July 30th, 2008
This post is for Enkay, a reader that asked me to go through basic shooting considerations and post processing workflow. Great idea, I written about shooting and workflow for a while. Here are the things I do when shooting:
- Keep in mind the results you want. Things like, how many finished photos do you need? Our MLS only allows 15 but I supply a slide show of at least 20 photos. I also make a horizontal flyer with a full bleed image as a background so I’m always looking for a strong horizontal image that best characterizes the property for the flyer background.
- Talk to whoever you are shooting for to see if they have strong ideas about the property. When shooting for my wife I always talk to her about what she thinks the major selling points of the property are so I’m sure to cover them adequately. This saves me time going back to re-shoot.
- Spend more time shooting the front shot than most of the interior shots because the front shot that is most likely to grab a buyers interest an make them look farther. In some ads there’s only room for one shot and even on web sites the front shot gets a prominent location or it’s larger. I try to get at least 3 or 4 good front shots so there is a choice. Some opinionated clients will want to participate in the choice of the front-shot. Sometimes the best “front-shot” is the back of the home.
- When you are shooting rooms remember that you are selling the home and it’s architecture or features, not the decor. This usually means taking wide shots that show whole rooms, room features and room relationships.
- When shooting be aware of horizontals and verticals. Keeping verticals as vertical as possible when shooting will save you time in post processing. Align the verticals with the left and right edges of the view finder. Verticals must be vertical! Horizontals don’t necessarily have to be horizontal but strange angled horizontals can be visually distracting.
- Shoot from a height of between 36″ and 48″. This low height will help keep your verticals vertical. When shooting kitchens or rooms with a counter surfaces make sure you are shooting slightly higher than the counter height.
- Composition: there are no simple set of rules to get you to good composition. The best way to improve your composition is to look at interior images. Hang-out in the PFRE flickr photo discussion group and look at the images in Architectural digest.
- Use of shutter speed, aperture, ISO and whether you use a tripod depends on your lighting technique. See the post on the Beginners Guide to Lighting. Also see Scott Hargis’s discussion of Interior Lighting with Multiple Strobes. Lighting technique is somewhat personal, there is no one right way to light. I recommend that beginners start with a on-camera strobe in automatic mode and then progress towards multiple off-camera strobes like Scott’s post describes. You’ll find that on-camera automatic strobes work OK for most small to medium sized rooms. For large rooms with big bright windows you need something more. You will eventually feel the need to move to more complex lighting as your experience and awareness of light expands. I highly recommend attending one of Scott and Thomas’s lighting workshops to “get your lighting together”.
- Shoot in RAW because it gives you the ability to recover from mistakes and adjust white balance in post processing. Storage is cheap and getting cheaper everyday.
- Be hyper-sensitive to details like “stuff” sitting on kitchen counters, drawers and cabinet doors that aren’t closed, refrigerator clutter and towels hanging on oven doors. You don’t need to move furniture but you need to think like a stager… simple and uncluttered usually looks better.
Post Processing: My philosophy is to do as little post processing as possible. That said, there’s always a little work that is required to create strong images after they come out of the camera. I work mainly in Lightroom/Aperture (note Lightroom and Aperture are roughly equivalent.. each one has it’s pluses and minuses) with PTlens and here are post processing steps that I do:
- Import into Lightroom.
- Select the best shots and put them into a collection.
- Use PTlens to make sure all verticals are perfect and to remove barrel distortion (you can also do this with PS and PSE)
- Adjust the exposure, white balance on a calibrated monitor. My goal is to have the image look brighter than reality. Marketing is not the place for dark and moody. You want buyers to say, “I want to go live there!” People are naturally attracted to light bright spaces.
- I adjust the saturation, clarity and tonal curve for each photo to give each image a little more “pop” than the way it comes out of the camera. You want the images to standout and grab the buyer that is browsing through the gazillions of images on real estate sites. I don’t sharpen images for the web because an increase in clarity has a sharpening effect.
- Use the web module to create a online slideshow.
- Downsize the images for delivery. I downsize to around 800 x 600. Actually I export from Lightroom to a width of 800 and let the height scale proportionally. I find that 800 x 600 sized images work just fine for web sites and laser printed flyers. The only time I use bigger images is if I make a brochure or postcard that needs 300 ppi.
These steps are the basic ones for shooting stills. Feel free to point out if I’ve missed something.