Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for the ‘Photo Technique’ Category

We’ve Moved to PhotographyForRealEstate.net

Posted by larrylohrman on January 26, 2010

GoToPFRE
As of December 2007 this blog has moved to PhotographyForRealEstate.net please come see us there.

Posted in News, Photo Technique | 1 Comment »

atticfire – A New Approach to Architectural Photography?

Posted by larrylohrman on October 28, 2007


Thanks to Dave Moore studios for pointing out the atticfirearchitecture.com 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 »

More on Straightening Walls

Posted by larrylohrman on September 24, 2007


Lots of good comments on the last post about straightening walls. There are several of the comments that are worth expanding on.

The best way is to get the wall right while shooting. Absolutely, do everything you can to get the walls straight while shooting like using a tripod and using the right and left frame edge as a reference. Many find a tripod limits the places in the room you can to shoot. That is, its hard to get in those tight corners with a tripod. Some have suggested in comments earlier this year that they like a mono pod with small legs on the bottom. Also, someone always brings up tilt and shift lenses when discussing this subject. Canon makes the TS-E 24mm and Nikon makes the wide angle shift 28mm. Yes, if you have an extra $1,000 in your equipment budget this is an alternative. The downside of this alternative is you are constrained to never shoot wider shots than 24 or 28mm. I find this too much of a limitation. For real estate work I’d rather spend my money on a ultra-wide zoom. Ultimately, whether you get the walls straight while shooting or in post processing is a workflow preference.

Are there exceptions to the straight wall rule? Yes, perhaps. The image above is an example of the kind of shot I always end up shooting at a home where there is an overlook or unique stairway view. With these kind of shot There is certainly no “right way” to get the walls on these kind of image. But at the same time I feel like this kind of image is never a very strong image compared to other images. I frequently shot them but almost never end up using them.

There is more than one way to adjust verticals. In Photoshop there are three commands under the Edit>Transform command. They are Distort, Skew and Perspective. Here is a nice description of the three methods. I’m in the habit of using Distort because if done it that way for so long. However, as you will see if you play with Skew a bit it works exactly like you want it to when you are straightening verticals. That is it straightens ONLY verticals. Perspective moves verticals symmetrically on both sides… this is usually not what I want to do. Distort has the advantage of being able to change verticals AND horizontals at the same time. I like Distort because I frequently find myself wanting to adjust both horizontals and verticals. There are a bunch of other ways to modify verticals. I summarized many of them in a previous post.

The thing I find amazing is how quickly the eye spots a vertical that is slightly off and the visual tension it creates. Some times you can feel the vertical is off but you have to get a reference guide next to it to tell for sure.

Posted in Photo Editing, Photo Technique | 3 Comments »

My Mission: To Straighten All Walls in the Realm!

Posted by larrylohrman on September 20, 2007


I have found my mission in life and it is to make sure all the walls in real estate marketing photos do not have converging verticals!

There is something about making walls straight that is hard for photographers to get. Apparently, it just isn’t obvious that walls like the ones above detract from an image. I see many real estate photographers out there charging Realtors to shoot property photos that think it’s not a big deal to produce photos with converging verticals and color casts like the photo above. They are wrong. It is a big deal.

This is the same photo with the distractions removed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I think one of the reasons converging verticals and color casts are not fixed in property photos is that some photographers are not familiar with or are opposed to post processing photos. These problems are quite easy to fix when post processing an image.

The fact is, if you are going to produce high quality images you MUST do post processing.

Posted in Photo Editing, Photo Technique | 20 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 »

LATimes Article: Shoot — It’s For The Web

Posted by larrylohrman on June 7, 2007


The recent latimes.com article by Ann Brenoff is another must read real estate photography article for your marketing kit. Much like the NYTimes article I featured last February, this article gives a some good real estate photography statistics and some shooting tips from Santa Monica-based Nick Springett and Everett Fenton Gidley, the big guns of real estate photography in the Santa Monica area. The article contains a bunch of great quotes and insights. One insight I particularly liked is quote by Everett Fenton Gridley (photo above links to his web site) that full screen  flash slide shows make it so web viewers don’t have to open and close each photo by clicking on it. Gridley says:, “You have to make it easy or they’ll quit on you”.

Be sure to explore Everett Fenton Gidley’s web site. The images are masterful and there are many links to recent property sites that he and his team have built. I declare Gidley the king of property sites. His portfolios and property site examples show how he implements his “…make it easy or they’ll quit on you” site design. One click delivers the whole portfolio or the whole property site content. Very simple and effective use flash slide shows of large images.

Posted in Marketing, Marketing Yourself, Photo Technique | 10 Comments »

Unbelievably Bad Real Estate Photos Hall of Fame

Posted by larrylohrman on June 7, 2007


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Realtor Norm Fisher has put together a hilarious presentation on how unbelievably bad real estate photography can get. The “hold on, I think we are going over” shot is my favorite.

If you watch the presentation to the end you’ll see that this “tour” does more than show bad photos, it is a promotion of what Norm and his team will do if you become his listing client. Nice job Norm!

Posted in Photo Technique, Virtual Tours | 9 Comments »

Photomatix HDR For Problem Exteriors

Posted by larrylohrman on May 27, 2007



M. James Northen sent me an example of a shot that he used Photomatix to get. M.J. says:

“An immediate results technique is photomatix HDR image for problem exteriors …. North facing homes are a bitch. Sun just never seems right. A gorilla ladder – 11’ up including human standing on the ladder – tripod – camera – two thirds stops from one stop under to one over exposure …. Typically 8 frames. This does not work on windy days. Palm trees flying 2 inches to the left and ghosting. Attaching an image ….. 6,000 sq. ft. $ 5,300,000. This will be the 5th time I have been in this one – mostly for the various trades and now to shoot the entire home top to bottom.”

Yes, I agree, when you are having lighting trouble outside there aren’t very many options but Photomatix is certainly one. I think this is a perfect situation to shoot RAW. If you do shot raw you can get the over and under exposed frames all from the same RAW file and not be concerned that trees move in the wind.

Notice the marketing tip hidden in M. James’ comment. He worked for folks like Stagers, kitchen designers, Granite installers before the Realtor called to shoot the whole house. They all needed photos of their work on this home. Make sure the trade people in your area have your number and know about your work in addition to Realtors.

Posted in Photo Technique | 19 Comments »

Real Estate imaging is About Quick and Good– Sometimes not Perfect

Posted by larrylohrman on May 26, 2007



M. James Northen made some appropriate observations. My recent posts that give some references to info about the fine points of rather involved interior lighting should not be miss construed to mean that this is the way real estate photography is approached. On the contrary real estate photography must be done on a time scale that doesn’t allow the attention to detail that Nathanael Bennett describes in his LightSource interview. The phrase that M. James uses is the title of this post, “Real Estate imaging is About Quick and Good– Sometimes not Perfect”. I think this sums up the approach that real estate photographers are forced take. Here are M. James’s comments:

“There is a lot of discussion about getting the light right using speed-lights or studio strobes; while there is nothing wrong with lighting ….. Real Estate imaging is about quick and good – sometimes not perfect. I am going to sound like a pompous know it all and am willing to take the chance from looking at everyone’s pictures in the hopes that it helps more than insults.

“There is a book that everyone in this genre/industry should read – The confused Photographers Guide to Spot Metering – by Farzad – or something like that. I now that once a person truly understands how their spot meter works they will get better results. I shot probably 85% of my website images with nothing more than an accurate exposure and looking at the scene to see what was important in the light values. No speedlights … no strobes …. No reflectors …. NOTHING. Getting the windows is not everything ….. Conveying feeling is everything.

“I am not saying that these days I don’t arrive with enough gear to light or blow up Madison Square Garden, but I still like to leave as much of it in the truck as I can, including 5 more Vivitars which I am enjoying. I just finished shooting an assisted living facility – recognizing the range of the scene lets me use much of the available light and fill in holes with the speedlights rather than blasting it with strobes on stands. While Real Estate imaging is about the rooms …. It is also about selling and highlights and shadows illustrate a room to it’s best. I can evaluate a room pretty quickly these days …. But still use a meter to fine tune things …. And bracket in half stops either way – aperture and shutter.

“A weekend with Farzads book and really understanding spot metering and scene range – will raise the bar on a lot of shooters results.”

Good advice! Thanks M. James for keeping me down to earth.

Posted in Books, Photo Technique | 2 Comments »

LightSource Podcast Interview with Nathanael Bennett

Posted by larrylohrman on May 24, 2007


You may have noticed that back on the Scott Hargis tutorial on how to light a room in the comments Geoff Wilson recommended the LightSource Podcast (E041) that features an interview with Interior and Architectural Photographer Nathanael Bennett. I listened to the Podcast and also recommend it. The interview features:

  • Getting started in architectural photography
  • The challenges in architectural photography
  • Balancing strobe light with ambient light and room light
  • Color temperature issues
  • Required equipment for location sessions
  • Exposure tricks and settings
  • Tripod selection
  • Camera positions and tripods
  • Perspective controlled lenses
  • Using light modifiers
  • Choosing between continuous or strobe lighting
  • Dealing with white balance
  • Multiple light setups
  • Using negative light for de-emphasis
  • Helping the client tell a story
  • Remote triggering of strobe lights
  • Time of day for great exterior photography
  • Advice for budding architectural photographers

This is not real estate photography since Bennett says he carries huge amounts equipment and spends 3 hours setting up each shot. However, Bennett shoots with a Canon 5d and PC lens and his process has much in common with real estate photography.

Note that you don’t have to have a iPod to listen to this Podcast. You can download iTunes for free. Then go to the iTunes store under Podcasts and search for LightSource. Then subscribe to LightSouce, download episode 41 and listen to the Podcast on your Mac or PC. Or you can just download the Podcast directly from the LightSource site.

Posted in Photo Technique | 3 Comments »

Interesting Natural Light Series by Michael Asgian

Posted by larrylohrman on May 22, 2007


The last few days I’ve been talking to Michael Asgian who owns www.panostar.com. Michael showed me a recent series of work that he did for a “sophisticated” client who was looking for a very specific “heavy look” in photos to market their home. These photos will be used in a historical home magazine. When I first saw these photos I though for sure that Michael was using Photomatix but michael says “No Photomatix”. Michael shot this series of photos with with a Canon 5D, Sigma 12-24mm and available light. He said that he used some masking in Photoshop but mostly available light. I think these photos have a very interesting and unusual look. The reason I thought these were done with Photomatix is the accentuated look of the shadows that the interior lights cast on the walls and ceilings. Michael says the image above with the dark blue ceiling was particularly challenging to shoot.

Michael also does 360 virtual tours with a Canon 20D and Sigma 8mm fisheye lens. Here are some examples of the 360 tours that he does:

www.panostar.com/117francisco/
www.panostar.com/3704woodbine/
www.panostar.com/4viajaquima/
www.panostar.com/3527copperkettle/
www.panostar.com/505j/
www.panostar.com/1314oldranch/

For these 360 panoramas Michael shoots 6 frames around with the Sigma 8mm on the Canon 20D. The 20D works well with the Sigma 8mm for panoramas because the cropped format of the 20D maximizes the amount of pixels you get with a shot because the frame is filled with the image. I use the same lens on my full frame 1Ds and don’t get as many pixels because the image circle fits completely within the sensor boundaries and many pixels are unused.

Posted in Photo Technique | Leave a Comment »

White Balance For Twilight Shots

Posted by larrylohrman on May 15, 2007


I was looking through the twilight photos over on the new Photography For Real Estate group photos on flickr and noticed the big difference that white balance setting makes in the look of a twilight image. The image above is one posted my M. James Northen. Notice the difference between the interior light color of this image and most of the other twilight images where the light is that characteristic orange color of incandescent lighting. Of course the difference is the image above was shot with the white balance set for incandescent light and the images with orange looking interior light were shot with white balance set for daylight.

I like the effect that using incandescent white balance has on the sky color in addition to rendering the interior lights nice an white. My first thought when I saw this image was, “he must have changed all the interior lights to daylight balanced bulbs”. Then I realized that would be crazy… all you have to do to get this look is set the white balance on you camera to incandescent!

Actually, M. James said he used an ExpoDisc to set the white balance. ExpoDisc allows you to use the custom white balance feature on most DSLRs to get the white balance right-on for each particular shot.

Posted in Photo Technique | 5 Comments »

Scott Hargis Images on Flickr.com

Posted by larrylohrman on May 9, 2007

I just noticed the Flickr.com photostream by Scott Hargis a San Francisco area real estate photographer. Scott has added some commentary to each of his interior shots about his lighting setup. Scott uses multiple (3 or 4) strobes for his lighting. I believe he works with a 20D and 14mm lens. Great example of what can be done with multiple strobes.

Scott’s website www.scotthargis.com has a nice gallery (made with Lightroom Slideshow feature) of his new work.

Posted in Lighting, Photo Technique, Real Estate Photo of the Week | 5 Comments »

The Most Important Photo of A Home

Posted by larrylohrman on May 4, 2007


Several discussions I’ve been having recently brought up various aspects of the fact that the front exterior photo is THE most important photo in real estate marketing. The reason is that time and time again the listing agent is required to choose a single photo that is either featured most prominently (as on web sites) or the only photo (as in print media ads). This single has the job of creating enough excitement to get the prospective buyer to click a link for more information or make the call to the agent to ask for more information. Many MLS’s require this photo to be an external photo.

Because of the importance of this single photo as much time, thought and expense should be focused on creating and choosing this single photo as all the other photos put together. You want grab the attention the potential buyer. It’s difficult to state rules for doing this. Twilight shots are just one approach. Some homes require an aerial low altitude aerial shot because they are so obscured by vegetation or neighboring homes. Frequently, just making sure the sky is not burned out will allow the sky to add emotional punch. Finding an unusual angle other than street level can add interest.

One thing that makes a boring exterior shot is a straight-on front shot that makes the home look like a flat facade with no depth. It is usually more interesting to take a “3/4” shot where you can see that the home has depth or even reveal details of the side yard or backyard.

Some homes are just plain ugly. We had a listing last year that was so ugly that I used a twilight shot so you couldn’t see much of the home.

This actually worked quite well by covering up many aspects of the home that were not attractive in the daylight.

Many times a straight-on shot accentuates the garage, large driveway or street these are usually not all that interesting. In short, do everything you can to make the front shot look great.

Now that you you’ve gone to all that work to make a great front shot, a little known fact is that when you use a photo on the MLS as the first photo, it becomes public domain:( at least that is the case on the NWMLS in the Seattle area.

Updated: 5/6/2007

For condominiums where a photo of the front of a particular unit in the condo is not inspiring I recommend a wide shot that shows the whole condominium structure and it’s surrounding environment so the buyer has a feel for the setting. Here is an example:

On this condo listing I even marked where the particular unit was we were selling. Not very cool, I admit but we wanted to show where the unit was because this was a very desirable location next to the greenbelt. I believe in this front shot you want to convey as much information as possible. A photo like this shows where the unit is as well as well as a complete feeling of the whole condo environment.

Posted in Marketing, Photo Technique | 6 Comments »

Shooting Exterior Home Photos at Twilight

Posted by larrylohrman on April 20, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about shooting exterior photos at twilight. Recently Cherie Irwin a RE photographer who works out of St Louis, MO was showing me some of her twilight shots and remarking how much the her client liked the photos. The shot above is my favorite of the series that Cherie showed me. I find that home sellers are usually dazzled by twilight shots. We frequently have home sellers ask for twilight shots because they have seen others on our web site.

I think the crux of shooting shots like this is knowing when to show up for the shoot. Although a Google of the search term “sunset times” will revel a number of sites that will help you with knowing when twilight and sunset is on any given day my favorite is the site for the US Naval observatory site.

By just entering the city and state you are located in it will give you a number of Sun statistics for the current day. For example, for April, 20 in Seattle, WA it says that sunset is 8:06 PM PDT and end of civil twilight is 8:39 PM PDT. My experience is that I get the best shots about halfway between sunset and end of civil twilight. Sunset is not quite dark enough and end of civil twilight is too dark.

Of coarse, you need to use a tripod because exposure times will be 5 to 30 seconds depending on the aperture you use. You also need to spend some time going through the home and turning on all the interior lights to get the most dramatic effect. I frequently use large continuous lights inside to boost the amount of light coming through the windows. I’ve also seen twilight shots where continuous lights were used outside to focus light on the outside of the home. I’ve never done that myself but I’ll have to say I like the results I’ve seen with this technique.

Posted in Photo Technique | 12 Comments »

Using Multiple Images and Masking to Make a Composite Image

Posted by larrylohrman on April 11, 2007

After my post about Photomatrix I wanted to make sure beginning real estate photographers know that there are other, better ways to deal with the problem of shooting in a situation where the brightness range is more than you camera can handle. Ideally you want to get the darkness of the sky and still get crisp whites. It’s almost impossible to do this with out making a composite image.

The image above is one I shot of my son’s 1880 Dutch Colonial farm house last week. The weather was broken clouds and the north facing front was brightly lit with ominous clouds in the sky. This is a classic case where it takes one exposure for the home and foreground and a second exposure to get the darkness and delicateness of the clouds. If I’d exposed for the nice greens and yellow of the home the sky would be burned out and boring. On the other hand, if I’d exposed for the sky the the House and foreground would be too dark and the yellow and white wouldn’t have been crisp. This is the very same situation that you run into when shooting interiors where the windows are bright and the interior is not as bright. In the interior situation a flash can be used to light the interior so it’s the same brightness as the outside but outside this won’t work.

When I was taking this shot I took several exposures in anticipation making a composite image example. To create this image I opened both shots in Photoshop and shift+dragged one image over the other to exactly register them. The crux of doing a composite of these two images is to select the complicated edge between the sky and the house/foreground. There are many ways to do this but I like the way described in Katrin Eismann’s book, Photoshop Masking & Compositing. This is a great book that has everything you need to know about using Photoshop to make composite images. On page 225 she describes a technique she got from John Warner to select the sky by duplicating the blue channel and then using curves to increase the contrast of the the blue channel copy so it is a solid mask for the sky. This is the technique I used on this image. This technique is a quick and relatively painless (took me about 15 minutes for this image) way to select the complicated edge between the sky and the trees. After selecting the sky, you make a layer mask that allows the sky from one layer/image show through to the layer/image of the house and foreground.

You can usually spot composite images of this sort because there is a temptation to take shortcuts in making the sky selection mask. Frequently, there will be a “halo” between the sky and the rest of the image because someone took a shortcut in making the sky mask. If you look very closely at a large file of this image there are still defects along the lacy edge where the trees meet the sky but in sizes used for the web it’s difficult to see the defects. The mask is delicate enough to let the dark sky show through the lacy trees on the far left and middle-left.

Posted in Photo Editing, Photo Technique | 4 Comments »

Real Estate Photography and The Truth

Posted by larrylohrman on April 5, 2007


Earlier today I was talking to a Realtor about where the line is for how much photo-editing it’s OK to do on a marketing image. I’ve done a post on this subject before over a year ago but I think it is worth re-visiting. The composite image above shows an image that I modified to market one of our listings. I sharpened up the edge of the grass and changed the foreground perspective somewhat.

How much editing on a marketing image is OK? Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed?

My take on this question is as follows: Marketing photography is different than photojournalism or documentary photography where accurate photographic recording is assumed by the viewer. The purpose of marketing photography is to make a product (in this context a home) look good. So I feel it is ethical to replace skies, remove power lines or what ever you can do to make the home look good? Some of these “modifications” are done before the photo is taken like controlling the light, moving furniture, adding attractive furniture removing clutter and generally styling the space to look attractive. Other modifications are easier done after the photo is taken in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

You frequently see architectural drawings used to market new homes. Architectural drawings are very stylized, have dramatic skies and don’t show power lines or other ugly, realistic details so why not think of your interior/exterior photographs of a home as architectural drawings?

John Dvorak over at http://www.pcmag.com did an article on this general subject that’s worth looking at. John’s bottom line is:

Photos are representations, nothing more and nothing less. Sure, taking a head from one picture, dropping it into a porn photo, and saying that it’s real is obviously wrong. But enhancing and interpreting photographic data has its place and is an important communications tool. Just stop believing everything you see.”

Posted in Photo Technique | 11 Comments »

Shoot Low to Give a More Spacious Feeling

Posted by larrylohrman on April 3, 2007

Click photo to see examples

I want to highlight an important tip raised recently in comments by Cherie Irwin and Scott Hargis. Last week Cherie sent me some examples of the same image shot from different heights above the floor (see Cherie’s examples above). Cherie pointed out that she’d been viewing some interior images shot by a tall person standing up straight and that she thought her images (shot lower because she was short) worked better.

About the same time Cherie and I were discussing this issue Scott Hargis commented that:

“Almost every room will benefit from shooting from a kneeling or squatting position – putting the camera about 30″ to 45″ off the floor. This emphasizes the floor more than the ceiling (making the room appear more spacious), and in my opinion, more readily mimics the human eye’s perception of the room.”

I think Cherie and Scott have raised an important observation. Too much ceiling can be distracting and having more floor in an interior image does give a feeling of spaciousness. Of course, in kitchens counter tops force you to have the camera at least counter-top level (usually bout 37″) so the images shows the top of the counter.

Thanks Cherie and Scott for pointing this out. Many times I’ve found myself shooting low but I’ve never given much thought to why it worked better than standing up straight.

Posted in Photo Technique | 10 Comments »

Example of a Well Done Property Website – www.kenwandadrive.com

Posted by larrylohrman on March 29, 2007

I just got a e-mail ad for a property in Snohomish (North of Seattle). I get 20 to 30 of these things a day as all Realtors on the Northwest Multiple Listing. The photos most of them put you to sleep. This one grabbed my attention. All the photos are on a property website: www.kenwandadrive.com.

I think this is a stunning example of 1. A good property website and 2. Stunning real estate photography. If you look closely at the images they have the look of blended images and/or HDR processing. The website of the company that did the site (Vista Estate Imaging) indicates these images are done “with natural light”. There are many images that have indications of some manual blending and many have indications of HDR processing. All in all though, this is one of the best jobs of blending images I’ve seen.

Posted in Photo Editing, Photo Technique, Real Estate Photo of the Week | 19 Comments »

An Elegant Image by M. James Northen

Posted by larrylohrman on March 26, 2007


I was recently looking through the images on M. James Northen’s web site after he’s made a comment on photographing upper-end properties. M. James works out of Vero Beach, Florida an shoots for premiere real estate companies, multi-million dollar builders, custom cabinet and kitchen designers and interior decorators in the southeast Florida area.

I chose this image to ask M. James about because I was attracted to the beautiful job of lighting that he’d done on this image despite the obviously very bright outside. It’s always challenging to get such a beautifully lit interior when the windows are so bright. Here is M. James comments on his setup, equipment and post processing:

“This was the first setup of the morning and took about 10 minutes to get right. The setup was very simple – That room faces east to the Ocean, I got there around 9:00 am so the sun was bright in the room. I set up two Strobes ( Alien Bee 800’s – 320Ws) I positioned one to the left of the camera at full power and a little behind me and the other to the right further into the room only half power. I had to watch the angles to avoid reflection in the windows. That was the most time consuming part. I use 48” white shoot through umbrellas most of the time as they are more convenient than soft boxes to move from room to room. The image was custom white balanced using an Expodisk. That typically saves me a lot of time in Photoshop. The exposure was ISO 400 – 1/160 at F11. I used a Canon 1D MKII with a 24mm Tilt – Shift Lens. When not using a Tilt- Shift lens I use an EF 17-40 which does well with the 1.3 Crop factor and allows me to get tighter on the same frame for a more intimate feel. For some really dramatic angles and interesting perspectives I use a Sigma 12-24mm – but only outside.

This was the beginning of a shoot that encompassed around 6,000 sq. ft. under air and a lavish pool and covered lanai. The images were required to be available the next day to be sent to magazines and other marketing venues. I did the whole shoot *.jpg and made fairly minor adjustments in Photoshop that evening. I have an action that I wrote which does the following, Light Shadow recovery, Light Color Saturation and finally basic sharpening. My work flow is to look at all the images in ACDSee Pro select the ones that I like and that also illustrate the home from a real estate standpoint as well as some more artistic shots. I then copy those to a new folder named “In Progress” I then run my action on all of those images in batch. I then go through those images and take the ones that I still like – from there I might have to do some perspective corrections but nothing to dramatic. (I use a hot shoe bubble level anytime I move the tripod) Burn a CD and give to client – with Invoice which I also send via an email PDF.

I like to use natural light whenever possible but on homes where there is a great view I typically light the rooms using anywhere from 1 Strobe to 4 with Morris Slaves as accents and reflectors and flags to control spill and volume. I use Alien Bee Lights as they are constructed well and are a good value. The price of the listing and what the client request dictates how elaborate the shoot gets. I find that keeping things simple works well though.”

I should mention that this image is the second image in his “recent” gallery. M. James said that he believes that the third image in this gallery is stronger than the image above. I’ll leave that for you to decide. I like the image above because it has a more symmetrical composition and I feel drawn into the room with this image where-as the third image keeps pulling my attention towards the glass table to the right.

Thanks M. James for sharing the setup and details of your image.

 

Posted in Photo Technique, ReaderProfile | 8 Comments »

Boost Your Revenue by 25% With Custom Slideshows on CD

Posted by larrylohrman on February 20, 2007

Real Estate Photographer Cherie Irwin‘s two comments on the previous post are worth highlighting. Cherie says says she has increased her revenue by 25% just by offering custom slide-shows on CD.

I can attest to the fact that both sellers and buyers love photo CDs with a slide-show or virtual tour on it. I’ve been doing this for years for all our sellers and many times buyers actually ask for them too. Being a Realtor I give them away to get referral business in the future and because I like doing it. Real estate photographers be aware that Realtors are always looking for a nice little gift to give their sellers at closing so if you can offer Realtors a snazzy little CD with all the photos you took of the home and have it packaged nicely like Cherie describes you can sell your photos again on a different medium.

I think packaging for kind of product is important. Cherie’s comment describes how she prints on the CD. This is a nice touch but if you don’t have the right kind of printer to do this you can also print CD labels and/or CD cover labels. What I do is use mini-CDs (3.5″ in diameter) that come in little plastic CD covers. I print an insert for the the CD cover that has a front shot of the home, it’s address and our phone number and logo on it. One seller liked the CD I gave him so much he ask for one for each of his 5 kids.

Cherie creates her CDs with Photoshop Elements 5 but don’t forget, you can also burn a cd like this for free with Picasa 2.

Posted in Photo Technique | 1 Comment »

Lightroom 1.0 New Features

Posted by larrylohrman on February 20, 2007

From Ohs Remodel

Yesterday downloaded the Lightroom 1.0 trial version to use until the distribution CD I ordered gets here. I was pleased to find so many new features have been added since the last beta version.

I particularly like the straighten feature that allows you to rotate an image. There’s still no way to distort an image to fix converging verticals but maybe in a later version. I don’t know if the lens correction controls are new or I’d just not noticed them before.

The shots above are of an neighbor’s remodel project that we looked at yesterday. I’d never noticed before that my Canon 16-35 zoom has so much light fall-off (vignetting) at the edges when zoomed out to the widest angles but seeing images in the “before and after” viewing mode it’s immediately obvious. It was easy to quickly fix the problem with the lens correction slider.

I also like the way Adobe has improved the format of the Flash web slideshows in the Web module. Much nicer than the beta.

Posted in Lightroom, Photo Technique | 5 Comments »

Nick Stubbs’s Property Photography Site

Posted by larrylohrman on February 20, 2007

I need to highlight a comment that Hojin Chang a Realtor in SW Orlando just made so that everyone sees the link he pointed out. Hojin points out that there is a excellent free Property Photography e-book/site on Nick Stubbs’s All Things Photography web site. This property photography site has a huge amount of information on it. It has many excellent examples of how to deal with all the classic interior photography problems. Thanks Hojin for the link!

Posted in Photo Technique | 13 Comments »

Virtual Tours Using Real Tour Vision

Posted by larrylohrman on December 21, 2006


Last week I was talking to Dawn Shaffer a real estate photographer and virtual tour provider in the Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR area. Dawn is the second PFRE reader I’ve talked to that is happily using Real Tour Vision. Earlier this year Sharon Nymann, a Realtor in the Key Largo area, reported that she was successfully using Real Tour Vision tours to do her own tours since Key Largo has no tour providers.

Both Dawn and Sharon reported that they chose Real Tour Vision after extensive evaluations of all the alternatives for creating virtual tours. To me it appears that the distinctive feature of Real Tour Vision is that it’s a turn-key application that supplies software, some hardware and hosting that allows you to create your own virtual tours with 360 images. Other tour providers like tourfactory.com and visualtour.com provide hosting but users have to do stitching of 360 images and figure out how to shoot 360 images. RTV appears to help you through the whole process with hardware (You can use your existing camera) stitching software, hosting and support. Shooting and stitching 360 images can be intimidating if you are learning from scratch.

I’ve never used RTV myself but RTV appears to have all the essential components of creating professional looking tours. The 360 images that you create are cylindrical (image is projected as on a cylinder) in stead of spherical (image projected on a sphere) but that is not a big issue. 99% of real estate 360 images are done in cylindrical mode because spherical images take special equipment to shoot and special stitching software to create. If you are considering getting started with RTV be sure to talk to Dawn (allaboutvirtualtours.com ) she has been using RTV for 2 years and can give you tips on how to add virtual tours to your services as a RE photographer.

Posted in Photo Technique | 4 Comments »

The 10 Essentials of Real Estate Photography

Posted by larrylohrman on December 10, 2006


Over the last two years writing this blog I’ve come to believe there are some basic aesthetic guidelines that makes real estate photography effective. I see so many Realtors and even practicing real estate photographers oblivious to these fundamentals that I feel compelled to write them down. Here they are. I’ve also added an ad type link on the right side-bar to the PDF.

I’m not sure these ten are all there are and some of these ten are more important than others but I like the number 10. God gave Moses 10 commandments, I have 10 fingers, 10 toes and our number system is base 10. 10 is a satisfying number that I can keep track of so I’ve decided to have 10 commandments too.

The one that is violated the most by Realtors and real estate photographers is #6. I don’t know why this one bothers me the most but it does. Realtors that are beginning photographers at least have an excuse but if you are charging Realtors money to take their photos you should know better. I’ve had practicing real estate photographers argue with me about this one. They claim it’s not important or looks arty. My argument is: “…look at Architectural Digest”. The photographers who get big bucks to shoot the the photos you see in AD are the best on the planet! They take days to shoot a home, hours to setup a single shot. They consider every detail. There are never any walls in AD that aren’t perfectly parallel with the edges of the photo. Why do you think this is?

What is more, you don’t have to have a level on you camera or an expensive tilt-shift lens to get the walls straight; you can do it all in a jiffy in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

So I command Realtors to not put up with walls that are not perfectly vertical. And I command RE photographers to earn you fee and take the time to get the walls straight!

Seriously, I believe that if you follow these 10 essential guidelines your photos will be much more effective.

Posted in Photo Technique | 3 Comments »