RSS Feed Photography For Real Estate

The Photography For Real Estate E-book Has Been Updated, Expanded and Reduced In Price

July 30th, 2015

PFRE40CoverI’m proud to announce that I’ve completed an update and expansion of my Photography For Real Estate ebook. This ebook is designed for people just getting started in real estate photography. It goes into all the technical basics of real estate photography. Everything you need to know to get started. This book along with The Business of Real Estate Photography is a compilation of everything we talk about here on the PFRE blog to help people get started in the business.

Here are the main new features of this book:

  1. It is now vertical format laid out to work well on tablets and even smartphones.
  2. An increase of 72 pages over the last edition.
  3. Significantly updated chapter on choosing gear.
  4. Updated chapters on post-processing with Lightroom.
  5. Updated chapter on Enfuse processing.
  6. A new chapter on the basics of property video.
  7. Reduced price from $35 to $19. The bundled price of this book and the Business of Real Estate Photography book is now $25. This price reduction in intended to make these to getting started e-books more accessible to those trying to get started on a low budget.

This updated book and the new pricing is currently available and as usual with PFRE e-books, everyone that has purchased this book (clear back to when we started publishing it in 2006) will get a free download link for this update. Your update download link will automatically be sent (this weekend) to the email you used to initially purchase the book.

Cal Mitchener Takes His Elevated Photography To The Next Level

July 29th, 2015

DJIS1000Cal Mitchener, a successful real estate shooter in Charlotte, NC that we’ve featured several times here on the PFRE blog, has been providing elevated real estate shots for many years. Cal started with a WonderPole, then in 2011 he moved up to a Gitzo giant tripod. Last week he described his planned move up to a DJI S1000:

UAV photography & videography is getting big in my area, but most vendors are flying GoPro’s or DJI Inspire 1’s. I find the still images from both of these to be lacking, and am researching stepping up to a heavy lift octocopter. I am leaning towards a DJI S1000 with a ZenMuse Gimbal.

As the gimbals are set up for specific camera/lens combinations, I am trying to determine which will give the best results. I am going to purchase the body and lens specifically for this use, so I am not tied to a given manufacturer.

I want to know which lens is the best, as I place highest priority on the glass. I can use a Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM, Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0, or a Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T.

If I could use Canon “L” glass, I would go that route, but that isn’t an option. I would prefer a full frame sensor, so I am leaning towards the Sony or Canon setup. The Oly lens is for a 4/3 sensor body.

Sounds like you are going to jump way beyond Pole Aerial Photography with this great rig that you have planned. Others have pointed out that quality is the best when you are flying with something better than a GoPro or the camera that comes with the quadcopter DJIs.

As to which lens is best, the authority for that is dxomark.com. Here is their comparison. As this shows, the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA lens is clearly the best. There is another advantage when using the Sony lens and a Sony A7R on a UAV and that is the Sony A7R (1.03lbs) is about half the weight of either the 5DMKII (1.8lbs) or 5DMKIII (2.09 lbs).

Does anyone else have more ideas for Cal?

Why Not Shoot Property Video With A CamCorder?

July 28th, 2015

CanonG30HDJR recently ask the following:

Background: I worked for 20 years in television, and my weapon was a Betacam. That said, I’m no stranger to SLR/DSLR photography, having done it since I was a kid.

I’m considering getting a ‘prosumer’ camcorder–thinking hard about Canon’s HF-G30 and a wide-angle adapter–to shoot RE video. I say prosumer, since I really don’t need XLR inputs and so forth.

Having used a Betacam for so many years, the functionality of a camcorder just works for me. To my beloved 70D: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Here comes the question: In terms of real-world outcomes, what will I lose by switching to a camcorder?

What DSLR video contributes is the ability to shoot video with a device where you can use high-quality interchangeable lenses. Specifically for shooting video of interiors you can put a top quality lens like the Canon 10-22mm on the 70D That means you can shoot video with a 16 mm effective focal length… using a wide angle lens between 16 mm and 24 mm is essential for creating quality interior video and you CAN’T do that with a Canon HF-G30. The specs for the HF-30 say the lens is 35mm equivalent 26.8 mm to 576 mm. You mention that you are going to also use a wide-angle adapter, but be careful, my experience with wide-angle adapters is negative. Most wide-angle adapters are very low-quality junk!

Also, I see that the sensor in the HF-30 is 2.91 megapixels compared to 20 megapixels on your 70D. So the low light sensitivity and dynamic range (something you really need when shooting inside without lights) of the HF-30 is awful compared to the 70D. There’s probably a camcorder style video camera that would create as high-quality video as your 70D with a 10-22 mm lens, but you are going to have to spend many times what an HF-30 or 70D with a 10-22mm lens costs.

All this is why everyone uses DSLRs to shoot property video!

What Is A Good Hosting Service For A Real Estate Photography Website?

July 27th, 2015

WebsitesBill asks:

I’m about to set up a website for my photography projects. I’ll be building the site with the URL “ResortHomePhotography.com”, which I just bought through Google Domains. I use WordPress for my (still-under-construction) real estate web site but noted Google partners with several web hosting services: Blogger, Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, & Wix. Do you or PFRE readers have a preference for any particular one as a startup business?

There are tons of hosting services the table/link to the right is one of the many review sites. I’ve used several hosting services over the last 10 years and I’m inclined to only recommend hosting  services that I have direct experience with. Here are my recommendations:

  1. The PFRE blog is a self-hosted WordPress site and I have several blogger.com sites. While you can get free sites at WordPress.com and blogger.com I recommend that you stay away from these unless you are pretty technically savvy. These sites are free and oriented towards blogging but take a fair amount of technical know how to operate.
  2.  There are many template sites like Squarespace.com, smugmug.com, zenfolio.com, weebly.com, wix.com etc. They all have templates that you can use to setup photographic portfolio sites. These are all very easy to use and take no technical skill to setup.
  3. I have to say that of all the web hosting services I’ve used (Smugmug, Squarespace, WordPress.com, Blogger.com, bluehost.com and verio.com) I’m happyest with Squarespace.com. That is where I have my lohrman.com site hosted. It took about 30 minutes to setup, it is super reliable and has great performance ( I monitor it and the PFRE blog 24 x 7 for response time and reliability with monitis.com). And it has great customer support.
  4. Be very careful to check out and hosting service you use to make sure what the site looks like on smartphones and tablets since 50% of your traffic is liable to come from mobile devices these days and not all sites look good on mobile devices.

What favorites to others have?

Were All The Winning Photos In The July Contest Shot With Only Natural Light?

July 26th, 2015

TonyColangeloFrancesca asked a great question about the 5 winners in the July PFRE photo contest:

I enjoyed looking at the beautiful pictures of the 5 winners and noticed that none of the photos was taken using artificial light. I always heard that you need to turn all the lights on before taking a photo. As a beginner now I wonder: how does a photographer decide when to use natural light versus artificial light to shoot an interior?

My immediate reaction to Francesca’s question was, “Yes, they all look like they are only natural light, and they all appear to have the room lights off, probably to control the White Balance, but my guess is that there is some flash being used on several of them.” So I checked with the winners and Tony was the first to respond to my question so I’ll use his photo to answer Francesca’s question.

Tony said:

  1. On leaving the room lights off: My default is to leave them off, so as to avoid the associated colour casts. That said, sometimes a client might choose to leave the lights on because it’s a design choice that was made to augment the look-and-feel of the room. If so, then I’ll usually take a set of shots with the lights on, and then my usual bracketed shots with the lights off. I’ll then hand blend some of the light into the fixtures within the lights-off shot.
  2. On using flash: I always use flash! My preferred approach is to manually blend? ambient and flash exposures. For me, the first consideration when using flash is to try to find a placement(s) that will allow the flash to mimic/augment the direction of the natural light entering the room. That’s what I did in my contest entry this month, where I stood in the shower stall off of far camera right, so as to leverage the natural light coming in from that far window. I hand-held my flash and used various flash placements and power levels. If I recall, I also used a flash on a fully extended monopod from behind the camera, reaching into the room as far as I could get it, with the flash set at very low power, and bounced into the ceiling. The goal was to retain the look/feel of ambient light while getting enough light into the space to better show off the cabinetry for the millworker, who was my client? in that instance.

Tony has done a great job of making this shot look totally natural, but I think it’s that low powered flash that gives the cabinets in this bathroom that crispy, sharp sparkling look! Great job Tony and thanks for your explanation of your lighting for this shot! Great job!

Are You Flying A UAV For Real Estate Photography or Video With or Without The FAAs Blessings?

July 23rd, 2015

Currently, if you wish to fly a drone commercially in the US with the FAA’s blessing you can petition the FAA for a section 333 exemption. One of the conditions for obtaining this exemption is you must be a licensed pilot. Here is what you need to do to file for a Section 333 Exemption and here is a list of all the people that have been granted an exemption. At this writing, the FAA has granted 797 of these exemptions. You can hire a lawyer to help you through the process of submitting a request to the FAA for a Section 333 exemption.Here is a recent article about one such Chicago law office that will help you through the exemption process.Here is an article on Douglas Trudeau, the Tucson Realtor that was the first Realtor to obtain a Section 333 exemption. I seriously doubt that there are many listing agents are technically adept enough to fly a UAV and have pilot’s licenses so it makes more sense for the majority of listing agents to hire a photographer/videographer when the want UAV video. This creates a huge expanding business opportunity for professional real estate photographers/videographers since use of UAV video clips and photos are a very compelling as a marketing tool.  Despite the FAAs section 333 exemption process, Peter Sachs at the dronelawjournal.com has reported that:

The FAA has not attempted to enforce its claimed new rules in the Interpretation. Nor has it ever attempted to enforce its long-claimed commercial use ban. Not once. Unless someone operates recklessly, at most they will receive an “educational letter” sent by FAA non-attorneys, that are carefully worded to encourage, but never order the recipient to do or not to do anything. Only FAA legal may issue such orders to do or not to do something, despite non-attorney FAA employees having issued such orders wrongfully and repeatedly over the past few years.

Because of the above and the fact that the demand for UAV photos and video of real estate is so huge, my sense is that most people flying UAVs for real estate photography right now are not flying with the FAAs blessing. So I thought would be interesting to sample in an anonymous way (poll) how many readers are flying with and without the FAAs blessing.

Congratulations Brian Doherty – PFRE Photographer Of The Month For July

July 22nd, 2015

Brian DohertyJuly2015Congratulations to Brian Doherty of Boston MA who the jury has voted PFRE photographer of the month for July.

Brian is a first-time winner. He’s been a regular contestant for many months.

Here are all the winners:

  1. #22, Brian Doherty, Boston, MA
  2. #14, Barry MacKenzie, London, ON
  3. #12, Tony Colangelo, Victoria, BC
  4. #11, Alasdair McIntosh, York, UK
  5. #19, Andy Yutsai Wang, Los Angeles, CA

As usual there is some great analysis and discussion on composition and lighting in comments of each entry. If you are working at raising the level of your work these comments and discussion are a must read!

I’ve updated the photos in the contest Flickr group to show all the entrants names.

Here are Brian’s comments on his photo:

Thank you so much, Larry, and to all the judges. I am so honored to have won this months contest. I stumbled upon this site about 5 years ago when I was trying to figure out what kind of camera to buy so I could shoot my mother’s listings for her. I thought all I needed was an expensive camera and my photos would look amazing (haha, boy was I wrong). I have learned so much from your site and this community through the years that is has literally changed my life.

This bathroom was taken on a very cold, stormy winter day, and the light was just beautiful at the time of the shoot. This was a single exposure with all the natural light streaming in from the window above the tub. Post was pretty simple with a little dodging and burning here and there for some added dimension. I also added the fun zebra print to the big blank wall space to balance out the shot. Shot with Nikon D750 1/4 at F7.1 ISO 250

Zillow Copyright Suit Charges Zillow Uses Photos Of Sold Properties

July 21st, 2015

ZillowSuitMany readers have pointed out that Zillow has been sued by VHT claiming that the Zillow.com/digs home improvement site is violating copyrights on hundreds of real estate photos. John Cook at GeekWire.com has an article the summarizes the VHT’s suit against Zillow.

The suit alleges that:

Zillow uses photographs from homes that are not for sale and makes no effort whatsoever to remove those images once properties are sold; it induces users to post images to the Digs Site; it uses those images to induce advertisers to fill Zillow’s coffers with advertising revenue; and it tags and groups the photographs and pastes advertisements directly on top of VHT’s images. Zillow cannot hide behind safe harbors and blame others for its own brazen theft.

I’m frankly glad to see that someone is going after Zillow for not deleting sold listing photos. I personally have noticed that Zillow has still retained my photos for our rental listing that sold two and a half years ago. In neighborhoods I’m familiar with, I see this happening all over. Any reasonable expectations would require them to delete all photos from sold listing. They clearly don’t do that. As the GeekWire.com article points out, Zillow’s point of view is that “Zillow has abided by the terms of the licenses agreed to by the parties who provided these photos.” In other words, Zillow thinks that the licensing provided by MLSs is such they can do anything they want with photos of sold listings for as long as they want. They get by with this because 90% of listing photos are done by Realtors with smartphones and they don’t care what happens to the photos after the sale.

This clearly needs to be settled ASAP! Thanks to VHT for taking this cause on!

Outlandish Lifestyle Luxury Real Estate Marketing Becoming The Norm In Los Angeles Market

July 20th, 2015

WestHollywoodAnders in Hawaii and Lee in Texas both pointed out this property video to me last week. This property is marketed by Rayni and Brenden Williams. Also, there’s a LA Times article that featured the video last week and claims that there’s a trend under way:

The high competition among agents reflects the rapid and global rise of extreme wealth. The number of billionaires worldwide is at a record high: 1,826 total, with 290 newcomers, according to Forbes’ annual list. Many are foreign; more of them than ever before are under age 40.

They’re increasingly likely to buy a property based solely on what they see online, especially if they’re from outside the U.S. So upscale homes are often advertised via glossy websites stocked with detailed floor plans, Hollywood-caliber videos and aerial photos taken by drones.

This appears to be the same kind of luxury property marketing that we’ve seen going on in Australia, particularly on the Gold Coast for a number of years. It’s finally moved to LA. I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t more of this going on in the past in the LA area since there is no shortage of video and creative talent. It appears that the billionaire buyers have got them engaged in the LA area but don’t expect this to happen everywhere.

Do You Need To Register as A Business If You Operate A Real Estate Photography Business?

July 19th, 2015

BusinessRegistrationSusi in North Carolina asked:

I started taking real estate pics for a few realtors I worked for in Colorado and recently moved to North Carolina. I would love to offer my services to real estate companies here in NC, but I have a question: Do I need to register as a business and/or have special insurance before I go and take real estate pictures for agents?

There are two questions in there so let’s address each one separately.

Business registration: Business registration can mean different things, but in most states, the primary purpose of business registration is to make sure businesses collect sales tax on their business transactions and periodically remit that revenue to the state. So the underlying question that drives registration is, do you need to collect sales tax?

North Carolina does have a sales tax. Here is the info on NC sales tax collection. A primary issue for real estate photographers is does your state require you to collect sales tax on digital transactions? That is, the photos that a photographer delivers is not a tangible product like other retail businesses provide. Some states require sales tax on digital photos and some don’t. Based on a little online research, it appears that when you live in NC and provide digital products,  you do need to register with the state of North Carolina dept of revenue and collect sales tax on each shoot, but you should contact the NC dept of revenue and verify that. Sales tax collection rules are different in different states so you need to verify what the rules are in your state.

Another reason to register a business is to form a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). This can be beneficial but is not essential for real estate photographers so I’m not going to go into details here. You can easily get by as operating as a sole proprietorship. If you are operating as a sole proprietorship some states require you to either have your business name the same as your personal name or register with the state if the name of your business is different than your name. Here is a list of state requirements. Check out what your state requires.

Business liability insurance:  Yes, it is generally a good business practice to have you and your employees covered by insurance that will cover anything you may damage in a property you are shooting. This insurance will cost from $500 to $1200 a year depending on the coverage you purchase. For more on this subject and some recommended insurance providers see this post and associated discussion.

How Do You Build A Credible Portfolio Of Real Estate Work When You Are Getting Started?

July 16th, 2015

ProtfolioRenee asked the following:

…perhaps the biggest issue for me starting out is having a body of work in credible interiors on my website. I’ve picked up some commercial work, but it has not been enough and isn’t going to draw in realtors who have residential work. I read a kindle book whose author had a website which offered jobs for photographers for real estate photography and I found another online. Are these legit ways to get started? I’m doing the usual thing – sending out glossy large postcards to realtors, architects, builders and interior designers, but if I get a hit, I’ll be lucky. Also, I moved from Los Angeles to the boondocks of central NY where I see a lot of websites which look like they need good photography, but again, if there is no convincing them with a lack of content on my site… how can I build a portfolio”

This is a classic problem for real estate photographers getting started. How to build a portfolio of work? Yes, you need a good looking portfolio and you preferably want some images of upper-end homes. There are two approaches that work pretty well:

  1. Find a new home neighborhood. These neighborhoods always have model homes that are professionally staged and no one is living there… just what you want. Go in and talk to the site agent (the agent(s) that hang out at the office near the model homes) and tell them you’d like to shoot their model home for your portfolio. Offer to give them a set of photos for free if they want. Usually, they will let you shoot their model homes unless it is extremely busy.
  2. Find some upper-end listing agents in your area either on local broker sites or just drive through some upper-end areas and look at agent names and phone numbers on for sale signs. Contact the listing agent and tell them you are building your portfolio and you’ll do some free shoots for them if they will let you shoot one or more of their listings.

These two approaches work pretty well… these are better than shooting for some company because you can control what kind of homes you shoot and there won’t be an argument about your rights to the photos. You want upper-end homes. Top of the market so your portfolio looks successful!

Anyone else have some tricks for building your portfolio?

The Best Of DxO – Nikon 810 and Sony A7R Beat Canon 5DS

July 15th, 2015

CameraComparisonEver since the Canon 5DS was announced I’ve been wondering what the dynamic range and low light performance was.

Dxomark.com now has tested the 5DS so you can compare it to other new cameras now.  While the 5DS cameras have very slightly (.7 EV) higher dynamic range than the 5DMkIII and very slightly better low-light performance both the Nikon 810 and Sony A7R have significantly better dynamic range (2+ EV) than the 5DS. It seems to me if you are a real estate photographer there’s not much point in upgrading to the 5DS. Just more pixels is not much of a motivation for a real estate shooting.

A better alternative, if you are searching for more dynamic range and low-light performance would be to go with the Sony A7R and adapting your Canon glass to it with the Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX Camera Lens Mount Adapter. If you are a Nikon shooter you could use a Metabones Nikon Lens to Sony NEX Lens Mount Adapter. And you get all the other benefits of mirrorless as well. It appears that the ability to use non-Sony lenses is a big help for Sony to get photographers to switch to their full frame mirrorless line.

Any mention of the Sony A7R at would be incomplete without pointing out that there’s a new Sony A7RII about to be released (expected Aug 10), but this new Sony will be $1500+ more than the A7R.

Congratulations To Dave Williamson in Perth On Winning His Copyright Court Action

July 14th, 2015

CopyrightDave Williamson in Perth, AU has been engaged in a copyright dispute/misunderstanding since January of this year. This was a typical real estate photography dispute about listing photos being used by an agent different from the one they were licensed to. I wanted to highlight this decision because it helps to have clear resolved example of this issue. Note that this is an Australian case, but laws are very similar in NZ, US, CA, and EU.

The full story and 7 months of related discussion is here in the PFRE Flickr discussion group. Dave shot the photos for one agent, another agent took over the listing and when Dave ask the second agent to either pay to relicense the photos or stop using them they ignored him. Dave then took action in Small Claims Court in January 2015 and a magistrate just ruled on the case a few days ago. Here’s Dave’s description of the decision towards the bottom of the first page of the Flickr discussion: Continue Reading »

It’s Time To Turn Off Adobe Flash – Twenty Flash Security Vulnerabilities in The Last Week

July 13th, 2015

Suprise

Update July 15, 2015: Since I did this post, Brian Barrett at Wired wrote the article, Flash. Must. Die. It’s a good summary of the situation.

I’ve been planning to do a post on this subject for over a week, when this latest series of Adobe Flash problems started, and I removed Adobe Flash from all of my systems just to see how much of a problem not having Adobe Flash installed would be. But today it really hit the fan when the latest updates to Adobe Flash didn’t fix all the problems, so it’s a perfect time to do this post.

It appears that the black-hat hackers have discovered how easy Adobe Flash is to hack and are having a field day. Three major problems have happened in the last few days. Adobe released a fix and immediately there are more major flaws found. To get a feel for the scale of the problem, today Alex Stamos, Chief Security officer at Facebook on Twitter said:

It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day.

Even if 18 months from now, one set date is the only way to disentangle the dependencies and upgrade the whole ecosystem at once.

Continue Reading »

Home Seller Asks For Photographers Photos Of A Property That Is Not Sold

July 12th, 2015

HomeSellerGiftRandall asks:

I recently was contacted by a homeowner of a house I photographed a few months ago. She asked if I would send her copies of the pictures that I shot. I was hired by a real estate company to perform this shoot and not by the homeowner. My Terms of Service says, “All photos produced for a client may be used by that agent for all marketing associated with the current sale of the property.” Just wondering how do other real estate photographers handle this? Give the images to the homeowner as a gift…charge a fee, and if so, how much? In this case the home has not been sold and is going to be re-listed by another Realtor.

It sounds to me like there’s been a falling out between the home seller and the agent that you did the shoot for but the home seller likes your photos and wants to use them for the new listing. You need you explain how photo licensing works. Not many home sellers understand. After explaining photo licensing to the home seller you could offer to license the photos to the homeowner. But I would get a signed licensing agreement and charge the same as you did the first agent. You would be licensing the homeowner to use the photos for use in selling the home whether it’s for sale by owner or by some other agent. Or if the homeowner claims to not want you use the photos to sell the property, give them to her but insist on signing an agreement that she won’t use them to sell the property. Or just give the photos to her if you don’t care about relicensing them to the next agent. It all depends on how bad you want a relicensing fee.

Licensing listing photos to homeowners only seems strange to those of us here in North America. But it’s very common in Australia and New Zealand and makes a lot of sense.