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Do You Change Light Bulbs To Control White Balance?

October 1st, 2015

IncadecentLEDDwayne sent me this lighting tip that cost less than $10. The two photos to the right are examples of what changing light bulbs can do. Dwayne says:

A bulb in my office ceiling fan burned out so I ran down to the store and bought 2 new LED’s so I would never have to replace them. Problem was they were 5000K instead of soft white. Color was horrible. Stuck them in my photo bag a couple of months ago and it has been a blessing. When bedrooms have a couple of side lamps I replace the bulbs with the 5K’s. They can be on for 15 minutes and are only warm to the touch. My assistant goes ahead of me and changes out the bulbs. This makes the post-processing go much easier. If a room has just a pole lamp I use it there. The two photos were shot with a Nikon 7100 and a 12-24 Tokina with fill flash. Did not color correct, only changed the bulbs. They were 10 watt LED bulbs. Thought you might be interested in a tip that cost less than $10.

Yes, bulb replacement used to be the standard way to control white balance back in the days of film and it certainly does the job but, have to say I’m not keen on carry light bulbs and change many light bulbs on a real estate shoot. Easier to just turn off the lights.

I took Dwayne’s incandescent JPG into Lightroom and played with it and I have to admit that I can’t get the JPG to look as good as good as the LED JPG although JPGs are always much harder to adjust than RAW files. In small bedrooms like this I never have trouble controlling white balance with just flash and Lightroom adjusting.

What do you think, are any of you into changing light bulbs?

Congratulations To Steve Dolinsky – Aug/Sept PFRE Videographer Of The Month

September 30th, 2015

2015-SeptVOMSteveDolinskyCongratulations to Steve Dolinsky of Nyack, New York who the video jury has voted the PFRE videographer of the month for August/September. Here is Steve’s winning video.

And here is the ranking results of the jury’s voting. To view the videos click on the entry numbers below and then click on the video link in the description field of the entry:

  1. #9, Steve Dolinsky, Nyack, New York
  2. #3, Adam Wayland, Charlottesville, Virginia
  3. #12, Anders Carlson, Kailua Kona, Hawaii
  4. #1, Jeff Griggs, Folsom, California
  5. #11, Michael Sosnoski, Falmouth, Maine
  6. #2, Andre Mckenzie, Toronto, Canada
  7. #5, Colley Bailey, Fayetteville, Arkansas
  8. #7, Saul Goodwin, Byron Bay, Australia
  9. #8, Kelvin Hammond, Billings, Montana
  10. #6, Christine Bickley, Brisbane, Australia
  11. #4, Patrick Ketchum, Palm Springs, California
  12. #10, Brad Barnson, St George, Utah

Be sure to check the jurors, comments in the Video Contest Flickr pool.

Here is Steve’s description of his video:

Wow… I am honored. Considering the amazing videos this month, this is a big surprise. Some of those drone shots were simply spectacular, especially Anders Carlson’s video in Hawaii… those whales and crashing seas… Incredible work!

I first want to thank Larry for creating such an incredible site and resource for real estate photography. I have learned so much from all the great artists and teachers on this site. So informative and helpful. Thank you to everyone who contributes to this site and shares their work and knowledge so we all can get better together.

For this video, my client was the Realtor who was looking to promote the development she represented (Riverton). She was getting some pressure from her clients (the builders) to promote the last few lots remaining so she wanted me to create a video about the entire development of new homes and the surrounding area. However, after I interviewed the first homeowner, Randi, I realized that interviewing all the other homeowners would take too long and make the project too large… I just couldn’t wrap my head around such a large concept. But once I heard Randi’s story, I thought it would be better to just focus on one homeowner at a time…. to tell each story separately.

I broke the interview down into several parts… asking Randi a list of questions : What brought her to this area?…how she found her real estate agent and this development? How was the building process?… what she looked forward to in her new home, etc… And having such a willing partner who was super comfortable in front of the camera definitely made the difference. She wrote the story off the top of her head….I just pieced it all together and added some appropriate shots. I thought being at their dinner party would also add a human touch. I asked them to toast at the end… and once I saw that come together… I knew I had the ending… and the story.

I want to give a shout out to Travis Rowan for his work last month. His awesome award winning video inspired me to focus more on the storytelling and the emotion of the homeowner. His work is amazing! … I’m glad he didn’t enter this month’s video contest :) …and instead decided to take his talents over to the still photography contest. Congratulations to him, by the way, for winning that too.

I look forward to telling more stories and getting better at this wonderful art form.

Thank you for the encouragement and support.

Shooting Twilight Exteriors For Real Estate

September 29th, 2015


Andy asked the following question:

I did some shots for free a few weeks ago and I wanted to do “twilight” shots so I went to the house at night. The street lights turned on and the whole picture pretty much turned yellow because I was doing a slow exposure (the color of the street lights). How do I avoid it? Do I have to use flash?

It’s hard to tell for sure without seeing the specific photo you are talking about. A couple of approaches come to mind:

  1. You may be able to correct the problem in Lightroom or Photoshop depending on how bad it is. This would be done with the Temp and Tint sliders in Lightroom. Of course, these are global adjustments that affect the whole image. You also can also do a similar thing in areas that are worse than others with the Adjustment brush.
  2. If the street lights are coming on, you many be shooting when it’s too dark. The ideal time to a twilight shoot about 15 to 20 minutes after sunset. Since this may vary due to the cloud cover etc., it’s a good idea to be ready to shoot at sunset and then take a series of shots as it gets darker and darker. That way you can decide later which is the best.

Using flash in a twilight shot is not going to change the color balance of the whole image. Usually, the way flash is used in twilight shots it to go around flashing many different areas to highlight them and then combine all the flashed areas in Photoshop as layers, this isn’t a solution to the problem you describe.

The photo above by Iran Watson, is in the PFRE Flickr group and Iran describes how he added supplemental lighting to this twilight shot. Notice from the sky in Iran’s photo, it’s not all that dark. My guess it that you are waiting to shoot your twilight until it gets too dark.

What’s A Good Way For Real Estate Photographers To Carry Tripods And Light Stands?

September 28th, 2015

TripodsLightstandsDean says:

Do you have any ideas about carrying all the tripods I have? Including my main camera tripod I have three or four others (maybe more?) I use for speed lights. I thought about looking at one of the Pelican solutions, maybe a rifle case I could remove the foam from. Do you have any ideas?

Yes, I have a canvas bag that that a lighting kit came in that I use. There are several canvas bags made by Cowboy Studios that are very similar:

  1. A zippered bag that would carry a few tripods and
  2. A larger one with a shoulder strap and
  3. A deluxe one with wheels.

The one I have is similar to #2 and it works well I carry a big tripod and 2 or three light stands in it.

What do others use?

Lightroom Presets – A Way to Speed Your Post-Processing

September 27th, 2015

LRPresetsHave you noticed that there are a bunch of things that you do to almost every photo in a shoot? Things like:

  1. Enabling lens profile corrections which cause Lightroom to recognize what lens was used and load the lens correction profile for that lens.
  2. Reducing Highlights slider
  3. Increasing Shadow slider
  4. Increasing Clarity slider a bit
  5. Increasing the Vibrance slider a bit
  6. Sharpening

You can save all these basic adjustments into a Lightroom Preset. Then by making a single click you can apply the adjustments in the Preset to any given photo. And and then SYNC those adjustments to a whole set if images if you want. Sure each photo in a shoot is likely to take a few special adjustments but the idea is to find those adjustments you find yourself doing on every photo and package them up in a Preset, then just fine tune each photo as required. This approach has the potential to save you a bunch of time.

Simon Maxwell includes two presets like this with his Enfuse For Real Estate Photography e-book and video series, an import Preset and a post-processing Preset.

Here is a little 10-minute video tutorial by Anthony Morganti that shows how easy creating your own Preset is.

My Wacom Epiphany – Everyone With Multiple Monitors Needs A Wacom Tablet!

September 24th, 2015

WacomIntuosProEpiphany: An experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.

Yes, that’s what happened to me! After last week’s post asking about people using Wacom tablets, I decide to try one out. It came on Sunday so I’ve only been using it for a few days. The tablet I got is a Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium.

The first thing that blew me away is that this is a fantastic mouse replacement for anyone that has multiple large monitors. A Wacom tablet is a must for anyone that has multiple monitors. I have two 27″ monitors. A 27″ iMac and a 27″ monitor. I never realized how annoying using a standard mouse is until I started using a tablet! Instead of dragging a mouse across two 27″ monitors, with a tablet you just move directly to any location on the two screens you want to go to. It’s amazing!

My second amazing discovery was multi-touch. That is you can use your fingers instead of the pen. To click, to double click, to scroll, to zoom. There is a lot to learn. After a few days, I’m still learning all the multi-touch finger gestures and I haven’t even got to learning the pressure sensitive pen features built into Photoshop. A Wacom tablet is well worth the money just for the ways it replaces the standard mouse, let alone the pressure sensitive features.

I have to say that Wacom doesn’t do a very good job of explaining all these great features. The training they make available is I feel substandard. I sort of stumbled across the multi-touch features. Their tutorials and information on all their great features could be much better. But the Wacom tablets are still a great bit of gear that will speed up you time in front of a computer once you learn to use it.

There are several of conclusions I’ve come to:

  1. You don’t need a medium or large tablet. A small tablet is just fine.
  2. A Wacom tablet is essential if you have multiple large screens. It’s far better than a mouse.
  3. The pressure sensitive features are important, but they are just part of the advantages of using a tablet.
  4. Wacom has done a poor job of marketing and promoting this device. I’ve been a Photoshop user since the early 1990’s and I’ve somehow missed out completely on the importance of using a tablet.

I would highly recommend the Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and touch Small for all real estate photographers particularly if you have multiple monitors.


Congratulations To Travis Rowan – PFRE Photographer Of The Month For September

September 23rd, 2015

2015SeptemberTravisRowanCongratulations to Travis Rowan of Maui, Hawaii who has won the September photographer of the month for September. Travis has won the PFRE video contest three times so he thought he’d try his hand at still photography. Travis is the second photographer/videographer that has won both the video contest and the still contest. Anders Carlson is the other winner in both contests. These guys in Hawaii do everything!

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

  1. #16, Travis Rowan – Maui, Hawaii
  2. #24, Aaron Flores – Tempe, AZ
  3. #10, Scott Brasile – San Diego, CA
  4. #18, Robert Morning – Los Angeles, CA
  5. #22, Sam Chen – San Diego, CA
  6. #23, Anders Carlson – Kailua Kona, Hawaii
  7. #7, Tim Krueger – Costa Mesa, CA
  8. #2, Gary Kasl – San Marcos, CA

Don’t forget to check out the discussion in the contest Flickr group. There is a lot of good comments and critique. I’ve put the contestants names on all the entries in the Flickr group. Thanks for everyone’s participation in the contest.

Here are Travis’s comments:

Thanks very much. It’s great to be recognized. Thanks especially to Larry for creating this forum to showcase our work and learn from each other. I know it’s been incredibly helpful in improving my skills in both photography and video.

This home is absolutely amazing and is one of my favorites. This was the second opportunity I’ve had to photograph it in the past five years. Since the first time, it has been personalized by it’s current owner (Peter Lik) with many cool refinements like the entry zen garden. I’ve learned some new techniques in the past few years and this property was a great opportunity to put them to work.

For this shot, I used the “Mike Kelley” technique of light painting various parts of the image and then layering them in by hand in photoshop. I captured well over 40 frames. This image is the result of over 20 different layers all with some piece of it lit by a single handheld speedlight. I tried to mimic the direction of any expected light sources (sky, sconces and possible interior lights) but also wasn’t afraid to let it be less natural and more graphic like on the vertical stone spires. It’s not practical to shoot all properties in this way as it’s time-consuming both during the shoot and in post, but this one really inspired me to do something extra special.

Equipment: Nikon D800 + 24-70mm at 24mm.
iPad mini
Lumopro 180 speedlight
Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC.

What’s The Difference Between An Architectural Photographer And A Real Estate Photographer?

September 22nd, 2015

ArchetectureI recently had an interesting discussion with Vic in Australia. Vic was looking for some training as an architectural photographer. Vic said:

Shooting real estate is not very inspiring, shooting typically boring and ugly boxes. To be honest, I probably spend more time cleaning up people’s crap than actually photographing!

I was charging $100-$200 for my shoots and I ended up getting undercut by some Chinese guys offering it for $75-80. I couldn’t understand how they could sustain that, but found out all they were doing was the photography. Apparently, they outsourced the post-processing work to PS experts in China for a very low fee. The quality of the post-processing was probably better than what I could achieve. So all they had to do is shoot, so this is how they made it viable.

So Vic wants to do “architectural photography” since it pays much more and was more interesting. My point of view is that the difference between real estate photography and architectural photography is just who you are shooting for. Architectural photography is when your client is an architect or interior designer that have had training in the visual arts and is working on projects that require a much higher level of quality of photographic quality than most real estate photographers can do. So what you need to do to work as an architectural photography what you need to shoot a lot of real estate and work hard at raising the level of your work until it is acceptable to architects and designers.

To be clear, I’m not basing this on any personal experience. I’ve never shot for anyone but real estate agents. I’m basing this on what I see others do. Everyone that I know of that shoots for architects and designers and does a very high level of work has started out by shooting real estate photography for a number of years. It appears to be how you raise the level of your work and get really good in interior photography. Moving to architectural photography is a growth path for real estate photographers.

So my advice to Vic is that you can’t just take a class in architectural photography to get there. You need to build your skills in interior photography and the way to do that is to shoot real estate photography and get a lot of practice. Any architectural shooters out there that can confirm this?



Do Real Estate Photographers Need To Provide Tours?

September 21st, 2015

TourBuzzAlan asked the following question a couple of days ago:

I’m new to real estate photography and I’ve been practicing my tail off for about 3 months, 4-6 hours a day. I’m now learning that many realtors want a virtual tour. I think this is a bit antiquated when we now have beautiful video available. Personal feelings aside, what are some of the professionals using, how is it set up and what are the typical costs associated with it? Is this something I really need to offer?

Yes, Realtors in many markets expect tours. It’s a form of media that has been sold to them for many years that does their marketing job because it frequently includes stills, video, 360s, links to google maps/street-view, links to school information sites and typically has agent branding. Frequently what you’ll find is that there are large nationwide tour companies operating in your area that are selling agent tours and photography shoots bundled together. So to compete with the tour companies, you may need to deliver a product that looks as good as the tour companies. Not all real estate photographers choose to do tours but if you are just starting out, you may need to, just to compete.

A very popular tour product designed for independent real estate photographers is There are others, but is very popular because for $12 a tour you can bundle a tour with your photo shoot that has all the features (and more) that the big tour companies have. Or you can sell the tour as an add-on product to your shoot. even has a photo delivery feature built into the tour.

If you need to compete with tour companies in your area I recommend that you raise your price $12 a shoot and just bundle a tour with your shoot. This immediately makes you look as good as the tour company!

Sure, real video can be far better than a simple tour of stills. However, real video 10x harder to do well than a set of still photos and you must charge more (because of the added time and equipment investment). Tours can be done for all properties but since you need to charge more for video it’s a product for an entirely different set of clients. Most video is shot for upper-end listings where the client is willing to spend much more on marketing the listing.

Real Estate Photo Delivery – A Way To Provide Great Customer Service And Look Professional

September 20th, 2015

DeliveryOlly in the UK recently asked the question:

Is there an article or has there been a discussion about ways to deliver files to clients? I’m interested to know if people just use Dropbox and the like or more advanced services like Photoshelter, Shootproof, Pixieset etc.

I’ve written several articles on this subject in the past but, it’s been a long time and the world is changing so it’s time to do an update.

The few times I’ve been on the receiving end of photo delivery have really heightened my awareness of how the photos are delivered can affect how professional you appear to your clients.

Here are some alternatives for real estate photo delivery:

  1. Physical delivery of a CD: Many agents would just love to have you deliver a CD to their office. While this is certainly a customer service opportunity it just doesn’t make economic sense and it doesn’t scale to large volumes of clients. Besides, most modern laptops don’t even have CD players anymore! Also, in some states (like WA I believe) there are sales tax implications when you deliver a tangible product. So this is an alternative that is dying out.
  2. Client log in to your site: This approach is a very professional approach for online delivery because delivery is via your personal branded site. However, this means you have to have a site that has this capability. is one example. There are many others. Basically each client has their own account on your website where they can log in and download their photos.
  3. File/photo delivery sites: A few years ago there used  to be a few of these, now it seems like there are hundreds. A few of the popular ones are,, and All of these are professional ways to deliver photos and other large files. Many like are tailored for photographers. They are all in the area of $10 USD/month. With you can deliver under 100 photos for free
  4. If you use for tours, it has a great built-in photo delivery feature that delivers two different sized photos. I use this feature all the time.
  5. I put DropBox in a separate alternative because of it’s wide usage and the fact that you can get 2 gig of storage for free. You can send anyone a download link to Dropbox files. This maybe a good free getting started service, but it doesn’t look as professional as other alternatives.

Think of photo delivery as a promotion and customer service opportunity. Use delivery to present yourself professionally. For most of these delivery sites for around $10 USD/month they provide a very professional delivery process. One issue that you avoid is sending ZIP files of the whole photoshoot. Many Realtors are not sophisticated enough to unzip files.

So what are everyone’s favorite delivery method?

Checkout The PFRE Photographer Of The Month Entries For September

September 18th, 2015

SeptContestCheck out the contestants for the September photographer of the month that are now on display in the  contest Flickr group. The September theme is “Patio deck or garden space.” While the majority of the entries this month are from the US, we have an entry from Rome and from Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, on the Mediterranean near Nice.

The jurors (past winners of this contest) are in the process of considering and voting on this group of contestants. We plan on announcing the winners September 24.

In the meantime, there is much to be learned from reviewing these 24 entries and discussing them. As usual, there are some great shots. If you want to comment on the entries, join the contest Flickr group.

How Many Real Estate Photographers Out There Use A Wacom Tablet?

September 17th, 2015

WacomTabletPeter in Canada asked the following question last week:

I’m a real estate photographer that shoots between 1-3 per day. I’m looking to get an editing tablet (like a Wacom Tablet). Do you have a suggestion?

I must admit, that I don’t own an editing tablet of any kind. I have heard from sources that I trust that if you are going to use a tablet for editing that Wacom is the best.

My recommendation would be to get the $99.95 one (8.2″ x 6.7″) to make sure that it’s something that will work for you before you go for the bigger ones.

How many real estate photographers out there use a Wacom Tablet?

Update 9/19: I’ve been so impressed by all the feedback from Wacom tablet users that I bought one. I bought the Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium Tablet and it’s arriving tomorrow. I didn’t even follow my own advice, I got the medium sized Pro model. I’ve been a Photoshop user since the early 1990s and somehow I’ve never used a Wacom tablet… I’ll let you know how things go.

In Real Estate Interior Photography, A Kiss Of Flash Makes A Big Difference

September 16th, 2015


Yesterday Scott K asked the following question:

I stumbled into interior photography by enjoying photography as a whole and then accepting a position as an interior photographer from an individual I met out one evening in February of this year. This site has been go-to for me when questions arise, and there have been quite a few. So, I thank everybody for their assistance here.

My question is, when shooting in one location, is it possible to use flash in some shots when needed; shadows, blown out windows, and not use it in other rooms? I’m curious if it’s blatantly obvious that it’s being done, if so, is it awkward looking while scrolling through the done images. And if not, is this something that everybody does?

The most obvious thing that happens when you use flash for interiors is that in shots where you use flash will have whites that are brighter and crisp looking. In my little example above look at the difference in the white large window frame. In the no-flash frame, the window frame looks dark and dirty but in the flash frame it looks crisp and white. In some cases, the colors look better. In my example, the colors are pretty close. You can do this with one manual flash bounced off the ceiling or a wall. It’s worth it!

For this reason, I think the majority interior photographers use flash in some way in most shots, even if they shoot brackets and process them with Enfuse or HDR software. Another common technique is to shoot ambient and flash frames and hand-blend them in Photoshop. Just a kiss of flash solves a lot of problems for interior shooters.

So the answer to your question is: Shoots are going to look best if you use the same technique to shoot every room. Perhaps some viewers will not notice the difference between where you use a flash and when you don’t, but the more visually aware will spot the difference. Yes, it may be a little more work but the results are worth it! Hosting For Spherical 360s: Is There A Future For Spherical 360s in Real Estate?

September 15th, 2015

TriplexLast week, Derrick from had a lengthy discussion about 360s. Derrick’s point of view is:

My company, Spinattic, is launching a platform that enables 360° photographers to create custom user interfaces for their photos. I know many people will say “360° imagery is dead in the real estate industry”, which can I agree to some extent. Well, Spinattic is out to change that. We believe one of the reasons for it’s down fall a few years ago was due to the lack of quality services and software that helped photographers present the 360° imagery and not the 360° medium itself.

I used to be one of the original 360 crazy men. For years in the early 2000’s I shot 4 to 6 360s for every one of my wife’s listings. But I haven’t had my Sigma 8mm lens (that I used to shoot spherical 360s with) mounted since 2009. I know they are still used in some markets, but my general feeling is they have been on their way out for years and nothing’s going to bring them back. The reason is, they take special equipment, they are labor intensive to stitch. If you are going to go beyond still photography, I think it makes much more sense to focus on video.

Derrick’s come back is, “there are cameras coming that will give you equirectangular 360 images right out of the camera that will only cost $2000.” This will remove the need to stitch 360s with software like PTgui. I’m not convinced but I tried out Derrick’s because it allows it allows one to upload equirectangular images (which I have hundreds of) to bring back to life some of my favorite old 360s from the early 2000’s. Here are a few of them.

So Derrick and I need you all to settle this friendly disagreement about whether a hosting site and some “coming soon” cameras that do automatic 360 stitching in camera are going to bring back 360s to real estate marketing.

What do you think?

Wayne Capili’s Sony A6000 Epiphany

September 14th, 2015

WayneCapiliThis is a guest post by Wayne Capili. Wayne was the very first PFRE real estate photographer of the year in 2008. Back then we called it PFRE Idol Contest. If you are a regular in the PFRE Flickr group you’ve seen a lot of  Wayne’s work there. The photo to the right is work Wayne has done with his Sony A6000.

With all the talk about equipment, I wanted to tell everyone about my epiphany using a Sony A6000 in real estate photography.

I was in Best Buy and there was an open box sale of a Sony A5100 for $260. I bought it as my pole camera, as it had built in wi-fi, and had the rare feature of controlling the zoom and all controls from the app on my phone. I was amazed by the quality. I used to do pole photography with a DSLR, and it involves a beefier camera mount and is not really mobile. You set it up, you take your show, maybe rotate it, but to go to the next location, it takes a bit of time. With a Sony on a pole, I’m simply just holding it up, it’s so mobile, I now shoot events walking around with this camera on top.

I started to get used to the size, but the A5100 did not have a viewfinder and does not accept external strobes, or triggers. Enter the A6000! It has an Electronic View Finder (EVF) which takes a little to get used to, but now I would NOT do real estate without an EVF. Here’s a fun fact, and something I never thought of. In a DSLR, you can’t SEE the actual depth of field at a given stop. Yeah, depth of field preview is available, but let’s be honest it just darkens the screen. With an EVF, it actually shows depth-of-field. That’s important because you have MUCH better control. How many people, find it frustrating because they think they need more powerful strobes, or more of them to shoot at f8 or f11 just to get more depth of field? I’ve found with the crop sensor at f6 with my 12mm I get 3 ft to pretty near infinity. Now I saw pretty near, because it’s not quite if you are shooting outside, but inside, I’m golden and I’m not pushing my strobe power, and now, I only bring 3 strobes. Continue Reading »