Posted by larrylohrman on June 6, 2007
I just ran across an article and audio interview over at Small Business Trends Radio on how Kelly Thomas the founder of www.sihometours.com has combined real estate photography with tour hosting as a business. There is a 50+ minute audio interview at the bottom of the page. I noticed this article because Kelly signed up for my real estate photographers directory today.
As Kelly describes in the interview apparently there are a number of folks around the country doing this same thing. After listening to the interview I’m not completely clear on the whole business model. I can totally understand how the tour hosting goes together with the real estate photography but I’m not completely clear on the motivation for creating another local real estate site. If it generates as much traffic as Kelly says, you could also make money from the advertising. In our market area there are so many great local broker sites like www.johnlscott.com and www.windermere.com that buyers don’t even use the national sites like www.realtor.com very much. However, I know that situation is not the same all over.
I think it is hard to beat the combining a home tour with your home photography services. My favorite DIY tour is www.buildatour.com. As Mark Reibman says, “…about 80% of clients are wowed by it.” For $9.95 you can’t go wrong.
Posted in Marketing, ReaderProfile, Virtual Tours | 6 Comments »
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 »
Posted by larrylohrman on February 8, 2007
Susanne Hayek, a Real Estate Photographer in Arcadia, CA sent me a request to be in the RE Photographer Directory today and I was looking at her website and noticed several interesting ideas I though others could benefit from.
The first is the concept of a property website. For $300 she creates a web site for a property with it’s unique registered domain name for 6 months (here is an example). Her property web sites consists of a slide show of photos of the property along with the agents branding. She also supplies a unbranded version for use on the MLS. The interesting aspect of property websites is that they are an “upper-end” name for a virtual tour with a registered domain name. For those RE photographers with a few HTML skills this is a good way to add to your basic services. Susanne says she has competitors charging $600 for property websites.
Another feature of Susanne’s business model I like is charging by the hour. When you are charging by the hour if then when additional opportunities come up during the shoot (like consulting on staging) you get paid for your time. Susanne says she started charging by the hour because “…that I was spending a lot of time staging and clearing clutter and cleaning that I wasn’t getting paid for”. I think this is a great way to provide a higher level of service and make sure you are getting paid for it.
The third thing that caught my eye on Susanne’s site is the way that she makes use of PhotoSite.com to provide a large gallery of her work for the site. I’m a big believer in using extensive galleries to promote your work and using an external site like PhotoSite.com or flickr.com or one of the many other gallery sites is an easy way to do this.
Thanks Susanne for all the great ideas!
Posted in Marketing, ReaderProfile | 8 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on January 14, 2007
Richard Clafton working in Seabrook, Texas sent us a link to a gallery of his real estate photography work done with a Sony A100 and a Sigma 10-20mm zoom lens. Richard says:
“I have some sample images on my site over at www.riroc.com/gallery.aspx. All the images in the gallery were taken with a Sony A100 10.2mp Camera fitted with a Sigma 10mm – 20mm lens. No flash was used and all images were taken with long exposures on a tripod at ISO80.
The detail from this lens is amazing. I have some other images over at www.clafton.com (my personal photoblog) that were also taken with this lens. The exif information is attached to each and every image so you can see which ones were shot with that lens.
A recommended buy!”
This is the first time I’ve seen results with the Sigma 10-20 used on the relatively new Sony A100. Thanks Richard.
Posted in Photo Equipment, ReaderProfile | 4 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on November 26, 2006
Thomas Bliss is an Architectural Photographer that works out of studios in Gig harbor, WA and Tucson, AZ. I’ve had a link to his site in the list of interior photographers along the right hand side of the blog. Thomas asked me to update the link I have to his site so I was looking through his galleries of images on his new site. I’ve been a fan of Thomas’s work for some time but I was particularly impressed with image #6 in his residential gallery. To see the full-size image on his site go to www.architecturephotographer.com and hover over “Portfolios” and scroll down to “Residential”, then scroll forward to image 6/26.
I love how the fabric patterns are so bright and beautifully lit and the same time exterior is clear and dramatic with the wonderful blue color that occurs around 15 to 20 minutes before sunset. Anyone who’s tried to do a shot like this can appreciate the lighting skill that goes into an image like this.
I ask Thomas for some of the technical information on how he created this image and here’s what he said:
This image was the last shot of a very long hot day in Scottsdale Arizona for Interior Designer Carolyn Morrison. The shot took roughly one hour to set and light. Exterior hot-lights were set to shoot the pool area and palms, roughly 2500 watts. Interior lighting was accomplished using mono-block strobes with a 10 stop range. Strobes are used as gentle fill, and are stopped down to within about two stops of the exterior, shot bounced into 3′ silk umbrellas. Image capture was made with a Canon 1DS Mark II (16mp full frame) and a Canon 16-35mm lens. Whenever I shoot interiors I always shoot RAW tethered to a 17″ PowerBook. Its like having a 17″, 16 million color Polaroid. However easy I just made this sound, its not. Color balance, custom white balance, gels, dimmers, photo correct bulbs in the lamps all had to be carefully adjusted right up to the point where everything was in balance (in my opinion) and then when the light outside was right, we popped off about ten frames, and that was just the beginning. Next stop, post processing. In post, further color correction, perspective adjustments, sizing for the clients usage needs, unsharp mask, saving as 8-bit in both 300-dpi tiffs for print and jpgs for web use. Upload galleries and burn DVD’s for the client, and 12 hours later the client has final images.
Great work Thomas and thanks for sharing the details.
Of coarse in the typical real estate photography situation you are not going to have the time to put in to creating a single image as Thomas did here but I think it is instructive to understand what goes into a high quality image like this and what is possible.
Posted in ReaderProfile, Real Estate Photo of the Week | Leave a Comment »
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 »
Posted by larrylohrman on August 17, 2006
This last week I’ve been talking to Con Poulos of Sydney, Australia about natural light shooting versus using lighting equipment. Con is a real estate photographer that does both 360 virtual tours and still interior shots. His website is http://www.spinpix.com.au/. Con sent me several recent interior images that he’s shot without using any lighting equipment. The image above and below are the ones I like best. These were created by shooting multiple images, probably one image exposed for the windows and at least one other image exposed for the interior and then combining the images in Photoshop using masking. That is, taking the best parts of each image and combining them into one beautifully exposed image.
Anyone who’s tried to create an image like the one above will appreciate how difficult it is to expose the interior and the view out the window in one image. Con has done a stunning job! But, he’s done it by spending allot of time in Photoshop combining multiple images. I’ve found that sellers of view homes expect shots like this that show both the interior long with the view.
If you are interested in the gory details of combining multiple images I recommend Katrin Eismann’s book Photoshop Masking & Compositing . On pages 225 to 240 she specifically has examples of creating interior and exterior real estate images using multiple images. The rest of the book covers related aspects of combining multiple images with masking.
Con’s question to me was what kind of pro-lighting equipment does he need to use to reduce the amount of time he needs to spend in Photoshop to get this kind of image.
My answer was that lighting equipment will indeed reduce the amount of time you need to spend in Photoshop to get such images as these. Many real estate photographers do work very close to this with external flash units either Canon, Nikon, Metz or Quantum TTL flash systems (typically around 50 watt-seconds). The positive side of these TTL systems is that they are very portable and very automatic. However, there are always going to be rooms that are too big to light. And with artificial lighting systems you will always fight unnatural looking shadows and reflections. The next level of professional lighting systems that have more power (~100 watt-seconds and above) can be fired into transparent umbrellas to get a better quality of light but you must sacrifice portability.
Ultimately you find creating great interior images like these is a balancing act between time spent in Photoshop with the amount of lighting equipment you carry. That is, no lighting equipment means spending allot of time in Photoshop and allot of powerful lighting equipment means almost no time in Photoshop.
Many real estate photographers tell me that they are under time pressure to get in and out of a home in around an hour because the agent they are working for is waiting for them to finish. This is because the agent is personally responsible for the home while you are there. In my state (Washington) an agent can be fined up to $5000 if they leave a contractor unescorted in a home. Other interior photographers that work for builders tell me they take more time per home and spend a half a day to a day shooting a home. If you are going to shoot a home in around an hour, there’s no way you have time to setup much lighting equipment.
I personally take around 2 hours to shoot a home of around 3000 square feet and use a single external Canon 580EX Speedlite that will fit in my pocket. Since I’m a licensed agent I don’t have to be escorted in a home so this removes the time pressure. I also frequently take two or more trips to the home looking for good light or because I forgot some critical shot.
Posted in ReaderProfile, Real Estate Photo of the Week | 3 Comments »
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 »
Posted by larrylohrman on July 26, 2006
Last week I talked to André Gant who is a professional photographer working out of the San Antonio, TX area. As you can see from his web site André does mostly weddings and portraiture but is in the process of expanding his work to include real estate photography. The photograph above is one of the series he showed me that he took to for a proposal to a builder in his area. André took a series of shots of the builders new homes and made a presentation to the builder to show what he could do. This is an effective way to expand your business. Medium and large scale builders are constantly in need of recent images to promote their product on web sites and in brochures. For a real estate photographer, A few relationships with builders can go along ways to keeping a constant flow of business.
I André’s interior shots are nicely lit. He uses A Quantum flash system on his Canon 5D with a single umbrella when shooting interiors. For those of you not familiar with flash umbrella’s you setup your flash unit (triggered remotely from a wireless transmitter mounted in the hot-shoe of your camera body) to flash into a silver or white coated umbrella. The light from the umbrella is diffused and reflected towards the room you are shooting. For more information on umbrellas see “lighting 101” on the strobist blog.
I’ve not tried using an umbrella with my flash system but after seeing the results that André is getting with one I think I’m going to add an umbrella to my kit. Using an umbrella requires a lighting stand or extra tripod to mount the umbrella on so there’s more gear to carry but it may well be worth it. More on my results with a umbrella later.
Another tip André passed along it that with a given placement of the tripod he shoots shots with and without flash and then is able to pin register two images shot in different light as layers in Photoshop. By doing this you can easily blend elements of one image with the other image creating a composite of two or more images shot from identically the same position. This is similar to some of my previous posts on dealing with burned out windows.
As André says, “..photography is photography” so these techniques he is use to using in the wedding and portrait environment work just fine doing interiors.
Posted in Marketing Yourself, ReaderProfile | 3 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on July 20, 2006
Recently I’ve been in contact with Dennis van Beek, a new Real Estate Photographer starting out in the Calgary Canada area. Dennis is recent graduate (2006) from the Western Academy of Photography in Victoria and has relocated to Calgary Canada from The Netherlands to work and live. If you are in need of real estate photography in the Calgary area contact Dennis through his website.
Posted in ReaderProfile | 1 Comment »
Posted by larrylohrman on June 22, 2006
Kris Dick, a real estate photographer working in the Sydney, Australia area sent us another example of a before and after staging a room. Kris uses a stager or stylist that specializes in residential interiors when ever the budget allows. The above photo is a recent example before and after the stager did their thing. This is a great example of how with out the furniture it's difficult to even get a feel for the size of the room.
"With regards to my setup, the majority of the photographs on my website were
shot with a Canon 10D and a Sigma 15-30 lens. The 15-30 is a great lens on a
cropped frame camera, but its limitations really show on the Canon 5D that I
recently upgraded to. I still use it for bathrooms or incredibly tight rooms
where the 15mm becomes invaluable. I'll hopefully be replacing it with a
Canon 16-35 or 17-40 soon.
On the 5D I've been using Canons fantastic 24mm TS-E Tilt-Shift lens, which
gives the same field of view as the 15-30 did on my 10D, but with the added
advantages of being able to shift to correct converging verticals. After
using the TS-E for a while now I'm beginning to wonder how I lived without
With regards to lighting, I nearly always use available light only. I do
carry two Canon flashes which can be wirelessly controlled if there are any
areas of an interior which really need bit of extra light, but for the most
part I find that shooting on a tripod and bracketing the exposures works
very well if you have time to put towards some masking and blending in
Photoshop after the shoot.
I've found that carrying some daylight balanced light-bulbs of different
strengths can be helpful if the lights in the property are too yellow or
orange, or even if they're just too dim or blown!"
Kris's website is www.krisdickphotography.com.au. Check out the interior shots on Kris's two "real estate" pages.
Kris's use of daylight balanced light-bulbs is an interesting technique that was very prevalent when everyone shot film and it was relatively difficult to change the white balance after the shot was made. I read some place that Better Homes and Gardens photographers used to routinely change all the light bulbs in a home to daylight balanced bulbs before starting a shoot. This technique can still save allot of photo editing time or it can eliminate the situation where you have a mixture of daylight coming from the windows and incandescent light coming from interior lighting.
Thanks Kris for the examples and the information on your setup.
Posted in ReaderProfile, Staging & Styling | 5 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on June 15, 2006
If you've read any of the posts on Photography for Real Estate you will recognize Marc’s name and have seen the many contributions Marc has made. Marc is a real estate assistant in this father’s real estate company in Nantes, France (Southwest of Paris near the mouth of the Loire River). Marc says, “I work in a real estate office in Nantes, doing administrative work, and making good photos is in my attribution.” His father’s company website is http://lacosteim.fr. (Note: that “Immobilier” is French for real estate) One of the recent listings that Marc and his coworkers photographed can be seen at here.
Marc has compiled his list of cameras that he recommends for use in real estate photography at: marc.lacoste.googlepages.com/wideanglecameras . Marc uses a Nikon D50 with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens a SB-600 and slave flash units (what brand?). An example of a shoot where he uses his SB-600 and radio slave flash units is at: www.flickr.com/photos/croco/158738670/in/pool-strobist. Marc describes the slave flash units as follows: “No-name eBay radio slaves. I found the provider: Guandong Jiangmen Yinhe Technology Development Co., Ltd, www.yh21cn.com/product6.htm. More at the strobist group discussion www.flickr.com/groups/strobist/discuss/
One of Marc’s most popular contributions to this blog is his “cheap technique for getting a high point of view” technique of setting a 10 second timer and then holding your camera and tripod over your head to get a higher point of view. This post is very popular and I get allot positive of feedback on this post.
Thanks for all the great ideas Marc!
Posted in ReaderProfile | 6 Comments »
Posted by larrylohrman on June 5, 2006
This post is the first in a series of articles that feature readers of PRE (Photography for Real Estate). The idea is to showcase the work of readers and describe something about their equipment and process.
Sharon Nyman is a Century 21 agent in Key Largo, Florida. Sharon’s website is www.sharonnyman.com. Sharon uses a Canon EOS Digital Rebel with a Canon EFS 18-55mm lens and a Canon Speedlight 420 EX. Sharon uses Photoshop Elements and does photo editing on nearly every photograph. Sharon says: “…I have always tried to get the best shots possible. Now with the online listings and the ability to display multiple photos, it becomes critical to have acceptable, if not spectacular photographs. I took some photography courses in college and I read or go online for tips on the latest software”.
As you will notice from Sharon’s Properties page she uses Real Tour Vision as a virtual tour provider. She purchased the tour creation software from Real Tour Vision and shoots, stitches and uploads her own tours. The tours are hosted on the Real Tour Vision website. She chose Real Tour Vision as a tour vendor about a year ago since there were no full service tour providers in her area. She evaluated all the tour vendors she could find decided on Real Tour Vision because it appeared to be the best available at the time.
Sharon comments about her success with her Real Tour Vision tours: “Last summer a buyer saw the first tour I did and came to the Keys to see the property. While he was standing in the house he called his wife at home and told her to look at the tour. She liked it. They ended up buying the home without his wife coming to seeing it. Sales price $3,700,000.”
As you can see from the exterior photos of her listed properties she uses a polarizing filter on almost all of her external photos. Her outside shots have that characteristic polarizing filter look where the sky is dark blue and the clouds are white and dramatic. A polarizer is particularly effective and noticeable since Sharon is shooting in the tropics with lots of sun.
Sharon uses her Canon 420 EX flash on some of her interior shots. She is still working on her flash technique.
I think you will agree that Sharon is doing a great job of presenting her listed properties photographically.
Posted in ReaderProfile | 1 Comment »