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PlanEdge: Create Floorplans On A Tablet With A Laser Measure

October 20th, 2014

PlanEdgePFRE reader Sean Elliott at Exposure Property Marketing told me about some new floor plan creation software. Sean said:

Whilst the market is quieter I thought I would take the opportunity to contact you about a new product we are using at Exposure Property Marketing.  We have helped a software company here in the UK Boxcubic Ltd design a new tablet based floor plan app that allows users to draw plans digitally on-site without the need to re-draw them later or outsource them to an offshore CAD team.

The website for PlanEdge is planedge.co.uk. The site has pretty complete information on the product, with a series of video tutorials.

I think this is a great concept! Pairing a blue tooth laser measuring device with a tablet and creating the floor plan as you walk through the property is a great design. My only feedback to Sean was that it would be great to have this App available on IOS and Android. Right now Windows tablets are 3% of the market, Android is 61% and IOS has 35%. Although, since the cost of the tablet you are using, is a relatively small part of the yearly cost, it may make sense to just go purchase a Windows Surface 2 tablet so you can use this application.

So what does everyone think of Sean’s application? Give him your feedback.

Small Flash vs Enfuse/HDR – How Do You Decide?

October 19th, 2014

Questions And AnswersMy post last week got PFRE reader, Felix thinking. He posed the following question:

I’m looking forward to the book on Enfuse but it did raise a question. I know Scott favors using flash and I have read his book and taken his video course.  In your post, you said that Simon uses Enfuse extensively. Is there room for both techniques in one’s repertoire? Or is a person better off picking a single style and sticking to it as much as possible?  Do many photographers use both techniques? I’m currently using flash per Scott’s video and have been happy with the results.
Here is my response to Felix that’s based on talking to a lot of real estate photographers over many years and doing several polls here on the blog over the years:
  • From what I see almost all RE photographers primarily use one approach or the other and do so based on personal preferences. You could say that blending multiple flash layers together by hand, like Mike Kelley teaches, is a cross between the two techniques. Although I would argue that’s a technique that is in general too time intensive for ordinary real estate photography.
  • One of the underlying motivations for using the Enfuse/HDR technique is to reduce the time you spend on-site. But in the end you shift that on-site time to post-processing time. My experience is that once you get the hang of small flash photography it can be very fast on-site. So I think that many experienced small flash photographers would claim that they can spend less total time on a job if they use flash.
  • I hear the “natural light” argument a lot from people that don’t use flash. However, the hybrid technique where you use a single fill flash on bracketed shots and Enfuse/HDR processing is very popular because it gives better results than  shooting brackets with no flash.
  • You may encounter large rooms with bright windows where you can get a good shot easyier by shooting a series of brackets and processing them with Enfuse/HDR than you can with small flashes. I personally had this happen when shooting a Restaurant with a large seating area with huge windows. Had too few flashes with me to use flash so I used Enfuse. It saved my butt!
  • Here is a poll I did last April on what lighting technique people use an how that has changed over the last 3 years.

The bottom line is you can find photographers that get great results with either technique. If you pick a technique and take the time to master it you can get great results either way. You may encounter situations where the Enfuse/HDR approach is the fastest way to get a good shot. So it doesn’t hurt to know how to use both techniques.

Licensed Pilots Flying Drones Beware

October 16th, 2014

FAAlogoI know there are many licensed pilots out there that also do real estate photography and may fly small UAVs. In a move that appears to be an effort by the FAA to use what ever means they can to control small UAVs the FAA focused on drone operators, Change 6 to its Compliance and Enforcement Handbook specifically threatens licensed pilots that use small UAVs. John Goglia, in his article at forbes.com  describes the move in detail:

…drone pilots who hold airmen certificates are at particular risk, especially if they fly manned aircraft for a living.  According to the new guidance: “For a deliberate, egregious violation by a certificate holder, regardless of whether the certificate holder is exercising the privileges of the certificate in connection with the violations associated with a UAS operation, certificate action, may be appropriate. Such certificate action may be in addition to a civil penalty.”  This means that a model aircraft operator may put his professional license at risk – even though no license is required to fly a model aircraft – if the FAA decides that his or her conduct is egregious enough.

To me this indirect approach at regulating small UAVs seems underhanded. I wish they’d just focus on getting actual reasonable federal laws in place that regulate the air space under 400 feet.

Reader Questions And Answers – Assistants, Tours, Working For Redfin

October 15th, 2014

community

Chad’s Question:  I am growing beyond what I can shoot in a given week. With this I am having to turn away work and be selective with projects I do.  My question to you is, do you know if any of the coaches have particular experience with multiple photographers? Contracts, pay, insurance,  incentive,  training processes, pros cons to look out for? I have people always hitting me up for photography jobs. Trying to figure this part out is daunting!

Answer: If you haven’t already you may get some help from a previous post I did on this subject. Several commenters on this post have experience with hiring assistants. As far as coaches, I’m not sure who has had experience with assistants. I would check with Dan Milstein  or Michael Asgian. Anyone out there that can offer coaching on hiring assistants?

Bill’s Question:  I’m a real estate agent.  I always create a website dedicated to each of my listings.  These are BRANDED web sites. These web sites (really pages of BillSilver.com) are based on WordPress using a RESPONSIVE THEME.  They view well on all devices. The pictures I take are used in many ways: Virtual Tour Slideshow, Virtual Tour Video, property eMagazine, etc. I use iPlayerHD as my video host, Phanfare for my slideshow host, and eMagStudio for my interactive magazines. iPlayerHD and eMagStudio are both responsive. But, Phanphare is not.  I need to replace Phanphare with a responsive slideshow host that that will allow my slideshows to play on all devices–without me having to do anything AND without the user having to do anything special, like downloading the Phanphare app or installing flash.

This slideshow host must be able to allow me to have UNBRANDED slideshows. No info about me or my website or company. I just want to be able to play a slideshow with beautiful, full-screen slides.

Answer: I used to build tours for my wife’s listings for many years (Since I’m a long time software engineer I was naturally drawn to doing it all myself). However, I gave it up a long time ago and have been using tourbuzz.net for several years. The reason is they have everything Realtors and photographers want and need:

  1. They work beautifully on all devices.
  2. They have branded, unbranded and minimalist style tours.
  3. They host video and video clips.
  4. They are $12 each and last forever if you purchase 10 at a time.
  5. They have tons of other features and compete very well with the big tour company tours.
  6. They have great service.
Jason’s Question: Been contacted by Redfin to be a contract photographer. Any information you may know about them would be greatly appreciated. Are they good to work for? Is the compensation fair? Can I make my own schedule? I been scouring the Internet and can’t seem to find any information on what it’s like to work for them.
Answer: I’ve never talked to anyone that works for Redfin. I know that they promote using professional photography to their agents, but that’s all I know about them. I’d like to know the answers to all the questions you ask.
Can anyone out there answer Jason’s questions? I can’t.

Still Contest Closing – Video Contest Opening

October 14th, 2014

ElevatedShotsThe PFRE Photographer of the month closing: contest for October will close the end of the day on Wed 10/15.

Right now we have 23 great elevated shots. A lot of drone shots but still many with poles. Some very nice work here!

The PFRE Video Contest open now: I’ll start accepting video contest entries now. Be sure to read the video contest rules at:

http://photographyforrealestate.net/video-contest/

News for the video contest: We are going to implement several of the reader suggestions this month.

The goal of these changes is to have the jury voting more systematic and to have a larger more diverse group of jurors.

Simon Maxwell Explains Enfuse or Exposure Fusion

October 13th, 2014

EnfuseTutorial

There was at least one comment on yesterdays post suggesting that some readers are not familiar with the terms Enfuse or Exposure Fusion. So I though it would be useful for some to review what those terms mean.

Enfuse processing is very widely used in real estate photography these days (about half of all real estate photographers). The name Enfuse refers to the open source software that implements the Exposure Fusion algorithm which is an alternative bracketing processing technique to HDR. Exposure Fusion is not the same as HDR which uses a completely different algorithm than Exposure fusion.

Software like LR/Enfuse and Enfuse Gui just act as user interfaces for the Enfuse software. Sometimes Exposure Fusion is referred to as blending. Although the term blending also refers to manual combining of several bracketed images in Photoshop. Yes, Photomatix has an option to process a series of images with the Exposure Fusion algorithm too so if you have the Photomatix Lightroom Plugin you can use it in a very similar way directly from Lightroom.

Because LR/Enfuse is Lightroom plugin, Lightroom is a very handy way to process your bracketed shots.  In the above video tutorial, Simon runs through the logic of choosing brackets, shows the resulting Enfused image and shows how to make adjustments all in Lightroom.

Simon does not explain how to get the set of bracketed photos that he’s using so here are some of popular ways of shooting brackets:

  1. Use the Auto Exposure Bracketing feature that most DSLRs have built-in. Almost every DSLR will do 3 brackets separated by 2 stops, but some DSLRs have more flexible settings. Here’s one of the best summaries. I’ve seen on this subject.
  2. Use a Promote controller.
  3. Use the Michael Freeman method.
  4. Use a CamRanger.

So there you have it, a short introduction to what Enfuse or Exposure Fusion is.

New PFRE Media Publication Coming Soon: Enfuse For Real Estate Photography

October 12th, 2014

EnfuseFREPSimon Maxwell, in London and I have been working hard for the last several months on a new upcoming PFRE Media publication. It will be an e-book titled Enfuse For Real Estate Photography.

Long time PFRE blog readers know Simon from his series of Lightroom video tutorials which have been very popular. I am excited about publishing an e-book on the subject of Enfuse which is a technique that is widely used by real estate photographers. Simon uses this technique extensively and goes into all the technical aspects us using LR/Enfuse from Lightroom and also covers how do Enfuse-Flash hybrid. Here is the Table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • The Problem: Limits of A Single Exposure
  • The Solution: What Enfuse Can Achieve
  • Shooting Brackets
  • Creating Enfused Images With LR/Enfuse
  • Batch Processing With LR/Enfuse
  • Advanced Methods
  • Enfuse-Flash Hybrid
  • An Enfuse Shoot From Start To Finish
  • Lightroom Presets

We are in the final phases of proofing and getting ready for launch and expect to launch this e-book about the second week in November. More details when we get ready to launch.

Where Can You Get Some Fresh New Skies For Sky Replacement?

October 10th, 2014

SkyCal asked a few days ago where he can get some new skies for sky replacement:

Do you have any recommendations on where to get twilight skies? I do a lot of these and need some new choices. I am willing to pay for them if good enough. I have used your’s too often.

What Cal is referring to is that there is the PFRE sky replacement library available for anyone to use for sky replacement. They are skies that have been donated by readers. There is a link to it on the right sidebar of the blog under “Other Links“.

What told Cal is:

When you google “Twilight Replacement Skies” and guess who shows up on the top line:
     http://photographyforrealestate.net/?s=sky+replacement These are past posts on the subject of sky replacement.
But I also found:
all the stock photo sites have great twilight skies. I belong to shutterstock.comand for $49 you get 5 images that are medium size jpgs.
Does anyone know of another free sky library?

Reader Question: Vic Wants To Know What Your Workspace Looks Like?

October 9th, 2014

workspaceVic, a, PFRE reader, asked me the following question:

I am in the process of remodeling my production studio and I was wondering if anyone has shared photos of their production area so I can see some different ideas?  I would love to see a behind the scenes glimpse into the production area of some successful real estate photographers.  It would be interesting to see what keeps them motivated and inspired in their workspace during post production.

At first I was a little sassy and told Vic:

No, no one has ever talked about where they work. They talk about how much RAM they have, what post software they use, what kind of desktop or laptop computer they have. But never what their desk or chair looks like or the room their desk is in.

But then Vic came back a pointed out an article at forbes.com about The Dangers Of A Messy Desk and I understood what he was talking about. Yes, how organized you keep your desk and workspace can be a big deal. And it can determine how effective you are. Also, what it looks like has to do with one’s personality. The photo above is my workspace. I could have done a wider shot, but that would have shown a little more mess. Besides, UPS just delivered my iPhone 6 Plus about 20 min before this shot and I was fixated on playing with the new camera and this is a wide as it goes.

So show Vic your workspace and give him your studio design ideas so he can come up with a great design. Things I would do different with my workspace if I had a chance is have a standup desk and have way more closet space than I do to get as much as possible out of sight.

Reader Question: Why Do Real Estate Photographers Shoot Elevated Front Shots?

October 7th, 2014

whyPAPI got an unexpected question from Brian in NZ. Brian is relatively new to real estate photography and Pole Aerial Photography (PAP). He wondered why PAP is important, and how do you sell it to your clients. Brian was stunned by James Governali’s shot that won last year’s October still contest with a 58′ pneumatic pole. I’ve always thought that the importance of elevated shoots was intuitively obvious, but I guess not. Lets talk about the basics.

Why do you need PAP?
Because just a few feet in elevation can radically change the view of the exterior of a home. The difference between the top image and the bottom image is on the bottom one the photographer (Marc Lacoste of Nantes, FR) has the camera on a tripod with the legs extended over his head. This illustrates how easy it is to get an elevated shot and what a stunning difference it makes. This doesn’t look like the same property. More importantly, the elevated shot shows more of the features of the home and shows them better.

Another reason is that a large percentage of homes are sited above the street level so a handheld exterior shot looks awful! Ten to 15′ elevation can frequently fix this problem.

How to sell it to your clients?
Simple comparison shots like the one above will illustrate to clients the benefits of an elevated shot. Realtors are quick to see the benefits. In 1986 when my wife became a listing agent she came home complaining that the roof of her car was dented. When I ask her how it got dented she said, “I was standing on the top of the car to get a better front shot of my new listing.” After that I shot all of her listing front shots for her with a foldup ladder I put in bed my pickup. Nowadays Realtors want more than PAP, they want drone shots.

Is a 58′ pole over kill?
Perhaps in some situations. The goal of using large poles is, as with James Governali‘s winning shot, you want to show the home, in it’s surroundings and features in the distance that can’t typically be seen just standing in front of the home. These poles along with the control electronics and the trailers to carry them around used to cost around $10K to $20K USD. You don’t see as many of them in use as you did 10 years ago. But they are not obsolete. At least you don’t have to pay any attention to the FAA when you are using a large pole!

Drones will eventually replace these large poles like James’s 58′ pole, but smaller 10′ to 20′ poles are really easy and effective to use and are an essential part of full service real estate photography.

TopMLSPhotos.com Domain Available For Purchase – Any Takers?

October 7th, 2014

Long time PFRE reader and PFRE flickr group participant, Bryce Greenfield is moving out of RE photography and wants to sell his domain TopMLSPhotos.com. If anyone is interested in purchasing Bryce’s domain name contact Bryce via his contact page.

Do You Know What’s Important To Your Customers?

October 6th, 2014

ClientSurveyDave in Perth, sent me this recent article about TopSnap which is a franchise in Australia and New Zealand.

What I wanted to point out about this article is not so much the specific numbers that TopSnap got but, rather the fact that TopSnap is doing a regular survey that helps them understand what their customers think about them, what social media their customers use most. Also, what their customers use and value the most to market their listings.

Do you know this kind of thing about your customers? Small businesses can do surveys quite easily and inexpensively and allow their feedback from customers to be anonymous if they choose by using sites like surveymonkey.com. There are a lot of these sites, just google “survey sites free”.

Most of these sites let you do small scale surveys for free. Surveymonkey.com is free up to 100 respondents. If you have over 100 customers just do multiple surveys. What you do is construct a survey and email the survey to 100 customers and the survey site collects and collates the results for you.

The trick is to come up with survey questions that reveal important issues in your business. But the basics are to understand what your clients like or don’t like about your products.

Is anyone already using surveys?

Another Alternative For Building A Door Top Flash Holder

October 5th, 2014

TimDoorFlashHolderWhat’s a door top flash holder? If you’ve purchased Scott Hargis’s Lighting Interior book, subscribed to his video series or been to one of Scott’s workshops you’ll remember that the Basic Bedroom lighting setup involves a flash sitting on top of the door aimed back at the corner or wall. And if you’d used this setup for any length of time you have either knocked a flash on the floor or come very close to it at least once. To solve this problem PFRE readers have come up with a number of alternatives to prevent dropping flashes.

Here are a list of previous solutions to this problem:

  • Manfrotto 175F-1 Clamp: This is one of my favorites because it easily clamps to the top of doors (if you are tall enough to attach it). It also easily attaches to a light stand. I always have one of these attached to one light stand. You do have to be careful that you don’t make marks on the top of the door because the spring is strong.
  • Nasty Clamps: Many readers use nasty clamps.
  • DIY door top flash holder by Mark Cornwell: This is a very inexpensive approach and very easy to make.
  • Rich Baum’s DIY clamp: Rich’s post explains nicely what you want in a clamp… won’t harm the door and has a very nice inexpensive solution.

This is the new solution: Tim Wilson of Richmond, VA has come up with another DIY approach. As the photo above shows, it’s a 6″ length of aluminum channel with a bolt in the middle that will attach to your flash. Read Tim’s post here for all the details. He’ll even sell you one if you’d like.

Congratulations To Travis Rowan – Winner Of Aug/Sep Property Video Contest

October 3rd, 2014

TravisAug-SeptWinCongratulations to Travis Rowan, of Maui, HI, who has won the August/September property video of the month contest with his video at the right. Click the image to the right to watch the video. Also click the numbers listed below to see each video that the jury awarded points to.

This is the second win in a row for Travis. He won the July video contest as well. Pretty amazing work Travis!

Here is the jury’s voting results:

  1. 17 points, #2Travis Rowan – Maui, HI
  2. 11 points, #6, Charlie Dresen – Steamboat Springs, CO
  3. 9 points, #10, Jason Ikaida – Portland, OR
  4. 3 points, #7, Josh Gold – Tel Aviv, Israel

I’ve put the names of all 10 contestants on their videos in the video contest flickr group. Be sure to checkout the juror comments and feel free to comment on the videos.

Travis’s comments on the video are as follows:

Thanks for the votes and recognition, it means a lot. There are so many great entries again, it’s an honor to be recognized.

About the video: The Realtor, Scott Innes, had the idea of using the words of the current owners to describe their home and lifestyle. Scott always has great ideas and is willing to try something different. He also does a great job as the voice.

For this home, we wanted to really bring an emotional element to it since it is a real home with real people living there as opposed to the glitzy estates that tend to speak for themselves.

I shot both stills and video all in one day at which point the voiceover script wasn’t together yet. I generally prefer to have a voiceover script in hand first to serve as a shot list but everyone’s busy schedule and weather issues did not allow that. So I shot everything as I normally would then Scott presented the script to me a few days later, I refined the script to suit the visuals I had. Then we got together to record it. I pieced it all together in the edit and I feel like we really captured the feel and emotion of the home. Scott also chose the music, which for me is one of the most challenging parts. He nailed it.

Video was shot with: Phantom 2 / Hero 3, Panasonic GH3 and Nikon D800 edited in Final Cut Pro X with audio recorded on Zoom H1 with lav mic.

This Week In Real Estate Video – Charlie Gets A Movi M5

October 3rd, 2014

SteamboatEarlier today Charlie Dresen, a Realtor in Steamboat, CO, sent me one of his recent videos he did since he got his new Movi M5. This evening I’ll be announcing the winner of the Aug/Sep video contest, but I just had to show this to everyone. Here is what I told Charlie:

Very cool! The sequences with the kids running through the condo are amazing! Also, I like the other unusual moves you do with it through out the video, yet mix in slower slider shots to keep the rhythm under control. Much more interesting than just a standard walk through. The DJI shot at the end showing the property with the mountain is in the back is fantastic… you need to get this same shot at twilight in the winter!

What do you think?