December 16th, 2015
Mike in Tennessee requested a discussion of the following:
I believe that we can’t change our future unless we have an understanding of our past. I don’t recall ever seeing any sort of discussion on how real estate photography has evolved or matured. I know there are aspects of what I do now almost totally different from how I did them before, where somethings didn’t matter as much then but are so very important now in how my images look, feel, how I do my shoots. I recently have a request for pictures I took a year ago, looking at them now, knowing how much better I am in Lightroom, I’m spending time updating those pics to my “Look” now – got me thinking about how much I’ve matured in my work.
Since I’ve been doing the PFRE blog seriously for the last 10 years I’ve had the opportunity of watching what’s going on in the real estate photography industry over that time. Here are some evolutionary changes I think have been significant over the last 10 years:
- Off-camera Manual Flash: In my own experience, the evolution of using different lighting techniques has been a key part of the changes in the way I work. I used on-camera flash or no flash for many years before I met Scott Hargis in 2008. But Scott completely changed my thinking about flash. Scott’s approach to small flash lighting I think, is a key evolutionary step for real estate photography as a whole because according to PFRE polls about 46% of PFRE readers now use some variation of Scott’s technique. That’s more than any other technique and it’s increased from polls I did in the 2009 and 2010.
- Hybrid Bracketing Plus Flash: About the same time, I met Scott I met Dan Achatz who has always done the best job of HDR that I’ve ever seen. Although I like the way Dan’s work looks, I’ve never used HDR much because I could never make Photomatix work like Dan does. LR/Enfuse, on the other hand, I do use, mainly because I find it is easier to get good results. The PFRE Flickr group photos over the years is an interesting insight into how things have changed over the years. There seems to be a clear decrease in HDR posted to the PFRE Flickr group over the years. Shooters that shoot brackets appear to have moved to Enfuse. Polls show about 21% of PFRE readers use some variation of Enfuse processing. Most use a combination of bracketing and flash.
- 360 Images: From about 1999 through 2009 I shot spherical 360s for all our listings in the Seattle area market. I quit because it was so labor intensive and some of our clients actually disliked them. This personal change I believe, tracks a general reduction in usage of spherical 360s for real estate. As MatterPort and other similar technologies become cheaper 360 technology will probably have a resurgence.
- Blending Flash and Ambient images in Photoshop: Another technique that has become more popular over the last year or two is blending flash frames with ambient frames in Photoshop. You can see this trend clearly in the photos posted in the PFRE Flickr group. A large percentage of people posting photos use Mike’s technique. It is clear that Mike Kelley’s work is instrumental in this change because Mike teaches interiors photographers how to blend multiple ambient and flash frames together in Photoshop.
- The Rise of Video: Ever since 2009 when most DSLRs started to be able to shoot video as well as stills the use of video has increased. Even though the trend towards video is significant, there are fewer photographers that shoot property video because it is significantly more difficult than shooting stills but use of video is increasing.
- Drone Photography and Video: Photography done from small unmanned aerial devices has exploded in the last few years. Back in the early 2000’s my wife and I had a beautiful waterfront listing on Lake Washington east of Seattle. I remember trying to figure out how I could photograph the listing from the water. I never managed to do it well. A boat was too low and a helicopter was too expensive and couldn’t get close enough. Now with a small drone, this problem is easily solved and listing agents expect knock-out drone photography and video.
- Photoshop and Lightroom Improvements: I think that the release and evolution of Lightroom has had a huge impact on real estate photography and the ease of post processing. Photoshop has also come a long way in the last 10 years but is probably been less significant than Lightroom.
- The Evolution of The Internet and Mobile Devices: When I look at the stats for this blog, traffic for mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) have gone from nothing in November 2007 to 21% this month. This means home buyers and real estate agents probably use mobile devices that much and more. This evolution has had a huge impact on the importance of real estate photography.
What have I missed? I’m sure there’s something.