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10 Rules For Real Estate Photography Success

May 28th, 2015

ElonMuskElon Musk has been one of my hero’s for a while. I just started listening to the newly released biography on him by Ashlee Vance and the more I learn about Elon, the more he amazes me. He is the most driven person I’ve ever heard of. Learning about the details of his life and creating his businesses is giving me new appreciation of how important it is to have focus and drive.

Today I stumbled across this video summary that contains a list of what Musk thinks is important for success:

  1. Never give up
  2. Really like what you do
  3. Don’t listen to the #littleman
  4. Take a risk
  5. Do something important
  6. Focus on signal over noise
  7. Look for problem solvers
  8. Attract great people
  9. Have a great product
  10. Work super hard

These 10 rules all apply in one way or another to building a real estate photography business. Musks simple geeky style of explaining these adds a lot!

Is A 22 mm Wide-Angle Lens Wide Enough For Real Estate Photography?

May 27th, 2015

Olympus11-22Gene says:

I am a Realtor with an Olympus E-500 digital camera and interested in taking interior photos. There are two lens you recommend. The 7-14mm f4 and the 11-22mm f2.8. Big price difference between the two. Is there a big different in the photos and is it noticeable? I am not a pro but do want to take some nice interior photos on my listings.

First of all, the Olympus sensor size makes the focal length multiplier for these lenses 2.0 which means the 7-14mm is effectively a 14-28mm lens and the 11-22mm lens effectively a 22-44mm lens. The other important fact is that the sweet spot for shooting interiors is around 24mm (effective). That is, 24mm is wide enough to show interior spaces well but not so wide images have strange, distracting perspective distortions.

The 7-14mm is twice the price of 11-22mm and the quality is better but probably not twice as good. The added cost is to get that ultra-wide-angle. My experience is that you can get buy very nicely with the 11-22m since it with hit the sweet spot of 24mm and go slightly wider. For many years, before I moved to digital, I shot listings with a fixed 24mm and was very happy with the results. Just be aware though that the 11-22mm will not give you that ultra-wide-angle views that the 7-14mm will give. Some Realtors like this ultra-wide look but many readers here will argue that not being able to go too wide is a good thing.

Is there anyone that has experience with both of these lenses?

Does The New Merge to HDR Feature In Lightroom Replace LR/Enfuse

May 26th, 2015

EnfuseLR6Dwayne asked the following:

I have used Photoshop from it’s first edition. Now I have the new Photoshop CC along with Lightroom CC. I’ve never used Lightroom before but have seen a lot about Enfuse. My question is: now that LR has it’s own “Merge to HDR”, do I really need LR/Enfuse? The LR version seems to work faster than LR/Enfuse. I have Photomatix Pro 5 but I am not happy with the garish colors it sometimes gives and I end up desaturating everything. Your thoughts?

Since Simon Maxwell (author of the Enfuse e-book and video series) is the expert on the LR/Enfuse plugin because he uses it intensively, I asked Simon to weigh in on this subject. Here is Simon’s answer: Continue Reading »

Congratulations Anders Carlson – PFRE Photographer Of The Month May 2015

May 24th, 2015

2015MayAndersCarlsonCongratulations to Anders Carlson of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  The jury just finished voting on the entries and the competition this month was very close. The top four entrants were all within just a few points of each other.

This is Anders’ third win. He won in both May of 2012 and May of 2013, all three of his wins were with this same theme of “interor with a breathtaking view.” I think this theme is Anders’ specialty!

Here are the results of the jury voting:

  1. 20 pts, #29, Anders Carlson – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
  2. 17 pts, #18, Claudio Mollo – Rome, Italy
  3. 17 pts, #11, Scott Basile – San Diego, California
  4. 15 pts, #22, Matt Parvin – Southport, North Carolina
  5. 10 pts, #8, Whit Richardson – Durango, Colorado
  6. 7 pts, #17, Ling Ge – Aliso Viejo, California
  7. 5 pts, #26, Brett Gray – Brisbane, Australia
  8. 3 pts, 30, Brandon Cooper – Forty McMurray, Alberta

I will be identifying all the contestants in the contest in the Flickr group.

Here are Anders’ comments on creating his winning image: Continue Reading »

What Do You Use To Edit Real Estate Property Video?

May 21st, 2015

Charlie says:

I’ve been using Final Cut 7 for years and love it. But now that I’m upgrading my cameras and computer to handle better footage, I’m entertaining new software that can handle the footage. I would love to see an update of the poll you did in 2011 of what video editors real estate videographers are using.

The fact that Charlie is using Final Cut 7, of course means he is a Mac user. Also, at the time I did the previous poll, Apple had just released the new version of Final Cut X which was significantly different from Final Cut 7. This upgrade angered a lot of Apple users and caused many to defect to Adobe Premiere Pro.

So the underlying assumption in Charlie’s question is that for sophisticated property video editing on the Mac there are two primary choices for video editors: Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere Pro. Of course, there’s iMovie but for someone already using Final Cut 7 iMovie has less functionality.

For Windows users, the choice is pretty clear Adobe Premiere Pro is probably the best choice for sophisticated editing. And of course there are a huge number of windows alternatives for under $100.

For Mac users, there’s more to consider than just the functionality. The pricing between Premiere and Final Cut is very different. Subscription ($19.95/month) vs $299 one time.

As usual in these situations crowd-sourcing is very valuable. What video editor do you use? Please take the poll to the right, it will be interesting to compare it to the one we did in 2011.

Real Estate Property Websites and Flyers

May 20th, 2015

QandADan recently asked the following question about property sites and flyers:

I wanted to find out what RE Photographers charge for property websites and/or flyers. I’d like to be competitive but I also don’t want to work for peanuts. I’m thinking something like $100 for websites and $$ (I have no idea) for flyer design? I have no idea if that’s reasonable one way or the other and I don’t know where to look to get an idea.

Property Sites:
Property sites can vary widely in sophistication and complication. For most property sites, I would suggest just registering a domain name (like and pointing it at a tour (tourbuzz support can tell you how to do this). This approach to a property site would probably be adequate for the majority of clients that want property sites. You can do a tour for $12 and register a domain for $5 to $10 a year depending on where you do the registration. I can imagine some upper-end clients wanting a more elaborate, custom property site. If you have web development skills or even use a template site you could easily create a custom site for $100-$200 but I doubt this is a product you will sell to more than a hand full of your clients. Continue Reading »

Can Good Real Estate Photos Cause A Quick Sale?

May 19th, 2015

anonymousIan sent me a link to this article recently:

After Nearly 8 Months, Photos Help Sell Home in 8 Days

The article alleges that:

See this house? It languished on the Orlando market for 224 days. It’s no wonder; right? That photo doesn’t exactly scream “you’ve gotta see me!”. That’s before professional photographer Harry Lim was called by the home’s new listing agent — one who understands the importance of professional photography for his listings. “I shot it on February 28 and delivered the images the next day on March 1,” said Lim. “On March 10 he told me a buyer had made an offer. So by my calculation, I believe the contract came in sometime between March 1 and March 9. To put it another way, after almost 8 months on the market, the home was under contract within 8 days after I took new photos.”

If you didn’t catch the reference it said that there was a new listing agent. My advice to Harry Lim, the real estate photographer is that making claims like this is not a great way to build credibility with listing agents! Sure good photos probably make a difference but I’m here to tell you that the listing agent and many other factors like the Price, time of year, the selling office, the buyers agent commission, the weather, amount of inventory on the local market, lending rates, loan availability make more difference than the photos and whether or not the walls are vertical! Perhaps the new photos played a role but more likely there are some other factor or factors that Harry didn’t even know about that caused the rapid sale.

Should Real Estate Photographers Charge For Extra Photoshop Work?

May 18th, 2015

AppleGateLast week Roy asked:

I charge $20 per photo for special Photoshop editing for things that are beyond control of the agent or owner or that just did not get taken care of before my arrival like digitally removing water hoses, cleaning dirty driveways, repairable damages, or stains on the wall, etc. However, I’m not sure how to handle things such as Photoshopping fire in the fireplace, or sky replacements. This is extra work on my part though it was not my fault or the fault of the agent for an overcast day or no fire in the fireplace. Should I be charging them for these types of edits or just be that “nice guy” that bends over backwards to make my $150 for the shoot, and spend the extra time doing these edits to save the Mercedes driving realtor $60? Of course, common business sense says to accommodate your clients to maintain future business but where is the balance between standing up for yourself and getting paid for your services, or taking a hit to keep your rich clients using you? Basically–should I stand up or bend over?

Absolutely, you should be charging for extra Photoshop work. Especially sky replacement and adding fire in the fireplace. However, because you typically charge for it doesn’t mean that at your discretion you can’t do it for free for key clients in key situations just to demonstrate what’s possible or when the fix is trivial. Many agents don’t realize what’s possible with photoshop.

The photo above is an example of an agent not knowing what’s possible. This is the front shot from a shoot I did. The agent called me up after I delivered the photos and asked me to reshoot the front because of the portable basketball hoop and a tether ball hoop being in the photo. He’s right I screwed up. I should have pointed out that the shot would look better without the basketball hoop and tether ball pole. But he screwed up for not having the property ready to shoot when I arrived. Anyway, I spent 10 minutes in Photoshop, removed them and sent the new front shot to him. It blew him away, he had no idea that could be done. Needless to say, I didn’t charge him because it was as much my problem for not seeing the issue as it was his for not having the property ready to shoot.

Buying Gray Market Cameras: What You Need To Know

May 17th, 2015

GrayMarketCharlie asked:

I’m thinking about buying a Sony A7S but see prices all over the board. Do you know if the cheaper ones on EBAY are the same model as US ones. Are they the Japanese model and thus worth less?

I’ve not had any direct experience with this issue, but I always buy only from Amazon or B&H because I know they both have products made for the US and they have standard warranties. After a little research, I found this article at that gives some more insight into Charlies question. In summary the article says:

A “gray market” camera is one that is advertised for a price significantly less than is charged by the original manufacturer or their authorized dealer. The consumer can often be misled by gray market vendors that make misleading statements about what they are selling and engage in sales tactics that legitimate dealers would question. They often use the offer of significant savings to lure potential buyers into spending more without getting what they thought they were buying. When you are talking about cameras, especially high-end models, the maxim “there is no free lunch” applies. You get what you pay for, and every consumer that is considering dealing with a store that advertises their goods significantly under the manufacturers’ advertised price should do so with caution and skepticism.

Has anyone had any direct experience buying gray market gear?

PFRE Still Photographer Of Month Contest Ready For Judging – Check It Out

May 16th, 2015

MayStillContestThe PFRE Photographer of the month contest is now closed and ready for judging. The jury will decide on a winner by next week at this time.

We have a particularly stunning and diverse set of entries this month. In addition to entries from US, CA, AU and NZ we have entries from Monaco, Cannes on the French Riviera, Thailand, Rome and Switzerland.

I think it is worth pointing out again that just studying and comparing these images is a very educational exercise. Feel free to join the PFRE contest Flickr group and comment on them.

Notice that, I’m no longer deleting the entries from the Flickr group each month, I just insert a PFRE contest logo in between each month and label entries with the month as well as the entry number.

We’ve Made Some Improvements To The Enfuse Video Series

May 15th, 2015

EFREPnewadThis last week we’ve made a couple important improvements to the Enfuse For Real Estate Photography video series:

  1. Downloadable video files: When we launched the Enfuse video series we got some complaints that the video was streamable only and that at the time you couldn’t download the videos to your tablet or laptop so that if you were traveling somewhere with no internet access you couldn’t watch the video. We’ve fixed that now you can download each video.
  2. Download the whole series: As a variation of #1 we also have a link for subscribers to download the whole video series. This is a 1.4 Gig file that takes about 15 min to download on a 20 Mbit/sec broadband connection.
  3. Fixed the support contact page: If you’ve tried to use the support page that sends us an email before last week you didn’t get an answer it’s because the support page had a problem… we’ve fixed that now.

We still think that watching these videos with the iPlayerHD streaming that is built into the site is the most convenient way to view this video series. These new options just expand the viewing options a bit!

Congratulations To Peggy Taylor And The FastPix Team In Tampa Bay!

May 14th, 2015

FastpixCongratulations to Peggy Taylor and her team in Tampa Bay. Peggy announced another milestone in her real estate photography business – she is retiring an passing on her business to her sister. Long time PFRE readers already know Peggy because I’ve been doing posts about her business success for many years. I also have her story in my business e-book. She has become my poster-girl for real estate photography success.

My only part in Peggy’s story is that back in 2009 or so I started nagging her about her low prices. She eventually listened to me and this is the post I did on what happened then.

This last week Peggy sent me the following:

Larry, I thought you would enjoy hearing about the evolution of my company…thanks for your guidance in getting started from a rank amateur in 2009.

We have photographed some of the most expensive homes in Tampa Bay—the latest was nearly $14 million (Susan shot that one). I put links to several on my website. I have trained Susan and Andrea in my methods and style and Susan is now guiding Lesley. The local market is strong and we are doing some very large properties where it makes sense to shoot as a team; plus, there is enough work to keep everyone busy with individual work as well. It is very gratifying to see my company growing but I also want to enjoy my new grandchildren and relax. I am ready to let Susan take the reins and she is very eager to do so. I will still remain active in the business but at a much, much slower pace.

What a great success story! Peggy and her team’s success demonstrates what’s possible in the real estate photography business. It’s worth noting that Peggy built her business in a real estate market down turn. Peggy’s success also shows what’s possible in building a real estate photography team so you have depth and backup. Great job ladies! You are an inspiration to all of us!

What Kind Of Hardware Do You Need For Professional Real Estate Photography?

May 13th, 2015

iMacHEV recently asked:

A few days ago a commenter asked about computing power. What type of computing power are professional photographers using and how much do these systems cost?

First of all, my attitude and recommendation for computing equipment is to not skimp on hardware you buy. That is, go with the top of the line at the time you purchase and then plan to replace it in 4 or 5 years. High-performance hardware saves you time and money. In the long run it pays for itself many times over.

So if I were replacing my hardware today here is what I’d go with:

  • Intel I7
  • 16 gig of RAM
  • Graphics card with 2 gig of RAM
  • SSD drive for system drive
  • Top quality 27-inch monitor

If you were to bay a Apple version of the above configuration you’d be going with the top of the line iMac and it would cost just over $3000. I’m getting close to replacing my mid-2010 iMac and this is what I replace it with if I did it today.

I’m sure not eveyone agrees with this recommendation. What do you recommend?

What To Do When You Show Up For A Shoot And The Property Is A Mess?

May 12th, 2015

ClarkListingManuel ask the following question:

Yesterday was my fourth bad experience taking pictures. What should I do when I go to shoot a house  occupied by the owner or tenant and the house is all cluttered. I always send a checklist to the realtor that explains what to do to get the home ready for photos.
Do I have to come back another time? In that case I must charge a fee for coming and I could not do my job?

Yes, you must have a statement in your terms of service that says something like, “based on the judgement of the photographer, if the home is not ready for photographing when the photographer arrives, the shoot will be canceled and there will be a rescheduling fee of $xxx charged.” It’s the listing agent’s job to have the property ready for photographing at the time of the shoot. I would always consult with the listing agent and be sure she doesn’t just want you to shoot it as-is. Some times when there’s tenants involved that’s the only option. Continue Reading »

Image Sharpening For Real Estate Photography

May 11th, 2015

LR5SharpeningThis weekend Greg asked:

I study photos on Houzz frequently. I notice how sharp many of these photos are and wonder how they achieve that level of sharpness. I’m using a 5D3 and a Canon 17-40 and I’m not even close to these. Are they using large format, fixed lenses, some special sharpening software, or all the above.

I think what you will find is that even if you shoot with a great lens and quality DSLR, images need a little sharpening for the specific device they are being displayed on. For real estate images that device is a computer display. Images intended for printed media require different sharpening than a computer display.

Sharpening is a fairly complex subject and is related to noise reduction. Anthony Morganti goes through in the accompanying tutorial. Anthony’s tutorial covers the basics for any image but it all applies to real estate work. A classic resource for sharpening is Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom, by Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe.

Here are some sharpness considerations specifically related to shooting real estate: Continue Reading »