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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.

This Week In Real Estate Video #104 – First PFRE Video Contest: Starts 4/15

March 28th, 2014

ContestI’ve gotten requests to do a video contest so I convinced Allan MacKenzie in Brisbane to help me get one off the ground. I know everyone doesn’t like contests but many do and it becomes a catalyst for discussion and learning which is the primary goal. Note- All this doesn’t start until 4/15/2014- that is, entries will not be accepted until 4/15.

Here is the contest rules page and below is the general structure of the contest.

  1. Submission and Discussion: Entrants will submit an entry by submitting a link to their video which can be hosted either on YouTube or Vimeo. I will compile links on the contest page to all the contest entries. This will allow discussion if each video at either YouTube or Vimeo. I’ll post the names of the entrants after a winner is chosen each month. For now, there won’t be any monthly theme like the still photo contest, but every December we’ll choose a PFRE videographer of the year.
  2. Anonymity: As with the still photo contest it would be nice to make the entrants totally anonymous but that’s not totally practical in all cases. I won’t do anything to disclose the identity of entrants and if an entrant wishes to be totally anonymous they can create an anonymous YouTube or Vimeo account and not put any branding on their entry. On the other hand if entrants want to use an existing branded YouTube or Vimeo channel, that’s OK too.
  3. Judging: Allan Mackenzie will act as our initializing judge. He will be the only judge for the first contest. Then monthly winners will be invited to join the video jury so the jury will grow over time.
  4. Schedule: The schedule is offset by 15 days from the PFRE still photo contest. For a detailed schedule see the contest rules page. The still photo contest will run the first half of the month and the video contest will run the second half.

Feel free to give us feedback on this contest setup. Make sure we didn’t miss something. My goal is to make this as simple and easy as possible and provide a venue for discussing real estate property video. It is tailored after the PFRE still contest which seems to be working well.

Update 3/31/2014: Based on the feedback we’ve gotten on the contest setup, we’ve decided to use this new flickr forum to post links to all the video entries. That way there doesn’t need to be any limitations on where entrants host their video for the contest and all the discussion can take place on the flickr forum. I’ll be updating the video contest rule page to reflect this change.

RCMA Presentation At Real Estate Connect®

March 26th, 2014

InmanConnectThe Real Estate Connect® conference put on by Inman News was held last January 15-17 in NYC.

This is a video of a session at last January’s Real Estate Connect titled, Why the real estate industry has been an early adopter of drones. The session is by Matt Murphy of Boston Virtual Imaging,

First of all I can’t help commenting on the fact that the sooner we all quit using the term Drone for these devices the better. The process of regulation of these devices is going to be difficult enough without using the same term for them that we use for shooting people. Call them UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RCMA (Remote Control Model Aircraft) or model airplanes. It’s in everyone’s best interest to STOP calling them Drones.

The reason I wanted pass on Matt’s little presentation is several fold:

  1. Agents are all being educated in the aspects of RMCA and there huge potential in real estate photography and videography. This kind of talk at conferences is clearly building a big demand for aerial photography videography.
  2. Matt shows the the three general sizes of RCMA. We’ve had discussions about the pros and cons of medium size vs large RCMA.
    •  Blade Nano: As Matt points out using a little guy like this to build up your expertise without putting more expensive gear at risk. This doesn’t even carry a camera. It’s just for getting flying practice.
    • DJI Phantom 2: The medium size RCMA that carries a GoPRO.
    • DJI S800 EVO: The upper-end RMCA that will carry DSLRs.

With these kind of presentations being given at Real Estate Connect you can see why agents are getting RCMA themselves and demanding that RCMA aerial video be a part of their videos.

Your Job As An Interiors Photographer Is To Show How The Room Feels More Than How It Looks

March 24th, 2014

Last night I was looking at all the PFRE Photographer Of The Month contest entries that were awarded points by the jury. It occurred to me that all of these 17 entries had for the most part managed to get rid of all the classic interior shot distracting effects like wide angle abuse, lens distortion, converging verticals, chromatic aberration, color and white balance problems. The primary difference in most of these top 17 entries was down to what did the image of the room feel like?  An image feels as it does because of the way the lines, shapes and color work together and what feeling that creates. That’s, composition.

Real estate photographers probably don’t think enough about composition enough because it’s easy to get distracted by all the technical and process stuff and not leave enough time to think about composition. Yet it has a big impact on the effectiveness of a image. I was looking back over many years of blog posts to see how much I’d talked about composition here on the blog. In doing so I ran across Scott Hargis’s great little tutorial on composition (video was shot by Malia Campbell) that he did 2.5 years ago. It’s a great way to get started thinking about all the various aspects of composition. It is well worth watching even if you’ve seen it before, or even if you have seen it.