Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

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.

12 Responses to “Inexpensive Pole Aerial Photography (PAP)”

  1. Drew said

    I have a similar rig. I gaff taped an old tripod to the pole and it saved my donkey last week when a home I needed views for was locked tight and no one had keys. This thing hit the bottom of the third floor deck in one swing. I agree that a 300.00 camera is all I’m willing to risk on my Rube Goldberg camera on a stick. Great post… Pun intended 😉

  2. Anonymous said

    I’d love to try this….but at 16 or so feet in the air, how do you know when you’re pointing right where you want to be? I guess that’s where the lcd screen comes in….can anyone explain that a bit better?
    Great idea though….it would really be beneficial to my business!

  3. Drew said

    I just take 3 -4 shots 10 second timer , high res and crop down, it’s not an exact science (for me at least) I have done them enough times that I can eyeball it. Thats the beauty of digital, instant results. Just make sure you attach the camera securely!

  4. […] Source and Read More: Photography for Real Estate […]

  5. For my elevated photography, I use one of these 2.5″ LCD monitors that has a built-in 2.4GHz receiver;

    At the camera head, I have a small 2.4GHz A/V transmitter module. Obviously I don’t worry about audio, but I do take a feed of the live viewfinder out of my Nikon Coolpix 8400, and feed that into the transmitter. This will require some skills in electronics if you want to purchase a module and integrate that into a box, ie; wire up some connectors, an on/off/channel switch, and provide a power source (rechargeable batteryies).

    You can even buy miniature 2.4GHz cameras that have a TX built in. This may be a good solution if the lens suits mounting to a viewfinder. Do a Google, there are solutions out there.


  6. As Larry says, I think PAP is of absolute importance to external RE photography. Like many others that have gone before us, you can spend thousands of dollars getting started. Or you can spend just a few dollars using available hardware store bought poles. I went the simple rout and spent most of my dollars on a great small camera. I then spent another $100 on a great windsock pole that gets me up to 32’ within my 30 second delay camera timer. So now I can stand most anywhere, raise my pole, take a burst of shots at various angles, lower the pole, and see what I’ve got. If I don’t like it, I’ll try again using what I’ve learned from the previous shot. This is simple and very effective. Later on, if you really think you need to get up higher, go ahead and order the 50’ + pole and the remote control equipment to make it happen. With such equipment, I expect you will be spending hours, not minutes getting great PAP shots.

  7. Michael, not so.
    I can be taking pictures from my remote controlled camera atop my 40 foot pnuematic vehicle-mounted mast in under 3 minutes of arriving on site. If the ground is on an incline, then make that 3½ minutes. The pole is a great idea though.

    What exactly is a windsock pole though? Never heard of that term here, down under.
    I was going to try out a swimming pool cleaner pole (two stage extendable pole that normally has a net for scooping up leaves on the end).

  8. Drew said

    My other hat for many years has been safety management. I know this is a no brainer but no one has mentioned looking up. Swinging a 32 foot pole up in the air can bring your fragile human body in contact with things you would never normally touch. Power Lines. Don’t rush onto a site because your late etc and not pay attention. Cable lines, telephone lines, trees hiding power lines, wasp nests — OK you get the idea. Just be careful. (I used to work for the power company)

  9. Yes, they always said to us in vol. firefighter training to recite “Look Up, Look Up, Look Up” while you were raising a ladder or moving it.

  10. Answer to Adam:
    My pole of choice is the heavy duty telescoping 32′ windsock fiberglass pole. It is item# 77932 sold by Premier Kites: It costs about $100. In its collapsed state, it is about 3′-8″ long and 2″ in dia. The pole weighs about 5 lbs. Inside this package there are nine more tappered sections. The smallest (top) section has a swivel mount loop for attaching a windsock. I just cut that off with a hack-saw. I then take a bolt about 6″ long with the correct tripod thread size and cut the head off. I then wrap the cut end with duck tape and force fit it into the top cut-off end of my pole. Now the pole is just like the top of a normal tripod and you are good to go.

    The pole extends easily and quickly (less than 30 seconds: the max of my delay timer). The sections are held in place by simple friction fit (i.e., no screws/clamps, etc.). I don’t need to extend it all the way and often don’t depending on what’s needed.

    I set the camera for what I think the best exposure setting is, set off the 30 second timer, raise the pole, have the camera take a burst of 5 shots, move the pole around a bit between each shot and then lower the pole and see what I’ve got. If I think I need to a re-take, do the same thing again with whatever changes are needed. Most times I don’t need more than two attempts.

  11. That’s link is a typo, try

  12. Jaimee Holdgate said

    Camranger works great and there are no cables to run down the pole. It wirelessly transmits right to your smart phone or iPad.

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