Shooting Houses Sited Above Street Level

November 19th, 2006

I got an e-mail advertisement for the home above yesterday. This realtor’s image reminded me how difficult it is to get a good front shot of some homes that sit high above street level. For those readers that don’t see the problem with this shot and understand why this home looks so weird I should point out that shooting from street level when the home is much higher than the street forces you to tilt the camera up to include the whole structure. Not having the film plane parallel to the verticals of the house make the verticals “lean” and not be parallel with the edges of the image. The effect gives the viewer a uneasy feeling. You can straighten out these converging verticals but Photoshop won’t get rid of the fact that the camera is not elevated high enough.

Our last listing was a home like this. Over the years we have listed many homes on a particular street in Sammamish, WA where the homes are sited significantly above street level. So we’ve had lots of practice at coming up with a different solution to get the camera high enough so we don’t get an image with converging verticals like the one above.

This time we listed one of these homes I used a solution that I’ve come to depend on. I have a step ladder that is stable enough I can put it in the bed of my pickup truck and stand on the top step to get the camera 15 to 20 feet above street level.

This technique got me high enough so the camera was about the level of the mid-point of the front door. Another technique I’ve used for homes sited even higher is to use a 30′ extension ladder against a telephone or tree across the street. Before this last July when I got a new 2006 Tacoma truck I used to stand on the cab of my old truck but it had a permanent concave cab roof from doing this.

The bottom line here is that there are many ways of getting the camera high enough to prevent converging verticals. Some are less expensive than others:

  • Ask a neighbor across the street to let you shoot from their upstairs window.
  • Use an extension ladder to put against some object like a tree or telephone pole across the street.
  • Borrow someones truck and position the truck in the street so when you stand on the truck you get a good view. When my wife listed these homes for the builder she would get the construction guys to park their truck so she could get a good shot.
  • Put your camera on a tripod or mono-pod with the legs extended, set a 10 sec timer and hold the tripod over your head with both hands (thanks to Marc Lacoste). This is one of the most effective techniques I’ve run across!
  • Hire someone with a helium balloon or hydraulic mast or remote control helicopter to take the shot. This will cost several hundred dollars but in the scheme of things it is well worth the cost.

Why go to all this trouble? Because an attractive front shot of a property is critical to it’s effective marketing?

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