New PFRE Media Publication Coming Soon: Enfuse For Real Estate Photography

October 12th, 2014

EnfuseFREPSimon Maxwell, in London and I have been working hard for the last several months on a new upcoming PFRE Media publication. It will be an e-book titled Enfuse For Real Estate Photography.

Long time PFRE blog readers know Simon from his series of Lightroom video tutorials which have been very popular. I am excited about publishing an e-book on the subject of Enfuse which is a technique that is widely used by real estate photographers. Simon uses this technique extensively and goes into all the technical aspects us using LR/Enfuse from Lightroom and also covers how do Enfuse-Flash hybrid. Here is the Table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • The Problem: Limits of A Single Exposure
  • The Solution: What Enfuse Can Achieve
  • Shooting Brackets
  • Creating Enfused Images With LR/Enfuse
  • Batch Processing With LR/Enfuse
  • Advanced Methods
  • Enfuse-Flash Hybrid
  • An Enfuse Shoot From Start To Finish
  • Lightroom Presets

We are in the final phases of proofing and getting ready for launch and expect to launch this e-book about the second week in November. More details when we get ready to launch.

Where Can You Get Some Fresh New Skies For Sky Replacement?

October 10th, 2014

SkyCal asked a few days ago where he can get some new skies for sky replacement:

Do you have any recommendations on where to get twilight skies? I do a lot of these and need some new choices. I am willing to pay for them if good enough. I have used your’s too often.

What Cal is referring to is that there is the PFRE sky replacement library available for anyone to use for sky replacement. They are skies that have been donated by readers. There is a link to it on the right sidebar of the blog under “Other Links“.

What told Cal is: Continue Reading »

Reader Question: Vic Wants To Know What Your Workspace Looks Like?

October 9th, 2014

workspaceVic, a, PFRE reader, asked me the following question:

I am in the process of remodeling my production studio and I was wondering if anyone has shared photos of their production area so I can see some different ideas?  I would love to see a behind the scenes glimpse into the production area of some successful real estate photographers.  It would be interesting to see what keeps them motivated and inspired in their workspace during post production.

At first I was a little sassy and told Vic: Continue Reading »

Reader Question: Why Do Real Estate Photographers Shoot Elevated Front Shots?

October 7th, 2014

whyPAPI got an unexpected question from Brian in NZ. Brian is relatively new to real estate photography and Pole Aerial Photography (PAP). He wondered why PAP is important, and how do you sell it to your clients. Brian was stunned by James Governali’s shot that won last year’s October still contest with a 58′ pneumatic pole. I’ve always thought that the importance of elevated shoots was intuitively obvious, but I guess not. Lets talk about the basics.

Why do you need PAP?
Because just a few feet in elevation can radically change the view of the exterior of a home. The difference between the top image and the bottom image is on the bottom one the photographer (Marc Lacoste of Nantes, FR) has the camera on a tripod with the legs extended over his head. This illustrates how easy it is to get an elevated shot and what a stunning difference it makes. This doesn’t look like the same property. More importantly, the elevated shot shows more of the features of the home and shows them better.

Another reason is that a large percentage of homes are sited above the street level so a handheld exterior shot looks awful! Ten to 15′ elevation can frequently fix this problem.

How to sell it to your clients?
Simple comparison shots like the one above will illustrate to clients the benefits of an elevated shot. Realtors are quick to see the benefits. In 1986 when my wife became a listing agent she came home complaining that the roof of her car was dented. When I ask her how it got dented she said, “I was standing on the top of the car to get a better front shot of my new listing.” After that I shot all of her listing front shots for her with a foldup ladder I put in bed my pickup. Nowadays Realtors want more than PAP, they want drone shots.

Is a 58′ pole over kill?
Perhaps in some situations. The goal of using large poles is, as with James Governali‘s winning shot, you want to show the home, in it’s surroundings and features in the distance that can’t typically be seen just standing in front of the home. These poles along with the control electronics and the trailers to carry them around used to cost around $10K to $20K USD. You don’t see as many of them in use as you did 10 years ago. But they are not obsolete. At least you don’t have to pay any attention to the FAA when you are using a large pole!

Drones will eventually replace these large poles like James’s 58′ pole, but smaller 10′ to 20′ poles are really easy and effective to use and are an essential part of full service real estate photography.

TopMLSPhotos.com Domain Available For Purchase – Any Takers?

October 7th, 2014

Long time PFRE reader and PFRE flickr group participant, Bryce Greenfield is moving out of RE photography and wants to sell his domain TopMLSPhotos.com. If anyone is interested in purchasing Bryce’s domain name contact Bryce via his contact page.

Do You Know What’s Important To Your Customers?

October 6th, 2014

ClientSurveyDave in Perth, sent me this recent article about TopSnap which is a franchise in Australia and New Zealand.

What I wanted to point out about this article is not so much the specific numbers that TopSnap got but, rather the fact that TopSnap is doing a regular survey that helps them understand what their customers think about them, what social media their customers use most. Also, what their customers use and value the most to market their listings.

Do you know this kind of thing about your customers? Small businesses can do surveys quite easily and inexpensively and allow their feedback from customers to be anonymous if they choose by using sites like surveymonkey.com. There are a lot of these sites, just google “survey sites free”.

Most of these sites let you do small scale surveys for free. Surveymonkey.com is free up to 100 respondents. If you have over 100 customers just do multiple surveys. What you do is construct a survey and email the survey to 100 customers and the survey site collects and collates the results for you.

The trick is to come up with survey questions that reveal important issues in your business. But the basics are to understand what your clients like or don’t like about your products.

Is anyone already using surveys?

Another Alternative For Building A Door Top Flash Holder

October 5th, 2014

TimDoorFlashHolderWhat’s a door top flash holder? If you’ve purchased Scott Hargis’s Lighting Interior book, subscribed to his video series or been to one of Scott’s workshops you’ll remember that the Basic Bedroom lighting setup involves a flash sitting on top of the door aimed back at the corner or wall. And if you’d used this setup for any length of time you have either knocked a flash on the floor or come very close to it at least once. To solve this problem PFRE readers have come up with a number of alternatives to prevent dropping flashes.

Here are a list of previous solutions to this problem:

  • Manfrotto 175F-1 Clamp: This is one of my favorites because it easily clamps to the top of doors (if you are tall enough to attach it). It also easily attaches to a light stand. I always have one of these attached to one light stand. You do have to be careful that you don’t make marks on the top of the door because the spring is strong.
  • Nasty Clamps: Many readers use nasty clamps.
  • DIY door top flash holder by Mark Cornwell: This is a very inexpensive approach and very easy to make.
  • Rich Baum’s DIY clamp: Rich’s post explains nicely what you want in a clamp… won’t harm the door and has a very nice inexpensive solution.

This is the new solution: Tim Wilson of Richmond, VA has come up with another DIY approach. As the photo above shows, it’s a 6″ length of aluminum channel with a bolt in the middle that will attach to your flash. Read Tim’s post here for all the details. He’ll even sell you one if you’d like.

Congratulations To Travis Rowan – Winner Of Aug/Sep Property Video Contest

October 3rd, 2014

TravisAug-SeptWinCongratulations to Travis Rowan, of Maui, HI, who has won the August/September property video of the month contest with his video at the right. Click the image to the right to watch the video. Also click the numbers listed below to see each video that the jury awarded points to.

This is the second win in a row for Travis. He won the July video contest as well. Pretty amazing work Travis!

Here is the jury’s voting results:

  1. 17 points, #2Travis Rowan – Maui, HI
  2. 11 points, #6, Charlie Dresen – Steamboat Springs, CO
  3. 9 points, #10, Jason Ikaida – Portland, OR
  4. 3 points, #7, Josh Gold – Tel Aviv, Israel

I’ve put the names of all 10 contestants on their videos in the video contest flickr group. Be sure to checkout the juror comments and feel free to comment on the videos.

Travis’s comments on the video are as follows:

Thanks for the votes and recognition, it means a lot. There are so many great entries again, it’s an honor to be recognized.

About the video: The Realtor, Scott Innes, had the idea of using the words of the current owners to describe their home and lifestyle. Scott always has great ideas and is willing to try something different. He also does a great job as the voice.

For this home, we wanted to really bring an emotional element to it since it is a real home with real people living there as opposed to the glitzy estates that tend to speak for themselves.

I shot both stills and video all in one day at which point the voiceover script wasn’t together yet. I generally prefer to have a voiceover script in hand first to serve as a shot list but everyone’s busy schedule and weather issues did not allow that. So I shot everything as I normally would then Scott presented the script to me a few days later, I refined the script to suit the visuals I had. Then we got together to record it. I pieced it all together in the edit and I feel like we really captured the feel and emotion of the home. Scott also chose the music, which for me is one of the most challenging parts. He nailed it.

Video was shot with: Phantom 2 / Hero 3, Panasonic GH3 and Nikon D800 edited in Final Cut Pro X with audio recorded on Zoom H1 with lav mic.

This Week In Real Estate Video – Charlie Gets A Movi M5

October 3rd, 2014

SteamboatEarlier today Charlie Dresen, a Realtor in Steamboat, CO, sent me one of his recent videos he did since he got his new Movi M5. This evening I’ll be announcing the winner of the Aug/Sep video contest, but I just had to show this to everyone. Here is what I told Charlie:

Very cool! The sequences with the kids running through the condo are amazing! Also, I like the other unusual moves you do with it through out the video, yet mix in slower slider shots to keep the rhythm under control. Much more interesting than just a standard walk through. The DJI shot at the end showing the property with the mountain is in the back is fantastic… you need to get this same shot at twilight in the winter!

What do you think?

Now Accepting Elevated Exterior Shots For October PFRE Photographer Of Month Contest

October 2nd, 2014

JamesGovernaliOct2013

We are now accepting entries for Photographer of The Month with the theme “Elevated exterior shot, Pole Aerial Photography, Aerial or UAV” through 10/15. The photo to the right is last year’s winner in this theme. Last years winner was James Governali, of Long Is, NY. James uses a 58 foot pneumatic mast. See James’ comments about his winning photo from last October here.

If you are submitting a still photo of a “Elevated exterior shot, Pole Aerial Photography, Aerial or UAV” please be sure to read and follow the rules here.

North Carolina, Formerly of “First in Flight” Fame, Has Criminalized All Commercial Drone Use

October 1st, 2014

BrendanTweetI ran across Brendan Schulman’s tweet this morning while drinking my morning coffee. Brendan is the NYC attorney that is representing Raphael Pirker as well as many other legal cases involving small UAVs. Brendan’s tweet says it all.

Even though, Brendan is a very reliable source, I spent a fair amount time today trying to research and understand this new NC law. I talked to one very prominent professional videographer in NC and he is shutting down his drone photography operation as of today. Here’s what has happened as I understand it (I’m no attorney so this isn’t legal advice). If you have more info or understanding please chime in:

  1. Here is the bill (House bill 1099) that was passed last week.
  2. It goes into effect today October, 1 2014.
  3. It says that to operate UAVs in NC for commercial purposes you need a license from the NC state Department of Transportation.
  4. But you can’t get a license right now because the Department of Transportation doesn’t have a licensing system yet, but will develop a licensing system to comply with the FAA guidelines as soon as FAA guidelines become available.

So what the State of NC has done is front ended the FAA guidelines (that isn’t law) with an NC state law that is enforceable. They’ve eliminated confusion for the citizens of North Carolina in this confusing area of commercial UAV operation.

I just talked with a Realtor in NC that flies his own drone for real estate video. He was surprised and outraged at by this development so there may be others in NC that haven’t heard about this new drone law yet.

Review Of New Nikon D750 – By Oliver Zielinski In Berlin

September 30th, 2014

NikonD750Guest post by Oliver M. Zielinski:

Just in time with this year’s Photokina Nikon has announced its new camera D750. Finally, this gear combines features real estate photographers have been waiting for. What are the camera’s advantages for architectural photography?

We have examined the main new features of the Nikon D750 which are important for our photography genre and have commented the results in this article.

TILTING LCD SCREEN
Photographs of real estate and architecture are very often taken from unusual vantage points. In most cases using a camera from eye level is not an option. For interiors a lower position is best, while for exteriors there is an (sometimes significantly) elevated level the right position to shoot from to get a more natural impression. In both cases it is hard to control the image either through the view finder or a fixed back screen.

The large and high resolution LCD screen of the Nikon D750 can be flipped up or down. This makes it much easier to set up the camera from a normal working position. The D750 is the first camera in this category with such comfortable feature.

WIRELESS
To examine a photograph at the camera monitor in terms of exposure, contrast and sharpness right after it was taken has always been a lucky game. Only at a 100 per cent enlargement on a computer screen any flaws could be clearly made obvious. Professional photographers transfer their images directly to a computer. Therefore, the camera is tethered to the machine where there is running a software either from the camera manufacturer, Adobe Lightroom or Capture One to show the result on a bigger screen right after the exposure. Thus, the photographer has the opportunity to take action and correct any mistakes instantly. Very often this tight camera-computer-combination reduces portability especially in close spaces or even outside. To establish a wireless connection until now was only possible with sometimes expansive extra gear either directly delivered by Nikon or as a half tethered version with a mini router.

The Nikon D750 has a built-in WiFi module to send image data and receive commands. Display gadgets at the moment are mobile tablets and smart phones. Thus, the cable, a heavy laptop computer and all the hassle with it can be dropped. Photos can be displayed right after the shot was taken and be enlarged for judgement by a finger’s press or swipe. Even the control of the camera is possible via this connection. The only flaw at the moment is Nikon’s own software because it may lack some functionality. But there are third party apps that are highly appreciated within the photo community. As soon as the developers have adopted the interface for the D750 photographers will have an absolutely comfortable tool in their hands. Continue Reading »

Real Estate Photography Questions and Answers

September 29th, 2014

shutterstock_130311209

I keep getting great questions and post these so everyone can get the benefit of the answers and others can add their thoughts and experiences.

Jason’s Question:  I’m thinking of joining the local Association of Realtors as an affiliate to gain access to the Surpa system so I can just enter the homes I photograph without anyone being present. It is not cheap to join in my marketplace (in my opinion). Has becoming an affiliate been beneficial to others who are real estate photographers or am I looking at increasing my exposure in the wrong light?

Answer: Yes, if your MLS allows it having an MLS Key is a big deal and it will probably pay for itself in added business. It saves your clients a lot of time since they don’t have to come let you in and then sit around and wait for you to shoot. In many locations the only way you can get a MLS key is become an agent. Some RE photographers become agents just for this reason although being an agent is way more expensive than just getting an MLS key.
When I was an agent in the Seattle area photographers could not get an NWMLS key, only agents and appraisers could get one. And there was an NWMLS rule that if an agent was caught leaving a “contractor” (a photographer is a contractor hired by the listing agent) unescorted in a listing there was a $5,000 fine. Yet as recent as a few years ago Seattle area photographers have told me that as many as 50% of agents let photographers shoot by unescorted.

If you get your own MLS key and shoot listings unescorted I would pay special attention to your liability insurance. The opportunities for being accused of damage increases and the agent/broker’s liability insurance won’t cover you as it may if you are escorted by an agent.

Priscilla’s Question:  I’m a fan of your work. Currently, I’m an amateur real estate photography on with a tour company. I’m looking for more opportunities in positions focused specifically on editing for real estate photography. Do you have any ideas?

Answer: I always recommend to beginning real estate photographers to be in business for yourself, the big tour companies are notorious for not paying a living wage! You are in general going to be better off if you run your own business as an independent real estate photographer or image editor. Peggy Taylor, in Tampa whom I’ve written about several times, is a great example. Peggy started out working for a large tour company in 2009. They paid her a ridiculously low amount for a shoot. She built her own business and now has her sister working with her and one other person and charges $200 per shoot and has a thriving business. It may take some hard work to begin with, but Peggy’s experience shows that it can be done.

Scott’s Question:  Thinking about pricing again. Does it make sense to calculate the price based on the asking price of the home? For example, if the home is going for 400K rather than 100K, won’t the photographer end up doing more work, and shouldn’t they get paid more? Tipping at restaurants is 15 to 20%. Wouldn’t that be nice. But seriously, I’d like to hear a discussion about the percentages all the players make, and think about cutting the photographer in, even for a small percent.

Answer: Yes, some photographers do charge based on the listing price but having been in this business on both sides of the fence (listing agent and photographer) it makes more sense to me to have a shoot price based on square footage rather than list price. It’s because the property is bigger and has more rooms that it takes more time to shoot; not because it has a higher list price. I think RE photographers should present themselves a contractors not sales people. I have a hard time putting my finger on it but to me it just feels out of line to charge as a percentage of list price.

A great place to get a lot diverse points of view on all the dimensions of pricing is to read through some of the PFRE flickr group discussions on pricing over the last few years.

Professional Real Estate Photos are an Investment For A Listing Agents Business

September 28th, 2014

TerryIversonPFRE blog reader Terry Iverson, in Redmond, OR, recently wrote the following post on his ActiveRain blog. We are reposting it here because it got such a positive response from Realtors on ActiveRain.

7 Reasons why Agents should retire their camera

Think of it as buying a lottery ticket. It is a small risk to pay for professional photos, but the payoff could be in the thousands for this listing and many more to come as a result of smart marketing and your image as a marketeer.

I’ve moved my business to Central Oregon and in talking to agents I’m finding that “snapping photos” instead of hiring a professional photographer seems to be the norm. Being hired to sell a home is purely a marketing event and requires good marketing strategies to sell quickly and at the best price. If you can, set aside the fact that I am a photographer and allow me to put my business consultant hat on, which is a role that I had before starting my photographer business.

Reasons to hire a professional photographer

  1. Potential buyers have a better expectation and feel for the home before even visiting.
  2. The listing agent is viewed as a marketer who presents his/her listings in the best way possible.
  3. Great photos often generate multiple showings and multiple offers resulting in a higher sales price.
  4. The Realtor becomes a hero to their seller often resulting in referrals to friends and family, more listings and a higher annual income for the Realtor.
  5. In future listing interviews you are able to use those photos to impress the homeowner that you will present their home in the best way possible. We are an image driven society and people are drawn to a great photo. $100-$150 spent to hire a professional photographer now turns into thousands of dollars of commission back to you now and later.
  6. Securing more listings means more happy sellers, more potential referrals and another factor to brag about during future interviews. Simply put, the more listings you get, your image of success is stronger which generates more listings and money in your bank account.
  7. You won’t have to spend the time taking and later preparing the photos for MLS. It will be magically done for you.

Reasons to take your own photos

  1. It will save you the cost of hiring a professional photographer.
  2. You have the pleasure of processing the photos instead of making more potential listing calls. ;-)

The bottom line is that taking your own photos will save you the cost of the photo shoot but in many cases will cost you thousands of dollars in lower commissions due to selling at a lower price, taking longer to sell and do nothing for your image as an agent who understands good marketing.

Drone Exemptions for Hollywood Pave the Way for Widespread Commercial Use?

September 26th, 2014

HollywoodDroneExemptionAccording to the NYTimes:

The commercial use of drones in American skies took a leap forward on Thursday with the help of Hollywood.

The Federal Aviation Administration, responding to applications from seven filmmaking companies and pressure from the Motion Picture Association of America, said six of those companies could use camera-equipped drones on certain movie and television sets. Until now, the F.A.A. has not permitted commercial drone use except for extremely limited circumstances in wilderness areas of Alaska.

…The decision has implications for a broad range of industries including agriculture, energy, real estate, the news media and online retailing. “While the approval for Hollywood is very limited in scope, it’s a message to everyone that this ball is rolling,” said Greg Cirillo, chairman of the aviation practice at Wiley Rein, a law firm in Washington. Read the complete article here.

While, I agree with Greg Cirillo, that this is a step forward, I’m still skeptical that this move is anything more than the FAA succumbing to some massive lobbying and political pressure. The motion picture industry is able to put this kind of pressure on the FAA. One of the rules for this exemption is that the drones must be operated by technicians that have a pilots license. Not extensive experience operating a drone, but a license to fly a large aircraft. The other reason FAA is willing to grant this exemption is because TV and Movie production sets are generally a relatively controlled physical environment compared to other shooting situations like real estate.

I’ll be more optimistic about FAA progress regulating small UAVs when I see the FAA involved in small drone projects in such a way that they start to understand small drones and demonstrate some basic common sense. So far I haven’t seen that! All I see is the FAA trying to intimidate everyone. I think FAA is stuck in a conceptual past world where they see all aircraft the same. As long as the stay stuck in the past they are going to continue be ineffective at making sensible rules and laws for small commercial drones.

What do all you commercial pilots that I know are out there think? Am I all wet?