photos to pixoasis.com and e-mailed myself a link to the gallery and after 30 minutes I still haven’t gotten the e-mailed link. Hmm… probably a temporary problem.

www.bigblackbag.com on the other hand allows you to create a template website that is gallery oriented and is setup so you don’t have to have website maintenance applications. This hosting service has most of the standard web hosting services: 3 e-mail accounts, free domain name, 6 named sections, download section, use their templates or create you own all for $17/month.

I think the significant thing about this service and others like it is that it allows you to create a professional looking web presence and a minimum expense. Having a gallery of your work online that looks professional is essential for building a business these days. It’s much easier than it used to be.

Posted in BusinessProcess | 11 Comments »