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Are Virtual Dusk Photos Worth Considering as a Real Estate Photography Product?

September 12th, 2017

Today Joanna in PA asked:

I’ve been redefining our offerings by creating packages that include pole aerials, drone aerials, and twilights. I noticed that HomeJab is offering virtual dusk photos which are daylight photos processed to look like twilights. It would be an advantage to be able to process photos to look like twilights and eliminate having to schedule them separately.

If we could process photos taken during our shoots to look like twilights we would include twilights as part of our standard MLS package. In other words, we wouldn’t have to bundle them at a higher price like we do with the drones. I’m just wondering if virtual dusk photos are worth considering.

I’ve done many posts on this subject. Here is the most recent one from May. There are arguments to be made on both sides of this issue. With practice, it’s possible to create a pretty convincing twilight shot from a daylight shot with Photoshop, or for between $6 and $50 you can get a post-processing company to do it for you.

On the other hand, I have to say that shooting twilight shots are one of the most fun and rewarding parts of real estate photography for me because home sellers love them so much and they attract so much attention among the buyers. My wife and I made a bunch of money with the twilight image above because we got several listings from other sellers that saw it and wanted us to list their home with a similar photo.

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21 Responses to “Are Virtual Dusk Photos Worth Considering as a Real Estate Photography Product?”

  • Without getting into “Doing it on the CHEAP” and not spending the time doing it right, WHY in the He** would you go to all that trouble and NOT charge for it? This is a business we do

  • It’s a good device to offer but honestly you won’t get much interest, the legit twilight photos in the evening look the best. It’s worth the little bit more money to get a better quality photo!

  • I second what Jerry and Aubrey say – do it right and charge for it – our clients (meaning all of us) already get incredible value for what we do (assuming you produce a quality product).
    Twilights shot professionally look beautiful and are extra work = equals extra fees. I’ve always found clients value what they pay for vs freebies.

  • I think I’d still charge roughly the same for a virtual as a real life. Call it shameless markup, but if you have ever seen what a volume lab charges for an 8×10 print and what the listed charge is on the kid’s school photo order form, it’s not that big.

    With a twilight photo taken at twilight and not augmented with dozens of flash pops, you can rest easy knowing that you are delivering a true to life image. Once you have done a few, they aren’t that hard. Scott Hargis has a video on Lynda.com on twilight photos.

    It’s always good to leave some upsell possibilities. What happens when every RE photographer in an area is delivering everything for one low price? There will be a bunch of ex-photographers that had spread themselves too thin and couldn’t earn a living at it.

  • We have someone in my area doing this and most of them look pretty bad. I’ve lost several regular clients because of it, but I’m not about to race to the bottom when it comes to quality. I only do actual twilights (though not very often).

  • I’m a photographer. I enjoy the art of photography, working with my camera, and challenging myself to learn new things. Real twilight photography can produce some of the most impressive and rewarding images imaginable. I can’t help thinking that those who want to fake it simply don’t enjoy photography.

    Although, I get it. Sometimes I just don’t want to be out so late, especially in summer when the best shot may not be until well after 9pm.

    At this point I’ll do sky replacement and occasional HDR and other “fake” stuff. But fake twilights just seem wrong to me. At least for now.

  • There are so many nuances going when it comes to twilight lighting… I just don’t see how a “virtually created” image can successfully re-create the impact of twilight. I looked at the HomeJab sample “virtual dusk” photos and they look fake to me and not are not appealing at all. I suggest just offering a twilight shoot option and forget wasting time on trying to re-create this look via software tools.

  • The latest trend in twilight photography produces images with sky swaps, sometimes bright blue daylight sky (because the evening sky is too dark…) masking this, masking that, dozens of flash pops, stacking 25 images, that are, well, beautiful, but generate something that you will never ever see in real life. In that respect it is not much different from a “fake twilight”. I don’t fake twilight myself and I am always stressing when doing real ones, but on occasions I do order one when I bump into a plain property on a gloomy day…. I don’t charge for it, I just give it for my loyal customers as a bonus.

  • I agree with everyone above. I was shooting one last night. But also since I shoot video as well as stills, you just can’t fake a twilight in video so it makes commercial sense to shoot the real thing. And I try to make my videos look just like my stills with the same lighting, look and feel. Some short cuts work but others are self defeating.

  • At some point you have to ask your self if you really wanted to be a photographer in the first place. When you start asking yourself how you could fake your way through the job, you’re past that point. The OP would do well to go get a job she actually enjoys doing.

  • It actually makes more commercial sense for me to do a virtual twilight rather than a real one. The market value for RE twilights in my area is not very profitable for the time it takes (and in high summer it means real late nights).

  • To go along with my earlier comment, an agent from one of the offices that gives me a lot of business (and whose office has several of these fake twilight converts) told me at one of their office meetings an agent showed the normal, daylight “before” image and then the fake twilight, and they took a vote on which one people liked better. The fake twilight lost (easily).

  • Love a natural twilight, however I service an island that is only accessible by ferry and during most of the year doing a twilight would require staying on the island overnight as the last ferry goes back before the twilight time. In order to keep servicing the agency that does twilights for the majority of their listings I provide virtual twilights as an option and charge additionally for the time. It does not look as good as the original thing but does enable me to maintain the look of the company who’s agency window is exclusively twilight images.

  • @Scott Hargis – Just to be clear, my partner shoots the listings. I am the editor but I also create our website and our marketing tools which includes pricing our MLS packages. I know the amount of time and effort that goes into shooting twilights, I’ve been there done that. My primary concern has been the separate shoot that comes with twilight orders. I currently have a twilight package in our offerings that includes a price increase to account for that. So we shall see how it goes.

    I think the only way to “fudge” a twilight image during a shoot would be during an overcast or cloudy day. Turn on all the lights and give it a go. Underexposing the shot with an exposure compensation of around -2 can give the illusion of a twilight. We’re experimenting with this now. I’ve seen MLS listings shot in the daylight with lights on and, depending on the property, they’re pretty impressive.

    What we’d like to do is include one or two of these in with our standard MLS package while real twilights will remain an add-on.

  • @Scott Hargis spoken like a true veteran 🙂 of course one thing to consider is that in this business of photography, Trenton’s are important to pay attention to. Not because you want to do them, but because Trends have the possibility of turning us into dinosaurs overnight. We found this out in the early 2000’s after 25 to 30 years of shooting portraits, only to have our asses handed to us by newbies with no talent. The thing is, most millennial’s don’t know the difference between good and bad photography, and many honestly don’t care. They do care about what they think is cool.
    And since millennials are the new market in many cases, the OP’s question might have more to do with how to market to that new customer base, rather than what she may prefer herself.
    I’ve been in photography for well over 30 years, and I have had to reinvent myself three times in some respects, every decade almost requires it anymore. Not so much in terms of quality but in terms of the perception of what I offer.

  • @Kelvin Hammond. I certainly agree with what you’re saying, but I see this more as a marketing issue rather than a “keeping up with the competition” situation. I would bet that if you showed a potential client both photographs, (true twilight vs virtual twilight), most would gravitate toward the true twilight version. Now, whether or not they would be willing to pay more for the true version, I’m not sure. But if I were considering offering a virtual version, my marketing sense tells me to show them both and allow them to decide. This is how I would approach the original question by Joanna.

  • Anyone has experience with https://www.boxbrownie.com/day-to-dusk ? on their website they advertise this service for $4.00. I can’t find if there is a $$$ minimum or if you can just send them 1 single photo to virtual dusk at a time?

  • @Rom – There’s an email address in their contact page, you can also do customer service live chat. There’s no mention of minimums so once your payment is set up I assume you just email them the image(s).

  • @ Joanna,
    I just emailed them to confirm a few points and if it really comes down to $4.00 a picture, I will send them some of our existing listings…I’ll keep updating this blog…

  • @ Joanna and Larry,

    Thank you again for bringing up this topic-

    So, I created an account with BoxBrownie and submitted a few brackets to try for free their services. They have like 3 enhancements and 1 day to dusk free trials.
    The setup was very easy, quick and efficient.
    It did not cost me anything as those are free trials but I confirmed that the price per finished picture is $4.00 for the Day to Dusk service and there is no mimimum.
    I uploaded the 3 original brackets I took then the enfused image I created then the Day to Dusk image that BoxBrownie created for me.
    https://imgur.com/a/ywDsl

    Remember that I did not take those original brackets with the intention to make it a virtual dusk. I think we could define a set of best practices for the purpose of turning a specific picture into a virtual dusk that would beneficially impact the end product.

    Of course it would not be applicable with all listings and probably not top luxury listings but I am trying to get something working for +95% of my listings.

  • Update: I asked BoxBrownie to do a rework on the picture. I requested a change (Front main door should not have been touched as there is no window/glass within this door). The change request was made free of charge as advertised.

    I added the reworked and final picture to the set: https://imgur.com/a/ywDsl

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