Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for October, 2007

A Painless Masking Technique for Photoshop CS3

Posted by larrylohrman on October 31, 2007

The post I did on atticfire was extremely popular. I asked the guys at atticfire if they would talk about their shooting and work-flow process but not unexpectedly they declined to share any secrets with us.

There was a bunch of traffic on the atticfire post from a forum on CGarchitect (“A global community for Architectural Visualization Professionals”). Interestingly, the majority of the comments on PFRE, the PFRE flickr discussion and the CGarchitect discussion were that people felt that the atticfire images looked “over processed” yet there was more traffic on this post than almost any post I’ve done recently.

In the process of looking around on I found a very interesting masking tutorial by Scott Onstott called “Expanding Dynamic Range in Photoshop“. It requires CS3. This is another nifty way of creating a mask that can be used create a composite of two images, one exposed for the windows and one exposed for the interior. This technique is similar to the John Warner Blue Channel Masking technique that I demonstrated back in April of this year.


Posted in Photo Editing | 2 Comments »

Adobe Confirms Lightroom 1.2 Incompatibilities With Leopard

Posted by larrylohrman on October 30, 2007

Lightroom Product Manager Tom Hogarty  announced that there be an update to Lightroom in mid-November. This will bring Lightroom to full Leopard compatibility. The problems are:

  • The Print module may not load
  • The Import dialog and other dialogs can “disappear” below Lightroom’s main window.  The dialog can be retrieved by switching to another application and then returning to Lightroom.
  • Lightroom’s web module may not provide a visual update after a setting is changed
  • The left-side panels in the Develop module may not display properly.  Resizing or closing/opening the panels will correct the issue.
  • The interaction between Leopard’s Time Machine and Lightroom’s catalog files is unknown at this time. Running Time Machine backup or restore operations while Lightroom is in use is not recommended until more information can be obtained.


Posted in Lightroom | Leave a Comment » – A Resource for Real Estate Aerial Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on October 30, 2007

Yesterday I heard from Darrel Klassen over at which is a site dedicated to the various forms of aerial photography. appears to be a good resource for information on real estate aerial photography. Darrel says there are a bunch of real estate photographers that frequent the site.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 2 Comments »

atticfire – A New Approach to Architectural Photography?

Posted by larrylohrman on October 28, 2007

Thanks to Dave Moore studios for pointing out the site.

Atticfire is an architectural photography team working out of Savanna, Georgia that claims to shoot 8 spaces a day (5 shots above the industry standard). Remember, this is not real estate photography this is architectural photography where 3 spaces a day is the standard because of attention to detail and extensive lighting equipment. Still, it is interesting to look at their 5 folios of examples on their site that shows “before” and “after” shots. They say the difference between the before and after images is “styling, propping, lighting and extensive digital post-production”.

I think it is interesting to look at these and try to figure out what they are doing different. My guess is that they are doing more of their lighting in the “travel light” Strobist mode similar to using multiple strobes and using some HDR processing in some cases. Their goal is to spend less time on site (similar to real estate photography requirements) even if it is at the expense of more post processing time.

Update: Thanks for Aaron for explaining the technique they are using: “These are composite images made from multiple exposures. One of the major advantages to this technique is that it saves massive amounts of set up time while on location. Instead of setting up dozens of individual lights, one can use just a couple (or one) and light a different part of the scene with each exposure and then blend all the exposures together.”

Posted in Photo Technique | 14 Comments »

Some People Are Experiencing Problems With Lightroom Running Under Leopard

Posted by larrylohrman on October 28, 2007

Note there are two flickr threads discussing possible problems with Lightroom running under the new Leopard:

Look Here and here

So if you are a Lightroom user and are thinking of installing the new Leopard update you may want to follow these discussions before you install Leopard.

Posted in Lightroom | Leave a Comment »

Photographing VR Panoramas – Talk by Scott Highton

Posted by larrylohrman on October 27, 2007

Scott Highton, VR pioneer, gave a talk recently on photographing panoramas. If you are at all interested in VR photography this video gives a nice introduction to the subject. Scott worked at Apple whey QuickTime VR was first introduced. In this video Scott discusses the technical aspects of shooting and stitching cylindrical and spherical/cubic panoramas.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

Six Real Estate Photo Tips to Draw Buyers

Posted by larrylohrman on October 25, 2007

Cherie Irwin pointed out an article on MSN real estate by Dana Mattioli of the The tips are not new to readers of this blog but I like the quotes from buyers that these kind of articles. Also the catch phrases that reporters come up with are interesting. “pix appeal” and “online appeal” are notable in these articles.

Another related article on How to make your home stand out is also on MSN real estate. Now days sellers and Realtors are all thinking about how to make a home stand out from the competition since there are so many more homes on the market than in past years. In Washington state there are 33% more listings than there were a year ago.

Bill Bayless (reader of this blog) is quoted several times in this article. These 6 photo tips may in fact be Bill’s.

Posted in Articles | 1 Comment »

Excellent Real Estate Photography + Excellent Presentation = Big Results

Posted by larrylohrman on October 24, 2007

Rick Miner’s just passed on an example of the big results that are possible when you use great real estate photography and great online presentation. Rick says a week ago a he sold two adjoining condos on alki point in Seattle: and to the same buyer. The buyer found these properties themselves online shortly after they went on the market after the buyer’s agent failed to show the buyers these condos. The buyers plan to combine these two condos into a single mega-luxury-condo.

I think Rick’s results nicely demonstrate what is possible when you use a professional real estate photographer (Aaron Leitz) and present the images well.

Kelly Hachtel, Rick’s webmaster, confirmed that Javascript was chosen for the purpose of displaying a slide-show of big photos of each of Rick’s listings because a Javascript slide show is faster and more efficient that other forms of slide shows.

Thanks Rick and Kelly for the inside story on this great piece of real estate marketing.

Posted in Marketing, Virtual Tours | 1 Comment »

HDR vs Masking For Exterior Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on October 23, 2007

Back in April I did a post on a technique for making composite images with masking in Photoshop. The photo above is from that post and is the result of combining one exposure of the sky with another exposure of the house, foreground and trees. Of coarse the trick with this technique is creating a mask that just masks the sky and has a complicated edge with all the tree branches. Back in the original post I explain how I created the mask in this case.

Another way to solve this same problem is to use Photomatix by MultimediaPhoto. I’ve played with Photomatix in the past but never got excited about using it for my work. This has changed recently after taking some time to learn how to use the software and seeing some good looking work done by David Palermo and Uwe Steinmueller. Much of what I’ve seen done with Photomatix appears too wild and crazy for my taste and many Photomatixed photos have a “dirty” look in many of the shadow areas. David and Uwe’s Photomatix work shows that quality images with out this “dirty shadows” look is possible with Photomatix.

I decided to go back and use the same images I used for the masking image and create a HDR version with Photomatix 2.3. I’ll have to admit it took me a while to get past the frustration of all the sliders in Photomatix. My main frustration is that the preview image in Photomatix tone-mapping doesn’t always show what the final image will look like. I created the version below with Photomatix.

The first thing I noticed about the Photomatix version is that the lighting is more realistic. This it the yellow upper story of the home doesn’t look like it had the sun on the front. In the masked version I like the punch that the upper part of the house has but I must admit the clouds are a bit too ominous for a real estate image. I’m not practiced enough with Photomatix so I have all the control I want of what the final image looks like. But overall I think the Photomatix version is very usable. I end up fine tuning the output of Photomatix in Lightroom.

I will have to say it was much faster and easier creating the Photomatix image than creating the mask for the Photoshop image. Right now for me the trade off is between learning how to control the look of the image with the sliders in Photomatix and my skill at quickly creating a Photoshop mask. There is no question that for the price ($99) Photomatix can be a very useful tool.

I’m not sure I’m ready to start using Photomatix for interior shots yet. I still like the idea of being in control of the light inside.

Posted in Photo Editing | 3 Comments »

Real Estate Video: The Good Bad and The Ugly

Posted by larrylohrman on October 20, 2007

I found these 3 videos thanks to Base10 blog. I know this is going to be controversial but I think it needs saying. Video of this size just doesn’t do a good job of showing off a home. There’s nothing in homes that moves so why bother with video? People are using video just because they can not because it’s effective marketing.

The Good: Here’s a good use for video… a Realtor explaining what he can do for clients. This is effective use of video there’s just no better way to do a Realtor chat!

The Bad: These are stills turned into video with panning and video effects. This would look better if done in a 800×600 slide show with an audio sound track. There was no video camera involved in creating this video… just video production software. This technique takes some great looking stills and makes them small and fuzzy.

The Ugly: The sound track of the lady explaining her home is OK but the images are awful! The video camera moves up and down, changes aperture to adjust to different lighting in different rooms and has an awful case of barrel distortion. You could put this sound track on a monoslideshow of large still photos and have a good presentation but in video form this is just not effective! I can barely stand to watch the whole thing.

OK, I can handle it. Go ahead and beat me up!

Posted in Video | 7 Comments »

Professional Photographers Prefer Lightroom Over Aperture

Posted by larrylohrman on October 19, 2007

John Nack reports that a recent study done by InfoTrends shows that group of 1026 Professional Photographers in North America were asked which software they use for RAW processing. They reported:

  •  65.5% were using Photoshop Camera Raw Plug-in
  • 23.6% were using Lightroom
  • 5.5% were using Aperture

Even among Mac based pros Lightroom is almost 2 to 1 over Aperture.

Posted in Lightroom | 3 Comments »

Bad Real Estate Photo of The Day

Posted by larrylohrman on October 18, 2007

Justin Soles reminded me this morning of the excellent collection of bad real estate photos that Athol Kay has on his blog. I’d seen it before but some how today it really got me laughing. His count of bad real estate photos is up to 184 which is one of my favorites. Athol’s collection is good for a real laugh. Be sure to see #178 and #146. Athol also has good collection of rules for real estate photography. I love Athol’s blog he has a great sense of humor!

Posted in humor | 5 Comments »

Flash Panorama v2.2 Player Looks as Good as QuickTimeVR

Posted by larrylohrman on October 16, 2007

Last week Denis Chumakov over at released an update (v2.2) to his Flash panorama player. I think this version of Denis’s player is very significant break through in panorama display technology. QuickTimeVR has always been the standard of quality for panorama players. Quality in panorama players is means how smooth the image moves as you pan around the image particularly when the image is being displayed full screen. As a reference point here is an QuickTimeVR image I took several years ago when my grandson Morgan and I were standing under the wing of the Spruce Goose next to a SR71 Blackbird. If you maximize this window on computers that are not too many years old and drag the cursor across the screen to pan the image it moves pretty smooth. Slower less powerful machines will cause the panning to be a little jerky. This image is a 1.1MB .MOV file (QuickTimeVR) this is why it may not load instantly.

One of the significant things about Denis’s new version is it reads the QuickTimeVR (.MOV) files. This means I can display any of the QTVR files in Flash. As and example, here is the very same image as above displayed with Denis’s Flash player. To display this Flash image full screen, right click on the image and choose “Go Full Screen” and then press “esc”. This Flash panorama viewer does require Flash 9 to be installed… It will tell you if you have a older version of Flash. Flash 9 was released by Adobe sometime in late 2006 and at the time of this post Flash 9 has 93.3% penetration.

When I look at the same image displayed by these two different viewers I can’t tell any difference in quality. To me this is the biggest break through! You now get the same quality with Flash 9 (with 93.3% penetration) as you get with QuickTimeVR (67.7%penetration).

The brilliant thing about Denis’s strategy of reading QTVR files is panographers can keep using all the same stitching tools they’ve been using for years to create QTVR.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 4 Comments »

Which Wide-Angle Lens for a Canon 30D: Canon 10-22 or Canon 14mm

Posted by larrylohrman on October 15, 2007

Cherie Irwin is purchasing a new wide-angle lens for her Canon 30D and wants some advice. Cherie says:

“I’m thinking about purchasing a new wide angle lens, since I am experiencing some major distortions and focusing issues with mine after I dropped it on the ground. I took into my local camera shop, and they can’t determine what is wrong with it. Since I have the Canon 30D, I’d like to go ahead and purchase the Canon 10-22mm. It has great reviews, and I’m not certain that the 14mm Rectilinear would work well on a sensor with a 1.6x crop factor. I know, based on some of the Flickr posts, that some of the contributors work on a similar frame with a 14mm lens. But, many of my clients have complained about the long center plane and stretching that the rectilinear lens creates…my competitor uses one”

Here’s what I told her:

To me the sigma 10-20mm is an ideal RE lens for the 30D since it would effectively be a 16-32mm almost identical to what I shoot with (16-35mm on a 1Ds) and the thing I love about it is I can use it for exteriors and interiors. I try to use the 16 end only in small bedrooms and bathrooms and stay between 20 and 24 in larger rooms. Using a 14mm rectilinear (22.4mm on a 30D) would reduce your flexibility a some but it is famous for not having any barrel distortion. I would go with the Sigma 10-20mm just because of the flexibility of a zoom.

Anyone out there using a 14mm on a cropped frame body? I know Scott Hargis uses a 14mm on a Canon 20D. Cherie would like hear your arguments for using either of these two lenses. Help Cherie decide what to do.

Posted in Photo Equipment, Wide-angle lens | 13 Comments »

Smooth Slideshow 2.1 – A Free Javascript Slide Show

Posted by larrylohrman on October 14, 2007

Marc Lacoste brought up a excellent point in the comment discussion on the house boat slide show that I commented on last Friday. I was ranting about why it’s important not to use Java as a display technology for slide shows and Marc accurately pointed out that the slide show of Aaron’s house boat photos isn’t Java… it’s javascript. The way you tell is you Page source” while your browser is displaying the the slide show.

Since the whole point of which display technology to use is that you want to maximize the number of people that can see your slide show (or your client’s slide show). I’ve been promoting using Flash because Flash has 99% penetration. That is, 99% or more of the people looking at your slide show will have Flash installed on their machine. This little discussion about the house boat photos made me realize that javascript slide shows are at least as good, maybe better, than Flash because virtually all browsers support javascript and only a VERY few tech savy users will have javascript disabled in their browsers and they will know enough to turn on javascript if they want to see your slide show.

I did some research on the net and found a free little javascript slide show you can download for free if you are willing to do a little HTML/javascript editing and you have web space to host the slide show. Here is my example. For this example I’ve downloaded the free code available at and implemented it on a simple page. I kept it as simple as possible. I just followed the instructions that Jon has on the download page. Feel free to use my example as a starting point for a slide show of your own.

Bottom line is that either Flash or javascript is the preferred display technology to use if you want EVERYONE to see your slide shows.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 4 Comments »

Stolen Real Estate Photos Being Used to Build Website

Posted by larrylohrman on October 14, 2007

Adam Maurer down under at reports that the photo rip-off artists are at it again. Adam says:

I am appalled how many fellow photographers blatantly ignore copyright. My own images have shown up on yet another website purporting to be their own, to help sell their products and services. I am now going to start naming these companies so that a “shame file” can be established. The latest is Firefly Ads, based in Ventura CA. As professionals involved with imagery, we should respect copyright, no ifs or buts. Not even the basic courtesy of seeking permission to use an image beforehand, is simply a reflection of the poor ethics that these individuals have. Maybe no ethics at all.

The photos Adam is talking about are here. Adam’s excellent example of the benefit of using Pole Aerial Photography. Whoever owns (I’m not going to grace them a link) is using Adam’s example photos on the front page of their site.

I’m thinking that if a bunch of us let know how we feel (via the contact form on their site) about using stolen photographs it may discourage this behavior.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 15 Comments »

Interview With Scott Sheppard of Inside Digital Photo

Posted by larrylohrman on October 12, 2007

Today I had a pleasant surprise. Scott Sheppard of interviewed me for his “Inside Digital Photo Broadcast Radio Program” that airs on Saturdays on AM 1550 KYCY San Francisco. The interview will not air until Sat 10/20 (because a Scott Kelby interview is scheduled for this Sat). Once the show airs it will also be available via Podcast and directly from Scott’s Website. Of coarse the interview topic was RE photography, this blog and my new e-book.

I’m a regular listener to Scott’s Inside Digital Photo Podcast and never dreamed I’d be on Scott’s interview line-up with guys like Scott Kelby, John Paul Caponigro and Vincent Versace. Really, I’m not making this up! Oh well, they say, “fake it until you make it”. I noticed that Scott started interviewing bloggers this last summer when he interviewed David Hobby from I’m not really sure what got me onto this rarefied list of who’s who in photography. Maybe I’m just the only one talking about real estate photography. I’ll post the links to the audio and Podcast around 10/22 when the program is available. In the mean time catch me in the San Francisco area on Sat 10/20 on AM 1550.

This was so much fun I may go on a book tour!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Delightful Job of Marketing a House Boat Property

Posted by larrylohrman on October 12, 2007

Levi and I were just enjoying the delightful job of marketing that Rick Miner (a local Seattle Realtor who specializes in waterfront properties) after getting an e-mail flyer from Rick promoting an open house he’s having this Sunday (10/14) at his house boat listing. I just had to pass this on. Rick is a Realtor that understands the power of strong photography and uses it well. He is another Realtor that uses large slide shows for property sites. He mixes in a little levity with his rubber ducky branding. Also, the brightness of all the images (this is not easy in Seattle!) provides a positive, up-beat feeling. If I were going to be in Seattle this weekend I’d go drop in just to congratulate Rick on his marketing job.

Update: Aaron Leitz tells me he did the photography for Rick. Also, note that if you click on About Rick on his website that Rick is a former Hollywood Producer/Director… this explains his high visual standards!

Posted in Marketing, Property Sites | 9 Comments »

HiView-25: A Pole Aerial Photography System To Be Marketed In US

Posted by larrylohrman on October 10, 2007

Steve Pickett tells me that the HiView-25 Pole Aerial Photography System will soon be marketed in the US. The HiView-25 is manufactured in the UK by Focalpoint and is a lightweight (under 10kg) pole photography system that extends 7.6m above the ground and folds down to 2m length. It’s meant to be a hand-held system. The still photo version uses a Canon A640 on the pole with a remote viewer. This system sells in the UK for 1,795GBP+Vat. That’s about $3665USD. Steve says the US marketing materials are not complete yet.

This system may be of interest to RE photographers that want a PAP system but don’t feel up to doing their own integration of camera, pole and remote viewer.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 9 Comments »

Photography For Real Estate E-book Now Available For Purchase

Posted by larrylohrman on October 7, 2007

OK, the Photography For Real Estate E-book is ready for purchase and download. Just click on the link ad on the upper left side-bar. That order link will stay there.

I’m using is Paypal for order processing. Paypal will handle purchases with major credit cards or your Paypal account. Paypal will handle all the conversions from non-US currencies to US dollars. I’ve already had non-US orders so I know that part is working.

Also, I’ll be adding a “PFRE E-book” page just below the blog header similar to the “RE Photographer Directory Sign-up” page as a place to give me feedback.

Posted in Books | 6 Comments »

Photography For Real Estate – My E-book Close to Release

Posted by larrylohrman on October 5, 2007

Since before I started doing this blog two years ago I’ve been writing a book on real estate photography. The E-book has the same name as the blog: Photography For Real Estate. I am finally finished with it and I’ll be turning on the book order page this next Sunday 10/7. I’ve promised this book to so many people it is embarrassing that it has taken me so long to finish.

My goal has been to do is to distill the essential concepts from this blog into book form. I think this E-book will be a good resource for people getting started in real estate photography or perhaps those that have been the business for a short time. It turned out that doing this blog has been very helpful in refining the book content and understanding the scope and diversity of what people are doing in real estate photography. I’ve put a the Table of Contents and introduction here for potential buyers to review.

Since the potential readers for this book are all over the world just like the readers of this blog I’ve decided to make the book and E-book, that is downloadable in PDF form (5.3 MB). Also, since a large percentage of the potential readers of the book are likely to find this blog I’ve decided to for now only sell it on this blog. Perhaps I’ll sell it through Amazon and other outlets later on.

I’d be interested in feedback on how readers feel about E-books and if you feel this is a convenient way to purchase and read books. I have thought about making a laser printed Unibound (transparent front and back cover with hardbound spine) version available but since I cannot create these in any volume I’ve decided to not do this now unless I get a significant number of requests for it. Since none of the reviewers that have seen the book have complained about the E-Book form I’m assuming it works for most people.

Posted in Books | 13 Comments »

Free Flash Gallery or Slide-Show That Displays Full-screen

Posted by larrylohrman on October 4, 2007

Jim Dhaem over at pointed out a dfgallery, a free Flash slide application that he likes. The interesting feature with this application is that it will display a slide-show full screen if you give it large images (1600×1200). You can see it in operation at To get it to show full-screen click the little icon on the lower right side of the control bar at the bottom of the slide-show.

With this slide show you have to edit an XML file with a text editor instead of using it from within Lightroom like the last two Flash slide-show applications that I pointed out. Another unique feature is that this slide show can get it’s images from picassa or flickr albums.

Posted in Virtual Tours | 2 Comments »

How to Stack Images Shot Without a Tripod

Posted by larrylohrman on October 2, 2007

Darren over at posted a tutorial that is if interest to RE photographers that are not using Photoshop CS3. The tutorial, called Stacking Images shot without a Tripod illustrated how to stack and align images using PTAssembler (shareware) or Hugin (free).

The problem is if you want to shoot several images so you can blend the sky from one image with the foreground of another image you need to have the two images perfectly registered (aligned pixel for pixel). There are several was to do this:

  1. You can shoot RAW and open the image twice once to get a properly exposed sky and a second time to get a foreground exposure. I know, there are many folks out there that choose not to shoot RAW.
  2. You can use a tripod and shoot bracketed images.
  3. You could use the PS CS3 auto align feature.
  4. You can use the technique described in the tutorial to align the images. The benefit of this technique is that it can be done with free software and no tripod.

Of all of these I still like 1. the best. With this technique you can extract multiple exposures many stops apart in exposure from one RAW image. When shooting panoramas when  this technique  is invaluable.

Posted in Photo Editing | 8 Comments »

Web Appeal Appears to be Replacing Curb Appeal?

Posted by larrylohrman on October 1, 2007

We had an open house at our new listing yesterday. The Realtor holding it open for us said “…pictures on the Internet really good (all four family’s through said it was the Internet pictures that got them there)…” I wasn’t there so no one can accuse me of asking visitors leading questions about the photos.

There’s a couple of significant things about having open house visitors talk about internet pictures bringing them to the open house.

  1. Ever since I started working in real estate in 1999 the conventional wisdom about open house traffic (and we documented this over and over in years past) has been that the primary source of traffic for open houses was “drive-bys”. That is, people that are driving around the neighborhood, see your open house signs and come in to see the house.
  2. The secondary source of traffic was been newspaper open house ads. The newspaper has been completely eliminated from the process since there is no way you can put a home on the market on 9/26 and have an ad in ANY newspaper about it by 9/30. You can’t request an ad until you have a MLS number and you can’t get a MLS number until you put it on the market. You can’t even get a MLS number assigned early for a future listing more than 24 hours ahead.

I understand that this is only one data point but think about it; gas is expensive so buyers don’t just idly drive around the neighborhood any more and newspapers have data that is two weeks old (that’s the flow time that it takes to get an ad in the newspaper through our office process) so if you were looking for a home how would you approach it? Use the Internet right?

Posted in Marketing | 6 Comments »