Tell Lawmakers: “Stop discrimination. Defend net neutrality.”

September 9th, 2014

Real Estate Photography Question and Answer – Hyperlapse, Zillow Claims Photo Rights?

September 8th, 2014

communityBill’s Question:   Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but… I was interested in your thoughts on the new Hyperlapse App that Instagram released and they were raving about over on activerain?

Answer:  I just downloaded Hyperlapse and tried out Hyperlapse App… While it’s a great iPhone time-lapse App because it allows you to change the frame rate before saving, there is no rocket science involved here. It’s handy if all you use is a smartphone or iPad, but you can do exactly the same thing with any video in most video editing programs (increase the frame rate) to get that stabilization effect.

So this is something I’ll definitely use on my iPhone to take fun video clips, but it’s not something I recommend to anyone for shooting property video. Much better to use a DSLR + wideangle lens + competent video editor and you get much better results!

Ethan’s Question:  I got this message from a good friend who in my opinion is a credible Realtor:

Are any of your photos for homes/listings on Zillow? I learned today that Zillow claims rights to all data/pictures once they are fed to them. It is in their brokerage contracts. Just an FYI that in the real estate world the listing belongs to the brokerage not the agent.

I am not really sure how to answer or address the issue if it is one. What are your thoughts?

Answer: I frankly doubt that Zillow claims any rights to photos, other than use for the duration of the listing in a similar way that MLSs have rights to use the photos for the duration of a listing. Many MLSs in the US claim that the act of uploading photos to the MLS transfers the copyright to the MLS. This is simply not true. Joel Rothman of Schneider Rothman Intellectual Property Law Group, PLLC assures me that the photographer must sign a copyright transfer agreement to transfer copyright. If you have a link to someplace that gives more detail info on this Zillow claim, I’d be happy to check it out with Joel. I’ve discussed this subject at length with Joel and the assertion that many MLSs and sites like Zillow make about owning more rights than simple usage rights for the duration of the listing is flatly illegal.  Has anyone heard of this claim by Zillow?

Randy’s Question:  I have been asked to put together a course on “Photography for Realtors”  This would be for continuing education credit with the Tennessee Association of Realtors.  It would be a three hour course. Are you familiar with anything like this being done across the country?

Answer: I’m aware of several one day classes on the general subject of Photography for Realtors but nothing in the order of 3 credit hours (8 to 10 class room hours). I would be very surprised if you could get enough Realtors consistently in one location to pay the cost of that length of class. Does anyone have this kind of class in their area?

Real Estate Photography News – Scott Hargis Photofocus Photographer of The Week

September 7th, 2014

NewsPhotoFocus Article On Scott Hargis: Jaron Schneider over at has a great article on Scott. Here at PFRE we all know Scott as the author of the Lighting Interiors e-book which over the last four years has grown into a real estate photography classic on interior lighting. However, as Jaron describes, Scott has progressed way beyond real estate to being a very successful architectural and interior design photographer and doesn’t shoot much real estate much anymore.

I first met Scott in 2008 when I did a PFRE workshop in Seattle. Scott did an early version of his lighting classes as part of the workshop which eventually grew into his classic Lighting Interiors e-book. I have learned a huge amount about lighting from Scott in the almost 5 years I’ve been publishing his e-book. Jaron has done a great job I think of profiling Scott, his work and his intensely professional approach to interior photography.

Using Professional Photography for Listing Helps Sell Homes Faster: Another study, this time by VHT Studios, a large tour provider in the Chicago area and on the east coast shows that homes that use professional photographers sell 32% faster. Also, sites a 2013 joint report by Google and the NAR that real estate searches on Google when up 243% in the past four years. I think both of the RedFin studies (here and here) are still more compelling. Thanks to Dave in Perth for pointing out this article.

4 Insider Trick to Sell Your Home on a Tight Timeline: Michael in Lincoln, IL pointed out this article by Dave Ramsey on how to get your home sold quickly. These four items: Accentuating the Positive, Using Knockout Photos, pricing the property right and hiring a top listing agent are all right-on.

NASA is building an air traffic control system for drones: reports that, “NASA is developing an air traffic control system for drones. The New York Times reports the US space agency is working on creating a management system for vehicles that fly at around 400 to 500 feet off the ground — much lower than conventional aircraft — at its Moffett Field base around four miles from Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The system would check for other low-flying drone traffic, help the small unmanned vehicles avoid buildings, and scan for adverse weather conditions that might knock a drone out of the sky.” Makes good sense, with everything everyone wants to do with small drones, if there isn’t a pretty high tech traffic control system the world below 400 feet will be chaos very soon!


Now Accepting Entries For Photographer Of The Month And Videographer Of The Month

September 5th, 2014

AaronFloresPatioJust a reminder that we are now accepting entries for both Photographer of The Month with the theme “Patio, Deck or Garden Space” through 9/15 and entries for PFRE Videographer of the month through 9/23. The video contest for Aug and Sept is being combined because we only got a couple of video entries in Aug.

Photographer of the Month Contest:
If you are submitting a still photo of a “Patio, Deck or Garden Space” please be sure to real and follow the rules here.

Videographer of the Month Contest:
If you are submitting a video in the video contest read and follow the video contest rules here.

How To Connect With Agent Clients When You Are Starting Out In Real Estate Photography?

September 4th, 2014

ConnectingNot too long ago I got some real estate photography business starting out questions from Chris in New Jersey. I think the questions are classic and important enough to look at in detail. Here is Chris’s initial question:

I have been trying to get a real estate business up and running since October of 2013 and its just not happening. I may get jobs here and there but nothing remotely stable. I know other people have stable work and I’m wondering if maybe I don’t have high enough quality photos? Or if I am doing something else wrong. I have the Canon rebel t4i and mainly use the Tokina 11-16 for real estate jobs. I was thinking maybe the rebel isn’t good enough, so I was thinking of moving up to a better camera (70d, 6d, or a7).

When I looked at Chris’s work it was immediately clear to me that the quality of his work or what kind of equipment he had was NOT his issue. His work is very good. I asked Chris what he was doing for marketing and he said he was using Adwords and handing out business cards to agents. He quit Adwords after about 6 months because he didn’t get any business from it.

Here is my advice to Chris:

  1. Its not surprising Adwords didn’t work. Focus on personal contact with potential clients. Agents are people oriented they like talking to people; that’s why they are agents!
  2. Instead of just business cards make a postcard or jumbo postcard with your greatest image, phone # and website on one side and this info graphic (or similar) and link to WSJ and RedFin article on the other side. Hand it out like a business card and deliver it to mail slots of all the top agents in your area (cheaper and more personal than mailing if you get to talk to them).
  3. Understand all the data in the RedFin article. It’s the reason agents need professional photography. It should be your main pitch. Make an elevator pitch out of it.
  4. Also, use local brokers sites to find top agents that aren’t using professionals. Deliver your postcard to them and have a quick chat about the RedFin data if possible.
  5. Deliver your postcard to listing agents holding open houses and talk to them about the RedFin data.
  6. I noticed from Zillow in his zip code there was a high rate of agents using tours. Sign up for and include a tour with each of your shoots because your competition is. This is frequently the case.

I think Chris is struggling with the classic mistake of thinking that equipment is more important than marketing! Many people that are naturally good technically struggle with personal marketing.

Update 9/9: Several commenters correctly pointed out that the data in the RedFin articles that documents the fact that profession photography increases the net sales price of the property isn’t always a big direct payback for listing agents. Particularly at the low end of the market. The major benefit to the listing agent is that if professional photography gets more net $ for the seller then listing agents will get more listings. I should have been clearer about this. Doing a great job marketing property ultimately will increase the number of listings the agent gets. It’s never difficult to convince home sellers that professional photography will net them more money.

Annie Leibovitz Does Real Estate Photography?

September 3rd, 2014



The Corcoran Group wanted some nice portraits for its latest “Live who you are” ads. So, naturally, the high-end real estate company went with a high-end photographer.

Check out 12 new ads, shot by Annie Leibovitz, featuring well-known, talented, affluent individuals in their own homes. The ads were shot in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hamptons and Palm Beach, which are the markets Corcoran serves (and are auspicious places to photograph nice-looking homes—and nice-looking people, for that matter).

The subjects range from singer Jimmy Buffett to NBA player Tyson Chandler to ballerina Misty Copeland.

This is an interesting new angle. This seems like this approach is more about the personalities involved than the real estate. Thanks to Drew Callaghan for pointing out this link.

This Week in Real Estate Video – Memories, Moments and Milestones

September 2nd, 2014

ItsPerfectI haven’t done This Week In Real Estate Video for a while, but was inspired to do it this week by a couple of interesting little lifestyle videos by Duncan Schieb and his CREW at PlatinumHD Propvid New York.

A Boy and His Dad  This is a great example of how a short lifestyle video can highlight the emotional reason buyers might be attracted to a property. In this case, it’s a motor boat lake. The message is clear and can easily motivate someone that would like this property. Here’s a related article that tells more of the story of this property listed by Arlene Simone of Houlihan Lawrence. Houlihan Lawrence works exclusively with for property video.

It’s Perfect… Another stunning little emotional vignette that depicts a chapter in a young couples life that can be closely associated with a property. As Duncan says, “Life is comprised of memories, moments and milestones and someone’s home plays such a huge role in all three.”

Great work Duncan! These strong little vignettes will clearly attract attention and add to the marketing of these properties.

Real Estate Photography Demand By State – From Google Correlate

August 31st, 2014

REPdemandI’ve talked many times in the past about about how shows how it’s possible to see what countries and cities in the world originate the most google searches for real estate photography and thus have the most demand for real estate photgraphy. What’s always been difficult in the past is to get more detailed data about which states have the most demand for real estate photography. With you can get the data only down to the largest metro areas.

When I talk to real estate photographers just starting out I keep hearing that in some states it’s much harder to convince agents to use professional real estate photography in some places than others. So I’ve been looking for some way to get google trends like data for each state in the US. It turns out that you can now get that kind of data from google.

Just recently I was reading a NY Times article that talked about “google correlate”. I’d never heard of that, but it turns out that if you go to and give it a term of real estate photography you get a heat map of the US showing which states do the most google searches for the term “real estate photography”. In the map above the darkest green states (Hawai’i, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, etc) have the highest demand (most google searches) for real estate photography. And you can download a CSV file of the data, which I’ve done here.

So what does this mean to the real estate photography community? Here is my best guess:

  1. This is the best relative measure of the demand for real estate photography by state that I’ve seen and it covers all states.
  2. I believe this measure roughly correlates to the feedback that I get that in some states it’s harder to convince real estate agents to pay for professional real estate photography than other.
  3. It’s not absolute. It just says if you are in the real estate photography business in Bismarck, North Dakota expect to work harder at building your business than if you were in Seattle or Honolulu.
  4. Even though this is listed by state it’s really about cities. That is, I know from experience that the Washington data is about Seattle and the Oregon data is mostly about Portland. That is, I know that while the demand for real estate photography is high in King County (the area around Seattle) it’s not high in other rural areas of Washington like Spokane or Bellingham. So the biggest city in the state dominates the data.
  5. This data will likely change over time if demand (google searches for real estate photography) changes. I’m interested in tracking this measure over time and seeing how it changes.

Surprises in this data: Based on the number of real estate photographers from ID and MA, I find it surprising that the ID demand is number three between WA and AZ and that MA is #34 between MI and NJ. All the rest of the ranking in demand I find believeable. The ID and MA data may have a problem or this may reflect recent changes in demand.


Real Estate Photography Question and Answers

August 27th, 2014


I keep getting great questions and post these so everyone can get the benefit of the answers and others can help me come up with answers. Feel free to help me answer these!

Barry’s Question:  I’m new to the PFRE scene and the Flickr blogs.  Could you give me a translation of some of the acronyms (i.e. STU, etc.) that are being used to describe setups?  BTW, PFRE is a great site.  I’ve learned so much in a short time.

Answer: Great question… There is a PFRE flickr group discussion thread called “RE dictionary” that has all the definitions. I just made it sticky (makes it stay at the top of the list of discussion threads.

Carmine’s Question:  I love your books and the information in them. Now it seems I have become a Commercial Real Estate Agent and my Broker would like me to start shooting video walk throughs of Office, Industrial, Warehouses,Retail spaces, etc. Is there a book on how to shoot and light property video?

Answer: Another great question… I’ve had various projects do this in the past but just haven’t got it done yet. Malia Campbell has done some workshops on this subject but I don’t know of any good resources at this time for learning property video. Most videographers that shoot property video shoot cinematic video (using sliders, dollys and cranes ) and not walk through video (using stabilizers). Walk-through video is more difficult to master and I know only a handful of people do it well.  Fred Light, in Boston and Christian in Toronto do walk through video very well. 

Russ’s Question:  After going through your website finding some interesting articles and one of them was concerning dxo viewpoint but that article is now over two years ago. As two years have past have you had any change of mind as far as Viewpoint goes as now at version 2.1 against PTLens and the latter I can find very little up to date information on!

Answer: Two years ago, before the release of Lightroom 4, there were a bunch of options for correcting verticals and barrel distortion, but since Lightroom 4 and now 5, there is not much point in using specialized applications like PTLens and Viewpoint when Lightroom has such great functionality in this area. So, I just stopped talking about those specialized alternatives.

Real Estate Photography News

August 26th, 2014

Miscellaneous real estate photography newsMike Gardner in Malibu gets some great coverage at WSJ: Malibu Realtor and photographer Mike Gardner pointed out that the WSJ  printed his photo on the front page of their real estate section, interviewed everyone he suggested and gave him the photo credits. It can hurt to develop contacts in the real estate organizations of big news papers.

Ethan Tweedie celebrates a real estate photography milestone:  2013 PFRE photographer of the year, Ethan Tweedie of the Big Island did a great marketing announcement on his blog about the fact that he has photographed a total of 700 Million dollars in real estate in the last three years. Ethan is a great example of how to promote your business!

Real Estate Photography Is Turning a New Page: Dave, from Perth, sent me this article from the Daily Telegraph, that talks about some new things going on in Australian real estate. Great article. Thanks Dave. I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. Australia is the most progressive place on the planet for real estate photography. If you want to understand what’s going to happen next look at Brisbane. The hottest cities in the world of real estate photography are: Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Seattle, San Diego, Auckland and Toronto in that order. If you don’t believe me look at “real estate photography”. Can’t argue with Big Data!

FAA Hit With Three Separate Legal Challenges to New Drone Rules:  This article gives all the details about the three suits that were filed against the FAA by three different organizations: the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), The Council on Government Relations, and the coalition of business owners. The article says, “Each group has similar, but slightly different grievances: The Council on Government Relations alleges that the FAA’s order “poses a grave threat to science, research, education, and technological innovation” by restricting the use of drones in universities and schools, the AMA said the FAA order has imposed “direct and immediate hardship upon the [drone] hobby,” and the coalition of business owners said that the FAA’s order will effectively kill their businesses.”

How To Get The Best Photos When Selling Your Home: Tim in Virginia, pointed out this article on what some of the important things are when you are doing real estate photography and advises real estate agents how to choose a good real estate photographer.

Real Estate Photography Q&A – Shooting In The Rain, Leveling Camera, Floor Plans

August 25th, 2014

QandAJosie’s Question:  I live in Florida and am thinking about moving to the Pacific Northwest and I was wondering how you photograph exteriors when it is either raining or at least overcast most of the winter in the PNW? I’m concerned about damage to the camera in the wet weather. How do you handle this?

Answer: I’ve photographed in the NW (Seattle, WA and Salem, OR) for most of my adult life and never found the wet weather that much of a problem. Probably because I’ve lived in the NW so I don’t even notice it’s raining anymore. I find if is raining hard I can keep the camera under my coat until I’m ready to take a shot… although I would try avoid doing external property shots in the pouring rain just because the light is usually worse. The more usual situation is just continual overcast and drizzle which isn’t that bad to shoot in. Most DSLRs are pretty waterproof. If you are going to set up for a long more involved set of shots you could always get one of the many camera rain covers. Although, I have to admit I don’t even own a camera raincoat.

Update 8/27: Cheryl makes a good point in the comments about using an umbrella. Earlier this year I did a post on a solution that uses an umbrella.

Coach’s Question:  Do you know of any on-camera level that beeps when the camera is level? 

Answer:  No I’ve never hear of a level that beeps when the camera is level. That’s really much more than you need. There are bubble levels you can get that side in your hot shoe. Many tripods also have built-in bubble levels. You can also get a viewing screen for most DSLRs that have a vertical and horizontal grid lines.  What I do is use the right and left side of the viewfinder to judge how level the camera is and then, in Lightroom 5 it will automatically make adjustments to verticals and horizontals with one click… this is a huge time saver and worth the price of Lightroom if you shoot real estate.

Tom’s Question:  I was reading an old post you had (2012) about adding value by creating floor plans. I was wondering if there is any new information or new recommendations for software? I know programs change daily and I was looking at programs that are online, but I like having software I need downloaded so I can work with or without connectivity.

Answer:  I know of nothing new recently in the area of floor plans and I get very few questions about floor plans indicating they are not being used much. Most likely because they take so much work to create and some Realtors are concerned about getting sued for getting the dimensions wrong. I keep trying all the new iPhone/iPad Apps that claim to easily make floor plans but so far they are all very disappointing.  The standard approach for those serious about floor plans seems to be a laser measuring device and one of the standard layout programs. Here are all the posts I’ve done on the subject: . I used to make floorplans for my wife’s new construction listings and would take the blueprints to Kinkos and have them reduced to 8.5×11″ and then scan and use Photoshop to draw heavy wall lines… that works very well but only for new construction where you can get your hands on a blueprint.

Darwin’s Question:  I am a Los Angeles based architecture and real estate photographer. I shoot a lot of high profile homes and recently had another publicized celebrity to celebrity sale hit the news. I have a question regarding usage. The LA Times got my permission to run the photos, as did the Hollywood Reporter (who paid me to use them). Now I am seeing my photos posted on multiple news websites also as they pulled them from the MLS. I never gave permission for this usage to any of these additional outlets, who also did not credit me. Are they allowed to pull MLS images and use them like this without my consent?

Answer:  I recommend that photographers shooting for agents have them sign a license agreement that licenses the photos to the agent only for the purpose of selling the listing. If you have such a license agreement with the agent it should be a clear matter to enforce it. Even if you don’t have a signed license agreement with the agent you can probably stop the unapproved use probably by sending each site using the photos a DMCA takedown notice. I suggest that you contact Joel Rothman, with Schneider Rothman, Intellectual Property Law Group who has represented many of PFRE blog readers in matters that deal like this with MLS abuse. Joel is an expert in this area.

Don’s Question:  Have you seen this? I think it might be interesting to get everyones opinion on this technology. Shiny object or something real? Coming trend or flash in the pan? 

Answer:  Yes I’ve read about Matterport. Fairly expensive ($4500+$99/month) for what you get. Feels very gimmicky to me… Sort of a return to 360 images of the past. I doubt that it will be a big seller.

August Video Contest Combined With September

August 25th, 2014

VideoContesExtendedSince we only had two entries for PFRE August videographer of the month we’ve decided to merge the August and September contest together.

So the new deadline for the Aug-Sep contest is 9/24. The winner of the combined contest will be announced on Oct 1.

If you’d like to enter the contest please read the contest rules at: A Marketing Site For Agents and Real Estate Photographers

August 24th, 2014

vflyerI’ve used ever since it was launched in late 2006. Back in 2006 it was the first site that allowed you to make great looking ads that you can paste into ads. It still does that. I’ve used for advertising my rental properties for years and it works great. Over the years vFlyer has evolved to have a lot of real estate marketing features, including email marketing printed flyers, email flyers, property sites custom graphic design work, copywriting, Video voiceovers and now tours.

Last week I was talking to Aaron Sperling, the CEO and cofounder of about their new format that is  a high quality tour format. I was pointing out to Aaron that the clear trend these days is for agents to use professional photographers shoot their listings and many photographers supply a tour or listing marketing products bundled with their shoot. So vFlyer should be thinking about supporting independent real estate photographers instead of just real estate agents. I was also complaining to Aaron about their subscription only pricing. I think a fixed price per tour pricing is more attractive to real estate photographers.

Aaron says that vFlyer would very much like to start supporting professional real estate photographers and to that end he says:

I’ll have my team support a fixed price model in a manual fashion starting today when real estate photographers call our support team to set-up an account. We will work on adding that support to our online purchasing. has a great bunch of marketing features so if you are just getting started or you want to expand into suplying listing marketing products you might want to checkout as a marketing product provider.

Congratulations Kate Benjamin August PFRE Photographer Of The Month

August 22nd, 2014


Congratulations to Kate Benjamin, Detroit MI, who has won this months Photographer of the month contest with her photo at the right. The jurors really liked Kate’s image of this quaint old home. Click the image to see a larger version.

This month, there were 48 great images! Many of them were extremely well executed. The competition is intense! Getting a few points in this contest is a big distinction! Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t get any points… you are competing with the very best in the business!

Here is the jury’s voting results:

  1. 40 points, #18, Kate Benjamin – Detroit, MI.
  2. 8 points, #29, Josh Mais - Kansas City, MO
  3. 8 points, #38, Alasdair McIntosh – York, UK
  4. 7 points, #30, Sebastian Eras – Amberg, Germany
  5. 5 points, #31, Mel Myers – Spartanburg, SC
  6. 4 points, #12, Jennifer Arnett – Canton, MI
  7. 3 points, #21, Jonathan Perez - Sacramento, CA
  8. 3 points, #36, Sean Elliott - York, UK
  9. 2 points, #27, Tony Colangelo – Victoria, BC

Ling Ge made this comment on flickr which I think is a good summary of why Kate’s image is such a strong image:

I commented this on Flickr, and the reason I voted for it and why I think it won is because it took various elements in the image and used it to its advantage. Even though it was in a shaded environment, it didn’t try to recover too much shadow, and didn’t try to bring down highlights or oversaturate colors. Many entries made the mistake of looking too flat but trying to even out highlights and shades too far, thus making the images look really flat. Then some would try to compensate by boosting the vibrance and it would start to look to artificial. The winner not only selected a great composition, but definitely kept it very natural and kept all the great elements to create a dynamic image.

Update 8/25: Here are Kate’s comments about the image:

I apologize for the delay in providing this additional information about my image. I have been traveling throughout Italy but am now home! I am so honored to be chosen as August’s PFRE Photographer of the Month! There were numerous incredible images this month and the vote casting must have been quite a challenge!

This image was shot at ISO 100, a focal length of 27mm, shutter speed of 1/10, and an aperture of f/13. I was elevated about three feet on a small step ladder and only ambient lighting was used. I set the exposure compensation at +1.0 as I was concerned about shadow detail and not especially worried about overexposing the sky.

In Lightroom 4, I corrected lens distortions, set a custom white balance, and boosted shadows and whites as well as clarity and vibrance. I also selectively enhanced the blues in the sky using the LR adjustment brush. I then made minor adjustments to contrast and foliage using NIK software and sharpened in Photoshop. That’s it!

This image was actually one of 15 exterior images of this home that I delivered to my client. Some of these other images are in my photostream and/or website. The homeowners did not wish to have the interior of the home photographed so my client decided to shoot all facets of the exterior instead. The property and surrounding area were heavily treed so I needed to visit the home at several times of the day prior to the shoot to assess lighting. One of the challenges was the color of this home. Depending on lighting conditions, this home can look gray, green, or blue! As such, I had to selectively modify the color on some of the images so that it was consistent across the many images that were delivered to my client.

Thank you again to the jurors for selecting my image! Everything I have learned about architectural and interiors photography, I have learned from this group so I am especially honored!

Inexpensive 12 Foot Tripods As An Alternative To Painters Pole

August 20th, 2014

12TripodI’ve had several readers point out this video on large construction tripods for use in photography and videography.

Giant tripods are very popular with real estate photographers but you have to lay out around $2K USD for a Gitzo carbon tripod with the extendable center section that will raise a  heavy DSLR and lens to about 14 feet, so when there is an alternative that does nearly the same thing for around $200 USD it gets some attention.

It turns out that construction people use giant tripods too… for laser levels and other similar uses. This video and accompanying page over at point out that there is apparently a tripod that will get your camera up to 12′ for under $200 USD.

The problem is I can’t find any of these tripods currently available on Amazon or Ebay. Apparently a lot of people would like to have one of these things. Even though they are currently not available on Amazon or Ebay I’m sure if you watch for one that they will be available again.

Is anyone already using one of these construction tripods?