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Why Lightroom is Essential For Real Estate Photography

May 14th, 2008

Back on April 29 I did a post on The Bare Essentials to Get Started in Real Estate Photography and I included Lightroom as one of the essentials on my list. One of the comments on this post asked, “what essential photo editing does it do easier than Adobe Photoshop Elements?”

The answer is that Lightroom is an application that is about more than just photo editing. Lightroom has features that integrate and speed the whole photographic workflow. It has features that aid in choosing which of all the photos in a shoot are the best, features that do non-destructive photo-editing, slideshow creation and printing. It smoothly integrates the whole process.

For me the single most important aspect of Lightroom is it’s speed and ease of use. The control sliders in lightroom allow you to quickly and intuitively make adjustments in white balance, exposure, color and a huge number of other adjustments.

I didn’t connect with how fast the Lightroom workflow was until January of this year while at a home buyers inspection with one of our long time clients the wife asked me to shoot some photos of her new home while the inspector was doing his thing so she could show her friends and family. I naturally jumped at the chance and shot 87 shots of the home, loaded them on my laptop used Lightroom to sort out, adjust and created an online slideshow of the best 31 shots. I showed her the online fullscreen slideshow on my laptop and gave her the URL for the online slideshow so she could e-mail the it to her friends. The whole process from the time she asked me to when I showed her the slideshow was two hours and 20 minutes. An hour and 45 minutes of that was shooting the photos and waiting for the inspector to get out of the way. The house is over 5000 SF and yes, because of the time pressure, some of the photos are not up to my normal standard (some of the verticals are not straight, there is some uncorrected barrel distortion, and I struggled with lighting in the large rooms) but Mrs Buyer was delighted to walk away from the inspection with a slideshow of her new home.

My main point is that I could not have sorted through 87 photos, adjusted 31 of them and made an online slideshow with either Photoshop CS3 or Photoshop Elements in 35 minutes.

Besides Lightroom’s speed of workflow, the speed and ease of making great looking online slideshows is an essential feature for real estate photographers. You can quickly create good looking online slideshows for next to nothing. This is a huge benefit whether you give the slideshows to clients or sell them.

Another obvious question is: why not Aperture? I find many features of Aperture the same or similar to Lightroom features. However, the ability to make slideshows with Aperture is weak. It doesn’t come close to Lightroom. The other downside of Aperture has been it’s historical slowness to accommodate camera RAW support for new camera models. It used to take a Mac OS upgrade to change camera RAW code. It remains to be seen if that problem has gotten any better with Aperture 2.0.

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15 Responses to “Why Lightroom is Essential For Real Estate Photography”

  • I have been using LR since Jan and my PP time has improved. It’s still taking a while to experiment with all that it has.
    I find the comparison feature great for sorting and discarding.
    Also when importing, all the choices for folders, keywords, metadata etc – make it easy.
    Not sure whether I am on the right track with my editing as I tend to only use Fill Light, Exposure, Punch (Clarity & Vibrance adj), and twiddle with the curves to get an ‘S” bend. Don’t touch brightness and Contrast as I am probably hitting this in Curves. Then a slide of the Recovery to get the Highlights back. Tend to rely on the Histogram a lot.
    The cropping and straightening feature is great. Still coming to terms with the Cloning/Healing.
    Takes a while to go to PS to edit there, but you still have the original LR copy to go back to…just in case. This where my neglect for verticals, barrel distortion, masking, layers etc still has me facing a huge learning curve!!
    Photos that are similar in lightness and exposure can be synced with one touch, once you edit the first one.
    Larry – anything there you see as a “bad PP habit”??
    Cheers Milton

  • After six months of daily Lightroom use, I can vouch that it does have some good features, and offers a reasonably efficient workflow… providing you’re not concerned about color accuracy.

    If you shoot NEF and want an accurate representation, then Lightroom is not for you. In this case, you are much better off using Capture NX.
    NX is clunky and relatively cumbersome, but at least it can resolve a Nikon RAW file properly.

  • I agree that an actual asset management application is vital to the workflow of the RE photographer. I’d disagree with your assessment of Aperture though. Other than your perceived limitation to the construction of slideshows, it’s not a realized limitation for an app to not support a camera’s RAW file, if mine is supported.

    What I mean is that, let’s say I’m using Aperture’s trial, and I’m shooting with a Nikon D200. If I like how it flows, and decide to buy it because it’s cheaper than Lightroom, there is no problem. It matters not that I don’t have one of the 3 cameras that Aperture doesn’t support yet. So, it’s not a realized limitation, it’s a reviewer’s hypothetical limitation.

    I have no idea if I’ve made sense. Sorry.

    Additionally, the actual workflow of Aperture is significantly more intuitive and speed oriented. This is simply my opinion, and I know it’s because of the way my brain works. However, the choppy, module method of workflow in Lightroom is not well suited to a fluid-like interaction with my work. I’m empowered to efficiency with Aperture, I’m stuck in first gear with Lightroom.

  • @Milton – Sounds to me like you are on track.

    @Adam – Yes, there is a spirited discussion thread in the PFRE flickr forum that goes into a fair amount of depth on this issue if you haven’t already seen it. It is at: http://www.flickr.com/groups/photographyforrealestate/discuss/72157604441553051/?search=lightroom

    @Trevor – Aperture and Lightroom are probably more similar than they are different if you are comfortable with Aperture it’s the way to go. The great thing is that both of these applications will get better and better from the competition between Aperture and Lightroom… we all will benefit from the competition.

  • Hi Larry,

    I whole-heartedly agree with your enthusiasm for Lightroom! I have been using it for over a year now. It allow you to quickly choose and process many photos in an VERY efficient manner.

    As an agent who enjoys photography, my goals is to get the best photos I can in a short as time possible, so I can get the property up to market and allow me to do what really pays the bills… selling it! Lightroom meets this goal in spades!

    I also have three daughters who are involved with sports. I shoot all of their events and shoot all of the kids, not just mine. It is great way to hone my skills and timing (sports is all about timing) and the other parents love to see that shots that a good camera and an operator with reasonable skill can provide. It is not uncommon for me to come home from a game with a few hundred photos. Lightroom allow me to quickly find and process the keepers. Once you build your workflow this program really rocks!

    I believe it is rightly placed on your essentials list!

    Thanks for all your efforts on this blog. I enjoy reading it!

    Tony Meier

  • Larry,
    Sounds like you are focused on speed and slideshow abilities. You don’t mention quality (+, -) of the image product. In other words, can Lightroom do anything for me and therefore my agents that Elements can’t?

    Since I fit into the one shoot a week or less category, speed is nice but not of prime importance. I’m just beginning to look into the batch processing capabilities of Photomatix and Adobe Elements. For example, I’ve started using Elements batch process to resize photos. This works well prior to attaching photos to emails to Realtors.

    I’m not interested in doing my own slide shows (virtual tours). I believe the $10 or less per tour price is a bargain @ http://www.ubuildtours.com. This gets me great, never expiring VTs with all the bells and whistles: unlimited images, full screen presentation, agent branding or no branding as required, photo transition effects, music, picture-path to Realtor.com, etc. All this is less than 5% of my listing photo shoot price.

  • @Mike – I can’t find a portfolio of your interior images on your site so I can’t tell what level you are working at now. However, it is unlikely that Lightroom will make a radical change the quality of your images. Although, there are many image adjustment features in Lightroom that the older versions of PSE does not have. I don’t have a version of PSE 6.0 so I can’t compare Lightroom to PSE 6.

  • See my most recent VT at Fox Island WA:
    http://www.buildmytour.net/tour.php?id=3446
    I’m returing tomorrow to get a better panorma of the view when the Olympic Mountains are in view. I don’t thnk I’ll get much better on the interior shots. Too bad they don’t want to do some basic staging.

  • @Mike Martin…

    I like the house! Your HDR processing looks fairly clean given the abundant windows… not too dirty with only a mild halo effect.

    I have all but given up on photomatix in favor of enfuse. IMO… while not perfect, the result from enfuse appear to be less artistic.

    Two suggestions (which I hope are welcome)
    1. You may want to correct your barrel distortion prior to stitching your panoramas. Or consider a wider and/or cleaner lens. Not sure what camera/lens combo you are using, but the Canon 10-22 shows almost no barrel distortion.
    2. With as close as the counter was in you kitchen pano, you may want a tripod head that corrects for the nodal point like a Bogen 303.

    Lastly, I hear you on the staging. Not everyone wants to do this. Here is an estate I brought to market last week… big, beautiful and empty: http://www.tonymeierphotography.com/p218659837?slideshow=1

    Happy shooting!

  • I don’t have any comments about Lightroom, but I just had to say this. Tony…..bravo on that virtual tour. The images are spectacular. What camera/lens did you use? Any lighting? HDR?
    I’m highly impressed. Just out of curiousity, where is the house?

  • While Adobe makes great products, I feel that DxO Optics should be mentioned. It doesn’t have a export to web type of feature like LR, but if your using a tour player like buildmytour you don’t need it. Its speed and multi threading when processing my images is great for me and faster than LR. When i used light room, my system would become unresponsive while working on the images. Didn’t like that to much. Plus the speed of importing images was slow IMO too.

    Costs are $299 for LR and $169 for Dxo Optics std, $299 for DxO Elite.

    Does anyone else out there use DxO Optics? I know Jeremy Esland does. Anyone else?

  • I blame Jeremy for getting me into using DxO. For pure convenience in batch processing with specific lens/camera combination, I haven’t found better. Once batch processed, I use ACDSee Pro 2 for culling and “Quick” RAW edits.

  • Wow, impressive software. I just ran across this site, and am happy to find such a large collection of info on RE photography.

  • @Bryce,

    Thanks for your comments! While I own a 40D, I was using a XTI with the Canon 10-22 lens. All exterior shots are +2/0/-2, blended in enfuse. All interior shots are multiple 580ex units (2-4) and when there was a window in the shot, I blended the flash photos with one shot (no flash) that was exposed for the window at about 1/250 to 1/500 @ IS400.

    I really like the results enfuse provides, much less dirty looking then Photomatix. The only real down side with enfuse that I see, it does not bring out as much blue in the sky in the windows of my interior shots. I think the outside is fine, but inside it tends to blend them a little flat.

    Hopefully the next version of Lightroom will include the local corrections like the beta has. Then blueing up the sky will be easier. Unfortuantely living in Seattle and finding blue sky can be difficult at times!

    I see you are from the Bay Area. I’m born and raised there. Neet area, lots to do, lots to photograph and plenty of sunshine to do it with!

    BTW… The house is in Redmond, 7000 s.f, 10 acres for $1,895,000. Pocket change for Bay Area buyers! 🙂
    All the details are online at http://NoveltyHillEstate.com

  • @Tony
    Beautiful slideshow and pictures! I’d like to know what slideshow program you use. I have a few clients that like black and a few that like white and with this one….they can choose whichever colour they like!
    THanks, I’m going to check out enfuse too…

    Linda

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