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What Is Currently The Best Software For Making Floor Plans?

November 29th, 2015

LaserMeasuringKen in Toronto asks:

I’ve decided to start doing floor plans for real estate. Can you suggest what the best floor plan drawing software is? Thanks.

First of all here is a link to the posts we’ve done in the last few years here on floor plans.

Which floor plan product you provide depends first on how elaborate a floor plan you want to make and what’s popular in your market. Over the last several years, floor plans have gotten more elaborate. There are three basic types:

  • Upper-end 360/3d: If you are shooting upper-end homes you may want to look at Matterport which can make both floorplans and 360 3D images. These make more sense for upper-end because the camera to create them and the hosting service is fairly expensive.
  • 2D Black and White: On the other hand if you just want to create a floorplan to integrate into a virtual tour you will want to get a laser measuring device (like this) that will allow you to quickly measure interiors and use software like either FloorDesign for the Mac or EZblueprint for Windows. Both of these make simple black and white 2D style floorplans.
  • 3D colored: For creating more elaborate floor plans that are 3D, colored and even have furniture is a good choice. also makes an iPad App called FloorplanFinder.

What is your favorite floorplan creation software?

Great News: NAR is Finally Educating Realtors About Listing Photo Copyright Law

November 26th, 2015

NARCopyrightInfoThe good news: Finally the US National Association of REALTORS (NAR) is educating Realtors about copyright issues involved with listing photos (see this NAR article). This should have started long ago, but let’s be thankful that they finally realized that photo copyright is an area that agents need education. This is a very significant development because agents in the US respect and pay attention to the NAR. Most real estate offices use NAR materials to help educate agents. The fact is, agents are probably going to pay more attention to information like this coming from the NAR than they are if it is coming from their professional real estate photographer! Notice that the article has three agreements for agents to download.

The bad news: Some local real estate offices are interpreting this copyright info to be a reason that agents should shoot their own listings. For example, here is an excerpt from an email that Jonathan, on the Big Island, got from one of his clients:

…The safest way to make sure that you’re safe, of course, is to take your own photos. But if you must hire a photographer to take photos for you, please make sure that you have secured all the rights to use the images in writing…

So when explaining your license agreement to your agent clients it may be helpful and add credibility to your story to refer to this NAR article. Most US agents are NAR members so it should add to your credibility.

Update – More bad news: As you can see below in Joel Rothman’s (an Intellectual Property Attorney) detailed and insightful comments you should not sign the NAR’s license agreements. Joel says to NAR general counsel:

…Your sample agreements, and in particular the exclusive license, is overbroad and overreaching for the typical agent-photographer relationship. If NAR wants to perpetuate disputes with the photographers their members depend upon to earn their commissions, and continue to sow seeds of distrust, then these sample agreements will accomplish those goals. I will advise my photographer clients not to sign NAR’s sample agreements…

Thanks Joel for you valuable input! Note that we have a copy of Joel’s recommended photo license agreement in our e-book: The Business of Real Estate Photography.

What Is The Best Way To Learn Lightroom or Photoshop?

November 25th, 2015

LyndaLast week I had two readers ask about Lightroom and Photoshop training. One knew Lightroom well and wanted to get just learn Photoshop and the other didn’t know either and wanted to find someone that would do one-on-one tutoring for Lightroom and Photoshop.

First of all, this is NOT a paid advertisement. I’m just passing on how I learn to use software like Lightroom and Photoshop. This is what I told them:

  1. Get a good reference book for the software you are learning. You don’t have to read it cover to cover, it’s mainly to look up subjects that you run into trouble with. There are many good ones, but I like Scott Kelby’s books. Here is his Photoshop book and here is his latest Lightroom book.
  2. Video tutorials are the best way to learn software. For video tutorials, I recommend because they have much more depth and variety of courses and the quality is much higher than anyplace else. A standard video subscription to costs $25/month but wait until you have time to study the subject and just subscribe for a month or two. While you are subscribed you can watch any videos on the site. And the way is structured you can study just the parts of the software you use. For example, here is their Lightroom essentials course. As you can see, it’s chunked up into short clips on different subjects so you can skip around and just watch the ones you want or need. There are over 80 video courses just on Lightroom.
  3. For real estate photography, Lightroom is the application you need to know the best. It’s where you will spend most of your time. It’s designed for photographers and it is easier to learn.
  4. Photoshop is more difficult to learn, but you only need to learn to use the parts you need. You don’t need to know how to use every last feature. You’ll need to know how to do things like replacing skies, cloning out objects and blending layered images. These are thing’s you can’t easily do in Lightroom.

So sure you can find YouTube and other video tutorials on most Lightroom and Photoshop techniques but if you are serious at learning these applications in depth subscribing to for a month or two when you have some extra time (like the slow season that is going on now) is I think the best way to get high-quality training.


Do You Use An App That Automatically Tracks Your Business Mileage?

November 24th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 9.57.33 AM copyI have always hated tracking my business mileage manually. Back before Smartphones I used to have a mileage sheet that I kept in my vehicle and wrote down all the miles I drove for business. Tax deductions are of course the primary reason but for real estate photographers I think it’s important to be carefully tracking your mileage so you know what you are spending on vehicle costs (part of your variable cost of showing up – see this post for an explanation of variable costs). You need to be sure that your shoot pricing is recovering your vehicle costs so you need to know your milage stats.

Smartphone apps that will use the GPS  in your Smartphone to automatically track and record your mileage automatically have been available for a long while but I only started using one of theses Apps recently.

Here are some of these apps:

  1. Mileage Log – IOS
  2. Auto Miles –  IOS
  3. Klicks – IOS only
  4. Triplog – IOS & Android
  5. MileIQ – Android only

These are just the more popular ones, there are many more. I think real estate photographers that aren’t using one of these should take a look at these they can save you a bunch of time and money and give you a detailed insight into what your business miles driven.

What is your favorite mileage tracking App?

Congratulations To Hamish Beeston – PFRE Photographer Of The Month For November

November 23rd, 2015

2015-NovHamishBeestonCongratulations to Hamish Beeston, Bristol, UK who has won the November PFRE photographer of the month. Another UK winner! Wow, these UK shooters can’t be stopped!

Here are the contestants that the jurors awarded points to this month:

  1. #17Hamish Beeston -Bristol, UK
  2. #28Barry MacKenzie – London, Ontario
  3. #9Tim Krueger – Costa Mesa, California
  4. #6Alasdair Macintosh – York, UK
  5. #16Robert Morning – Los Angeles, California
  6. #4Abraham Seidler – Innsbruck, Austria
  7. #30Brandon Cooper – Fort McMurray, Alberta
  8. #3Rich Baum – Sacramento, California
  9. #8Michael Yearout – Breckenridge, Colorado
  10. #25Trace Tague – Tucson, Arizona
  11. #36Claudio Mollo – Rome, Italy
  12. #5Gary Kasl – San Marcos, California
  13. #23Franz Rabe – Pretoria, South Africa

Don’t forget to check out the comments in the PFRE Flickr contest group by jurors and others. There is a lot of good commentary on the photos this month.

Here are Hamish’s comments:

Many thanks for all your votes – I’m really chuffed to have won this month, especially when there were some fantastic images in the field.

A few notes re the shot.

Most of the hard work in this case was done for me – the property is an exquisitely-renovated mews house in London, with a fantastic level of finish. The walls and ceilings are polished plaster, which gives a lovely reflective shine from the in-set lighting. I also really liked all the horizontal / vertical lines in the space and the crazy staircase, so I was keen to capture an image that was quite geometric and stylized.

Technically, I shot a bracketed series and then fused just two (which were very close in exposure – 1 sec and 0.6 sec @ f11, ISO 100, AWB, 18mm on my trusty old Canon 5d) using the Exposure Fusion feature in Photomatix Pro. Looking back at the workflow now, I could probably have just worked from a single RAW file as the fused image looked a little unreal with its boosted shadows and I ended up crushing them back down in LR!

The main work then was to add a grad filter to the left hand side of the image to reduce the glare, remove the blue / purple daylight casts and straighten the whole thing up. This last bit I did initially in LR and then in Photoshop where I typically use the Perspective Crop tool to tweak out the corners until everything is bang on. And yes, I do get a bit obsessive… I also straighten pictures on other people’s walls!

Back in LR, I used the spot removal tool to remove two smoke alarms from the ceiling and dirt spots from the floor. Finally, I added a small amount of sharpening and noise reduction.

Examples Of Real Estate Video Shot With The DJI OSMO

November 22nd, 2015

DJIOSMOExampleBack in October I did a post on the introduction of the DJI OSMO. Just recently both Jim Barnes and Fred Light shared some of their real estate video done with the OSMO. Here are their videos:

Here are Jim’s comments on the DJI OSMO:

First let me say, I normally shoot real estate video with a Canon C100 / Movi 5 / Ninja Blade recorder. This combo can get really heavy so I bought the Osmo to help fill in for some outdoor shots. I routinely edit 4k footage from the Phantom P3 and Inspire so I already knew what I was in for and understand the Osmo’s camera’s limitation regarding dynamic range etc.

I decided to take Osmo along on a recent photo shoot for a lower priced listing as an experiment. (Out of the box)

The good: Osmo is very fun and you can get shots not attainable with any other system. With some practice, creativity and discipline, Osmo can do wonders. Evenly lit scenes are pretty good. Did I say this is fun?

The bad: Osmo is terrible at handling high-contrast scenes that we normally run into shooting real estate videos. Window blowout is unacceptable. I had a real problem maintaining horizontal roll access to maintain verticles. I had to spend extra time in post to correct for this issue. Shooting in 4K with final output to 1080P gives the editor lots of extra latitude but still complicates the post production workflow.

What I learned: Turning off the tilt function in the app helps. You can also fine-tune the horizontal axis in the DJI app.

Here is my first attempt (FYI we got this home in contract in 1 day!)

Here are Fred’s comments on the DJI OSMO:

This thing is a ton of fun and definitely opens up possibilities for some interesting angles… (I use it a lot mounted on my car). The quality is good outside, but as with most camera like this (and GoPro, etc.), it falls apart inside with low light. And as we know, many people live in pseudo caves with one 40 watt bulb in a nightstand lamp as the only light source in a bedroom. I’ve even noticed it falling apart outside on cloudy days. Bright light? Awesome. The video is also a little ‘crisp’ for me, sort of like the GH4, but definitely workable. It oftentimes looks very over sharpened. They just added a couple of log settings which may reduce that a bit.

This video someone did is a perfect example of the super sharp (and I find annoying) crispness of the image.

It’s not going to replace my regular inside gear at the point, but I’m definitely using it for certain things.

Thanks to Fred and Jim for the examples and insights.

What Are Your Terms and Conditions For Real Estate Photography Payment?

November 19th, 2015

TOSDavid in San Diego asks:

Can you tell me what verbiage I should use in my Terms of Service statement regarding payment from the agent?

We had a good discussion on this topic back in August of this year. As you can see the PFRE community is split between insisting on payment at the shoot and sending an invoice with something like Freshbooks or PayPal or SquareUp requesting payment within 30 days.

Payment within 30 days is pretty standard practice in business, but many report having difficulties getting agents to pay on time.

I recommend being set up to both take credit cards at the shoot and being able to send out an invoice that agents can pay with a credit card. If you have both of these methods you should be covered.

A great way to do both is It allows you to either swipe credit cards or send invoices that allow clients to pay via a link on the invoice and has one of the lowest processing fees around. Currently, only works in the US.

Image Editing for Real Estate Photography – The Video Series Has Been Reduced to $50 USD

November 19th, 2015

ImageEditingAD50Black Friday price reduction: Effective immediately, the price for Image Editing for Real Estate Photography – the video series has been reduced to $50 USD.

Since being introduced in August of this year, the video series has been purchased by photographers in 20 different countries and there have been over 3200 video plays. One additional chapter was added to the series and additional chapters are in the works.

If you are getting started with real estate photography or are not really familiar or comfortable with the Adobe editing software (Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements), this video series will quickly get you up to speed on how to handle more than 30 commonly encountered real estate photography editing issues. Adding a “fake” sky, painting brown grass green, capturing the view outside the window, correcting perspective issues and many more. Each editing issue is explained in depth and the steps necessary to fix it are clearly shown.

Even if you are an experienced real estate photographer and are familiar with some of the material presented in the videos there are topics that I bet you are not familiar with. John has heard from more than one experienced RE photographer who commented on how helpful they find the videos.

Click the button at the top of the page to look at sample material or to purchase the video series.

UAV Boot Camp: An Online Drone Training Course for New Pilots

November 18th, 2015

UAVChachLast week I talked to the guys at UAV Coach. UAV Coach is a drone blog and online community  that recently launched a 6-part drone training course. This is the course page.

The 90-minute video and text-based course is geared towards brand new and beginner pilots who want to break into the industry and hone their flight skills.

By being based online, students can get the information they need from anywhere in the World as long as they have an internet connection.

With interest in recreational and commercial UAVs expanding rapidly, the creator (Alan Perlman) wanted to make sure this course could be globally accessible to as many people as possible.

The UAV course page has a free preview video on Rules and Regulations. This preview video is both a preview of the course and a great great source of information for Drone pilots trying to understand the difficult subject of rules and regulations.

Sky Replacement For Real Estate Photography – Should You Do It For Free or Charge Extra?

November 17th, 2015

SkyReplacementKimi in Minneapolis has the following questions about sky replacement, adding fire in the fireplace and putting images on TVs:

The Minneapolis photography market is getting a bit more competitive these days, and one thing that a local photography company is doing as part of their package is replacing grey skies with blue, adding flames to the fireplaces, and overlaying different images on televisions. Although they are one of the most expensive companies in the Twin Cities, the agents are willing to pay that extra dollar for those modified images as I mentioned above. Do you know if this is a norm for other photographers to automatically include this service? Is there an easy way to change the sky without the trees looking like they straight out of a scary movie?? And where are they getting the television images that are not infringing any copyright laws? Any advice on this topic would be greatly appreciated as I would like to be more competitive with this company but I do not want to have my profit eaten up by extra time spent processing these photos, nor do I want any lawsuits!

Here are my answers to Kimi’s questions: Continue Reading »

November PFRE Photographer Of The Month Contest is Now Closed And Turned Over To The Jury

November 16th, 2015

NovStillContestThe PFRE  Photographer of the month Flickr pool now has 35 entries (there is no #1) and the Jury is in the process of deliberating and voting.

The theme for November is “open” meaning entries can be any kind of real estate marketing shot. As usual the entries are from all over the world. Besides the usual locations such as US, CA and UK, we have entries from Austria, Cap Martin, South Africa, Thailand, NZ and Italy. I don’t know what happened to the Aussies this month – they must all be on vacation.

Studying the entries and the comments for this contest is a great learning opportunity. We have  many past winners in this group so the competition is significant. Feel free to join the contest Flickr group and comment on them. The winner will be announced next week. The voting closes on November 23.

Note that this is the last monthly contest of 2015. In December the jury will pick a 2015 PFRE photographer of the year from all the 2015 monthly winners.

360 Video And VR is Coming To Real Estate Marketing

November 15th, 2015

360YTvideoI can remember a year ago when I saw the first 360 video. My reaction was that it was a solution looking for a problem. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would use 360 video.

There have been some developments since then that have caught my attention:

  1. In the last year or so there are a bunch of relatively inexpensive cameras that shoot 360 video. For example 360fly, Ricoh ThetaGoPro and Kodak SP360.
  2. In the beginning of 2015 YouTube started supporting 360 video. You can look at 360 video on anything that plays YouTube videos but on mobile devices moving the device around changes the direction you are looking in the 360 video. This makes 360 video on smartphones and tablets very interesting.
  3. This month the New York times started publishing 360 video in their to their digital subscribers. This means this technology is quickly moving into mainstream use. It’s not just techies that are going to be using it. I showed by 6-year-old granddaughter how to do it on her iPad and she likes it!

Continue Reading »

Video Contest for October/November is Still Open But Will Close on Nov 23

November 13th, 2015

VidelContestThis is a reminder that the PFRE video contest for October has been extended to November since there are only three entries. The video contest will close at the end-of-day on November 23 and the winner will be announced December 1.

The current contest entries are at:

And the contest rules are at:

Do You Provide Virtual Staging? What Software/Service Do You Use?

November 12th, 2015

FurniturePeter in Canada wants to hear about the subject of virtual staging. He says:

I know you have covered virtual staging before but it’s been a while. My questions are:

  1. How many of you out there do virtual staging?
  2. What’s the best or most popular software for this?
Yes, we discussed virtual staging about a year ago. Here is my crack at answering Peter’s questions:

Continue Reading »

Here Is A Fresh, Creative New Approach To Video Property!

November 11th, 2015

KittensThanks to Michael in Illinois for pointing out this property video that uses a fresh, new approach to home tours. It uses Kittens to take you on a home tour. Kittens may be one of the most popular video subject on the internet – only slightly less popular than PewDiePie.

This video is by Katharine Holland and Travis Bernard, The San Francisco Good Life Team. Their website says that they “pride themselves in showing off properties in creative and interesting ways.” Their video feature Corgi Realtors, foster kittens, wind-up toys, electric bicycles and more! You can see them all on their YouTube Channel. Very creative property video!

Between their video, photography and property sites it looks like they do a fantastic job of marketing property!