Real Estate Photography Q&A – Shooting In The Rain, Leveling Camera, Floor Plans

August 25th, 2014

QandAJosie’s Question:  I live in Florida and am thinking about moving to the Pacific Northwest and I was wondering how you photograph exteriors when it is either raining or at least overcast most of the winter in the PNW? I’m concerned about damage to the camera in the wet weather. How do you handle this?

Answer: I’ve photographed in the NW (Seattle, WA and Salem, OR) for most of my adult life and never found the wet weather that much of a problem. Probably because I’ve lived in the NW so I don’t even notice it’s raining anymore. I find if is raining hard I can keep the camera under my coat until I’m ready to take a shot… although I would try avoid doing external property shots in the pouring rain just because the light is usually worse. The more usual situation is just continual overcast and drizzle which isn’t that bad to shoot in. Most DSLRs are pretty waterproof. If you are going to set up for a long more involved set of shots you could always get one of the many camera rain covers. Although, I have to admit I don’t even own a camera raincoat.

Update 8/27: Cheryl makes a good point in the comments about using an umbrella. Earlier this year I did a post on a solution that uses an umbrella.

Coach’s Question:  Do you know of any on-camera level that beeps when the camera is level? 

Answer:  No I’ve never hear of a level that beeps when the camera is level. That’s really much more than you need. There are bubble levels you can get that side in your hot shoe. Many tripods also have built-in bubble levels. You can also get a viewing screen for most DSLRs that have a vertical and horizontal grid lines.  What I do is use the right and left side of the viewfinder to judge how level the camera is and then, in Lightroom 5 it will automatically make adjustments to verticals and horizontals with one click… this is a huge time saver and worth the price of Lightroom if you shoot real estate.

Tom’s Question:  I was reading an old post you had (2012) about adding value by creating floor plans. I was wondering if there is any new information or new recommendations for software? I know programs change daily and I was looking at programs that are online, but I like having software I need downloaded so I can work with or without connectivity.

Answer:  I know of nothing new recently in the area of floor plans and I get very few questions about floor plans indicating they are not being used much. Most likely because they take so much work to create and some Realtors are concerned about getting sued for getting the dimensions wrong. I keep trying all the new iPhone/iPad Apps that claim to easily make floor plans but so far they are all very disappointing.  The standard approach for those serious about floor plans seems to be a laser measuring device and one of the standard layout programs. Here are all the posts I’ve done on the subject: http://photographyforrealestate.net/?s=floorplan . I used to make floorplans for my wife’s new construction listings and would take the blueprints to Kinkos and have them reduced to 8.5×11″ and then scan and use Photoshop to draw heavy wall lines… that works very well but only for new construction where you can get your hands on a blueprint.

Darwin’s Question:  I am a Los Angeles based architecture and real estate photographer. I shoot a lot of high profile homes and recently had another publicized celebrity to celebrity sale hit the news. I have a question regarding usage. The LA Times got my permission to run the photos, as did the Hollywood Reporter (who paid me to use them). Now I am seeing my photos posted on multiple news websites also as they pulled them from the MLS. I never gave permission for this usage to any of these additional outlets, who also did not credit me. Are they allowed to pull MLS images and use them like this without my consent?

Answer:  I recommend that photographers shooting for agents have them sign a license agreement that licenses the photos to the agent only for the purpose of selling the listing. If you have such a license agreement with the agent it should be a clear matter to enforce it. Even if you don’t have a signed license agreement with the agent you can probably stop the unapproved use probably by sending each site using the photos a DMCA takedown notice. I suggest that you contact Joel Rothman, with Schneider Rothman, Intellectual Property Law Group who has represented many of PFRE blog readers in matters that deal like this with MLS abuse. Joel is an expert in this area.

Don’s Question:  Have you seen this? I think it might be interesting to get everyones opinion on this technology. Shiny object or something real? Coming trend or flash in the pan? 

Answer:  Yes I’ve read about Matterport. Fairly expensive ($4500+$99/month) for what you get. Feels very gimmicky to me… Sort of a return to 360 images of the past. I doubt that it will be a big seller.

12 Responses to “Real Estate Photography Q&A – Shooting In The Rain, Leveling Camera, Floor Plans”

  • -Would adding a simple notice under/on the Floorplan/drawing solve the concern of getting sued for not presenting the right dimensions of a property?
    I always add a notice under my drawings to stress the fact that the drawings are not 100 % measurable or accurate. The text is something like this (in bad english translated from norwegian): “This 3D-plan is not measurable. Deviations may occur. Furnishing may have be freely placed to give a visual impression of the apartments possibilities”.

  • Josie, I live in Denmark and get caught in the rain quite a bit. If its raining too hard then, no photos. The client understands. If its just a bit of drizzle I tear a small hole in a plastic bag and push the end of the lens through. A few shots and all is good. Up the exposure 1 stop and add a blue sky in post. It could be the carribean. :)

  • I live in Missouri and I’ve had to photograph exteriors of homes in the rain. I place my camera on a tripod and keep me and the camera under an umbrella.
    I do have a rain cover for my camera and lens, but find sometimes it’s easier to just stand under an umbrella.

  • Matterport = shiny object. In my opinion. Not may properties are as dialed in as they need to be for the kind of exposure (or overexposure) the product provides.

  • I am not able to view these Matterport images on an iPad. Seems like a compatibility gap they should have considered. Is it only me?

  • @Hanafi- I’d not noticed that… serious problem!

  • About Floor Plans

    There are certain areas of the country that use interactive floor plans alot. To me, it seems that agents would love them since they offer so much more information. Put a strongly worded disclaimer on the bottom of the tour. Maybe something like….This rendering is NOT to be considered exact in its measurements. It is meant to be a representation only. It is not meant to be used by contrators, estimators, appraisors, home improvement companies or for exact measurements.

  • @Don

    I don’t like it. Frustrating to use since it isn’t always clear where you can click. If you go to far in a corner you have to switch to directionals. If users don’t like it, I doubt it would last. Which brings me to a quesiton…How can you tell how long someone has been on a tour? As in, how long was the user looking at the tour?

  • @Coach, Karl – I think what drives the sensitivity about floorplans is the relative aggressiveness of the local MLS rules and if any agent in the local area has ever gotten sued over room size or square footage issue. In the Seattle area when I’ve done floorplans I just put the disclaimer “not to scale – for marketing purposes only” and I never had any issues. At the same time I had agent friends and agents in my office that would never thing of using floorplans.

  • @Cheryl – I for got to point out that we did a post earlier this year about an umbrella solution. See: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2014/06/26/protection-for-your-gear-on-rainy-days-or-harsh-direct-sunlight/

  • Does everybody in rainy climes resort to adding blue skies in post? The few examples of that I’ve seen look fake, since you have no shadows to speak of. Perhaps on a page of multiple front shots, all done that way, it looks more natural?

    Working in Colorado, this I usually have the opposite problem– too much sun, deep shadows, etc. On our few completely overcast days, I sometimes find that a little HDR (not a lot) can improve exterior shots.

  • @john- yes, replacing skies in a convincing way is frequently a challenge.