Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for the ‘Aerial Photos’ Category

Photos taken from an elevated point of view.

AerialPan Imaging – 360VR And Video From RC Helicopter

Posted by larrylohrman on December 1, 2007

Back in the spring of 2006 I did a post on the Aerial photography work that Tabb Firchau does. I also did a post on one of his first 360VR shots that Tabb had done from his RC Helicopter. Well Tabb has taken his aerial 360VR to the next level. His business is now called AerialPan Imaging and his site has some very cool aerial 360VR, video and still shots. He has some awesome 360VR shots over the Seattle waterfront, Puerto Vallarta, New York, Waikiki and Maroon Lake near Aspen. I love these unique images!

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Aerial Photos | 4 Comments » – 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 »

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 »

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 »

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:



Thanks Malcolm for all the details.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 4 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 »

Add True Aerial Photography To Your Revenue Stream

Posted by larrylohrman on May 30, 2007

Vince at reports that he’s added a new revenue stream to his real estate photography business- true aerial photography – the kind where you get in a real airplane. Vince says:

“I have started offering aerial photos from an aircraft. Basically I hire a plane for $250AU per hour and I can shoot about 7-8 properties in an hour, I charge the developers and agents $200AU per site. To get the jobs I just ring around all the agents weekly and tell them that I have a photographer going up next week and we have some slots available, do they have any work they want done?  I also tell them that our normal rate is $380AU per shoot for a standalone shoot or if they go onto this standby list I will do it for $250AU, The word is starting to spread now, last Friday I did 20 jobs and was in the air for 3 hours, I spent about 3 hours on processing and uploading, We grossed just over $4500 for that days work”

Not a bad days work! Vince says he does this mainly for large developers that have a shopping center or large development. However, this kind of aerial photography works for upper-end residential homes too. In the last year or two we have sold several homes where the seller had a nice aerial shot of there home. What some one in our area has done is photograph a whole neighborhood of homes on a speculative basis. Then they come around door-to-door with proofs to show home owners, taking orders for various size prints. The shot above is  a photo one of our clients had purchased.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 6 Comments »

Draganfly R/C Helicopter: Inexpensive Aerial Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on May 6, 2007

John Sembrot just pointed out an post from last year that talks about the Draganfly R/C helicopter that would be great for doing sub aerial real estate photography. This build it yourself rig is only $2500, only one fourth the cost of most electric helicopters that I’ve heard about.

If you trace back the links to the company that sells the kit (Draganfly Innovations, Inc ) they have a great little video on their site that describes the Draganfly.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 3 Comments »

Zigview Remote View finder and Trigger for Mast Shots

Posted by larrylohrman on March 13, 2007

Scott Hargis pointed out an interesting little piece of gadgetry. The Zigview S2 lets you plug a remote viewer with a 40′  extension into the eye-piece of many digital SLRs. This looks like an easy way to put you camera on a long monopod or mast. It looks to me like this remote viewer and shutter release for my Canon body would cost under $400. Now all I have to do is find a mast or tall monopod.

Thanks Scott.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 6 Comments »

How To Build A Aerial Photography Mast

Posted by larrylohrman on February 28, 2007



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 ( The pan tilt head is from a company called

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 »

Helium Ballon For Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on October 20, 2006

About a month ago I did a post on Bruce Vinal’s (Aerial Perspectives Townsend, MA) helium ballon he uses for real estate photography. Yesterday Derrick commented that he’s like to have a more detailed look at Bruce’s rig. So Bruce looked through his files and was kind enough to send us a photo of the ballon ready to fly. If you click on the cropped photo above a larger version is displayed. Although this shot doesn’t show a great deal of detail of the electronics it gives a good sense of the overall construction.

The larger version shows Bruce ready to reel out the control line with a power drill… Interesting.

By the way, in the first post I said Bruce was from Concord, MA. My mistake, he is from Townsend and the photos in the last post were in Concord, MA.

Thanks Bruce.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 2 Comments »

Aerial View Real Estate Photography: Comment Highlight

Posted by larrylohrman on September 27, 2006

Fred from made a comment on the subject of using a mast to get a aerial view that deserves highlighting. Fred said:

I use a SkyPod ( both indoors and out. It’s a monopod that extends up to 10′. Gives you the opportunity for some interesting shots, especially over cars, etc… if necessary.

I’ve been thinking that it would be nice to find a solution that was higher than just holding your camera over your head on a tripod but not as high and expensive as Adam Mauer’s 40 foot telescoping mast. I like the size and cost of the skypod. I think I’ll explore this size of mast more. I’m thinking I can get my camera almost 20 feet high with this mast while standing on the roof of my truck.

Posted in Aerial Photos | Leave a Comment »

Aerial Views: A Big Factor in Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on September 26, 2006

Adam Mauer from proposed that the solution to my problem of a home that is not photogenic that I was talking about in my last post is to shoot an aerial shot from a mast. Adam sent the street level example above and the aerial shot below that he took from his telescoping mast at a height of less than 40 feet.

I’m becoming a believer in high-angle low aerial photography. Adam’s examples above, Mark Lacoste’s example and Bruce Vinal’s example of what you can do with fairly simple techniques of getting your camera 10 to 30 feet off the ground are very compelling. I think being able to do aerial photography is a very important component of real estate photography. As many as 10 to 20% of homes I see in traditional front shots can benefit from an aerial view. A shot like Adam’s example above is extremely effective.

As far as re-shooting the front of my home we are selling, I lost most of my motivation for reshooting any of the photos since I think we have a buyer. Three days on the market is all I can handle. Being a home seller is hard work! Now I have to focus on starting to pack.

Posted in Aerial Photos | 2 Comments »

Aerial Photos From a Helium Balloon

Posted by larrylohrman on September 12, 2006

Today Bruce Vinal of Concord, MA showed me some of his recent aerial  real estate photos that he took from a helium balloon. My favorite one is the one above that was taken from about 75 feet. Bruce says:

“I’ve got about $2,000 into my equipment right now but that number is sure to rise. I bought bits and pieces all over the web and fabricated the rest.The actual balloon is from Southern Balloon works I use a Nikon CoolPix-7900. It’s a good, lightweight (very important) 7 mega-pixel camera. The Nikon is mounted on a homemade aluminum frame that, using r/c servos, can pan tilt and trip the shutter. I bought a video down-link from Black Widow AV that allows me to see, on the ground ,what the camera sees in the air”

It seems to me this technology (a helium balloon) is a great alternative for doing real estate photography since it is relatively inexpensive compared to a mast or heli-cam or flying around in an airplane and it seems like it would be versatile and easy to operate.

My comment to Bruce was that I’d be inclined to use a camera that you could put a wide-angle adapter on so you could get a wide view without having to go up so high. I don’t believe a CoolPix-7900 has lens threads so you can add a wide-angle converter… I could be wrong but I think 38mm is the widest angle you can go with the 7900.


I was wrong the CoolPix 7900 does have a wide angle adapter It can go down to 16 or 20mm.

Posted in Aerial Photos, Photo Equipment, ReaderProfile | 5 Comments »

Photo of The Week – 1.5 Million Dollar Aerial Shot

Posted by larrylohrman on September 8, 2006

This shot is the primary shot for a rural home on Seattle’s eastside listed for 1.5 million. It demonstrates a very effective solution to the classic problem of a wonderful home that you can’t see because it is so surrounded by vegetation that every angle from the ground is blocked. As you can see from the photo above, there’s just no way to get a good shot of this home from the ground. There is a secondary photo on the listing taken from the ground on the driveway side but it doesn’t reveal the real class of this home.

I don’t know the details of how this shot was taken but it is clearly an aerial shot perhaps done with a heli-cam but it cost the agent at least $350 or perhaps much more depending on how it was shot. It is well worth the cost because it clearly shows the home’s setting, the unique design, the interconnecting decks and the story high wall of windows. This angle and renders the home very attractive where as all other exterior shots in the listing show very little of the home. This is the kind of shot that will attract the right kind of buyer. In the overall scheme of things a shot like this can be a major factor in selling a home.

I give this shot two thumbs up!

Posted in Aerial Photos, Real Estate Photo of the Week | 1 Comment »

Telescopic Mast – Another Way to get a High View

Posted by larrylohrman on August 4, 2006

A few days ago I heard from another Australian reader Adam Maurer in Brisbane. Adam uses a custom built telescoping pneumatic mast to get a high point of view for real estate shots. He attaches the mast to a trailer hitch and is able to hoist his remote controlled camera 40 feet in the air. Take a look at Adam’s website to see his mast and camera setup. Adam describes his mast as follows:

“It’s a 12m (40 foot) QT12 “Clark Mast”. Clark is based in the UK, and virtually invented the pneumatic mast.

To purchase a brand new QT12 here in Australia is just under AUD$7,000… but I picked mine up second hand off a fellow amateur radio operator for $800. It’s 10 years old, but works a treat, especially after I gave it a basic overhaul & clean (taking less than 1 hour).

It slots into a standard “Hayman Reece” type towbar hitch receiver.
I have an ARB 12V air compressor that lifts it up (with 2.5kg camera
payload) in about 65 seconds.”

This is taking Marc Lacoste’s idea of holding your camera on your tripod over your head to the next level!

Adam does standard interior photography and panoramic photography as well as specialized 40 foot aerial shots.

Posted in Aerial Photos, ReaderProfile | 4 Comments »

Fast, Cheap Technique for Getting a High Point of View

Posted by larrylohrman on May 11, 2006

Marc Lacoste of Nantes, France contributed an important technique in a comment on yesterday’s Helicam post. I think it is important enough to repost so no one misses this discovery. Marc says, “I’ve found a trick for getting a high point of view, fast, cheap and suitable for crowded locations. I extend my tripod the max, set a ten seconds timer for the shutter, grab the feet of the tripod and stand it arms extended over my head. The camera is 4 meters tall and there is an interesting perspective”.

This is a remarkable difference in raising the position of the camera by 4 meters. The feel of the image changes from a “down in the bushes” feel to a Helicam” feel where you can see much more of the attractive features of this home. The difference between not being able to see the tile roof to having the beautiful orange tile roof as a major part of the photo is striking.

Marc, thanks for sharing this great technique!

Posted in Aerial Photos, Photo Technique | 12 Comments »

Real Estate Photos from a Helicam

Posted by larrylohrman on April 22, 2006

Have you ever had difficulties getting a great front shot for a real estate photo? I have that problem all the time. I keep wishing I had a “jetpack” that would let me hover 50 to 100 feet off the ground so I can get good angles to shoot from. The best I’ve done is stand on the top of my truck.

There’s another way. Hire a photographer that has a Helicam. That’s a radio controlled helicopter with a camera mounted on the bottom. The above photo is by Tabb Firchau of . Tabb has a electric helicopter with a Canon EOS 5D mounted on the bottom and for around $350 he will get the best possible exterior angle for you. Tabb also shots video, panoramas and spherical panoramas with his Helicam.

It turns out there are many aerial photographers around the world that use low altitude remote controlled aircraft to shoot stills and video. A directory of photographers that provide this service is at:

Posted in Aerial Photos, Photo Technique | 8 Comments »

Use Google Earth as your Sky Camera

Posted by larrylohrman on February 12, 2006

Think of as your digital camera in the sky. Google Earth gives you a satellite photo of any given address. This is a great feature for marketing properties. You can save the google earth image as a JPEG file for use just like a image taken by a digital camera. The image is just like you were flying over the property at 600 feet. At 600 feet you can see each of the flower pots on my back deck! We currently have two land listings that I superimposed a plat map over a satellite photo to help show characteristics of the property (see the accompanying image).

Posted in Aerial Photos, Workflow | 3 Comments »