Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for the ‘Photo Composition’ Category

Real estate photography composition

Shoot From An Angle That Shows Essential Features of a Room

Posted by larrylohrman on July 6, 2007

The following two photos by William C Hutton, Jr are posted in the flickr photogroup and are of the same bedroom.

I was leaving a comment for William on the shot below that I thought a shot that showed the head-board end of the bed when I noticed that he already had such a shot from the other direction above. I think the difference is striking and thought this is a wonderful example of how much difference a change in angle can make.

In the lower photo you can’t even be sure that this is a master bedroom. Whereas the upper photo clearly indicates that this is a master bedroom and shows off the windows and hardwood floors. I think the top photo (the one with the windows) is quite an effective master bedroom photo. Some would object to the bright windows but in this case, I find the bright windows not all that objectionable.

The point I like to emphasize is that it always helps to ask yourself : “what are the most important features that buyers would be interested in?” In this case, the windows, hardwood floors, bathroom and strong message that this is a master bedroom are essential. This is the essence of Essential #1 in my “10 Essentials of Real Estate Photography”.

By the way, hardwood floors are a huge positive selling feature these days, the more you can show them off the better. I make it a point to talk to all our buyers about what they liked or didn’t like about the photos and I’ve been amazed a the number that mentioned hardwood floors.

Thanks William for the example.

Posted in Photo Composition | 13 Comments »

Stunning Presentation of a Simple Little Home

Posted by larrylohrman on June 10, 2007


I wanted to highlight and comment on Aaron Leitz’s front shot of a simple little 1950’s style home in Seattle that he posted to the Photography For Real Estate group on flickr.

This is a great example of the challenge that most real estate photographers are faced with every day. That is, the home isn’t a multi-million dollar place that takes your breath away. Rather it’s a simple little place that unless you were hired to market it you probably wouldn’t even notice. Still you need to see and present it’s most important features in a pleasing, attractive way so that a buyer flipping through hundreds of images of homes on the web will notice this one.

I think Aaron has done a stunning job of visually presenting this simple little home. He’s chosen a three quarter view that shows some depth and is shows that this little place in what looks like an alley (very common in older neighborhoods in Seattle) with a little garage in the back. And it has a pleasant little arbor and trellis fence that could easily shield the walkway from the alley. Showing the alley for information is important but Aaron’s been careful not to shot too much alley. Also, the image is sharp and has perfect color balance (which shows crisp whites) which I’m sure will make this image stand out on the NWMLS. Also, Aaron indicates that because last week was a typical overcast, drizzly day in Seattle he replaced the boring gray overcast sky with one that has a little blue.

Nice job Aaron this single image will go a long ways in attracting a buyer.

Posted in Photo Composition, Photo Technique, Real Estate Photo of the Week | 7 Comments »

Image Editing Services For Real Estate Agents

Posted by larrylohrman on November 9, 2006

Last week I talked to John Durrant who recently launched www.doctor-photo.co.uk. I’ve been so busy with moving to Oregon that I’m just now getting around to writing a post about it. John is aiming at providing image editing services for UK Real Estate agents although I’m sure John would do image editing for real estate agents out side the UK. John’s image editing services is designed for real estate agents who are too busy selling real estate to learn Photoshop. I know many agents that know their images need some help but just don’t have the time to “climb the steep learning curve” of Photoshop.

For USD $3.33 (1.75 British Pound) per image John will correct image problems like removing cars or garbage cans from driveways, correcting lens distortion, fixing skys, grass and other image defects. John’s site also has a section on his site called “Help and Advice” that gives some pretty good advice for shooting real estate photos.

John has two other sites www.skymasterphotos.com where John sells his services of shooting elevated photos with a 56′ photomast and www.hello-photo.co.uk  (still in development as of 11/09/06) where John shows his interior and exterior photography.

Posted in Photo Composition | 1 Comment »

Same Room After Rearranging Furniture

Posted by larrylohrman on September 16, 2006

This photograph is of the same room as my last post but with the furniture rearranged so that the furniture doesn’t block the beautifully designed fireplace mantle. Also, the wall of windows is now more visible. It took about 20 minutes to move the furniture and then move it back after the shot but I think you will agree it’s worth the effort to get this shot.

This photograph shows off the main two architectual features of this room, the fire place and the windows, and the furniture only serves to give scale and style to the shot where as the photo in the previous post is more about the furniture than the room.

To get this shot I had to move the large (very heavy) table that was in front of the fire place completely out of view and the second couch out of the way. Ideally to do this kind of rearranging on a photo-shoot the home owner would be there to help or at least have given their permission to move around furniture. Also, this furniture movement was a two person job. I couldn’t have done it by myself without dragging furniture on the floor that would risk making marks on the tile.

Another detail worth mentioning making this shot my zoom was set at 24mm whereas the shot below on the previous post it was more like 16mm. The ultrawide 16mm shot acentuates perspective giving the room a “bowling alley” look which is not appealing. I think in this situation its better to show an important corner of the room instead of trying to include the whole room.

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Photograph Architecture Not Furniture

Posted by larrylohrman on September 15, 2006

I just got a comment from a Realtor that is starting to do her own real estate photography because she is dissatisfied with the work that professional real estate photographers in her area are doing. I think her comments amplify the previous post I did on “Your Mission: Photograph Homes and Rooms“. She said:

“…As a Real Estate agent that is disgruntled with some of the local options for Real Estate photographers, I am definitely to the point where I am ready to do my own shoots. It seems a far better alternative than paying top dollar for photos with burned out windows and bad composition. I refuse to pay even another dollar for a photo in which the television becomes the focal point of a room…I’d rather keep creative control in my own hands than pay someone to give me a photo of a Great Room with gorgeous architectural appointments, yet the TV still somehow entered in as the focal point…”

What a real estate photographer needs to do while shooting is to have a feel for the architecture. Think about the architecture and what architectural features are important in the home you are photographing. Shoot photos that show architectural features. Many times furniture needs to be moved out of the way because it blocks an architectural feature like a beautiful fire place. Furniture is important mainly to establish scale and suggest elegance and style. Don’t be afraid to move furniture out of the way to get the view you need.

An example of what I’m talking about is the photo above I took of my rec room recently. An astute Realtor pointed out to me that the most important architectural features of this rec room are the fireplace and the wall of windows and in this photo you can see the windows very well and I have the fire place completely blocked with furniture.

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How to Photograph Interiors – NYIP

Posted by larrylohrman on June 24, 2006

I just ran across a great little article on How to Photograph Interiors on the NYIP site. At NYIP they teach a three step method for setting up photographs:

  1. Know your subject
  2. Focus attention of your subject
  3. Simplify

The article demonstrates how to apply these three steps to shooting interior photographs. I like this approach. The article has several good examples of distractions that can take attention away from the real subject of the photograph. I’ve done past posts on many of these sources of distraction. Things like walls not being straight, burnt-out windows and odd room geometry.

This three step approach is a powerful way to sum up the overall process an interior photographer needs to be going through to create great images. I think it is also a useful framework in which to talk about the process of making good images. Many Real estate images are full of distractions that prevent viewers from focusing attention on the subject.

When I think about distractions I can’t help but thinking about the photo above I shoot of the master bath in a listing we had a couple of years ago. At the time I thought it was a pretty good shot. But when my wife Levi looked at the photo the open drawer in the lower right foreground was very distracting to her. I was so busy when doing the shot I’d not taken time to even notice. I ended up being able to “shut” the drawer in Photoshop but it took allot more time than it would have to just close it before making the shot.

Posted in Photo Composition, Photo Technique | 1 Comment »

More on Vignetting

Posted by larrylohrman on June 11, 2006

In a previous post I've discussed the photo composition use of vignetting. Vignetting is considered a lens defect. There is an interesting post over at the "Online photographer" by Mike Johnson today on vignetting. Apparently, there are vignetting issues with many lenses used on the Canon 5D. You are likely to see vignetting in most lenses if you look close enough. Some lenses have more than others. Cameras with full frame sensors (Canon 5D, 1Ds, 1Ds II) are famous for exposing lens defects.

It's worth mentioning that for those that use Camera Raw that is built into Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS2 can be used to remove vignetting or illumination falloff. The feature is on the "lens" tab. There are two sliders at the bottom that allow you to remove vignetting in the image. I am intimately aware of this feature because I have a 8 mm Sigma fisheye (see image example above) that has big-time vignetting and I routinely remove the vignetting before I stitch the fisheye images together into panoramas.

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Photo size is important

Posted by larrylohrman on May 28, 2006


Yesterday I came across a brochure presenting a new upper end home that just came on the market in our area. The photography was stunning. Large, beautifully exposed, bright, crisp photos of nicely lit interiors were printed on 100 lb glossy paper. Several of the shots took up full and half of an 8.5×11” page. This brochure was easily the best done photo brochure that I’ve seen.

After drooling over the photos for a while I thought about finding the online version of these photos so I could show them to the readers of this blog. I found some of the photos but they are so small and disappointing they are not worth showing. Even though many of the online photos are professionally done some of the exact same photos printed on the brochure they are a disappointment because they are so small (many are just 3×2”). The reduced photo size completely removes the impact and excitement of the brochure.

For me this experience demonstrates some important trends in real estate marketing photography:

  1. The impact of a photo is highly related to its size. That is, large high quality photos create high impact in what ever medium you are using. Small photos don’t have the same impact.
  2. Websites in general still don’t complete with flyers and brochures for creating impact and excitement with photography because they restrict photo size.
  3. Websites typically restrict photo size because in the recent past internet users didn’t have bandwidth enough to easily view large photos. There are exceptions such as www.buildatour.com that uses 800×600 photos.

Even though virtually all real estate websites currently restrict photo size most consumers of real estate photography that I’m aware of have high speed cable access. So what do you do about this contradiction? I believe as consumers of real estate websites you should use every opportunity to get real estate website operators and virtual tour providers to increase the size of photos. The choices of virtual tours you use are one way to get larger photo sizes than the standard real estate websites. So choose virtual tour vendors that give you large photos.

I host my own virtual tours so; I’m going to start using full screen tours. For example this is the format that I’m going to use for my virtual tours.

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Composing Your Photograph

Posted by larrylohrman on March 28, 2006


Composing a photograph is a process of finding, clarifying and framing a shot. Composing involves deciding what to include and what to leave out. To guide your decision of what include and leave out you need an idea of what is important or special about the space you are shooting. Ask yourself, “What is it that I want to communicate with this image?”

In going back and looking at some of the interior images I’ve shot over the last few years I’ve run across several that I am guilty of not thinking about what the important elements of the space are before I setup and shoot. It’s easy to be rushed by real or apparent time pressure and to just shooting first and think about the shot later.

The image above is an example of a shot I didn’t do much thinking about. This is a wonderfully designed and styled living room with a beautifully detailed marble fireplace flanked and stunning floor to ceiling windows and I’ve obstructed the view these important elements with an unimportant couch and table in the foreground. The couch and table in the foreground add little and are more of a distraction.

Thinking about this situation now I’d like to go back and move the foreground couch and table out of the way to shoot the same angle and to try shooting other angles as well. I went back and looked at all the shots of the room (only 3) and they were only slight variations of this shot. This is a case where moving around furniture could have produced a shot that better communicated the elegance of this room.

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Image Composition

Posted by larrylohrman on March 22, 2006


What’s wrong with this image? This is an image I shot this last week in a small living room with my wide-angle zoom cranked all the way out to 16mm.

While shooting, I completely missed the distracting angles that the lines in the ceiling make. This is a perfect example of how you have to be careful of all the vertical and horizontal lines when composing and framing a shot with a wide-angle lens because perspective is exaggerated. To me this shot gives the feeling there are too many angles. It feels like a room in a fun-house! The odd angle that the ceiling and ceiling tray make is a big distraction. That is, the strong angles in the ceiling draw your attention and detract from other more important features of the room. All the perspective lines converge to the corner to the right of the fireplace which is not the focal point of the room. Also, the vertical elements of the window are not completely parallel with the edge of the image. We live in a world in which all walls are perfectly vertical so when your eye picks up non-vertical wall it looks unusual and keeps traveling back to that part of the image.

The vertical lines in the window can easily be fixed in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements with the “Transform>Distort” feature. I always spend some time during photo editing making sure all verticals are in fact vertical. In the photo above it took a little more work to fix the angle problem in the ceiling. I think the photo below works better with all the crazy angles fixed. Notice where your eyes move in the photo below compared to the way the move in the photo above. I find when I look at the image above my eyes move around trying figure out what’s wrong where as in the one below my eyes easily settle on the fireplace and then move to the window.

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