The Evolution To Mobility is Complicating Real Estate Photography

April 1st, 2010

It’s taken me a long time to wrap my mind around the kind of mobile computing that you can do with an iPhone. With my iPhone, I can leave home for days and get by (except for backing up memory cards) without a laptop for doing e-mail and web access. Two years ago if you’d told me I’d be watching streaming video on a device this small I’d have called you a wacko! But now I regularly watch and Twit streaming video on my iPhone and wouldn’t give it up.

A couple of weeks ago I finally upgraded my two year old silver-back iPhone to a iPhone 3Gs, mainly because a friend recently came to my house and got better reception than my older iPhone. I love what GPS adds to applications. The Zillow, Redfin and iPhone apps are examples of what can be done with location aware mobile apps.

Soon after I got my 3Gs I opened the Zillow iPhone app and the home for sale next door popped up and showed that after a year on the market it had sold. I was the first in the neighborhood to know. Since my wife and I are looking for a property to buy for a rental I’ve gotten a chance to use these mobile apps with a buyer’s point of view. I love the Zillow app! It is map oriented and changes as you drive around. It shows recently sold properties and currently active properties.


What does this have to do with real estate photography? I think there is a clear trend of increasing acceptance and use of mobile devices like the iPhone and this trend will have an significant complicating effect on real estate photography. Here’s what I mean by a complicating effect:

  1. Buyers will now be using both a home computer and a Smartphone type device when they are house hunting. The Zillow type home buyer apps are a must have for a modern home buyer. However, when buyers are at home they are going to continue to use their laptop or desktop computer. You want to look good in both places.
  2. As of today (4/1/2010) there will be another genre of mobile device, the iPad, that those 25 million iPhone users will be wanting to use. It doesn’t matter whether you like the iPad or not, it’s clear that there will be a large segment of the population using the iPad to view your work. It’s already clear that the iPad is another device you are going want to look good on.
  3. The no Flash on iPhone and iPad issue is far from being settled but I believe the lack of Flash on these devices is going to become another reason to not use 360 tours. Sellers and agents will want their listings to be seen on these devices.
  4. There are more issues with photos and tours looking good on mobile devices than just Flash. Screen sizes are different and navigation maybe more difficult on small devices. Some of these you can control and some you can’t.
  5. The use of video will likely get a boost from the confusion about what to do about not having Flash on the iPhone and iPad. You know video will be well supported on all devices so moving to video is pretty safe.

In summary: Ignore what going on in the mobile computing world at your peril! It’s in your own best interest to be seen and look good on all devices your potential clients are viewing the web on. Make sure you checkout what your work looks like on these devices even if you don’t use them regularly.

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12 Responses to “The Evolution To Mobility is Complicating Real Estate Photography”

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rob Armstrong. Rob Armstrong said: The Evolution To Mobility is Complicating Real Estate Photography: It’s taken me a long time to wrap my mind aroun… […]

  • Iphones. I am so sick of hearing about how superior they are. In my area, everyone that has an iPhone can’t make or receive phone calls on the weekends because AT & T doesn’t have the capacity to handle the load. If your phone doesn’t work on the weekends, you have a problem. Blackberry works for me – I can use it every day of the week, no problems.


  • @Michael- Then you are probably not interested in hearing that the iPhone just won the the 2010 JD Power and Associates customer satisfaction award for the second consecutive year. See:

    The iPhone beat out all other SmartPhone manufacturers like HTC, Nokia, RIM (Blackberry), Palm, and Samsung. And it beat them by a large margin. Unfortunately this rating does not include a rating of the carrier. You really can’t evaluate a smartphone independent of it’s wireless carrier. I agree, AT&T is a disaster as a carrier. I can’t get any service at my house.

    The real point of this post is NOT about whether or not you like the iPhone and iPad or not, it’s about understanding what your customers (Agents) are using and what their buyers are using and making sure your product works and looks looks good on all those platforms and browsers.

    The old listing agent saying, “if you can’t see it you can’t sell it” still is relavant, it just has a new context.

  • The iPhone is a great piece of technology. Most people who don’t understand the point of internet, gps, apps etc. on a phone just haven’t experienced what it can do for them. After explaining and showing some of it’s functionalities most people convert. It will be a matter of time when every phone sold, will be a smart phone.

    Larry, thanks for showing this app to us. If I was a skilled programmer, this would be an extremely well idea to introduce in my country. I know what to expect now in the near future.

  • Excellent summary! This may be more important on the realtor side vs. the photographer side, but the trend is undeniable. 25% of my wife’s web site traffic is now coming from “mobile” devices. According to Zillow, the iPhone version of their real-estate-search application “has been downloaded more than 1 million times since it debuted last April.” It is now being offered free for Android. Like you, Larry, I am trying to figure out exactly what this means to those of us in the business, since I do most of the photography & internet listings. I know we look good on, but I’m thinking I better start paying more attention to Zillow too! Not to mention Redfin, Trulia, etc. I want to put some of our listings on your PFRE Tours. How do they translate via these applications?

  • No question the iPhone rocks ….. I used to just want a phone that made calls with not drops. Did not need a camera – got one. Nope – dun need a music player – got one and the list goes on. I rarely use my iPhone camera or as a Music player, but the ability to set up programs to record on my Tivo kicks the shit out of most phones. Find near by hotels … Yeah I use that as well. Hangman – yeppers. Stocks need that as well and New from 25 or more sources around the globe – yeah I like to stay well rounded – oh right calorie counter and Recipe Index – as well as syncing files that I need daily – File Magnet. Brilliant piece of gear that stays with me all the time able to handle most things that I throw at it.

    M. James

    Probably going to hold off till the 2nd ot 5rd generation iPad

  • There is also a free iPhone app from You can view photos of the home without having to go to the full website, like the Zillow app. So, for a listing that is a showcase listing you could see up to 25 photos (depending on how many the realtor loaded) or for a basic listing there should be the 4 photos that pulls from the local mls listings.

    I love my iPhone and all it’s apps. Luckily, I have no problems getting on line. Many of the realtors I know use Blackberry. I think those users should encourage Blackberry to develop some of these great real estate apps.

  • Hate to break it to everyone but Adobe CS5 is being released which enabled mobile flash creation and production. It’s now up to Apple to revise their SDK to allow use of Flash. Virtual tours quite possibly could pick up in popularity and demand, especially for mobile with the integration of various apps and services. Virtual tours can already be seen on iphone’s and ipad’s even without flash…

  • @Daniel- Recent presentations on iPhone/iPad OS 4.0 see:

    Confirm more than ever that Apple will not cave on the Flash issue… no Flash is a done deal.

  • @Larry,

    I have seen the keynote. It’s been a pissing contest between Apple and Adobe for quite some time but i feel that the user’s and developers will ultimately be the ones to influence what is to be granted and ultimately used in the future. Adobe and Apple have a long standing relationship that goes far beyond this whole debacle. I would wait and see before dismissing anything quite yet.

    Also, take into consideration that their are multiple other mobile OS’s and Apple is not the be all end all solution and does not control majority smart-phone market (RIM in fact does, by almost a 2x lead @ around 45%). Blackberry is coming out with a new browser in June that passes a 100/100 on the acid test and will fully support Flash and Microsoft Silverlight tech in it’s entirety, something no other company has achieved.

    Let’s not forget Android… their are going to be over 40 smart-phones released this year alone using the Android open-source operating platform, not to mention countless top box solutions for home use essentially turning home entertainment systems/televisions into integrated computing and entertainment center’s.

    Personally, i think Apple will have to make some concessions and considerations and give the user base what they want, otherwise they are going to fall far behind the open source evolution and movement of Android… it’s going to be a collective force not to be messed with, driven for the community, by the community.

  • And here’s something else to ponder. The 3GS will run TrueHDR, an app-store program that will do limited HDR direct from the iPhone. Check out It will also do decent video, with the 32GB version able to record 17 hours of it.
    What this means, in an era of realtors running by and getting a quick exterior shot even with the sun behind the house, is better quality exposures in a world where that is sorely needed. It will exacerbate the trend where digital has reduced stock and other photo prices by improving the results of amateurs.
    Will it be usable inside the property? I don’t yet know. But I am testing. Even though TrueHDR has a “stitching” function which doesn’t require exact duplicate photos I have used a GPS car-window holder as a modified tripod head, holding the suction cup with my right hand on top of a regular tripod and manipulating the iPhone with my left. I am sure this will not replace my regular 5-shot Photomatix processing, but the question is what can a normal realtor do?
    Historically, in industry after industry, advancements have upset plans and presented new opportunities. We just need to figure out how to use the latest news to our advantage…

  • There is another choice for 3GS iPhone HDR, and that is ProHDR, which combines files like TrueHDR, but gives you sliders to adjust the image before saving. Also, it saves the final image in the full 3GS dimensions of 2048X1536, much bigger than MLS and realty company websites require.
    You can view and save the source and final images for further processing. I just paste them into an email to myself and then process further. Many times it is hard in the field to adjust the sliders in light that is too bright. My research shows that currently there are no similar programs in the Blackberry and Android stores, although Blackberry does seem to have a lot of photo programs.

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