Adding Punch to Real Estate Photos

July 12th, 2009

Marketing is all about getting attention. The front shot of your real estate marketing photos are much like a fishing lure. Fishing lures are iridescent, bright and shiny so they stand out in a background where everything looks that same. Giving your marketing photos, especially your front shot, some punch is a good way to make it stand out.

Adding punch is quick and easy if you are a Lightroom user. Here are the steps:

  1. Increase Clarity – Lightroom has a slider called Clarity (Aperture calls it Definition). Clarity adds mid-tone contrast to an image and has the effect of looking like the mid-tones of your image are sharpened. Just drag the clarity slider to the right to add clarity. In my example to the right I added +100 on the clarity slider (maximum) to the bottom image to increase the punch.
  2. Increase Vibrance – Lightroom has another slider called Vibrance (Aperture calls it Vibrancy). Vibrance increases the saturation of only the dullest colors whereas the saturation slider increases the saturation of all colors the same amount. So vibrance is exactly what you want to remove the dullness of an image. I added +50 to the vibrance in the example above.
  3. Add contrast with the Tone Curve – Lightroom has a great feature in the bottom of the tone curve section of the develop module where you can select either a linear tone curve, a medium tone curve or a strong tone curve. In my example above I used medium tone curve. These three selections give you a quick way to add overall contrast with the Tone Curve with out having to take the time to actually tweak the curve.
  4. Create a Preset– If you are using Lightroom once you have punch added to a photo the way you want, you can create a preset that will apply those same settings to any other photo(s) automatically. When you are finished making adjustment to the image in the Develop module, while the adjusted photo is selected click on the + to the right of Preset in the left side-bar, choose a name, select the check boxes for the attributes you want your preset to change and click Create. Now, to add punch to one photo or a group of photos just select the photos you want to add punch and click on the preset.

Note that even if you don’t use Lightroom or Aperture you can you can still adjust vibrance in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements but to change clarity you need to use Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). You don’t need to have a RAW file to use ACR. ACR will open JPG files.

The amount of punch you give an image is a matter of taste (yours and your clients). My example above may on the extreme side (particularly when you view the full size image). The grass is starting to look radioactive! What looks good to one person may look extreme to someone else. You’ll see this same technique used on TV commercials and in print media. In some TV ads the color is so saturated you can feel the radiation coming off the screen!

While putting together the example above It was really apparent how much impact or punch an image looses as it is reduced in size. The bottom image above feels outrageous when viewed in Lightroom on a 25″ monitor yet when viewed above only 150 pixels wide it just gets your attention.

Remember, in marketing the goal is to get more clicks on your photos so punch is not so much about what looks good to you or is the color accurate, as it is about what attracts more attention and traffic. You can get a feel for how getting attention with thumbnails work by looking over a large group of thumbnails (like the PFRE flickr group) and notice how your attention is drawn to bright, high contrast, vibrant thumbnails. It’s apparently from our hunter-gatherer DNA.

Share this

23 Responses to “Adding Punch to Real Estate Photos”

  • Aerial View
    Your downunder view is not 100%.
    I’m sure you’ve heard the sayinn’ “A brick is a brick is a brick.”
    And what about times of the day, most agents I know won’t dedicate an 8hr shift to sitting in the car infront of a listign waiting for when the sun just happens to pop its head up through the clouds and shine on your property to “its best angle.”
    Compared to “food shots”, think a Maccas or KFC product shot, do the public expect their food to look exactly as the add, OR… they expect to have the feeling that it is the same house, and in the right price and so lets go inside. Perhaps they may not have gone inside basing their total buying decision on the photo, AND this could have easily been a wrong decision.
    Surely if you are in the profession you have clients who would not have “gone inside the property” based on the photo before. And once they did….funny it would seem they actually brought the property.
    You should cast your comments to folks like this – – because this is really taking the poetic licence a bit too far in my books (this link will prolly only work as long as the listing is active)
    And as goes your last comment of course you can’t polish a turd, and any member of the public knows that…if they don’t in 2009 then I have a higher opinion of the general public than I should…and I don’t think that is the case. But for the same reasons I have already said above…if the only reason they decided to view the property was because of the picture……well I doubt that. They would have decided on a price range, a home size, and a location / neighbourhood…..then started looking……

  • Aerial View,I think if you read it again you will see LARRY HAS MENTIONED HE HAS PUSHED IT.
    Some of the work I see has a great need for more vibrancy, especially if you see the conversion to CMYK for print.
    What do the images reproduce like in the Courier Newspapers.drab flat? if so get polishing.

  • […] Adding Punch to Real Estate Photos (Photography For Real Estate) […]

  • The hacks who produce the dull, lifeless, tired photos are always the ones who claim some sort of “moral superiority” in that their photos are somehow more accurate.
    People experience scenes with more than their eyes. It’s the photographer’s job to translate a scene into an image that carries not just the facts, but also the emotional punch that comes with “being there”.
    Further, the human eye makes white balance, brightness, and saturation corrections automatically when in a “live” environment. Looking at a photo short-cuts that process, which again leaves it to the skilled phototographer to render a scene that mimics the experience of being there. Knowing how far to go with this is a measure of the photographer’s talent.

  • I would say it is more like putting lipstick on a pig. Make it look better but don’t distort the truth much. Change the sky but don’t remove the power lines running behind the house. Here in the USA there are ethical consderations by taking out power lines and the agent can get called on the carpet for asking for that kind of thing from a photographer. I do punch up a scene but bit because so many homes are drab. Who want to showcase oatmeal (or porridge)? But in all cases there are limits to how much can be done.

  • I agree that we should enhance our photos in order to deliver the most flattering product possible to clients. As long as we are not altering the photograph in ways that misrepresent the property. We cannot only do our jobs on sunny days…especially in cities like Chicago and Seattle. If we did, we would only work one hundred days a year.

  • Nothing dishonest about representing a property the way it WOULD look on a sunny day (IMNSHO).

    Thus I’d adjust the levels for a brighter image, then use layer style blending to dissolve the gray sky to reveal a blue sky and fluffy clouds layer.

    Or, if pressed for time, I’d at least crop out most of the sky (including some of the house roof), then adjust the levels for a brighter image.

    Either way you get what you’d EXPECT to see on a sunny day, not mis-representing anything.

  • If one creates a deeper lusher color than the home exterior has, then perhaps there is a case for misleading buyers. So sun-faded siding should not be made to appear like brand new new siding.

    On the other hand, when we see a fast-food commercial on TV, print, or even a billboard, does the food look like the ads when we visit the restaurant? Have you ever asked for your money back when your fast food did not look like the ad?

    The purpose of our photos is to create interest in a listing so buyers, and sales associates who schedule visits for their clients look at the property in person. While misleading photos are counter productive, attractive photos are not.

  • If anyone is using the appearance of a photo as a reason for not buying a house, they didn’t want that house the first place. Certainly a photo of a house with a non-realistic color could give a listing agent grief with their seller, but there is a good and explainable reason for pushing things a bit, and that is the process of attraction in real estate search, where the buyers are finding the houses in the first place.

    The first version of the mega-pixel images we work so hard to create can be one that has been hammered down to a thumbnail. Look at for examples of this. 70 pixels wide! You certainly need to punch it up a bit to get an attractive image at this size that will stop eyeballs and cause clicks.

    Whether we like it or not, thumbnails are often where the process starts, and punch, along with good size and depth composition, is necessary to make them clickable.

    Are you looking at your moneyshots in thumbnail size to make sure they will work for your clients?

  • Larry:

    You are right-on with this post. Make that first photo on the web stand-out.


  • This would not work out for me as the thumbnails are automatically generated from the larger images on our site.

    I can certainly see the case for a slightly different treatment of thumbnails though, but they should still be fairly close to the larger image otherwise viewers will be a bit confused.

    Re: “You cannot polish a turd!” I sawa funny reply to this on Twitter the other day …
    “No, but you can roll it in glitter”

  • “You can roll it in glitter” Great come back!… why couldn’t I think of that?

  • Aerial View:

    You are going way overboard on this. The point is to get potential purchasers to “stop, click and contact the agent.”

    If your first photo is “overcooked” but gets them to do so. What is the problem? They will see the rest of the photos (they probably have already looked at them) and they will go see the property. If they love it they will buy it, if they don’t they won’t.

    The point is – RE photography is a tool to help the realtor get someone to contact them. After that it is up to the agent to close the deal.

    We’re not talking about putting a billion dollar home in place of a hundred thousand dollar home – just makeing the home look it’s very best.


  • Aerialview: When was the last time a buyer looked at a house from 20 feet above the ground? Unless the buyer has wings, a PAP shot wouldn’t be an accurate representation of what they see on site. One could argue the same argument of adding punch to an image as misrepresenting a property as shooting a PAP shot. On the other hand, a PAP shot is very useful to show some houses hidden by tall shrubbery, on top of a hill, or to show the relation to it’s surroundings. The same way a PAP shot can grab someone’s attention, adding a little vibrancy to that front image can make or break a buyers choice to view more information about that property.

    Vibrancy is a tool, just like PAP, and the key is to know when to add it and when you’ve gone too far.

  • Puffing is and always been allowed in advertising, but misrepresentation is not. As a photographer and real estate agent adding pop has always been done and is what is expected. Get the attention first and then show off what you have in order to reach your target market. End results of getting a product noticed without misrepresentation of that product is part of a marketing program. As stated on Flickr RE site many many times by real pros is to represent your customer/client’s property as best as can be to bring in potential buyers is what we do.

    As a pure artist pop should not be done, but as a real estate photographer your are now helping with marketing. An artist also does things to their images, as I do, to make them pleasant to myself and possibly others. Therefore as long as there is no taking out items like power lines etc. but a bit of extra pop is not unethical, against the law, and is also moral.

  • I use the LR preset ‘General Punch” which puts clarity to 50 and vibrance to 25..have always been reluctant to push those further as I have been happy with the change it makes just in the General Punch preset.
    I also have a User Preset that I apply that does a gentle S bend to the Tone Curve.
    I tend to do these when in Library Mode using the Quick Develop section.
    Just something that makes my PP much quicker

  • Take a look at Aerial view.
    Cant even drop a sky in.

    There are some tutorials on the web for this Aerial.

    Get polishing.

  • I dont see anything in the article about removing anything.
    Just enhancing an image.
    Certainly got a few people talking though, which is great!! Well done Larry.
    PS new app out for I Phone………..
    Great Real Estate product.

  • Aerial View wrote: “You couldn’t possibly have see the picture from the road, so making the in-store image more enticing becomes irrelevant. It had absolutely no influence in your decision to stop by in the first place.”

    Wow. I don’t know how to interpret that except as saying that the millions (billions?) of dollars collectively spent advertising fast food has absolutely no impact on buyers’ decisions to purchase a burger and fries.

    MacDonalds will be interested in this information.

  • I think this is all to do about nothing. Deliver the best photo you can to the “client” Realtor. It is our job as a professional photographer to make adjustment to the photos for advertising, it is expected and accepted.

    Otherwise, our client will go elsewhere. When the photos stand out a “little” to be punched as it were, they are presumed to be better. Get the job, take the photo, deliver the best product, we have the tools to do this, keep your client happy with what they expect.

    We take photos in Hawaii too, my PhotoShop action pre-set for this is called , you guessed it HAWAIIAN PUNCH. a little more tropical punch for all that lush green vegetation, we do not have in Southern Cal real estate, I will give the Lightroom action a try, compare. We have several other PS actions we use for most all photos interior set & exterior set, not much change but then help to VIBE UP the colors.


  • I’ve deleted Aerialview’s two comments at his request. I point this out only to make it clear that I and not trying to control the discussion.

  • Poor old Aerial View .

    What most people do is look at ideas try them and adapt them if they feel they are useful, and this site is a great site for new ideas and help.

  • […] and Read More: SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Adding Punch to Real Estate Photos – Larry Lohrman (Photography For […]

Trackback URI Comments RSS

Leave a Reply