August 27th, 2009
|I keep running across real estate photography tours and real estate photographer’s galleries with photos that don’t have verticals that are parallel the the left and right edge of the photo. My reaction is always one of wondering how any one can be charging for their work and have missed this basic principle.|
The interesting thing about this is most beginning real estate photographers have to be told that verticals are important. Apparently, it’s not something intuitively obvious. It isn’t an issue in other areas of photography.
First of all, why are verticals even a big deal? The problem comes from the fact that we all live in an environment that as perfectly vertical walls. Try walking into some building that has a wall out of plumb. You’ll have a problem even finding a building that doesn’t have vertical walls, but if you could find one, imagine how it would feel; disorienting to say the least.
Because we live in this vertical world, where gravity defines up and down and vertical defines the direction gravity is pulling, we all have this built-in hyper-sensitivity to vertical. If we walk into a building with the verticals off or look at photo where the verticals are off we feel a tension or uneasiness. It’s an unconscious warning in our head that says, “something is wrong here”. As a real estate photographer you want to keep verticals perfectly parallel with the edge of the photo so this tension is eliminated and doesn’t distract from your main message.
Once you start paying attention to verticals you will find that you can visually instantly spot a vertical that is just off by a hair. This goes on all the time in the PFRE flickr group. Anyone that posts a photo with the verticals slightly off will be told about it. The other interesting thing I’ve noticed is for some people it takes a while to take charge of their verticals. I think there are several things that cause this:
- Some people thing they are just being nit-picked when they are told about verticals being off.
- Some thing it’s creative or cool to have converging verticals.
- The wider-angle lens you use the harder it is to get your verticals perfect right out of the camera. So when you are using a 16 to 24mm lens you have to pay very careful attention.
- Some people don’t have the software to fix verticals, they try to do it just by using a bubble level in the hot shoe or lining up the right an left sides of the photo in the view finder with a vertical in the photo. Yes, this usually works pretty good, but I find if I shoot 30 to 50 frames in a home, no matter how careful I am, I always have some verticals off that need to be straightened up with PTlens or Photoshop. Vertical correction is not something you can do in Lightroom or Aperture without a plugin like PTlens.
- Your real estate agent, client will not complain about converging verticals. I’m on a campaign to teach them to but there’s a long way to go on this project!
Getting your verticals straight is JOB ONE. Get this under control before anything else.