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How Do I Photograph A Wine Cellar In The Basement With Very Little Light?

March 26th, 2015

YN560IIIRobert asked the following question:

I have a photo shoot coming up and the house has a quint wine cellar – 10×18 in size, wine racks and bottles, etc. There is etched glass on the entrance door and etched glass for the large front glass planes. The wine cellar is located in the basement of the house and no available light anywhere – only canned lights outside the of the wine cellar and the inside of the cellar has pot lights, tungsten. What I’d like to do is capture the art work on the etched glass. The color of the etched art work is white stencil. I’ve never encountered anything like this and frankly, I haven’t a clue on how to best capture this art work on the window. Any thoughts on how to go about trying to capture this image?

From looking at your site, it appears that you don’t use flash. It appears that you use bracketed exposures and process with HDR software.

Your wine cellar shoot is an excellent application for using one or two small flashes. There’s a couple of ways to starting using a single flash in your shooting:

  1. Use Scott Hargis’s approach to small flash: This post on the PFRE blog is a condensed description of Scotts technique. If you haven’t used flash before this technique will require some practice but it is very simple. Scott’s book and video series give you in depth information on this technique.
  2. Use a bracketing/flash hybrid technique: Here’s a post on the PFRE blog that describes this technique. Simon Maxwell’s book and video series gives more information on how to use this technique.

If you’ve never used flash before #2 above may be an easier way to get started with flash. Either way I think that starting to use at least one small flash will solve your wine cellar shot problem and improve your work in general.

If you don’t have any manual flashes here is a post on the PFRE blog that describes what you need to get started using manual flashes.

What Should I Charge To Photography A 13,000 SF Apt In Manhattan?

March 25th, 2015

WhatPriceManuel in New Jersey asks:

I am a real estate photographer working and living in NJ. I’ve been in business since 2013. I am now trying to get jobs in NY.  A Realtor in Manhattan just asked me what are my fees for an 13,000, $7M apartment in Manhattan?  I am in puzzled because I have no idea how to charge for this huge price and apt. Can you give me an idea what I should charge?

First of all, for real estate photography the shoot price is not typically a function of the listing price of the property. The more conventional way to price real estate photography is: Continue Reading »

How Do You Compete With Real Estate Photographers Charging Low Prices?

March 24th, 2015

iStock_000006627709XSmallKirt in Connecticut asks:

I am based out of Connecticut and competitive pricing is always an issue with every one of us. I can’t seem to get over the hump of other locals. Simply said; the one competior here charges $75 a listing. This is based off a 300,000 listing price. I can’t wrap my head around how he continues to do this as well as profit for himself. He delivers 40 images, same day. I need assistance on this one. If anyone experienced this, I need advice as well!

Very likely your competitor that charges $75 is arithmetic impaired so he doesn’t realize he is losing money. The reason real estate photographers get into this price competition is they don’t understand that you don’t want to even be doing business with the lower 90% of Realtors. You must find and target the top agents because they understand why good photography matters (see # 3 below) and they will pay for it. On the other hand the lower 80% to 90% of listing agents are losing money and they whine and don’t want to pay what it cost to do good marketing. Continue Reading »

Congratulations Seth Parker PFRE Photographer Of The Month For March

March 23rd, 2015

2015MarSethParkerWow! Big contest this month! Sixty one entries. Congratulations to Seth Parker of Huntsville, Alabama. Click on the image on the right to see a large version of Seth’s winning image. The competition was much closer this month than last. Jonas Berg of Gothenburg, Sweden came in a very close second. Seth and Jonas were almost tied until the last juror voted.

Below are the 13 winners that the judges awarded points to: Continue Reading »

What Do Real Estate Photographers Do To Minimize Time Spent Getting Their Clients To Pay?

March 22nd, 2015

SquareWilliam asked the following:

I currently use QuickBooks online wich work fine for simple accounting and invoice tracking, but I spent a lot of time getting people to pay. I’m interested in moving to a credit card pay system that is more used in the hotel industry. Where the hotel would approve your credit card for a certain amount and if the final room charge equaled that amount or is less, I could charge a lesser amount easily. Right now I never really know how many pictures I’m going to deliver the Realtor (unless they tell me how many pictures they want ahead of time) until after I’m back at home working on them. Any thoughts or advice?

Continue Reading »

FAA Is Completely Confused About What Constitutes Commercial Drone Use

March 20th, 2015

UAVsFaine Greenwood over at has a great article on the FAA’s harassment of Jayson Hanes in Tampa (that I reported last week) and Steve Girard in Portland. These two cases illustrate the confusion around what does and doesn’t constitute commercial UAV usage in the US.

The article concludes that:

It’s not at all certain that the agency has any intention of backing up these threats. As of this writing, the FAA has yet to actually prosecute anyone for commercial usage of a UAV—and some, such as Connecticut attorney Peter Sachs, argue that until the FAA’s proposed voluntary guidelines on UAV usage become final, there are no actually enforceable laws at all.

The two cases outlined in the article are both hobbyists that the FAA has accused as operating commercially but there is not much confusion about whether shooting real estate is commercial. My general feeling is the FAA is just harassing people that are flying to try to keep flying UAVs a minimum until the guidelines become law because they realize as Peter says, “there are no actually enforceable laws.”

Update 3/21/2015: Be sure to read Craig’s awesome story below. Craig’s story confirms my gut feelings that I have on this issue. Thanks Craig for passing it along.

Manfrotto Released A New Geared Head – How Does It Compare To Existing Geared Heads?

March 19th, 2015

NewManfrottoSeveral weeks ago Lee pointed out a new three way geared tripod head that Manfrotto released. For a long while the Manfrotto 405 and Manfrotto 410 have been the standards for this kind of tripod head. The beauty of this kind of tripod head is that you can easily and precisely level your camera on all three axises – a must for real estate and interior photographers.

This head appears to have two major differences as compared to the 405 and 410. First, it’s made of  “Adapto technopolymer” (plastic) rather than metal. Second, in addition to precise adjustment made with the three knobs you can make larger movements by pushing the knobs against the knob housings. Also, the price appears to be about $60 USD less than the 410 which used to be the cheapest three axis geared head.

It’s always tough to tell if new versions of gadgets like this are a good thing or not. Lucky a couple of PFRE forum members got their hands on this tripod head and have tested it for us. Their reviews are mixed. They say this new head works well but they both prefer the solidness of the existing metal heads. Thanks FotografieBerg and Object&co_Mario for the review!

The Books We Sell On PFRE Offer Benefits Of Ebooks And Hardcopy Books

March 18th, 2015

LightingInteriorsHardCopyA few days ago Syv asked the following:

Could you make a list of good books, separated by ebook vs physical book. Last year I bought about $400 worth of books and almost all of the as physical books. I do not read ebooks because as an old dinosaur I don’t like reading on the computer. My definition of a good book is a book that I will read more than once.

Yes, I totally understand your feeling about traditional e-books I feel much the same way. I don’t want to want to get into a general e-book vs print book discussion but rather point out that the books we sell here on the PFRE blog can be read on any device and in hardcopy form. This is NOT the case for other types of e-books sold by Amazon or in the Apple store. Here’s how the books we sell here at the PFRE blog are different:

  1. We sell books in PDF format that are designed with 8.5″ x 11″pages.
  2. Unlike Amazon Kindle books and Apple  iBooks our PDF  books are not copy-protected.
  3. Unlike Amazon Kindle books and Apple iBooks our PDF books can be printed. In fact I recommend that you print our PDF books and either put them in a 3-ring binder or have them spiral bound. 
  4. We offer hardcopy versions of most of our books at, but they are expensive because they are printed on demand and are very high quality (spiral bound with heavy paper).
  5. Despite #2 and #3 above our PDF books can be stored and read on all tablets including Kindles.
  6. When PFRE books are updated, everyone that has ever purchased the book gets an updated copy. Some of our books have been updates 2 or 3 times.

In summary, we think PFRE Media books are some where between traditional Amazon/Apple ebooks and mass produced printed books. We think this is approach the best of both worlds.

There’s A Lot To Learn By Reviewing The March Contestants For Photographer Of The Month

March 17th, 2015

ContestI just got finished studying all the contestants for March photographer/kitchen of the month. Several jurors have remarked that the quality of the entrants of this contest keeps increasing.

There are 61 entries from 8 countries this month and there is a lot to be learned from studying and comparing the photos. Here are some of my observations:

  1. The best photos combine great photography and a great kitchen design. You can’t win with just one, you have to have both. If your photography is perfect and the kitchen is boring, your photography can’t fix boring.
  2. Composition and attention to detail at this level is a huge factor.
  3. The distortion caused by shooting too wide can easily become a big distraction.
  4. The decor objects in the kitchen can make a big difference in the image. If you have too many decor objects they become a distraction and if you don’t have enough the photo “shouts” vacant.

Your first reaction to browsing through all 61 of these kitchen shots may first be…  they all look the same but there is one that stands out above the others. I noticed it as the entrants were submitting their entries and my feeling has been confirmed by 3 of the jurors that have voted so far. Can you see which one it is?

How Do Real Estate Photographers Handle Bad Weather Days?

March 16th, 2015

BadWeatherHEV who is located in the North East asked the following question:

Has there ever been a discussion about what most photographers do on bad weather days? As in, if they charge to reschedule and what types of equipment to consider using during bad weather shoots. Agents sell houses all year long. Shouldn’t they expect their appointment time may be canceled if bad weather occurs?

Everyone’s answer to this will be to some extent influenced by where they live. I’ve shot real estate in the Northwest US for 15 years and I can’t remember ever canceling a shoot because of weather. However, with the weather you guys are having in the Northeast US this year I can see that you may have had to cancel some shoots because of snow this winter. Here are a few thoughts about canceling because of weather: Continue Reading »

What Are Your Favorite Photography SmartPhone Apps?

March 15th, 2015

AppsTom recently posed the following question:

I just ordered an iPhone 6. This is my first Apple phone. I have always been an Android user. I searched for useful apps and found some dated recommendations that may or may not still be valid. These apps tend to change frequently, so I thought this may be a timely post to get a current list. What are the best apps currently available for photography, paid or free?

Great question. There are a bunch of Apps out there and it would be useful to have a crowd-sourced list of Apps that are useful for real estate photographers. I’ll start with my list and add to it as others come up with suggestions. Here’s my list: Continue Reading »

FAA Says You Can’t Post Drone Videos On YouTube

March 13th, 2015

JaysonHanesAccording to an article yesterday on the FAA has sent cease and desist orders to:

  1. Registered businesses that advertise drone-for-hire services on their websites.
  2. UAV operators that post footage on YouTube. Jayson Hanes, a Tampa-based hobbyist is the first to get a letter for posting on YouTube.

And if you do not respond to the cease and desist, letters the FAA claims they will levy fines and sanctions.

The FAA “logic” for prohibiting drone video on YouTube is that YouTube pays advertising money to all YouTube posters thus making the drone operation commercial. Yeah, sure,  Marques Brownlee, or PSY and others with their level of views make money but like you and I, Jayson Hanes has never received anything from YouTube because what YT owes him is less than a dollar.

I have to say, that I’m embarrassed by the FAA’s behavior. I expect a US Federal Agency with a yearly budget somewhere North of 16 Billion dollars to behave rationally, based on facts. Harassing people like Jayson and claiming that putting a video on YouTube makes you commercial is just plain foolish!

Ten Beliefs That Suck The Life Out Of Photographers – By Don Giannatti

March 12th, 2015

BeliefsDon Giannatti over at has a great post about the beliefs that get in the way of being a successful photographer. Beliefs always have a strong influence on our behavior. That influence can be positive or negative. As Don says, “The things that are truly holding you back are your own beliefs. Belief that it IS one of those reasons above. Believing that it is a geography thing that keeps you from excelling, or what gear you use or how many lights you take with you is more damaging than any REAL challenge you will ever have to meet.Continue Reading »

What Do Real Estate Photographers Use For Bags/Cases?

March 11th, 2015

Pelican1510Jarrett asks:

I’m in the process of gearing up for full-time PFRE, and was wondering what other real estate photographers  use in terms of bags and cases. Just ordered a Pelican rolling case to house two camera bodies, four Yongnuo flashes and controller, along with a few lenses and other accessories.

Sounds like you are on the right track. I would say the Pelican 1510 is very popular with real estate photographers because it has rollers, is a hard case and it fits in overhead compartments in airplanes if you ever need to travel. Scott Hargis recommends this case in his book Lighting Interiors along with the close second is the Pelican 1560 which is slightly bigger.

Some RE photographers additionally use a small over the shoulder bag like a shootsac which I talked about on the blog back in January.

Anyone else have advice for Jarrett?

How Do You Decide to Contract Out Your Post Processing?

March 10th, 2015

OutSourcingNick recently ask the following question:

I was wanting your opinion on contracting out all the post processing using websites like Elance and Odesk and if its at all do able in this type of work. I know the urgency agents put on contractors and so I’m curious if employing others off shore would work in the time frames expected. I’ve already made some enquiries and theres plenty of people out there willing to do the work for a fraction of the labour costs charged locally, or mine for that matter. I found a small company from the UK that specialises in real estate photography and they mentioned many of the image changes you’ve written in your books, so with this in mind, is it very common for agents to want additional changes to images as this is one of the only hurdles I can think of when going in this direction.

On the general subject of contracting out your post processing I have to say that I don’t recommend it for someone just getting started. Post processing is an important part of real estate photography and an integral part of your product that you need understand intimately. Once you understand it, you may or many not decide to outsource.

It is possible to develop a shooting technique so there is almost no post processing required. That is, you get it right in the camera. For details on how to do this see Scott Hargis’s book: The Essential Guide to Lighting Interiors. Continue Reading »