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How Do You Shoot Elevated Real Estate Photography Shots? Do You Shoot Elevated?

April 2nd, 2012

Back in the late 1980’s when I started shooting real estate seriously for my wife Levi’s listings. She represented a neighborhood of new homes on the Sammamish Plateau on the Eastside of Seattle. She taught me that when the home was sighted above the street (many homes in this neighborhood were) I was to shoot the front shot from at least the level of the front door or preferably above. Her approach for shooting elevated shots was to talk to the neighborhood developers superintendent and have him bring his big  truck over in front of the listing I’m shooting and stand on top of the truck to get the the front shot.

Since shooting elevated front shots was never the superintendent’s first priority, it always took a while to get the builders truck to where I needed it so I started using a fold-up ladder in the back of my Toyota Tacoma to solve the elevated shooting problem. This was a pretty good solution but there were some situations where getting about 10′ above the street was jus not enough. About 2005 I discovered the painters pole. It’s a great alternative and gets the elevated shot you need about 95% of the time.

Nowadays there are a lot of good alternatives for using hand held poles from 10′ to 20′ and higher. What do you use? Please take the poll below so everyone can see what’s most popular. Note that the poll below is the same poll as the one on the PAP page. Doesn’t matter whether you take it here or on the PAP page it all goes into the same count.

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23 Responses to “How Do You Shoot Elevated Real Estate Photography Shots? Do You Shoot Elevated?”

  • Bucket truck…Of course:)

  • The part I like best was that it was a DIY project that cost just over $50 -partly because I found a decent 18’pole with limited flex on closeout Home Depot for $20. To attach the platform to the pole is the handle part of a paint roller with “L” brackets bolted on for the upper platform which is a scrap piece of 1/4″ MDF left over from a stereo speaker build, cut just large enough to protect the camera on all 4 sides. Painted black to look professional. Most expensive part was the Manfrotto quick release where I did have to elevate it with a small 1×2 to allow clearance for the lower lockpin – and also keeps the camera level with lens hood attached. If anyone builds something similar, make sure the paint roller handle has a metal band at the bottom vs all plastic as that can be a stress point.

  • Larry, you mentioned the front door which I always like to get in the photo. Some how it makes the home more inviting than a photo without the front door visible. When it comes to elevated shots, I like the camera about 3/4 from the ground to the peak of the roof. This gives that slight down angle without being too obvious. I’d like to see some discussion of exterior composition if you haven’t already done it.

  • The elevated view is a case where one size does not fit all so I use poles from 6 to 60 ft. Most of the time the painter’s pole is ideal, letting you get level with the front door as you have mentioned. If it is a three story condo, you need to go a little higher. If you are trying to show what is behind a property–ocean, lake, etc.,–you need to go even higher, and if you are trying to show a large piece of land you need the tallest pole you can get–or maybe a helicopter. Different jobs, different tools, lots of food for thought and interesting discussions here.

  • I shoot from a 40 foot mast attached to my Van, which usually gives a great perspective of the home. Building the rig to hold, operate and keeping the mast level was a bit involved and a few thousand dollars. When it is windy, I have to keep the mast down to about 20 feet. It works excellent for homes that are on golf courses, water, or just greatly landscaped. It is also a great selling point, as it is a service that realtors can’t do themselves. I think the ideal mast would be 50 to 75 feet, but they are heavy, expensive and hard to transport.

  • Besides my Wonderpole I use a Gitzo carbon tripod (GT3514XLS) that extends up to 8′ high. I love this tripod & highly recommend it. I have the extendable center column with it & use a Manfrotto 405 geared head on top. Doesn’t get any better in my opinion…
    If this isn’t enough I get out the Wonderpole…

  • I just stand on top of my SUV. That’s about 12′. I can extend my tripod and get up to 17′. Too bad this only works with front elevations.

  • I use a 60′ mast and connect my camera to my Android tablet for remote view and control. Using DSLRemote on the Android market. Simple, fast and effective with full control of the camera from the ground with just a USB over cat-5 cable.

  • When I first started in real estate photography, I found a Manfrotto tripod that extended quite hi, about 24 feet or so. Even though it was heavy, it gave us a view that was quite an advantage over other photographers shooting from the ground and a great selling point which I called bird’s eye view.
    You just need to make sure you are level or your horizons will be hard to correct. It is an inexpensive and excellent way to start with elevated images but will need a roof rack, or van to transport the tripod.

  • I’ve done several shoots for a luxury realtor here in Osterville from a 26′ trailer mounted aerialift, a 45″ self propelled aerialift and a truck mounted knuckle boom aerialift. The results were spectacular. You can move into the exact position that you want and have complete control.

  • The advantage of the 24 foot light stand over my 40 foot Van mounted mast, is that I was portable, and could go into yards, out on boat docks, and be in more remote places that my van couldn’t go. The truly terribly drawback is when you are shooting a home from the back yard by the lake and find a 6 foot alligator smiling at you. you then need to wait for the gator to return to the lake before you can retrieve your camera and stand……….but I think that is a problem only here in Florida, and not up in the North West……perhaps rattle snakes out there.

  • You should have standing on top your car in the poll. That always my first choice since I can manipulate the camera better than on a pole. If I can’t park where I need to, then I will get out the pole. One helpful thing I learned when building my pole is to mount the entire center column of your tripod on the pole. It’s really fast to get set up and doesnt require an extra tripod head.

  • @Mark- Thanks, you are exactly right. I talked about standing on a vehicle in the post and didn’t have it in the poll. I’ve added that. Yea, my old ’94 Toyota Tacoma had it’s roof permanently dented in from my shooting from the top of it.

  • @Lee- Yes, I agree a discussion about elevated composition would be good… one of the downsides I think of having a big mast is that many tend to go up too far and get wonderful views of nothing but roofs.

  • Larry, that’s correct, sometimes you get too much roof or a messy roof. Last month I talked a realtor into an elevated shot of a waterfront home on Longboat Key. (which is an additional $75 income)

    The images looked great on the camera’s LCD, but after I downloaded it, the roof was a mess. I tried to Photoshop it, but the realtor hated it and asked me to re-shoot it after they power washed it. That’s why it would be nice to be able to view the elevated image before taking the photo, instead of waiting until processing. But most of the time, 40 feet is a nice height, and I can always go as low as 8 feet.
    it’s nice to know you have it when you need it. (it’s terrible on windy days)

  • Couldn’t select more than one, so I went with standing on the roof of my vehicle, since I use it the most. Otherwise I also use a 24′ pole. For my SUV, I have a Thule roof rack with a platform system I built for the purpose; it’s so secure I can use it for twilights.

  • I used to use a Manfrotto Super Stand that Eric references. It is nice, but the lack of portability led me to sell it. It will not fit in trunk of passenger sedan like my Wonderpole will. I use PWII to remotely trigger shutter, shoot wide & crop..
    Waiting on a D4 to arrive with ipad live view remote control, I don’t think I have the stomach to send it up on the Wonderpole tho! Will stick to D700 for that job LOL

  • This works like a bomb for me: http://www.gardena.com/ca/en/garden-care-tools/gardening-tools/telescopic-handles/ and mounted a manfrotto 486 head to the top. Pole is 2 meters when collapsed and although I drive a double cab pickup, the days that I use my small car to zip around it manages comfortably in front between the seats.
    And it is a good solid pole!

  • How many feet to the metre again?

  • 3.2808399ft = 1 meter

    Figure it’s just over a yard (3ft).

  • Encouraging people to stand on car roofs is irresponsible.
    What about the risks of slipping off whilst composing a shot, and breaking an arm or leg?
    Never mind the broken camera gear, or diminished resale value of your vehicle with the busted-ass roof.

    If you’re not standing on Terra Firma, you are taking risks that are not factored into the price point.
    Unless you can take weeks off work unpaid?
    It happens in the blink of an eye.

    Stay safe.
    Be responsible to yourself, and people/items around you.

  • Tonnoue cover(if thats how you spell it) for my truck has become my fav place to shoot front elevations. Figure the camera is about 10ft high at that height. Been able to compose the image is clearly why it is my fav but its a good height too I think.

    As far as the comments above, the risk is factored into the addition pricing of a elevated image…. I feel safer standing on my truck box then with my pole extended 30 ft in the air with my xsi/lens combo.

  • I am on my 3rd prototype. A 8 ft Diameter base/tripod. That easily comes apart to fit in my car. (I experienced what the wind can do
    with a crash). I use a 38 ft pole telescoping with handy clips. I have light olympus E-MP1 (Incredible glass) that is mounted and
    contolled by a 4 channel radio control . I can pan / zoom/ tilt / and take pictures with the thing. All with a 4 inch batterie powered monitor witch gets its input from a 40 rca cord going up to my rig. I really must do some shots of this rig and put them online.

    I can shoot on any terrain – no matter how unlevel . Can show up on site and unpack , Shoot, then pack up again in less than 1/2 hr.

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