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Do Professional Voice Overs In Tours Help Sell Listings?

August 27th, 2015

QandARob, a professional narrator, asked the following question:

Do professional Voice Overs – when appropriately and strategically placed in a tour – help agents sell their listings faster? Does the voice over compel a buyer and say something different that cannot be captured through our lenses? I’m not talking about a one to two sentence per photo frame. Rather, 3 to 4 sentences spread over 4 to 6 photos, then perhaps a pause in the narration of about 3 additional photos that might be related to the same room. The narration picks up again when a new room is introduced during a tour.

You may be asking the wrong question. Maybe your question should in what situations will agents pay an extra $75 to $100 (what you would have to charge) for professional narration?

Here are several of my thoughts on narration:

  • Professional narration on tours and video is very compelling when done well. I know of no data available on the effect of professional narration.
  • Half or more of doing it well is writing the script. Most agents typically aren’t very good at writing scripts. Most agents I know want someone else to write the script for them.
  • I’ve seen professional narration used on still photo tours, but I doubt many agents in the US would pay $75 to $100 extra for it. In the mid-2000’s our broker in Seattle (John L Scott) provided free professional narration for all of the still tours on their listings in the Seattle area on their website and the agents didn’t have to write a script. The narrator would create a script from the photos posted on the listing if the agent didn’t supply one. 99% of the agents didn’t supply a script. They stopped this great service when the narrator retired about some time ago.
  • Professional narration is more frequently used and expected on property video for upper-end homes. It is more likely agents would be willing to pay for narration in this market.

What do you think about Rob’s question?

Combining a Flash Layer(s) With a Ambient Layer For a Real Estate Interior Photo

August 26th, 2015

AmbientPlusFlashYou may have noticed that more and more real estate photographers who post in the PFRE photo forum describe the technique they used as blending a flash layer with an ambient layer (like anjie b). Also, you will frequently see this technique used in winning photos in the PFRE monthly photo contest (like Anders Carlson). There is much more of this going on than there was just a few years ago. That is, because if you shoot a flash image and an ambient image, you can quickly combine these two in Photoshop to get the best of both.

What’s The Motivation For This Technique?

  • Flash lighting and ambient only lighting each have their own distinctive look. Sometimes it can take more time on site to get a good flash image with no shadows.
  • You can get the best of both ambient only look and flash only look in a way you can control directly.
  • You can easily remove shadows from flash shots with an ambient layer in Photoshop.

How Do You Use This Technique?

  • As with anything you can get as carried away with this technique as you want. You can combine just a couple of layers or 100 layers or more.
  • Kevin Vitali has this fairly good example of combining one flash layer and one ambient layer.
  • You can use the “open as photoshop layers” feature of Lightroom by selecting the images you want to open as each image on a layer in Photoshop.

If you are not practiced in using Photoshop layers, this may seem complex but once you get familiar with using Photoshop layers it can be quite fast.

What Size Photos Should Real Estate Photographers Deliver?

August 25th, 2015

RMLSLast week Tom ask about the size of photos he should deliver to his clients:

I have been uploading photo files to my agents at the guidelines recommended in the September 9th, 2009 article you posted titled “What You Need To Know About Uploading To MLS” . Yesterday I had an agent tell me the 800×600 pixels are too small. Up until now no one really complained about it. He also said the minimum should be 1600×1200 but prefers 2048×1536. What is the NEW standard everyone is using today? Is there a new standard?

The problem with recommending a specific size is that MLSs run a wide variety of system software. Because of this there is no such thing as a standard. Some MLS software does a good job at downsizing if you give them a bigger size than they like but in the past MLS downsizing has been notorious for mangling photos files so the theory has always been that if you give them the exact size they want they end up not touching the files during uploading. Here are my updated recommendations for figuring out what size photos to upload to your MLS:

  1. Call your local MLS(s) and ask them what size (pixel dimensions) they recommend for photos that are uploaded to their MLS.
  2. Try to get them to tell you what pixel dimensions to use rather than a file size because it is the pixel dimensions that trigger their downsizing.
  3. For photos that will be displayed online, always deliver in the sRGB color space because this is the color space that all browsers use.

Some readers have told me that when they call their MLS they have trouble getting photo specification information. Be aware that MLSs are set up to support their members (agents that pay them monthly fees) so explain that you are a photographer that supplies photos for their members and you are inquiring so you can better serve their members.

8 Steps To Learning Real Estate Photography

August 24th, 2015

8StepsPostLast week Liz in Texas said:

I am interested in taking a workshop on Real Estate Photography. I am in Texas, there are evening short workshops in Austin at Precision camera. I am more interested in totally immersing myself in learning the elements of RE Photography. FYI, I do have a degree in photography from Brooks Institute in 1981-when we shot film! So although I have quiet a bit of experience in the photo/film world-see website. I do not have the digital technique and post-production experience.

Liz’s request for a workshop to learn real estate photography is not unique. Everyone thinks in terms of face-to-face classes because that’s how we all grew up. But the world is changing. Streaming video, electronic media, Skype, YouTube and Google Hangouts offers ways to inexpensively provide training in subjects where it’s no practical or economical to do large-scale face-to-face training. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to workshops. Spending time with an expert is still  the best approach at learning if you can get it… it just isn’t always practical. So use online learning and if you can get into a workshop, for it.

In the process of explaining to Liz the real estate photography learning resources that we have available here on the PFRE blog, I realized that even though there are a bunch of links to all the resources along the top and sidebars of the blog I didn’t have a concise step-by-step explanation of how the resources fit together. So I’ve updated what used to be called the Store page to the 8 Steps to Learning Real Estate Photography page which does a better job of explaining how all the PFRE learning resources fit together.

 

PFRE August Property Video Contest Extended To September 24

August 24th, 2015

AugustVideoContestSince we only have three property video contestants the August PFRE Videographer of the month contest will be extended to September 24. So you can submit video entries until that date.

Before submitting entries please read the video  contest rules carefully.

Congratulations Alasdair McIntosh PFRE Photographer of The Month August

August 23rd, 2015

Aug2015AlasdairMcIntoshCongratulations to Alasdair McIntosh, York, UK, the PFRE photographer of the month for August.

Alasdair is a first-time winner. He’s been a regular contestant for a long while. I must say, I really like this beautifully composed exterior shot of this idyllic English cottage. Great job Alasdair!

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

  1. #12, Alasdair McIntosh, York, UK
  2. #30, Brian Doherty, Boston, MA
  3. #27, Jon Encarnacion, Lake Forest, CA
  4. #7Matt Parvin, Southport, North Carolina
  5. #15, Ryan Hunt, Levin, New Zealand
  6. #16, Thom Neese, Omaha Nebraska
  7. #11, Craig McCasland – San Antonio, Texas

Don’t forget to check out the discussion in the contest Flickr group. There is a lot of good discussion of composition and lighting. If you are working at raising the level of your work this discussion is a must read!

I’ve now updated the photos in the contest Flickr group to show all the entrants names. Thanks for everyone’s participation!

Here are Alasdair’s comments about creating this image:

I’m very happy to have won this month’s contest. Thanks to all the jurors and to all the commentators on the flickr group. Their comments always make a good read.

When I pulled up to this house located in a beautiful little village in the North Yorkshire Moors, it was raining. Fortunately by the time I’d had a look around and done a few of the interior shots the sun had started to appear and I was outside quickly before the rain returned. Such is the game in this part of the world. I first tried to scope out an angle of the house from inside the boundary hedge you can see in the photograph but although it was okay, there was a lot of gravel drive and I was much closer than I’d have liked. I took a look at a possible angle from outside the garden to bring in more of the property’s setting and with a bit of elevation with the camera on an extended tripod held above my head I managed to get a decent gap between the trees to help frame the house. I also timed the shot with a bit of thin cloud passing a slight shadow over the road and verge in the foreground so as not to draw too much attention to them. The processing consisted of a pretty straightforward RAW conversion in lightroom and I cropped to 5×4 for this contest.

Thanks also to Larry for his work in running this contest.

Michael Reichmann Picks The Sony A7RII As The Camera Of The Year

August 21st, 2015

SonyA7RIILet me start off by apologizing in advance for this post. I normally don’t even do a post on Fridays. But, I can’t help myself. I just watched Michael Reichmann’s YouTube video over at luminous-landscape.com on his review of the the recently released Sony A7RII and want to point it out to everyone. If you have 20 minutes to spare I think Michael is right when points out that the Sony A7RII is the most significant development in camera technology that has happened this year. Perhaps even longer.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying you need one of these to shoot real estate photography. As I pointed out in last week’s post you don’t need top of the line full frame gear to shoot real estate photography. I bring this up just because the Sony AR series is such a significant development in camera technology.

Michael’s review takes me back to the review he wrote in late 2002 on the Canon 1Ds. I was dazzled by the significance of that body (the first full frame DSLR under $10,000) and within 6 months I had one even though it was obscenely expensive by today’s standards.

I think the most significant thing about this is how Sony is blowing by Canon and Nikon in technical achievement. Sony is now running with the big dogs!

What Workflow Do Real Estate Photographers Use For White Balance?

August 20th, 2015

WhiteBalancePatrick asked:

I am wondering what people are doing for white balance? Is it Auto all the way? That’s what I am doing pretty much : auto on camera, auto on Lightroom import, and another auto after enfuse blend. I still have to tweak the warmth a bit but it is pretty good.

Here is what I do:

  1. Shoot Raw – because it gives you the most flexibility for correcting the image, including white balance, in post-processing.
  2. Set Auto white balance on camera. My Canon 5DMkII does a great job with auto white balance. I’ve never taken it off Auto WB since I got in 2009.
  3. Tweak it to your taste in Lightroom – For the details of adjusting white balance in Lightroom see this tutorial.

For a totally Photoshop approach see this White Balance trick from the Graphics Geeks.

It is also worth mentioning that John McBay has several videos in his Image Editing For Real Estate video series that deal with all the classic mixed white balance issues that we run into in interiors.

What workflow do others use for White Balance?

What’s The Best Way to Collect Real Estate Photography Shoot Payments?

August 19th, 2015

PaymentsJeff posed the following question:

Right now I mostly do a net-30 payment policy with my existing customers, and up-front payment for new clients and “other” (FSBO, rental properties, etc). But I’m wondering if an up-front policy might just be the simplest and best way to handle payments across the board. I like the idea of giving my longtime customers the flexibility of delayed payment, but it takes up time to write up an invoice and send it, keep track of paid vs unpaid shoots, and do follow-up calls and emails when payments are nearing their due date. There are even a couple clients who are so forgetful that they’ve just given me their cc info so I can automatically charge them after a shoot.

With all that said, can you suggest an ordering system that would work well for receiving up-front payments? I can use my square reader when a client is at the shoot, but what about lockbox shoots where the client doesn’t meet me? I’m thinking of an online ordering system that I can push to new and existing clients, and preferably something that is VERY SIMPLE to use for my more techno-challenged customers.

Yes, we’ve talked about this issue before and many real estate photographers have complained about the issue of managing their accounts receivable. Many, as you say, just use a Square reader to take credit cards at the shoot. There are a couple of options to take care of the situations where the agent isn’t at the shoot:

  1. For those situations where the agent is not at the shoot to pay, send the agent a request for payment (Invoice) via PayPal or Square.
  2. For those situations where the agent is not at the shoot, you could simply take their credit card over the phone or keep it on file.
  3. Use a service like PaymentTab.com to get payment at delivery of the photos from everyone. This is pretty general and works in all situations and doesn’t cost that much.
  4. Collect the shoot fee at scheduling time on your website by just putting a PayPal or Square button on an order form. This is not very difficult. You can get a few lines of HTML code for a payment button that you can paste on your web page at PayPal or Square.

I would argue that allowing your best, trustworthy customers to pay any time within 30 days is a customer service benefit. But they should have to demonstrate their trustworthiness. I think, like may aspects of this business there isn’t one best way to collect payments. If you shoot for agents that are good business people, they will appreciate being able to pay when and how they choose. On the other hand, If you have a bunch of agents that you shoot for that continually need reminding to pay. Collect up front. Be prepared to deal with each kind of client!

Announcing A Scott Hargis Workshop In South Africa

August 19th, 2015

SouthAfricaToday Scott Hargis announced that there will be a good possibility of him doing a workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, and possibility Johannesburg on October 10th and 11th.

Scott says:

…it looks like we’ve got some good venues lined up to shoot in.

Tuition is $350 USD and includes a full day of shooting — and when I say a “full day” I mean I’m not leaving until you’re DONE. We’ll cover everything I know how to do, whether that’s fast-paced real estate photography or the slower, more nuanced interior design work, or the composition-driven architectural photography.

If you’re interested — email me (scott at scotthargisphoto.com) and I’ll get you on the roster!

For those of you that don’t understand what this opportunity means, Scott does fantastic workshops on real estate and architectural photography and he doesn’t do them very often so if you are anywhere on the African continent, in Europe or a few airline hours from Cape Town, it’s worth a trip to Cape Town to take in one of Scott’s workshops. You may not get another chance for a long time!

How Can You Give Your Real Estate Photography Client Input Into The Shoot Process?

August 18th, 2015

CustomerInputChris in New Zealand asks:

Are there any photographers that give real estate agents (Realtors) the option to select photos for processing from all the photos that have been shot at a property?

It is a process where the photographer uploads all the unprocessed photos to a website and the realtor choose a number of photos before the photographer processes them.

What are the pro’s and con’s of the this system?

My take on Chris’s question is that even the picky client real estate photography clients are not going to want to review unprocessed photos. This seems like a tedious, inefficient process.

I think a much better way to get input from a client is to:

  1. Do a quick walk-through of the property before the shoot and discuss which angles you intend to shoot in each room. This will give them the opportunity to give input in guiding your shoot. So they can express what they think is important and what is not. If you take notes during this process you can agree up front how many photos you are going to deliver.
  2. And/or I can also imagine picky listing agents liking to look at the LCD screen on your camera or each image on a CamRanger display if you gave them the chance. But reviewing unprocessed photos seems like a last resort alternative. If the client wanted to review photos, I would have them review processed photos.

Does anyone use a review process like Chris is proposing?

Announcing The Image Editing For Real Estate Photography Video Series by John McBay

August 17th, 2015

ImageEditingAdI am pleased to announce the latest addition to the PFRE blog video collection, Image Editing for Real Estate Photography, the video series, by John McBay.

This video series consists of more than 75 videos, covering over 30 different editing challenges, totaling more than 40 hours of video. These videos are designed to help you overcome the most common, and many of the not so common, real estate image editing issues. Whether you are a complete beginner or more experienced, the demonstrated editing techniques will help to make your images look their absolute best.

The videos are grouped into albums, Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements for your convenience. The videos in each album demonstrate techniques that can be used with the associated software alone. However, you are not restricted to the videos in a given album, you have access to all of the videos in all of the albums.

Each chapter begins with a brief discussion of the problem, what might be causing it, and possible ways to avoid it or diminish it in the future. If there is more than one technique or tool that can fix the problem, they will all be described in detail, including what the differences are, which is best, or fastest, and why.

The actual editing starts off with a problem image and continues with an in-depth explanation of the steps to correct the problem(s). Nothing is taken for granted. The choice of tools and their associated settings and parameters is explained in detail, as well as the reasons for the choices being made. Once the problem has been solved, the videos go on to show you how to fine-tune the image to improve it even more.

And this isn’t the end. John already has additional videos in the works and they will be made available to all registered users as the videos are ready.

We are offering a special introductory discount price of $89 (US) thru September 30, 2015.

For much more information and access to preview and overview videos or to purchase, please visit Image Editing for Real Estate Photography, the video series.

August PFRE Contests

August 16th, 2015

AugustContestCheck out the contestants for the August photographer of the month are now in the  contest Flickr group. The August theme is “daylight exterior.”

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 next Monday, August 24.

In the meantime, there is much to be learned from reviewing these 31 entries and discussing them. As usual, there are some great front shots. If you want to comment on the entries, join the contest Flickr group.

Also as of today we are accepting entries for the PFRE Videographer of the month. We’ll be accepting entries through 8/23 unless we don’t get 8 or more in which case we’ll combine August and September together.

What Are The Alternatives To The Creative Cloud Lightroom and Photoshop Subscription For Real Estate Photographers?

August 13th, 2015

LightroomCC-GPUEvery time we talk about the Adobe creative cloud subscription I get people that propose alternatives to using Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. This last time was no exception. Peter suggested the following:

Perhaps there is an alternative to Adobe Photoshop to take into consideration: AffinityPhoto.com by Serif (Europe). It’s a new program that competes with CS at $39.99. I downloaded the program from Apple’s iTunes Store and it works.

Peter is in that relatively small population that find the whole concept of subscription software offensive. Yes, I understand totally. I used to feel that way, but I’ve gotten past it. Mainly because there are almost no software applications that even come close to replacing Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for real estate photographers! Why?

Because the Key functionality for real estate photographers is lens correction features. You know, all that stuff in the Lens Corrections panel of Lightroom! For example, AffinityPhoto or OnOne photo suite has none of that stuff! They may someday, but they don’t now! To create quality work real estate photographers MUST be able to:

  1. Straighten verticals
  2. Straighten horizontals
  3. Remove barrel distortion
  4. Remove Chromatic Aberration
  5. Ideally, 3 and 4 will be done automatically based on a profile of the lens you used for the shot rather than manually.

What other applications other than Lightroom and Photoshop that can do all all five above and are available both on OS X and Windows? The research I’ve done leads me to only three applications:

  1. DxO Optics Pro ($129 or $199 depending on your camera and lens) 17,000 lens/camera profiles compared to 600 profiles for Lightroom and Photoshop. Many professional photographers claim that this application does RAW conversion even better than Lightroom. John McBay, the author of Image Editing For Real Estate Photography uses DxO Optics along with Photoshop CC and likes the results! I’ve talked to other top real estate photographers that use DxO Optics too, but they all use it along with Photoshop.
  2. Phase One Capture One Pro 8 ($299 or $15/mo) I can’t find which lenses are supported. I know this application is in use by at least a limited number of real estate photographers.
  3. CyberLink Photo Director 5 ($99) – Very limited number of lens profiles (60). This application appears to do 1 through 5 above but in a very limited way.

So there are probably only two strong alternatives (1 & 2 above) and they don’t eliminate the need for Photoshop completely.

Am I missing any?

Which Camera Should I Get For Real Estate Photography?

August 12th, 2015

EnfuseLR6I’ve had a several questions lately about which camera to purchase for real estate photography. For example, Nick said:

I’m in the market to upgrade my camera body and I was excited to find you had expanded on the section in Photography For Real Estate on equipment. The new pages definitely gave me much needed information unfortunately however I’m still left stranded for answers on which body to buy…

I’ve being weighing up the Canon 5D Mark III against the Sony A7R and although the 5D seems like a great camera with excellent reviews and used by many in the field, I can’t help thinking that its already 3 year old technology. The Sony is newer and has more advanced features like more dynamic range, 4k video and lighter in weight. Coupled with a glass adaptor and you still have the same amount of lenses to choose from as the Canon. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

In a post about a month ago, I pointed out that technically the Sony A7R beats the specs of Canon and Nikon upper-end DSLRs. Two readers made some significant comments on that post that I’d like to highlight because they are right on:

  • Barry said, “These tests are so arbitrary – lighting and composition are far more important than which body you use!”
  • Ken said, “Better is the enemy of good enough” ~ Arthur C. Clarke. For most RE work, a crop sensor DSLR camera is more than adequate. Even if you are doing more critical work that demands a body with better specs, bringing the APS-C body to an RE job instead lowers the wear and tear, and possible damage to the more expensive body.

I totally agree with Barry and Ken, your real estate photography is going to be much better if you focus on lighting and composition. All you need to do great real estate work is a cropped sensor DSLR with a quality wide-angle lens and a few manual flashes. I recommend any recently released Canon or Nikon, cropped sensor (APS-C) DSLR. Most if not all of your clients won’t be able to tell if you have a full frame camera or not.