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A Follow Up On PFRE Coaching – Kerry Bern Does Personalized Video Tutorials

September 21st, 2014

KerryBernLast month we setup the PFRE coaching page and several PFRE Coaches have told me they are actively coaching people.

Kerry Bern told me last week that:

Thanks to the coaching directory that you created I started working with a lady located in the Portland area. In the first set of images she sent me was an image where she had problems removing her camera and tripod reflection from the mirror of a bathroom. She asked specifically what is the best way to remove the reflection. I felt it would be best to show her how to do it rather than trying to explain it in an email or over the phone. So I asked her to send me the original RAW image and I made a video tutorial of how I remove those types of reflections trying to explain as I went along why I was doing it this way.

We’ve all had this problem in bathrooms where there is so much glass it’s impossible to get the camera or the camera and yourself out of the mirror. Thanks Kerry for sharing your tutorial with everyone. If you are in need of help getting started in real estate photography or videography checkout one or more of the PFRE coaches. Is Pushing The Boundaries Again – Selling Property With Sex

September 19th, 2014

AlliraCohrsOne thing you can always depend on is our mates at will always be pushing all the boundaries! They are at it again with this mobile formatted property video that features Australian bombshell Allira Cohrs.

They are obviously pushing the technical boundaries with this video. Brett Clements says:

First job on the RED Dragon. With a few shots from the C300. Shot for mobile devices. Turned the camera on its side. And we cut it in portrait and we are streaming it in portrait, using our new transcoder. The Dragon’s colour science is stunning!!

While many will think that Allira’s “assets” divert too much attention from the property, Brett and his crew have shown several times before that sex sells upper-end property (at least in on the Australian Gold Coast).

Brett and his team have even managed to get Inman news to do a poll on whether or not this approach does more harm that good. About 1 in 4 Inman readers (26%) thought that the video may do more harm than good. I guess you’ll just have to watch the video and decide for yourself!

Checkout Scott Hargis’s Comments On The September Photo Contest Entries

September 17th, 2014

SeptContestI always enjoy reading Scott’s comments on the PFRE photographer of the month contest entries. He doesn’t always have time to do it, but he did this month and just spent several hours this afternoon commenting on over half of the September contest entries. It is well worth your time to read Scott’s analysis and thinking about these entries.

Scott visually analyzes images much like my art history professor did. I really enjoy having someone analytically take apart an image and talk about the purpose of the image and how effective the story the image is telling is. Also, what makes the image weak or what would make it stronger. There don’t seem to be many people that talk about images like this.

I think there’s a lot to be learned by reading through Scott’s comments on this months images. You may or may not agree with him, but you will learn by going through the analysis with him. Of course, the objective is to be able to think like this while you are looking through the view finder setting up your next interior shot.

Thanks Scott and other juror commenters (Aaron and George) for all the time you’ve put into your insightful comments!

What Should Real Estate Photographers Do For Monitor Calibration?

September 16th, 2014

MonitorCalibrationI got a great question yesterday from Kimi who is a real estate photographer. Here’s Kimi’s question:

We have been having issues with a particular team of agents (too many hands in the pot), but I feel it has raised a good question. When processing photos in LR, how important is the monitor that you are processing on? Are there any “standards” or suggestions that can make things pretty uniformed for the consumers in comparison to what we are seeing on our screens? I understand that every monitor is different, but I am starting to question if MY monitor is appropriate or if there are certain settings that I am not aware of to make things better so I do not hear my clients telling me the photos are too light on their screen, another agent feels they are too dark, etc. Any suggestions?

My answer: Yes, monitors vary quite a lot. Picky agents or home owners will complain if they think the colors in property photos don’t look “right.” You can adjust colors so they look good on your monitor but if your monitor is not calibrated and your clients monitors aren’t calibrated the image will look different to them.

As someone supplying images to others it is imperative that you calibrate your system to a standard. For images used on the web the standard is sRGB. Of course, calibration of your monitor won’t eliminate color arguments if your clients don’t also calibrate, but at least your images will be created according to the standard. It’s not likely that most of your clients will go to the trouble to calibrate their monitors but at least you know that your system is not causing the problem. If your monitor is calibrated you could suggest to picky clients that they also calibrate their monitors. More and more real estate images are viewed on tablets and smartphones (these can’t be calibrated but are fairly consistent among the same manufacturer) so these make a good reference. You should occasionally see what your images look like on the more popular tablets that you know your clients use.

Resources for calibrating your monitor:

  1. Matt Granger’s YouTube tutorial on calibrating your monitor
  2. Tom Niemann’s monitor calibration explanation.
  3. A relatively recent discussion in the PFRE flickr group on monitor calibration.

The above resources make several suggestions for hardware and software for monitor calibration. Here is a summary of some popular monitor calibration products that are suggested in the above references:

  1. X-Rite CMUNDIS ColorMunki  Tom Niemann’s, also suggested by several in the flickr group.
  2. Datacolor Spyder4Elite Matt Granger’s, also suggested by Iran Watson in the flickr group.
  3. X-Rite i1 Display pro, suggested by David Eichler in the flickr group.

Feel free to add your experiences with monitor calibration.

September Still Photo Contest Closing – Aug/Sep Video Contest Open Through Sept 23

September 15th, 2014

SeptContestThe PFRE Photographer of the month contest for September will close on Tues 9/16 when  I turn the voting over to the jurors. If you get your entry to me before that, I’ll accept your entry.

I’ll continue accepting entries for the Aug/Sept property video contest through next Tues 9/23. Before submitting your video entry please be sure to read:

The video contest rules at:

Thanks for everyone’s participation in the contests. As of right now we have 26 outstanding photos in the still contest and 5 videos in the property video contest.

Choosing Gear To Get Started in Real Estate Photography For Least the Cost

September 14th, 2014

GettingStartedIt’s been a two years since I’ve written about choosing gear to get started in real estate photography so I thought do an update. First of all here are the basic decisions you must make:

  1. You need to use a DSLR. Forget about point-and-shoot and any kind of cell phones for real estate photography. The  underlying reason is you must have a quality wide angle lens and a DSLR is the only way you can do that. This first item is a mandate, not a choice!
  2. Canon or Nikon? Either manufacturer is fine. I recommend Canon or Nikon over other brands only because these two brands will maximize your choices for other accessories as you need them. Other brands will work, but you’ll just have fewer choices.
  3. New or used? There is a lot of good quality used equipment available on eBay, Amazon and other sites. This is a great way to save some money when you are getting started. However, there is always some risk with buying used equipment.

Here are some specific recommendations for Canon and Nikon gear:

  • Canon DSLRs: T5 is the newest and cheapest Canon cropped sensor DSLR it is very adequate for real estate photography as are T5i, T4i, T3i and most older Canon Rebel DSLRs.
  • Wide-angle lens for Canon DSLRs: The Canon 10-18mm is the newest and cheapest wide lens. Other alternatives are Canon 10-22mm, and Sigma 10-20mm. The new Canon 10-18mm may be the best real estate photography lens for the money ($299) at this time. For all the options see the PFRE lens page.
  • Nikon DSLRs: D3300 is the newest and cheapest Nikon cropped sensor DSLR and it is very adequate for real estate photograph as are the D3100, D3200, D5200, D7000, D90 etc.
  • Wide-angle lens to Nikon DSLRs: The best quality wide-angle for the price for Nikon cropped sensor DSLRs is the Sigma 10-20mm.  Other alternatives are Nikon 10-24mm, Sigma 8-16mm and Tokina 11-16mm. For all the options see the PFRE lens page.

If I had to pick the best value for your money (new Canon gear) right now it would be the Canon T5 with a 10-18mm lens. You can get this combo for $669 on Amazon. Note that this Canon DSLR and wide-angle lens for roughly $300 less than the Nikon combo below. This is a fairly recent development since Canon announced the 10-18mm lens and the T5 DSLR. The T5 has fewer features than the T5i check here to see if you are willing to live with fewer features.

If I had to pick the best value for you money (new Nikon gear) right now it would be the Nikon D3300 with the Sigma 10-20mm. You can get this combo for $945 on Amazon.

Kit Lenses: The prices above assume that you purchase DSLR bodies only. While a kit lens (usually a 18-55mm lens bundled with new DSLRs) make exterior shots look better, a kit lens is not absolutely essential. You can shoot exterior shots with a wide-angle lens racked to the longest focal length.

Miscellaneous items: Besides the DSLR and wide-angle lens you’ll also need a few other items:

  1. Sturdy tripod.
  2. One or more manual flashes depending on the shooting technique you decide to use.
  3. Flash trigger to get your flash off your camera.
  4. Light stand for your off camera flash.
  5. Copy of Adobe Lightroom software.

Follow-up On Mark Reibman’s Real Estate Photo Editing Service

September 12th, 2014

MarkReibmanBack in July I did a post about my friend Mark Reibman’s new real estate photo editing service that he is providing from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At the time I was unsure of how many would be interested in this variation of-short post processing.

Since July I’ve gotten feedback from Mark that there has been a lot of interest in Mark’s service. Mark says:

Your blog post was great! I have one client in Kansas City who sends me all her work now. She’s got me trained now and we’ve got a good system down. While she sleeps I edit, and while I sleep she shoots. It’s a very good start for building a business in image editing. I’ve also connected with a client in Australia and someone in Sweden. It takes a bit of back in forth to get the images the way they like them. Dropbox is a big help. Once you get it figured out it really streamlines the process. I program my computer to wake up at 6AM and Dropbox automatically syncs the files for my clients. And then I’m ready to start work.

It does seem that there is quite a demand/need/interest for good quality image editing assistance. Most of the people I have heard from have complaints about the overseas services they have used previously. Having one person to do the editing that you can communicate easily and in detail is something I think a lot of photographers would love to have at their disposal. Although, I am hoping to land a few regular clients who can keep me busy rather than photographers with intermittent work needs.

I think part of the reason that Mark is able to do such a good job for real estate photographers is that he’s a long time real estate photographer. He understands the whole real estate photography process and what you need as a real estate photographer.

Richard Lamb Is Selling His Canon Gear And Wants to Give The PFRE Community First Crack

September 10th, 2014

ForSaleLong time PFRE reader Richard Lamb is being forced into retiring from his active photographic career due to a variant of MS. Richard wants to give folks in the PFRE community first chance at picking up some sweet gear at a fair price. All sales are final and buyer pays for any shipping and insurance as needed. Anyone interested in some or all of this gear contact Richard via his web contact page. Don’t leave questions in comments on this post, contact Richard directly via the email or phone on his contact page. Here is the list of Richard’s equipment that he wants to sell:

  1. Canon 1D Mark III RRS L-Bracket, 2 batteries and 2 Battery Chargers – $600.00
  2. Canon 5D Mark II with Battery Grip and RRS L-Bracket, 2 batteries and 2 battery chargers. Magic Lantern 2.3 installed. Canon Remote Camera Release, CamRanger Remote Camera Controller  3 – SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB CF Cards, 3 – Lexar Professional 300x 8GB CF Cards, 2 – Lexar Professional 300x 4GB CF Cards  –  $2,000.00
  3. Canon 17-40mm F/4.0 L-Series Lens – $400.00 SOLD
  4. Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 L-Series Lens – $900.00
  5. Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L-Series Lens –  $1,200.00
  6. Canon 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6 L-Series Lens – $900.00 SOLD
  7. Canon TS-E 24mm F/3.5 L-Series II Lens – $1,800.00 SOLD
  8. Canon 85mm F/1.2mm L-Series II Lens – $1,400.00
  9. Canon 100mm F/2.8 L-Series II Macro IS Lens with Canon Tripod Mount Ring – $900.00
  10. Kenko Extension Tube Kit for Canon Mount – $150.00 SOLD
  11. Canon 580EX II Speedlite Flash – $300.00
  12. 2- Canon 420EX Speedlite Flash – $150.00 SOLD

Richard says:

All of the above have been well cared for! No blemishes except for the 85mm which has a tiny nick in the rear lens element.

I will be shooting images of all of the above for posting on Craigslist. If you are interested in a specific item let me know and I can expedite the taking of said images for that item.

Anyway I wanted to give my fellow RE photographers a first stab at all this. These are all reasonable prices based on what I found on eBay.

Tell Lawmakers: “Stop discrimination. Defend net neutrality.”

September 9th, 2014

Real Estate Photography Question and Answer – Hyperlapse, Zillow Claims Photo Rights?

September 8th, 2014

communityBill’s Question:   Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but… I was interested in your thoughts on the new Hyperlapse App that Instagram released and they were raving about over on activerain?

Answer:  I just downloaded Hyperlapse and tried out Hyperlapse App… While it’s a great iPhone time-lapse App because it allows you to change the frame rate before saving, there is no rocket science involved here. It’s handy if all you use is a smartphone or iPad, but you can do exactly the same thing with any video in most video editing programs (increase the frame rate) to get that stabilization effect.

So this is something I’ll definitely use on my iPhone to take fun video clips, but it’s not something I recommend to anyone for shooting property video. Much better to use a DSLR + wideangle lens + competent video editor and you get much better results!

Ethan’s Question:  I got this message from a good friend who in my opinion is a credible Realtor:

Are any of your photos for homes/listings on Zillow? I learned today that Zillow claims rights to all data/pictures once they are fed to them. It is in their brokerage contracts. Just an FYI that in the real estate world the listing belongs to the brokerage not the agent.

I am not really sure how to answer or address the issue if it is one. What are your thoughts?

Answer: I frankly doubt that Zillow claims any rights to photos, other than use for the duration of the listing in a similar way that MLSs have rights to use the photos for the duration of a listing. Many MLSs in the US claim that the act of uploading photos to the MLS transfers the copyright to the MLS. This is simply not true. Joel Rothman of Schneider Rothman Intellectual Property Law Group, PLLC assures me that the photographer must sign a copyright transfer agreement to transfer copyright. If you have a link to someplace that gives more detail info on this Zillow claim, I’d be happy to check it out with Joel. I’ve discussed this subject at length with Joel and the assertion that many MLSs and sites like Zillow make about owning more rights than simple usage rights for the duration of the listing is flatly illegal.  Has anyone heard of this claim by Zillow?

Randy’s Question:  I have been asked to put together a course on “Photography for Realtors”  This would be for continuing education credit with the Tennessee Association of Realtors.  It would be a three hour course. Are you familiar with anything like this being done across the country?

Answer: I’m aware of several one day classes on the general subject of Photography for Realtors but nothing in the order of 3 credit hours (8 to 10 class room hours). I would be very surprised if you could get enough Realtors consistently in one location to pay the cost of that length of class. Does anyone have this kind of class in their area?

Real Estate Photography News – Scott Hargis Photofocus Photographer of The Week

September 7th, 2014

NewsPhotoFocus Article On Scott Hargis: Jaron Schneider over at has a great article on Scott. Here at PFRE we all know Scott as the author of the Lighting Interiors e-book which over the last four years has grown into a real estate photography classic on interior lighting. However, as Jaron describes, Scott has progressed way beyond real estate to being a very successful architectural and interior design photographer and doesn’t shoot much real estate much anymore.

I first met Scott in 2008 when I did a PFRE workshop in Seattle. Scott did an early version of his lighting classes as part of the workshop which eventually grew into his classic Lighting Interiors e-book. I have learned a huge amount about lighting from Scott in the almost 5 years I’ve been publishing his e-book. Jaron has done a great job I think of profiling Scott, his work and his intensely professional approach to interior photography.

Using Professional Photography for Listing Helps Sell Homes Faster: Another study, this time by VHT Studios, a large tour provider in the Chicago area and on the east coast shows that homes that use professional photographers sell 32% faster. Also, sites a 2013 joint report by Google and the NAR that real estate searches on Google when up 243% in the past four years. I think both of the RedFin studies (here and here) are still more compelling. Thanks to Dave in Perth for pointing out this article.

4 Insider Trick to Sell Your Home on a Tight Timeline: Michael in Lincoln, IL pointed out this article by Dave Ramsey on how to get your home sold quickly. These four items: Accentuating the Positive, Using Knockout Photos, pricing the property right and hiring a top listing agent are all right-on.

NASA is building an air traffic control system for drones: reports that, “NASA is developing an air traffic control system for drones. The New York Times reports the US space agency is working on creating a management system for vehicles that fly at around 400 to 500 feet off the ground — much lower than conventional aircraft — at its Moffett Field base around four miles from Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The system would check for other low-flying drone traffic, help the small unmanned vehicles avoid buildings, and scan for adverse weather conditions that might knock a drone out of the sky.” Makes good sense, with everything everyone wants to do with small drones, if there isn’t a pretty high tech traffic control system the world below 400 feet will be chaos very soon!


Now Accepting Entries For Photographer Of The Month And Videographer Of The Month

September 5th, 2014

AaronFloresPatioJust a reminder that we are now accepting entries for both Photographer of The Month with the theme “Patio, Deck or Garden Space” through 9/15 and entries for PFRE Videographer of the month through 9/23. The video contest for Aug and Sept is being combined because we only got a couple of video entries in Aug.

Photographer of the Month Contest:
If you are submitting a still photo of a “Patio, Deck or Garden Space” please be sure to real and follow the rules here.

Videographer of the Month Contest:
If you are submitting a video in the video contest read and follow the video contest rules here.

How To Connect With Agent Clients When You Are Starting Out In Real Estate Photography?

September 4th, 2014

ConnectingNot too long ago I got some real estate photography business starting out questions from Chris in New Jersey. I think the questions are classic and important enough to look at in detail. Here is Chris’s initial question:

I have been trying to get a real estate business up and running since October of 2013 and its just not happening. I may get jobs here and there but nothing remotely stable. I know other people have stable work and I’m wondering if maybe I don’t have high enough quality photos? Or if I am doing something else wrong. I have the Canon rebel t4i and mainly use the Tokina 11-16 for real estate jobs. I was thinking maybe the rebel isn’t good enough, so I was thinking of moving up to a better camera (70d, 6d, or a7).

When I looked at Chris’s work it was immediately clear to me that the quality of his work or what kind of equipment he had was NOT his issue. His work is very good. I asked Chris what he was doing for marketing and he said he was using Adwords and handing out business cards to agents. He quit Adwords after about 6 months because he didn’t get any business from it.

Here is my advice to Chris:

  1. Its not surprising Adwords didn’t work. Focus on personal contact with potential clients. Agents are people oriented they like talking to people; that’s why they are agents!
  2. Instead of just business cards make a postcard or jumbo postcard with your greatest image, phone # and website on one side and this info graphic (or similar) and link to WSJ and RedFin article on the other side. Hand it out like a business card and deliver it to mail slots of all the top agents in your area (cheaper and more personal than mailing if you get to talk to them).
  3. Understand all the data in the RedFin article. It’s the reason agents need professional photography. It should be your main pitch. Make an elevator pitch out of it.
  4. Also, use local brokers sites to find top agents that aren’t using professionals. Deliver your postcard to them and have a quick chat about the RedFin data if possible.
  5. Deliver your postcard to listing agents holding open houses and talk to them about the RedFin data.
  6. I noticed from Zillow in his zip code there was a high rate of agents using tours. Sign up for and include a tour with each of your shoots because your competition is. This is frequently the case.

I think Chris is struggling with the classic mistake of thinking that equipment is more important than marketing! Many people that are naturally good technically struggle with personal marketing.

Update 9/9: Several commenters correctly pointed out that the data in the RedFin articles that documents the fact that profession photography increases the net sales price of the property isn’t always a big direct payback for listing agents. Particularly at the low end of the market. The major benefit to the listing agent is that if professional photography gets more net $ for the seller then listing agents will get more listings. I should have been clearer about this. Doing a great job marketing property ultimately will increase the number of listings the agent gets. It’s never difficult to convince home sellers that professional photography will net them more money.

Annie Leibovitz Does Real Estate Photography?

September 3rd, 2014



The Corcoran Group wanted some nice portraits for its latest “Live who you are” ads. So, naturally, the high-end real estate company went with a high-end photographer.

Check out 12 new ads, shot by Annie Leibovitz, featuring well-known, talented, affluent individuals in their own homes. The ads were shot in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hamptons and Palm Beach, which are the markets Corcoran serves (and are auspicious places to photograph nice-looking homes—and nice-looking people, for that matter).

The subjects range from singer Jimmy Buffett to NBA player Tyson Chandler to ballerina Misty Copeland.

This is an interesting new angle. This seems like this approach is more about the personalities involved than the real estate. Thanks to Drew Callaghan for pointing out this link.

This Week in Real Estate Video – Memories, Moments and Milestones

September 2nd, 2014

ItsPerfectI haven’t done This Week In Real Estate Video for a while, but was inspired to do it this week by a couple of interesting little lifestyle videos by Duncan Schieb and his CREW at PlatinumHD Propvid New York.

A Boy and His Dad  This is a great example of how a short lifestyle video can highlight the emotional reason buyers might be attracted to a property. In this case, it’s a motor boat lake. The message is clear and can easily motivate someone that would like this property. Here’s a related article that tells more of the story of this property listed by Arlene Simone of Houlihan Lawrence. Houlihan Lawrence works exclusively with for property video.

It’s Perfect… Another stunning little emotional vignette that depicts a chapter in a young couples life that can be closely associated with a property. As Duncan says, “Life is comprised of memories, moments and milestones and someone’s home plays such a huge role in all three.”

Great work Duncan! These strong little vignettes will clearly attract attention and add to the marketing of these properties.