How Can You Give Your Real Estate Photography Client Input Into The Shoot Process?

August 18th, 2015

CustomerInputChris in New Zealand asks:

Are there any photographers that give real estate agents (Realtors) the option to select photos for processing from all the photos that have been shot at a property?

It is a process where the photographer uploads all the unprocessed photos to a website and the realtor choose a number of photos before the photographer processes them.

What are the pro’s and con’s of the this system?

My take on Chris’s question is that even the picky client real estate photography clients are not going to want to review unprocessed photos. This seems like a tedious, inefficient process.

I think a much better way to get input from a client is to:

  1. Do a quick walk-through of the property before the shoot and discuss which angles you intend to shoot in each room. This will give them the opportunity to give input in guiding your shoot. So they can express what they think is important and what is not. If you take notes during this process you can agree up front how many photos you are going to deliver.
  2. And/or I can also imagine picky listing agents liking to look at the LCD screen on your camera or each image on a CamRanger display if you gave them the chance. But reviewing unprocessed photos seems like a last resort alternative. If the client wanted to review photos, I would have them review processed photos.

Does anyone use a review process like Chris is proposing?

Announcing The Image Editing For Real Estate Photography Video Series by John McBay

August 17th, 2015

ImageEditingAdI am pleased to announce the latest addition to the PFRE blog video collection, Image Editing for Real Estate Photography, the video series, by John McBay.

This video series consists of more than 75 videos, covering over 30 different editing challenges, totaling more than 40 hours of video. These videos are designed to help you overcome the most common, and many of the not so common, real estate image editing issues. Whether you are a complete beginner or more experienced, the demonstrated editing techniques will help to make your images look their absolute best.

The videos are grouped into albums, Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements for your convenience. The videos in each album demonstrate techniques that can be used with the associated software alone. However, you are not restricted to the videos in a given album, you have access to all of the videos in all of the albums.

Each chapter begins with a brief discussion of the problem, what might be causing it, and possible ways to avoid it or diminish it in the future. If there is more than one technique or tool that can fix the problem, they will all be described in detail, including what the differences are, which is best, or fastest, and why.

The actual editing starts off with a problem image and continues with an in-depth explanation of the steps to correct the problem(s). Nothing is taken for granted. The choice of tools and their associated settings and parameters is explained in detail, as well as the reasons for the choices being made. Once the problem has been solved, the videos go on to show you how to fine-tune the image to improve it even more.

And this isn’t the end. John already has additional videos in the works and they will be made available to all registered users as the videos are ready.

We are offering a special introductory discount price of $89 (US) thru September 30, 2015.

For much more information and access to preview and overview videos or to purchase, please visit Image Editing for Real Estate Photography, the video series.

August PFRE Contests

August 16th, 2015

AugustContestCheck out the contestants for the August photographer of the month are now in the  contest Flickr group. The August theme is “daylight exterior.”

The jurors (past winners of this contest) are in the process of considering and voting on this group of contestants. We plan on announcing the winners next Monday, August 24.

In the meantime, there is much to be learned from reviewing these 31 entries and discussing them. As usual, there are some great front shots. If you want to comment on the entries, join the contest Flickr group.

Also as of today we are accepting entries for the PFRE Videographer of the month. We’ll be accepting entries through 8/23 unless we don’t get 8 or more in which case we’ll combine August and September together.

What Are The Alternatives To The Creative Cloud Lightroom and Photoshop Subscription For Real Estate Photographers?

August 13th, 2015

LightroomCC-GPUEvery time we talk about the Adobe creative cloud subscription I get people that propose alternatives to using Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. This last time was no exception. Peter suggested the following:

Perhaps there is an alternative to Adobe Photoshop to take into consideration: AffinityPhoto.com by Serif (Europe). It’s a new program that competes with CS at $39.99. I downloaded the program from Apple’s iTunes Store and it works.

Peter is in that relatively small population that find the whole concept of subscription software offensive. Yes, I understand totally. I used to feel that way, but I’ve gotten past it. Mainly because there are almost no software applications that even come close to replacing Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for real estate photographers! Why?

Because the Key functionality for real estate photographers is lens correction features. You know, all that stuff in the Lens Corrections panel of Lightroom! For example, AffinityPhoto or OnOne photo suite has none of that stuff! They may someday, but they don’t now! To create quality work real estate photographers MUST be able to:

  1. Straighten verticals
  2. Straighten horizontals
  3. Remove barrel distortion
  4. Remove Chromatic Aberration
  5. Ideally, 3 and 4 will be done automatically based on a profile of the lens you used for the shot rather than manually.

What other applications other than Lightroom and Photoshop that can do all all five above and are available both on OS X and Windows? The research I’ve done leads me to only three applications:

  1. DxO Optics Pro ($129 or $199 depending on your camera and lens) 17,000 lens/camera profiles compared to 600 profiles for Lightroom and Photoshop. Many professional photographers claim that this application does RAW conversion even better than Lightroom. John McBay, the author of Image Editing For Real Estate Photography uses DxO Optics along with Photoshop CC and likes the results! I’ve talked to other top real estate photographers that use DxO Optics too, but they all use it along with Photoshop.
  2. Phase One Capture One Pro 8 ($299 or $15/mo) I can’t find which lenses are supported. I know this application is in use by at least a limited number of real estate photographers.
  3. CyberLink Photo Director 5 ($99) – Very limited number of lens profiles (60). This application appears to do 1 through 5 above but in a very limited way.

So there are probably only two strong alternatives (1 & 2 above) and they don’t eliminate the need for Photoshop completely.

Am I missing any?

Which Camera Should I Get For Real Estate Photography?

August 12th, 2015

EnfuseLR6I’ve had a several questions lately about which camera to purchase for real estate photography. For example, Nick said:

I’m in the market to upgrade my camera body and I was excited to find you had expanded on the section in Photography For Real Estate on equipment. The new pages definitely gave me much needed information unfortunately however I’m still left stranded for answers on which body to buy…

I’ve being weighing up the Canon 5D Mark III against the Sony A7R and although the 5D seems like a great camera with excellent reviews and used by many in the field, I can’t help thinking that its already 3 year old technology. The Sony is newer and has more advanced features like more dynamic range, 4k video and lighter in weight. Coupled with a glass adaptor and you still have the same amount of lenses to choose from as the Canon. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

In a post about a month ago, I pointed out that technically the Sony A7R beats the specs of Canon and Nikon upper-end DSLRs. Two readers made some significant comments on that post that I’d like to highlight because they are right on:

  • Barry said, “These tests are so arbitrary – lighting and composition are far more important than which body you use!”
  • Ken said, “Better is the enemy of good enough” ~ Arthur C. Clarke. For most RE work, a crop sensor DSLR camera is more than adequate. Even if you are doing more critical work that demands a body with better specs, bringing the APS-C body to an RE job instead lowers the wear and tear, and possible damage to the more expensive body.

I totally agree with Barry and Ken, your real estate photography is going to be much better if you focus on lighting and composition. All you need to do great real estate work is a cropped sensor DSLR with a quality wide-angle lens and a few manual flashes. I recommend any recently released Canon or Nikon, cropped sensor (APS-C) DSLR. Most if not all of your clients won’t be able to tell if you have a full frame camera or not.

Is There A Change To What Real Estate Photographers Should Be Charging?

August 11th, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week I got the following real estate photography pricing question:

When was the last time you did an updated story on what photographers should be charging. There are a lot of people in my area charging $100 or $125. To me this is way off! All the trades have gone up.

There’s drive time, shooting, wear and tear on your vehicle, editing, equipment, computers, software, insurance. $200 seems like it would be fair.

What are your thoughts on this?

I agree, when I see someone in the US charging around $100 USD, I’m inclined to think that maybe they haven’t updated their arithmetic recently to figure out their expenses and what they are paying themselves as an hourly wage etc. But every time we have this discussion credible people in some locations make the case that they can’t get their local agents to pay more. I believe there are some markets where the demand for real estate photography is lower. And some markets where real estate photogaphers have been low-balling for so long that they have established a low standard price.

There are there are a bunch of factors to consider in the process of establishing your shoot price. There just isn’t one number that works for everyone everywhere. I think it makes more sense to talk about a process you go through and all the factors to consider. I did that a post back in 2012 that listed those factors and I don’t think that process or the factors have changed. Your answers to these questions may change over time so I think you should go through this process periodically and check the arithmetic. Your expenses change, you get better at your craft and many things affect what you should be charging.

For various reasons, there will always be people in your market that will be charging too little. There’s not much you can do about it. Just make sure what you are charging makes sense for you.

Where Are All The High Quality Real Estate Photos?

August 10th, 2015

GoogleTrendsPhil in St Louis asks:

Where are all of the high quality real estate photos?

I am just starting to become interested in real estate photography and searching a major listing company for homes in my area (starting at 800K), I am finding a hard time believing the overwhelming number of horrible agent-iPhone-taken shots for almost every single listing. Is it just me, or am I correct in assuming quality real estate photography appears to make up less than one percent of all listings? Are agents everywhere this cheap and are simply refusing to cough up a couple/few hundred bucks for a home listed at well over a million dollars?

I’ve heard many times “photos can sell a home” but obviously this doesn’t appear to be the case and it seems to me like agents are selling homes just fine, every single day, without quality photos.

It is instructive to actually view and study how real estate photography is being used in various markets. With site’s like Zillow.com, Realtor.com, Realestate.com.au, Rightmove.co.uk and others. For example, anyone can go to Zillow.com and look at all the homes on the market in St Louis, $800,000 and above. I see that in this market niche most properties in St Louis in this price range have good photography, contrary to what Phil claims. Not all, but I’d guess that 95% of these homes are well presented with better than average photography. As you look at the St Louis listings from $300,000 and above the quality of presentation drops of some but is still quite good. On average, I’d say that St Louis is better than average in how well agents are using real estate photography. Another dimension to this can be seen by Googling “St Louis real estate photographer.” Plenty of real estate photography competition in St Louis!

Certainly in smaller real estate markets there is not a much emphasis on marketing property well but I don’t think that St Louis, MO is one of them.

To answer Phil’s question: Where Are All The high-quality Real Estate Photos? They are on upper-end listings ($300,000 and above) and they are used more in large metro areas. Google.com/trends like many subjects can specifically identify the regions and cities of the world where real estate photography is in highest demand. How, by just counting the number of google searches for “real estate photography.” I wish google had enough data to show more cities but at least they show the top 10 cities in the world. There is something about the the Ausies that make them very serious about real estate photography! Particularly Brisbane!

 

Have You Updated To Windows10 Yet?

August 9th, 2015

Window10Felix asked:

Now that Windows 10 is out, I wondered if you had gotten any feedback from your readers on any issues with the Adobe products?

Yes,  I can imagine that a lot of people are wondering about when to update to Windows 10. Here is Adobe’s official statement about Creative Cloud support in Windows 10.

First of all, with this kind of major update if you update to the new version right away, you are at a higher risk of problems than if you wait a few weeks or months for Microsoft to fix the early problems. The old adage is that pioneers end up taking a lot of arrows.

I’ve not upgraded my Windows 7 laptop to Windows 10 yet, I’m waiting for a few months. After all, the free upgrade period lasts through to July 29, 2016. But if you are anxious to get started with Windows 10 here are some resources:

  1. Here is a great discussion thread in the PFRE Flickr group where people are talking about their experiences moving to Windows 10. Some report problems but most people upgrading don’t have problems.
  2. Windows 10 Security settings – This Wired article explains that Windows 10 collects a lot more personal data than previous Windows systems and explains how to go through your security settings and understand what’s happening and how to change settings.
  3. Windows 10 FAQ
  4. CNET article.
  5. Techradar.com article
  6. ZDnet.com article

On balance Windows 10, is getting generally good reviews, but there are some people that are having problems.

How is your upgrade to Window 10 going?

Should We Be Shooting More In Portrait Mode Since Mobile Devices Are Used So Widely?

August 6th, 2015

orientverticalBilly posed the following question recently:

With there being so much mobile traffic now a days and their native resolutions being in a portrait/vertical orientation vs landscape – have you or any other photographers considered framing more shots in this manner? I’ve yet to run across a real estate specific website that will auto scale and display portrait oriented photos correctly without just adding space to square them up, but on more specialty websites or property specific ones I can see this being a benefit.

I’ve always found shooting portrait mode real estate shots generally ineffective because most interior spaces are wider than they are tall. So I avoid portrait mode completely unless I’m doing a shot that I know is for a magazine or portrait mode flyer.

Another big reason for me not to shoot real estate in portrait mode is that most real estate sites as you say don’t handle portrait mode well. I find a series of interior photos that switches back and forth from portrait to landscape to be extremely annoying.

You are right about mobile Apps, like the Zillow App, dealing with the switch back and forth from portrait to landscape smoothly and easily. Just rotate the device and either mode looks good.

I still would rather look at interiors in landscape mode unless there is some compelling reason to frame it vertically. It feels more natural. As a confirmation of this, look at all the winners of the still photo contest. A portrait mode photo has never won the monthly contest although many portrait mode photos have been entered.

I recommend only shooting portrait mode only if doing so makes a stronger image or you know you are going to use the image in a vertically. What do others think?

What’s The Most Efficient Way To Share A Set Of Shoot Files When Outsourcing Your Post-Processing?

August 5th, 2015

filesharingMike asks the question:

I was able to find someone who does a pretty good job at processing my extra work for me. We’re both on Macs and using Lightroom.  Is there a good way to send the files from LR to her, let her process them and send them back to be so I can go over her work, make any changes I need to make? Right now I’m sending them as .dng to her and she send them back to me as .jpg, it works but do you have any suggestions that can make more efficient?

You are probably doing it as efficient as it’s possible to outsource your post processing. However, I would make a couple of points:

  1. If I was inclined to outsource post-processing to someone else (which I’m not) I would want RAW files back so I was not limited to trying to adjust JPGs in Lightroom. But the downside of this means you are sending and receiving gigabytes. Probably a shoot folder along with a Lightroom catalogue. I don’t know, I’ve never even tried this. What do others do?
  2. The pressure to outsource is a result of shooting brackets where there is naturally a lot of time required to do post-processing. Further, If you do HDR processing post-processing takes even more time because you not only have to process the brackets, but you have to fix all the unwanted color effects that occur.
  3. It is possible, using 2 or 3 manual flashes, to shoot a 3000 SF home in an hour or under and spend 20 to 30 minutes doing post-processing for the whole shoot and delivering it. How to do this is what Scott Hargis’s book, Lighting Interiors is about. This is the most efficient way to work. It’s so efficient that it completely removes the pressure to outsource your post-processing. And the myth that if you shoot with flash it takes more time on site, is just that – a myth. When you are learning, using flash takes longer, but as you get practiced it takes no more time than shooting brackets.

So the pressure to outsource post-processing as your shoot volume increases is primarily a result of shooting brackets and HDR processing. If you can get the image right in the camera, you don’t have to spend a huge amount time in post-processing. That’s the most efficient way to work! Eliminate outsourcing completely.

Photography For Real Estate Flickr Group Hits 10,000 Members

August 4th, 2015

Excited group of business people-isolatedIt seems like just yesterday when the PFRE Flickr group was at 5,000 today it hit 10,000 members. The 10,000 th member is Eric Dugan, of Vallejo, California.

As a prize for being the 10,000 the PFRE Flickr group member, we are sending Eric Dugan a copy of all 5 of the PFRE e-books.

Here is a bio from Eric:

I moved to Solana County over 12 years ago and have been been passionately photographing the unique beauty of our area ever since.

Among my favorite things to shoot are interior and exterior architectural forms including residential, commercial and small businesses. My background is marketing and I spent most of my career in the residential furniture industry, so I grew up having a unique appreciation for beautiful interiors and design, think Henredon and Ralph Lauren Home Furnishings..

I love to work with local real estate agents, business and individuals. My client list includes: Getty Images, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo Conventions & Visitors Bureau, Mustico Reality, Krystle Property Management, California Maritime Academy, Palm Harbor Homes in Dallas, TX and individual agents representing Berkshire Hathaway, Realty World and Re/Max.

Eric just started with Tour Factory last week. Here is his Tour Factory site.

I’d like to thank all the members of the PFRE Flickr group that make it such a valuable resource for learning and raising the bar on real estate photography. I continually hear from successful real estate photographers all over the world that report that this Flickr group has been key to their success. Anyone that wants their work reviewed can post up to two photos a day in the photo pool and group members will tell you what you need to do to improve your work. And you can get a variety of insights from the group by posting questions in the discussion group. The power and effectiveness in mass collaboration never ceases to amaze me.

Thanks to Aaron Leitz, a prominent Architectural photographer in Seattle for suggesting the whole idea of a PFRE Flickr group back in early 2007.

Thanks also to the group moderators, John Herbst and Scott Hargis for their efforts in moderating and contributing to the group.

Trouble Ahead If You Are Not Subscribed To Adobe Creative Cloud

August 3rd, 2015

TroubleAheadLast week Adobe announced that:

In order to pursue further innovations in image processing and workflow technology, the next release of Adobe Camera Raw (v 9.1.1) will be the final version available for use with CS6. Customers can utilize the free Adobe DNG Converter utility to receive the very latest camera support for CS6 and older versions of our software going all the way back to Photoshop CS2 and Lightroom 1.0. Here is the official statement.

What this means, is that to get all the latest improvements to Photoshop and camera profile support beyond the ACR version 9.1.1 (the current version of Adobe Camera RAW) you will need to be a Creative Cloud subscriber. Based on the answers to the comments in the announcement this apparently doesn’t apply to Lightroom. Don’t ask me to explain that since ACR is used in both Lightroom and Photoshop. There’s a post over at slrlounge.com That gives some more interpretation of this.

The bottom line is that if you are a Photoshop and Lightroom user don’t expect the current situation, where you can purchase Photoshop and Lightroom outside of a Creative Cloud subscription, to last forever. The $9.95/ month photographer subscription has been fairly well received and it’s pretty clear that eventually Adobe will move to subscription-only for Lightroom and Photoshop. No big surprise really, it’s just that there are a lot of people that don’t want to hear this.

What Happens As You Raise Your Real Estate Photography Shoot Price?

August 2nd, 2015

TieredPricingPierre in LA asked the following question:

I was wondering what you and others think about the idea of tiered pricing. I’ve seen other photographers offer their own service at a premium and have cheaper prices for staff photographers. My idea is a little different in that I am thinking of offering a premium-priced service for luxury homes and a more affordable service for everyday homes (which are my bread and butter) Similar to Coldwell Banker vs Coldwell Banker Previews or Toyota vs Lexus…

I think in the LA market where I work, the demand for a distinct premium offering is really there, but I feel there is a danger of not participating in that segment if my prices are too affordable.

The question becomes, how to brand each offering in a way that would justify the premium pricing for Luxury homes while not cheapening the everyday home photography.

Sounds to me like you are uneasy about raising your price. Peggy in Tampa, FL and others have demonstrated that if you provide solid quality and great customer service, just raising your price will bring in more work and increase your bottom line. Sure you should have tiered pricing based on square footage other things offered with the shoot like tours etc but just raise your price as you improve your quality and customer service, don’t worry about losing low-end customers. You’ll be much better off if you shoot for the top 10% of listing agents rather than the lower 90%. Keep working in that direction and don’t worry that some listing agents that can’t afford your services and find someone cheaper! That’s exactly the result you want as you build a successful business.

Congratulations To Charlie Dresen – June/July Videographer Of The Month

July 31st, 2015

2015-07CharlieDresenCongratulations to Charlie Dresen of Steamboat Springs, Colorado who the video jury voted the June/July videographer of the month. Here is Charlie’s winning video.

Here are the ranking results of the voting:

  1. #4, Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO
  2. #6, Steven Dolinsky, Nyack, New York
  3. #5, Jared Saulnier, Portsmouth, NH
  4. #7, Allan Mackenzie, Moolooaba, Australia
  5. #2, Michael Sosnowski, Falmouth, Maine
  6. #3, Matt Parvin, Southport, North Carolina
  7. #1, Patrick Bertolino, Houston, Texas

As usual, the video judges have made lots of comments on each of the entrants in the Flickr video contest pool so there is a lot to be learned by going through the comments.

Here are Charlie’s comments:

I’m honored to have been selected.

As I was conceptualizing this video, I asked the owners to write down their top 10 favorite things about the property. It turned out that the majority of the top 10 did not have anything to do with the actual home. Many were of the experiences they have while living in such a setting. So those experiences were what I needed to capture in the video. The home matters, but you’ll see that a large part of this video is about the lifestyle of living there. I shot the interview first and that really dictated how I shot and edited the video. She told the story, I just put in the visuals.

The Gear:

  • DJI Phantom 3 Professional – shot in 4k
  • Sony A7S w/ Sony Zeiss 16-35 – shot with no Picture Profile @1080p 24p = slider / 60p =Movi
  • Canon 5d mklll / Canon 24-105 for second camera angle during interview
  • Konova K3 slider
  • Movi M5 stabilizer (car shots, kids playing, interior, fire pit)
  • Sennheiser ew100 G3 microphone and lav mic for interview
  • Manfrotto Tripod 540HD / 535K
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC (new to software from FCP7 – I love it)
  • Apple iMac Retina 5k 27” / 4ghz i7 / 16gb RAM / ADM Radeom M295x 4096mb graphic card
  • Music – Audiojungle.net

 

The Photography For Real Estate E-book Has Been Updated, Expanded and Reduced In Price

July 30th, 2015

PFRE40CoverI’m proud to announce that I’ve completed an update and expansion of my Photography For Real Estate ebook. This ebook is designed for people just getting started in real estate photography. It goes into all the technical basics of real estate photography. Everything you need to know to get started. This book along with The Business of Real Estate Photography is a compilation of everything we talk about here on the PFRE blog to help people get started in the business.

Here are the main new features of this book:

  1. It is now vertical format laid out to work well on tablets and even smartphones.
  2. An increase of 72 pages over the last edition.
  3. Significantly updated chapter on choosing gear.
  4. Updated chapters on post-processing with Lightroom.
  5. Updated chapter on Enfuse processing.
  6. A new chapter on the basics of property video.
  7. Reduced price from $35 to $19. The bundled price of this book and the Business of Real Estate Photography book is now $25. This price reduction in intended to make these to getting started e-books more accessible to those trying to get started on a low budget.

This updated book and the new pricing is currently available and as usual with PFRE e-books, everyone that has purchased this book (clear back to when we started publishing it in 2006) will get a free download link for this update. Your update download link will automatically be sent (this weekend) to the email you used to initially purchase the book.

Update 8/1/2015: As of about 3 PM Pacific US time I’ve sent out download links for the new version of the Photography For Real Estate e-book to everyone that has purchased the book either by itself or as a bundle with the Business of Real Estate Photography e-book. The download links are sent to the email address used to purchase the book originally.

Update 8/7/2015: As of today this book can be purchased as a spiral bound hard copy. To do so just use the Lulu.com purchase button on the bottom right of the purchase page. Remember, if you purchase the Lulu.com hard copy, there is no 30 day refund nor do you get future updates to the book.

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