Photo Tours of The Finest In Luxury Real Estate

March 4th, 2008

Drew King sent me a link to a tour done by Hurwitz-James of some luxury estates.Since we’ve been evaluating tours I thought this would be instructive to look at what kind of marketing is going on at the obscenely expensive ($9 million to $25 million) end of the market these days.It’s not immediately obvious the first time you look at it but the initial sequence of images you see is a mood setting intro of various images taken from many different properties. You have to click on the “Properties” link to see tours of the actual properties. I love dreamy effect that is created by presenting this set of photos out of focus with dreamy background music. Very effective for setting a mood.Many of the actual properties are photographed and presented quite well as you would expect at this price range. However the tour that took my breath away was the tour of the $18,900,000 San Remo Estate. Here’s a marketing opportunity for one of you up and coming real estate photographers serving the Southern California (Beverly Hills and West Hollywood area). Call up Bob Hurwitz setup an appointment to talk photography and have a discussion with him about the impact of presenting an $18,900,000 property in this way. You don’t need an art director to find the problems with these shots? 99% of the members of the PFRE flickr group do better work than this.This is a great example of the fact that what kind of properties you shoot and how much you charge is more of a function of your confidence and ability to market yourself than it is of your photographic skill. Whenever you see work like this treat it is a marketing opportunity.

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17 Responses to “Photo Tours of The Finest In Luxury Real Estate”

  • Whoa…serious case of the fish-eye lens syndrome! A lot of window views also look totally Photoshopped, which would make me as a buyer wonder what the views out the window actually are of…burger joint? Freeway? Crack house? All of the above? 😉

  • Amazing (ly awful). A lot of the post processing in the images look like my worst attempts at hdr via photomatix and I would be mortified to give them to an agent. I’d love to know what the agent thought of the shots. Of course the house is gorgeous but you’re right Larry, photography not up to the standard of the house.

  • Sure is nice to work on all those fabulous props! Large, well decorated rooms are always easier to shoot but harder to illuminate w/o proper lighting.

    Shooting homes above $3M you better have it together one way or another but good effort, I applaud ANYONE able to even GET these jobs, BRAVO!

    Bracketing properly eliminates the need for any lighting, strobe, flash etc, you just gotta know the PS tweeks, shoot about 10 different shots and have the time to work it, and of course shoot RAW only. HDR can look incredible if you have the eye, problem is, if you don’t or are off it doesn’t look “right”

    Finally, most importantly (imho) and the most challenging issue is the placement of the camera – a couple of inches too high, too low, miss your X,Y and Z axis and it’s wrong.

    Was in SF this weekend, toured 3 $50M + mansions for sale, and all I found online were crappy photos less the $65M one! I suppose at that price point level you don’t really need to show too much to prospective buyers – if there even are any!

    Regardless everything is for sale in California right now, look in Montecito, SB, LA, SF, SD – boat loads of $5M, 10M and up props, thanks for the work you lousy US economy! Rejoice fellow photog’s, now is the time to hit up the high end as competition is bloody for well-heeled buyers with Euro’s…(hint hint)

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  • I did not know what to look for at first (im just learning) however what I thought I saw was curved floor boards and walls but I did not see it the first time…am I actually seeing that or am I imagining it?

    sorry for my ignorance…

  • That photography is just scary. The HDR makes it look like a ghost house so to talk about the fisheye and verticals become the finer points. I just did a 3.5 million dollar listing and the agent had the Circle Pix guy there at the same time for the virtual tour. Those pictures and tour look aweful and I just can’t understand why she does that…what a waste of money.

    The sad truth is (and I find this every day in my work) that many people are still not sophisticated enough to ask for good photography.

    Goes back to a recent thread about marketing to the consumer. I wouldn’t do that directly because it would offend my agent client base but I would certainly consider placing an ad targeted to agents in the Sunday real estate section where home buyers would be certain to see it. More subtle that way.

  • @Dave,
    The photography on the San Remo Estate has two problems:

    1-Many of the lines that should be straight are curved. This is caused by the photographer stitching multiple images together (most common reason to do this is the lack of a wide-angle lens) and the stitching software created a cylindrical projection instead of rectangular projection making long straight lines appear curved.

    2-Instead of artificial lighting a poor job of HDR (high dyanamic range) was used giving many photos a dirty, grungy look. It is possible to do HDR that looks much better than this.

  • I guess when you are marketing luxury homes it’s the dreamy look that counts – not realism! That’s true in a lot of marketing.

  • no navigation controls on the slideshow either -boooo!

  • @Jon,
    Yes this “Navigation for dummies” style of no navigation seems to be popular for upper-end tours especially in California. The theory is viewer doesn’t have to do anything but watch… However, it makes the tour a lot less effective I think.

  • Larry: C’mon you can say it… We Californians don’t like to have to work in order to view something. hahahah… that’s why it’s so easy!

    ; )

  • What a great job taking pictures of luxury homes and mansions. Do it well and loving the work icing on the cake. I would want your type of work if I were selling my luxury estate.

  • Ive shot many 3+ million dollar homes in Ventura County. Most expensive was a 9.5 million 450 acre ranch, as well as a 8.5 million beach front home in Channel Islands, CA. The circlepix contractor in my area is not that great. Nor do i like the circle pix player or product they sell to Realtors. The photos for that 18mill home are horrible. To artsy and soft for me. The photos look like a n0ob playing with the tonemap controls in PS.

  • have a look at this website.
    very well done and nice house.

  • Wow… those are some of the worst architectural photos ive seen… especially on such a beautiful and expensive lisiting.

    everyone seem to have noticed the terrible HDR use…
    and some mentioned the fisheye madness and the tilting lines…

    but no one seemed to catch the sensor spots ALL OVER the image… clean your sensor!

    all in all, a very poor job. i would be embarresed to hand over those images to one of my clients. more over, it must take a lot of balls to submit an invoice for such poor quality photos.

  • Hi,
    I was just icing my shoulder after spiking volleyballs at the beach in front of my house all day and was surfing the web. I got a kick out of the comments and really appreciate reading what professional photographers have to say.

    First of all, I agree with you about the San Remo photos. They are terrible and I had the property reshot a week ago for the third time. The second time was even worse! I do like the original photographer’s photo of the theater though. Trust me, it doesn’t look that good.

    If you are curious why I hired him you might try clicking on the link for the Encino property on my site I sold late last year for around $9 million. The house was the one featured throughout the movie Fracture. The original photos for the property were standard shots and didn’t really “pull.” The photographer you are all ragging (and I am not using anymore due to sellers’ complaints) did some photography on the house that I didn’t contract for but he knew the owners.

    It was so unique looking, almost like a fair tale, that I paid him to shoot the entire property. The resulting photographs were published in a totally new marketing campaign and were directly responsible for a. selling the property to people who by their own admission hate that style of house but thought the pictures were unbelievably cool and b. got me a listing on two other 8 figure properties owned by a neighbor who couldn’t believe I made the property look so incredible and achieved the highest priced sale ever in Encino by doing it.

    Anyway, sometimes different can be better in making the phone ring, however, this photographer (who I really like and respect) really started going so over the top on a couple other jobs with photoshop or whatever, that the photos began to make the homes look like renderings or cartoons and I could not get him to tone them down. I started having agents and clients telling me they actually did not even show or view the house because they were so bizarre and off putting. After I had to reshoot a few of them (not a cheap activity) I just had to swallow my own personal appreciation for the surreal look and go back to traditional work.

    If you want to see some great photography you should check out Razor, a property I am selling for $39 million in La Jolla. It is on the site and was shot by Architectural Digest.

    Bob Hurwitz

  • I’m currently working on some real estate photo tours that we will incorporate into our website. Unlike most of the photo tours I’ve seen, ours will resemble video clips with music, effects and transitions. The average length per tour is 40 sec w/approx 10 views. All photo tours are assembled so the photos transition well and hold the viewer’s attention throughout. The point being not to dwell on one photo but to get an overall feel for the property. I can’t stand elevator music so none of our photo tours will contain music that drones through but rather upbeat music that really gives the photo tours a great feeling. As a former producer of documentary films and short subject videos, I am able to apply my past experience in editing to our real estate photo tours. We plan to offer agents whose listings we shoot the option to showcase their listing in our website for one month for a nominal fee that will be added to the price of our HDR photography services.

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