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What Are Real Estate Photography RCMA Operators Doing To Protect Against Risk?

April 22nd, 2014

SelfieMatti in Michigan  raises the question about what other real estate photography/videography RCMA operators are doing to protect themselves against risk. She says:

It would be great to find out what current operators are doing for insurance or how they are handling any potential liability or questions from agents and sellers about this fact. I’m thinking of asking sellers and agents to sign a liability waiver of some sort until I can get reasonably priced insurance.

I think this is a great question. Some commenters on past posts indicate they have purchased liability insurance for RCMA operation for in the neighborhood of $1500/year while other commenters claim that, that particular insurance does not really protect you from the risks as one would expect. So be sure to carefully check out  and verify a policy before depending on it.

A recent article at fastcompany.com posses the question of liability to two aviation personal injury lawyers. That is, “what happens when a UAV filming a sporting event or wedding loses control and hits bystanders?” It sounds like since this is such a new area there is not a lot of clear law in this area. Liability could go beyond just the pilot. The fastcompany.com article further points out that:

Recreational drone manufacturers usually urge buyers to purchase separate drone insurance. For instance, boutique UAV maker Lift Off UAV includes a request that customers insure themselves with every purchase. Lift Off specifically notes that model aircraft are not generally covered by liability insurance. The line between model aircrafts and drones is blurry because of the availability of cheap, high-powered cameras and GPS units that turn even the most modest remote controlled aircraft into a sophisticated self-flying tool. And model aircraft already cause a number of injuries each year, according to an insurance report by the American Model Association, approximately 35 claims annually are presented to the AMA, which insures model airplane enthusiasts. Approximately 20 are property damage and 15 involve bodily harm.

What are those of you that are flying RCMA for real estate purposes in the US doing to protect yourself against liability?

What Are The Top 10 DSLRs?

April 20th, 2014

CanonT3iI think it’s interesting to occasionally look at what the most popular DSLRs are. In the past I’ve used the data that Amazon makes available on what the top selling DSLRs are and several commenters said, “that’s all wrong because many people buy at B&H.” I think the most important  thing is that you are looking a large amount of data.

This time I’m taking the data from flickr.com. Flickr collects stats on camera usage by it’s members. So this ranking shows what DSLRs people that are active on flickr are currently using. Here is the current ranking by average daily users (the bold number on each item) using that DSLR:

  1. Canon EOS Rebel T3i (EOS 600D, EOS Kiss X5)3618
  2. Canon EOS 5D Mark II3205
  3. Canon EOS 7D2869
  4. Nikon D70002774
  5. Canon EOS 60D2580
  6. Canon EOS 5D Mark III2433
  7. Canon EOS T2i - (EOS Kiss X4, EOS 55D)2306
  8. Nikon D31002261
  9. Nikon D902281
  10. Nikon D5100 -2032

So yeah, if you are not a flickr member you are not counted in these stats, but flickr.com has 51 million users so all of those folks posting to the PFRE flickr group are being counted in this.

The surprise in these numbers is that the 5D Mark II is so high on the list and that the T3i has been on the top of most top 10 lists for the last several years. For example, the post I did on this subject in Oct, 2012 based on Amazon sales numbers showed the T3i number one and many of these same DSLRs in the top 10.

The other interesting thing you can see from the flickr data is that you can drill down in the data and see a small graph of each camera and see whether or not flickr usage is increasing or decreasing and how fast. For example, the EOS 60D is rapidly decreasing while the EOS 70D is rapidly increasing.

This Week In Real Estate Video #106 – McGrath Takes Property Video To The Next Level

April 18th, 2014

McGrathOZOver the last six months or so Brett Clements of PlatinumHD.tv has been telling me about what McGrath has been doing with video marketing. But it  was just last week that what he was talking about finally sunk in so I now understand what he’s been talking about and I have to admit it’s pretty cool! This video is from last December and explains the general concept. Here is my summary:

  • PlatinumHD has a contract to shoot property video for ALL McGrath listings in AU.
  • PlatinumHD provides a McGrath property video portal at ins.mcgrath.tv.
  • PlatinumHD has hired 5 professional “presenters” (Camille Bianchi. Amber Wyatt. Angela Shallis, Margarita Nazarenko and the Australian actor Peter Mochrie) to be the presenting talent in the property videos. Some of these people were hired from local TV stations. All of them are top notch professional presenters.
  • PlatinumUltraHD has a corporate team of 22 that support this McGrath property video operation.
  • After 12 months operation of this new high intensity video marketing, McGrath has experienced a significant increase in sales. Brett is convinced that the increase is due all or mostly as a result of this new style of video marketing.

Leave it to our Aussie mates to take video marketing to the next level! This is no surprise to anyone that has been following Australian property video for any length of time. It’s also no surprise that Brett is right in the middle of it, although Brett attributes the vision and leadership for this big success that McGrath is having with property video to John McGrath.

When I look at ins.mcgrath.tv I’m struck by how much this looks like a TV channel; polished and professional presenters and top quality production. This appears to me to be a very powerful real estate marketing formula. It may not work everywhere but I’ll bet we see something similar soon in the US and/or CA. If for no other reason because PlatinumHD.tv is already operating both in the US and CA. Look out, the Aussie’s are going to show us how to do this!

Real Estate Photography Question And Answer

April 16th, 2014

QandAManuel’s Question: I read Scott Hargis’s Lighting Interiors book and it’s awesome, but I have one concern. Why does he never mention white balance?

Answer: Shoot in RAW, set your WB on auto and then touch it up as needed in Lightroom or Photoshop. Also, you’ll find that when using flash, the flash will tend to dominate the WB. I shoot with WB on Auto and very rarely have to change the WB in Lightroom.

Greg’s Question: I’m really confused on how this whole Virtual Tour thing works from the Realtor’s perspective. I understand how to make a basic slideshow in Lightroom, but how is that then given to the Agent? Then what do they do with it from there?

Answer: You can use Lightroom slideshow for tours but I don’t recommend it. If you are going to provide tours (which not all real estate photographers do) I recommend you use www.tourbuzz.net tours. They are inexpensive and allow you to do much more than you can with a simple Lightroom slideshow. In some areas you need to provide a tour with your shoot to compete against the big tour companies. A tour is just a link to a webpage that has the photos/video/360s/agent branding etc. Many agents put a link to the tour on their for sale sign, their flyer, their website and even their MLS. Many MLSs don’t allow branded tour (tours with the agents contact info) so tours are branded and unbranded. Agents want a branded tour to use everywhere but their MLS.

Craig’s Question:  My business is booming and I’m getting to the point I can’t handle the number of shoots I have. If I were to add an employee, contract employee or partner what’s the best way of expanding?

Answer: I’m certainly no expert in this area. Since the real estate photography business is seasonal in my guess is the easiest approach may be to find someone that would be a contractor and send them your overflow business as needed during your peak periods and have no commitment to pay a yearly salary.

Taking on a regular employee is more difficult because you have to handle the payroll accounting and make sure you are complying with state and federal legal requirements. As a real estate agent it was easy to hire an assistant because the main broker handled all the accounting and legal issues involved.

What recommendations do readers have that have expanded beyond a single person operation?

PFRE Still Photo Contest Closing – First PFRE Video Contest Opening

April 14th, 2014

pfreVOMThe PFRE still photo contest is closing at the end of the day April 15 and the video contest is open.

This is the first month for the PFRE video contest. If you are submitting a video for April’s contest please read and follow the contest rules at:

photographyforrealestate.net/video-contest/

Here is the general way the contest works:

  • Links to video entries will be in the flickr video contest forum. I’ll add them as contestants submit them.
  • If you’d like to comment on any particular video, join the forum and comment on the entry where the link to the video is posted.
  • The April contest is open for entries through 4/24.
  • The winner will be announced 5/1.

Remember, the purpose of the video contest is to provide a venue for discussing and learning about property video.

An Open Letter To Multiple Listing Services Concerning Photo Rights

April 13th, 2014

copyrightMultiple Listing Services (MLS) provide a valuable regulatory service in the real estate industry. They create rules and legal forms that guide the advertising and sale of all property in a given geographic area.

In most metropolitan areas professional photography has become an integral part of the listing and sale of real estate and many Realtors make use of professional photographers to create marketing materials yet most MLSs in the US completely ignore photographers rights. Here are a 3 important rights of that Realtors and MLSs need to honor:

  1. Professional photographers own the copyright to the photos they take for listing agents even if they don’t file copyright with the US copyright office.
  2. Many photographers resell the photos, to builders, architects, designers and others. For some photographers, this is a significant source of income.
  3. Because of 2, when photographers shoot listing photos for a listing agent they expect to license those photos for use limited to the advertising and sale of the property by the agent they shot the photos for.

Because so few Realtors and MLSs understand copyright most professional real estate photographers have their own license agreement that documents the above three rights.

Typical MLS rules for most MLSs in the US completely ignore and/or contradict photographer’s photo rights. This situation causes endless confusion and misunderstandings between photographers, Realtors. The worst cases get sorted out in litigation. These misunderstandings arise from the fact that when most MLS rules were written when Realtors took their own photos and didn’t really care about photo rules and the rules are written to only protect the only the MLS and it’s members. Because the rights of photographers are not considered, the photo licensing rules for most MLSs are completely dysfunctional and broken!

Professional photographers are now becoming such an integral part of the real estate marketing process that their rights and interests need to be incorporated into MLS photo rules. MLSs need to update their photo rules to serve the interests of all parties involved in real estate transactions just like the rest of their rules do. Doing so is simply in keeping with the MLS role as a real estate regulatory service.

Why is it better to have MLSs provide a standard photo licensing agreement than to have each photographer do their own? Because Realtors and managing brokers believe MLS forms and lawyers. MLS forms are used and trusted for every other part of the real estate transaction. There have been cases where Realtors have stopped using a particular professional photographer because the photographer would not use the licensing form provided by the MLS. Some managing brokers tell their agents they must use the MLS forms. Yet the particular MLS form is not in the interest of photographers.

It is time that MLSs start including professional photographers rights in the real estate transaction. This is not rocket science, all that needs to happen is MLSs need to acknowledge that professional photographers are frequently part of the real estate transaction!

This Week In Real Estate Video #106 – Lucas Ramage in Calgary

April 11th, 2014

LucasRamageBruce Lemieux, in Maryland pointed out a real estate agent in Calgary that is doing great work with video. The agent is Lucas Ramage. Lucas is a third generation Realtor that does all the shooting, scripting, voice-over and editing for his video and his work is very good!

Here are several of my favorites from Lucas’s YouTube Channel. :

As you can see, Lucas is very passionate about video!

Gofor Envisions Drone On-Demand Service – Cool or Scary?

April 10th, 2014

GoforFirst of all, this is just and idea at this point. It’s not yet as real as the Gofor website and video make it sound. The concept is basically a smartphone App that would allow you to schedule a RCMA video or still shot.

However, if state and federal laws permitted it I could see this being a high demand service! A real estate photographer could request  a front shot(s) to augment the work they were doing on the ground without even needing to own the RCMA equipment. Very compelling concept, particularly if a lengthy or involved certification and testing process is introduced by future FAA regulations.

Yeah, you could easily make the case that for shooting custom video you’d want to have complete control of the quality of video and the angles and heights of the shots so it fits into your production.

The public argument against this, which is significant, is that it allows undesirable surveillance. Many states are probably going to have laws that will get in the way of, or stop a service like this. For example, Both the House and Senate of the Washington state legislature recently passed HB 2789 by a large margin but the bill was vetoed by the Governor. HB 2789 would have required permission from property owners if you fly over their private property with any sensing device (like a camera). In Wisconsin, a similar bill passed by the state Senate would make it a crime to “deploy an unmanned drone capable of video or audio recording in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Oh well, it’s an interesting concept.

Thanks to readers Jim and Jerry for sending me links for this subject!

Lightroom 5.4, Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Web View

April 8th, 2014

LR5.4Yesterday Adobe released an update to Lightroom, a iPad Lightroom App and a Lightroom Web view feature.

Laura Shoe’s video walks you through all these new Lightroom developments. All of these new things are only available to subscribers of the Creative Cloud. As Laura says, this makes the $9.99/mo subscription even more attractive.

These are all interesting and useful features and probably just the first step in mobile Lightroom functionality. iPhone and Android implementation apparently is on the way.

Update: Now that I’ve had few hours to play around with Lightroom mobile and Lightroom web view they seem a bit crude. I’m still wondering if I’ll have a use for tinkering with Lightroom collections on my iPad. I like the idea of having of having a place to put a slideshow but the slide shows on lightroom.adobe.com seem very crude compared to those I can do other places. Hopefully Adobe will polish up both Lightroom mobile and lightroom web view in the future.

How Far Would You Go To Clean Up For A Real Estate Shoot?

April 7th, 2014

ListingCleanupFred Light recently posted a video in the PFRE flickr forum that he did last December about the work that listing agents do cleaning up listings getting them ready for market.

Helping home sellers get their property parade-ready for going on the market is one of the toughest but most important jobs that a listing agent has. All sellers need some amount of help and some need a lot more than others.

As a photographer you need to take steps to make sure you don’t end up in the middle of this problem. That is, good listing agents take care if this issue and work closely with home sellers to make sure homes are ready for photos before a photo shoot is even scheduled. On the other hand, some don’t or don’t do it as well. As a photographer working for the listing agent make sure you are clear about where your limits for clean-up and decluttering are. Here are some suggestions:

  • It’s not the photographers job to clean up and declutter a home or to stand around and wait while it’s done.
  • At the same time, little things you do during the shoot like moving a stack of magazines or taking a towel off the refrigerator handle can make big  visual differences.
  • Have a statement in your terms of service about this issue.
  • Provide a home preparation list of recommended things that the home owner and agent should do to prepare for a shoot. Again, good listing agents don’t need this but others need to know what you expect.
  • Once you’ve shot for an agent a few shoots it will be obvious how diligent they are at preparing for a shoot so you’ll know who to remind about this issue.
  • With a new client, a short conversation about home preparation up front will tip you off on what to expect.
  • Beware of homes being sold while renters are still in the home. Many of these renters have no incentive to cooperate and frequently listing agents have no control over getting them to cooperate. Expect the worst!

I suggest that you think through how you feel about this and know where your limits are before your first disaster occurs that way you won’t have to make it up on the fly. Sooner or later you will arrive at for a shoot at a home that it a total mess. It’s just a matter of time.

What Is Your Primary Method Of Lighting For Real Estate Photography?

April 6th, 2014

I think it’s interesting to see what approaches to lighting readers are using and how it changes over time, with changes in technology and personal preferences. I did an identical poll back in 2011. I also did one back in 2008 but the questions in 2008 were different enough it can easily be compared directly to the 2011 poll. Here are the results from 2011:

2011 Pool – 1025 readers took the poll

  1. Multiple off camera flash – 26%
  2. Exposure Fusion/flash hybrid – 17%
  3. HDR processing – 13%
  4. Exposure Fusion – 11%
  5. Single, on-camera flash- 10%
  6. HDR/flash hybrid – 8%
  7. Ambient light only – 7%
  8. Multiple off camera E-TTL/CLS – 5%
  9. Hot lights or studio strobes – 2%

Many people use a mixture of techniques. I’ve heard many people say they shoot a series of brackets so the have some options if things go wrong. For the poll select the technique you use most.

The other thing that happens is you start out using one technique and as you see a better way you progress to a different technique. I used an on-camera flash for years until I met Scott Hargis and Dan Achatz at the workshop we did in Seattle in 2008. Dan is a master of HDR and while Scott was doing a demo of bright window lighting, Dan shot and processed a HDR shot of the bright windows (at about 3:40 in this video).

Please take the poll before you leave!

This Week In Real Estate Video #105 – NAR Says Don’t Use RCMA For Marketing

April 4th, 2014

NARonRCMAProbably the most significant thing happening in the last few weeks in real estate video is the NAR’s statement on RCMA. In the March/April issue of their association magazine the NAR (National Association of Realtors) recommended to it’s members, “…members should not use drones for real estate marketing purposes or hire companies to do so.” I’ve gotten feedback that this has discouraged many agents from hiring RCMA photography/videography.

Along with the statement in RealtorMag they put together a YouTube video that has Russell Riggs, NAR Senior Policy Representative, explaining the NAR’s rationale for their policy statement.

While I appreciate the NAR position of showing respect for the FAA’s position on this subject I feel obligated to expose both sides of this argument. I think the best description of the other side of this situation/argument is by Peter Sachs at Drone Law Journal. Peter’s front page, titled “Current Drone Law.” Among other things Peter explains the position that there has never been law of any kind regarding RCMA.

Everyone has to evaluate their own situation and decide where they are on this issue and what they are personally going to do. As many have stated well in previous post on this subject, the primary consideration is safety and protecting yourself against liability if you choose to fly commercially.

Update April 8 2014: As Fred Light points out in his comment below, the NAR has joined with many other organizations in sending this letter to the FAA urging them to speed up their process for creating rules to regulate the use of UAS.

Real Estate Photography Questions From Readers

April 2nd, 2014

QandAI answer a lot of PFRE reader questions via email. I thought it may be useful to answer these questions publicly so more people can join in answering the questions. Answers from several thousand people are better than answers from just one person! Here are some recent reader questions:

Tom’s Question: I am new to this and was wondering if a light meter is needed or handy for setting up flashes and exposure? 

Answer: The light meters built into modern DSLRs are adequate to deal with shooting real estate photography. It’s quite easy to setup flashes with a couple of trial and error shots and looking at the resulting LCD screen of your DSLR, also called “chimping.” This is not to say you couldn’t figure out a system of using an external light meter if you had one, but you don’t need one to do a good job of shooting interiors. For a good summary of how to do the whole process see this post by Scott Hargis.

Todd’s Question: I just read an article from Inman News regarding a new feature that Welcomemat has where you can pull still frames from videos. Do you see new ground being broken? Do you think photographers will embrace this and move to creating more video?

Answer: This is not new technology that is going to change anything because no competent interior photographer will be willing to simply pull a frame from a video and use it as a still. Here’s why:

  1. When shooting interiors, lighting is important. Professionals shooting stills use either flash lighting or shoot bracketed images and post process to get a bright well lit room.
  2. On the other hand when you are shooting property video you have to make lighting compromises like shooting at much higher ISOs than you would shoot a still and having to let the windows be brighter than you would allow when shooting a stills.
You’ve been able to pull still frames from a video with Lightroom and other post processing software for a many years yet few people do it except to get a snapshot. I don’t see this feature as a way of getting quality stills.

Jason’s Question:  I have been asked to add a virtual staging to one of the properties I am going to shoot. Any chance of an article on virtual staging.

Answer: I’ve only ever talked to one real estate photographer that did virtual staging , and he’s since given it up. My sense is that a few people provide this service because it’s not a ragingly popular product. My guess the reason is that good listing agents are concerned about both what the property looks like on the web and how it shows when potential buyers get to the property. Virtual staging only deals with part of the problem. As an ex-listing agent I’d never use it! If you have a client that wants the service, they could send your finished photos to the virtual stager for virtual staging.

Now Accepting Master Bedroom Photos For April PFRE Photographer Of The Month

March 31st, 2014

HallMasterWe are now accepting Master bedroom shots for the April 2014 PFRE photographer of the month contest.

For those not familiar with this series of monthly contests take a look at the Contest page that describes all the rules and the process. For a look at past monthly winners and all the yearly winners go to the best-of-the-best page (on the top menu bar click “Featured”).

The theme for April is Master bedroom shots and we will be accepting entries through April 15. The winner will be picked by the jury between Apr 15 and Apr 23.

As usual the submitted images are available for viewing in the PFRE Photographer of The Month flickr group. I post them there as they are submitted. The left-sidebar widgets displays the submitted images  either in Flash or non-Flash format.

 

Please carefully read and follow all of the contest instructions at: 

        photographyforrealestate.net/pfre-photographer-of-the-month/

 

Yongnuo YN-560-III: The Only Flash You’ll Ever Need For Real Estate

March 30th, 2014

YN560IIIThe YN-560-III is a great all around manually triggered flash that you can use to get started or if you are using Scott Hargis’s Lighting Interiors manual flash technique. For details see Lighting Interiors e-book or Scott’s Lighting Video series.

The YN-560-III that was introduced in January of 2013 is a slight refinement of the YN-560-II that has a built-in 2.4Ghz trigger compatible with the RF602/603 triggers. That is, when you are using Scott’s manual flash system you need to trigger at least one flash wirelessly if you are going to get the flash off your camera and have one flash fire other flashes optically. What I like about the YN-560-III is it eliminates parts and batteries because it has a RF602/603 receiver built-in to it.

So the complete setup would be:

  1. RF602/603 in the hot shoe of your camera. Choose the right one for your Nikon/Canon body.
  2. One or more YN-560-IIIs are triggered from the RF602/603 in the hot shoe.
  3. The rest of your flashes could be either YN-560-IIs or YN-560-IIIs or Sb-80DXs and be optically triggered.

For those just starting out with Scott’s manual flash system the YN-560-III and an RF603/603 make a great first flash. It gets your flash off the camera, it triggers wirelessly without spending a fortune on triggers, and it minimizes parts and batteries. Then as you learn Scott’s system and need to acquire more flashes you can acquire, SB-80dxs, or YN-560-IIs or YN-560-IIIs any of which can be optically triggered by the first YN-560-III. If you have multiple YN-560-IIIs you can trigger them all with the RF602/603 trigger in your hot shoe.

It’s worth pointing out that at 2014 prices you can get 2 YN-560-IIIs and a set of RF602/603 triggers for the same price as 1 used SB-80Dx. Scott and David Hobby have been promoting the SB-80Dx for years and the price keeps going up and up. There are currently 2 available from KEH, one for $189 and one for $194.

I can attest to the build quality and reliability of the YN-560-IIs and -IIIs because I have 3 of the -IIIs and 2 of the -IIs. I never have any reliability issues with mine. The touch and feel of the Yongnuo’s is very similar to my obscenely expensive Canon 580EX which I haven’t used since I met Scott.