How Do Real Estate Photographers Handle Window Blinds?

February 24th, 2015

WindowBlindsToday Kelly asked me:

How do most real estate photographers handle window blinds? Do they raise them all the way up to let in more light and show the view? Open them at an angle? Open them completely but not raise them?

I think It’s impossible to make any blanket statement about what to do with blinds. Rather, be creative, and use blinds to help create your image and control the ambient light. Pay close attention to window blinds because they can have a big impact on the amount and quality of the light.

Here are a couple of examples that illustrate great use of window blinds:

  1. Use window blinds to control the light in the room. Just today I noticed this example in the PFRE flickr group where the photographer used the blinds to “balance the light in the room.”
  2. Here’s another example in the PFRE flickr pool where the light is very bright and the photographer was shooting into the window and was forced to close the blinds or the window would become too distracting.

There may be times when the best thing to do is to raise the blinds to see the view, if the view is important, but be careful with this option, because many older types of blinds, look unusual and unnatural when they all the way up. There are some types of blinds with modern design that look better than others when completely up.

Does anyone else have advice for Kelly?

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20 Responses to “How Do Real Estate Photographers Handle Window Blinds?”

  • Carefully!

  • I’ve found that they can be a good tool, sometimes to help control the light (I often angle them up soften/bounce the light, but rarely down), or to down-play undesirable views, like the neighbor’s roof or wall (if I don’t just let the windows go), or a harsh reflector, like a white wall or fence. If there is a pleasant view though, I raise them. Just play with them in different situations, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly.

  • It’s a good idea to ask the agent how they like their blinds, (open, closed, half way, etc). Some have definite preferences. Also think about what to do with the dangling cord, hide it or clone it out? They also probably have a preference about the view. Great way to let them know you care about details.

  • How about DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING! I know an agent who pulled down the shade and it fell off. He ended up paying for it. My rule is leave it as is or ask the owner or agent to adjust them. (side note: I adjusted a hand held shower head and the clip broke. The company did not make that model anymore so I had to buy a whole new unit.) Don’t touch anything!

  • I typically use them to my advantage whenever I can. Louvered up to throw light towards the ceiling and block most direct sun from coming in, wide open on dreary days, closed when they can accent a room better, etc.

  • It seems like half the time the blinds don’t work and I let the home owner and/or agent handle them. Personally I don’t like to move anything in a home, I can’t afford to break anything and blinds are the worst of all!

  • I agree with all above. I use the blinds to whatever I think will make my shot Better. A lot of the time in a room full of blinds there’s always one that doesn’t work, or maybe stuck half way, then I make all of them the same. I also will leave the blinds alone if they’re hard to ajust or broken, I let the owner or the agent ajust them, I don’t want to be the one to have them fall apart in my hands. But my favorite, is controlling the light coming thru to create the sun lite on the floor, windows are meant to let light in as much as to provide a view – its a great shot of a great room with a sunlite design on the floor.

  • I actually just adjusted my checklist to address this issue. It seems like every smaller home I show up to has their blinds all the way up showing (more often than not) a less than desirable view. Brick wall, a half dead tree, cars on the street, trash cans, etc…. I just makes my job a little harder in the middle of the day and the light is blasting through the windows I’m shooting at. I asked a few homeowners and clients whether its intentional and finally came to the conclusion they thought I would want them up for more light. A few years ago, I closed the blinds of a home and the homeowner complained to the agent because they wanted to show off their new windows. I guess it made me gun shy so I usually just leave them alone. Lately, I’ve begun to close some again and so far no complaints. It all depends on the room but for a lot of the homes I shoot, the view isn’t important. I want to show a little bit of the outside, but as always, every situation is different.

  • My Two Cents Worth: The primary focus of window treatments for photographers is light. How many photographers do not preform a pre-shoot analysis? Getting the “Golden Hour” to work for you is questionable at best as renters get awful indignant at 5 a.m. Even when the potential location is empty neighbors tend to be inquisitive about strangers setting up tripods and lighting equipment during the early evening hours! Ask questions about the windows, blinds and sliding doors and their operability. The best warning signs are those that advertise your services. Does your engagement document include disclaimers to protect you against accidental damage? Light is the photographers best friend but knowing how to use your best friend is not the only consideration.

  • I am with most of the responses I have seen. Though one person I saw said “Don’t touch anything”. This photographer was complaining because he went to move something and it broke and he had to pay for it. I think that is a horrible answer. Isn’t that why you have insurance. To just leave the shades no matter what the photographs look like would be akin to what a realtor would do. You wouldn’t be separating your work from a person with an iPhone and if I were the client I wouldn’t pay for photos like ghat.

  • Myself I love the look of the light coming thru the blinds and hitting the floor, as in your sample. It is a very soothing and relaxing look to me. On the other hand, I’ve had some agents that want me to photoshop out the reflection from the floor, or on bedspreads. I think it is a personal preference of all. A photographer can use the blinds to cut back light as well. But I positively DO NOT like it when I come to a property with wood blinds and the agent has pulled them all the way up! Yuck – I always tell them it would look best to show wood blinds down with the slats open, as they bunch up way too much at the top, they always agree with me. I don’t like the “bunched up” look with blinds, I don’t like really long strings, I don’t like the twisty openers sticking outwards, AND I really don’t like shades!! Its hard to get them to match each other in length, and it never fails shades, or the cheap plastic blinds come tumbling down and scare the heck out of me. I always look up to be sure the blind is in the holder good, if not I am very careful if I am pulling up that blind at all!

  • I’ve had just about all these experiences. And, even if they work, they always seem to have one or two that snag on something or won’t contribute to an even spacing.

    Wade’s also right on. A new client I’m working with has her own views on the subject: Open. She pays the bill, she gets open blinds ;).

    Cheers!

  • It depends on the purpose of the images.

    For RE photos: You are rather on the documenting side of photography. As long as windows or doors are in the frame, open all shades or blinds for exterior and interior shots, since it is all about the structure. Use technique or post production to influence the light. If they are out of the frame you can use them to control the light.

    For architectural or design photos: Do whatever you want, since you are on the arts side of your craft.

  • Here’s my version of blind science…

    Bad blinds – up
    Okay blinds – up or down
    Great blinds – down or slanted
    Bad view – down or slanted
    Okay view – up or down
    Great view – up

    Pretty much covers everything I’ve come across 🙂

  • If the owner is there at the shoot I let them adjust blinds. If not I tell the agents to leave them down, then I will try and adjust the slats to what I need. That way I don’t have to move the whole thing up or down and don’t have to worry about it breaking as much. Newer home’s aren’t much of a problem, but 30 to 50 year old homes seem to be where I run into situations.

  • Forget blinds – how about shadows caused by ceiling fans! I hate them!

  • @Jason–UGH!! One of my biggest pet peeves. If I two light a room I can control them a bit–any clean up I do in PS.

  • Jason… that cracked me up, still chuckling!

  • It really depends on the situation. Given that the color temperature causes clashes with Strobes; I will close them, then take a photograph, open them and composite in a well exposed outside view. If there’s no view, then I leave the partially open and pointing upward or to the left or right, so I don’t get glare reflected from my strobes. If they break, it’s simply not my problem. It’s obvious to the realtor that I wasn’t abusing the blinds and I’ve never been held accountable for them. I’ve photographed over three thousand homes now. I’m fully insured, just in case something catastrophic happens. I’m in the process of creating a contract, which releases me from basic damages.

  • It depends on the situation, the time of day, the view and sometimes the status of the windows. I once had a shoot where there were damaged windows. The glass was foggy. No WAY was I shooting them outright if I could find an alternative. In the end, I half-closed the vertical blinds which let some light in but hid the problem. In other cases, say, when the window overlooks a brick wall or a neighbors garbage pails…closing them at least partially is probably a good thing. Sheers can also let light in, but you have to be careful with them. I’ve had instances where the sheers made things too bright and vice -versa.

    Personally, I’m not going to live in fear of having problems with blinds or “breaking them”. If the homeowner is there, I do ask if the blinds work before playing with them. You can really make them work for you in so many ways.

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