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Photoshop CS5: Do you Need It For Real Estate Photography?

May 9th, 2010

A couple of days ago the FedEx guy brought my Photoshop CS5 update. While I was loading the update I was thinking about the fact that the day is fast approaching that applications like Lightroom and Aperture are are going to take over post processing for real estate photographers. I get every Photoshop update as soon as it’s released because I’m addicted to Photoshop. I admit it, I need an intervention and a 12 step program. Once you have a copy of Photoshop, it’s easy to talk yourself into upgrading when features like content aware fill come along. However, I’m real clear that having CS5 is not essential for real estate post processing. CS5 has some really cool new features that can save you a lot of time and I love it but it’s NOT a necessity for real estate.

Here are the basic necessities that real estate photographers need to do to post process images:

  1. Tone Map or Exposure Fuse bracketed images: I haven’t even tried the new HDR features in CS5 yet but you don’t need a $699 application to do either tone mapping or EF. Photomatix is still the best bang for your buck for tone mapping and also has Exposure fusion. It’s worth noting that the majority of real estate photographers these days use EF rather than HDR.
  2. Adjust images: Adjust exposure, white balance, saturation, presence and the tonal curve.
  3. Straighten the image: Remove converging verticals, rotate so key horizontals so the look horizontal.
  4. Lens correction: Remove barrel distortion and chromatic aberration.
  5. Hand blend windows: In some situations to get the very best view out windows, you will need to use layering to enhance the view out windows.
  6. Re-size images: Downsize images from the original out of camera size to delivery size.
  7. Sharpening: After doing any or all of #1 through #6 most images need some sharpening to look their best.

There are three far less expensive alternatives to  a full version of Photoshop CS5 do these:

  1. Lightroom 3 (still in beta2 right now): Tom Hogarty demos in his recent sneek peak video suggests that the Lightroom 3 release will be able to do everything. Brushes go a long way to allowing you to do #5.
  2. Photoshop Elements 8: PSE 8 will do everything on the list above and has a list price of $99 USD. I’ve seen the Windows version at Costco for $69 and it is currently $69.99 at Adobe store through 5/10/2010 (a mothers day special).
  3. Aperture 3: This alternative is pretty good at doing everything above except for #3 and the barrel distortion part of #4. The PTlens application works well to handle #3 and #4 but it takes a round-trip to an outside application. I’ll be comparing Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 in more detail when Lightroom 3 ships.

I think PSE 8 is the biggest bang for your post processing buck for those wanting to get started at the lowest possible price. As all around best solution for real estate post processing I lean towards Lightroom. If you are a long time Photoshop user and you can get to CS5 with a upgrade this is probably the best version of Photoshop that I’ve seen in many years.

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18 Responses to “Photoshop CS5: Do you Need It For Real Estate Photography?”

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by InvestorsClassifieds, Larry Lohrman. Larry Lohrman said: Photoshop CS5: Do you Need It For Real Estate Photography? http://goo.gl/fb/kjKfQ […]

  • Photoshop CS5 also includes the new content-aware resizing and object removal functionality. I can’t think of a more amazing productivity tool for real estate photographers. I previewed this feature on my blog:

    http://community.tourbuzz.net/profiles/blogs/preview-of-awesome

    Not sure how to value that feature but I do think that it should be considered, it’s a truly awesome feature.

  • I use Paint Shop Pro from Corel and find it gives the biggest bang for the buck.
    The new version has just come out and is only $60 us$.

    Larry I would be interested to hear what you think of it, you can download a trial version from their website.

    Todd

  • Anybody else just use GIMP? Not as powerful or professionally developed as CS5, but it is free, open source and it meets all of your requirements for real estate post-processing.

  • How do I find out more about the hand-blending of windows?

    Thanks!

  • I would die without PS. I’m not saying you need PS5 but the scripting ability of Photoshop alone makes it worthwhile. I’ve looked at a ton of different programs and PS is the only one that allows you to automate so much workflow.

    Nelson, Yes, I use Gimp on my Linux laptop. Works well and I think it is the best non-PS program I’ve used. You have to LOVE the price and it has almost all the features you would ever need. If it had scripting or some automation capability it would be really good.

  • @Adam – Checkout this post. It explains hand blending of windows:

    http://photographyforrealestate.net/2008/10/21/some-one-took-the-glass-out-of-the-windows/

  • @Alan- Absolutely! Content aware fill is awesome. But for those trying to keep costs down awesome is different from necessary.

  • I have used Photoshop Elements ( I now have version 8) for these last 5 years for my real estate photography business. It has more than enough power for what I do. I am not producing images for Architectural Digest, just the mls, realtor.com and sometimes slick flyers for the home. It is a great bang for the buck. Realtors in my area don’t want to pay more money for fancy work. So I keep it professionally basic.

  • So far havent seen much in CS5

    I doubt that any high quality , high end retoucher will find much in CS5.
    Good for the dabblers, where the quality doesnt really matter.

  • I agree Carlos CS5 is pretty average.
    What I would like to see is a stable software that doesn’t crash.

    Adobe, simple, forget all the bells and whistles that you are selling to the junior users.

    As the previous post wrote Highend retouchers dont need these new add ons , they need stability.

  • Being a student can be good! Just snagged Lightroom 3 for $89!

  • @ Larry – You can use PTLens inside Aperture. No need to go outside Aperture and back in. Use a command to pull it up instantly, make the changes to the chosen picture and go to the next one. Aperture also allows you to automate certain settings at import…. perfect to automate sharpening and a few other settings that are constant.

  • @Phil- Yes, you can use PTLens as an Aperture plugin. As I recall there is a separate Aperture plugin file that comes in the distribution. It’s been a while since I’ve installed it, but I’ve used it and it works fine.

  • Hi, love this website! This is my first post, although I have been frequenting this blog for some time now. I’m about to start offering photography for real estate listings alongside my floor plans that I’m currently doing. At the moment I’m trying to decide on what equipment I need on a fairly tight budget. I’m looking at getting Lightroom 3, but was wondering if it is possible to do the window blending with Lightroom 3, as it seems a fairly important feature. Or am I going to have to purchase Photoshop as well as Lightroom?

  • @Tracie- A couple of suggestions for windows when using LR 3:
    If you spend some time learning to use brushes in LR you can selectively change the exposure of window areas with the exposure brush.
    If you use Exposure fusion (external to LR) that can help window exposure.
    You can blend windows with Photoshop Elements 8 which cost $99 rather than $699!

  • Thanks for that Larry! The other important factor I think is correcting barrel distortion, I see that they’ve just added that to LR 3 – can I do that with Photoshop Elements 8?

  • Don’t bother answering that, I highly doubt that you can :o)
    Thanks for the help.

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