Are SmartPhones Good Enough For Real Estate Photography Yet?

July 28th, 2013

All the time I get requests to write a list of tips for real estate agents for taking better photos with their SmartPhones. A good photographer with good technique can make a beautiful photo regardless of the camera/gear but interior photography has a couple of unique challenges that SmartPhones still have trouble with:

  1. Wide-angle shots are problematic: Notice I didn’t say impossible. I know, there are clip on wide-angle lenses but these are all pretty bad quality (like the old screw-on wide-angle adapters for point and shoots) compared to an inexpensive wide-angle zoom you can get for a DSLR. Of course this problem goes away if you get a SLR lens mount for your SmartPhone but I don’t know what you do if you want to use a tripod.
  2. Triggering lights is a bit of a problem: Sure you can shoot brackets all right but I would argue that for acceptable quality with even with bracketed images you need at least one flash. I can’t get my iPhone’s built-in LED light to trigger any of my optical slave flashes. There’s a KickStarter project for someone.
Scott Hargis has a post on his blog that demonstrates an outside lighting situation where it’s difficult to tell the difference between a shot taken with his iPhone 4s and his 5DMkII. I couldn’t correctly pick which one was the iPhone! But once you get inside it’s a different ballgame, you need to be able to control the light to get quality results.
Given the rate of improvement in smart phone camera technology and the huge smartphone market and demand for smartphone add-ons, I expect that some day soon these limiting issues may go away. But I’m not ready to write a list of tips for real estate agents on how to use their SmartPhones for real estate photography… yet.


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9 Responses to “Are SmartPhones Good Enough For Real Estate Photography Yet?”

  • You want to see some BAD examples of smartphone interior images.., I reshot a listing for a friend of mine at work because the realtor had used his smartphone with the wide angle attachment to take the images…small house to be sure…but in my honest opinion, if that is all the realtor cares about representing you by taking and more importantly showing bad images of your house, then why would I as a potential buyer and/or seller want to consider working with that realtor. I agree that eventually, they may be able to rival dslr’s with wide angle lens, and there is the ability to trigger off-camera flash now, is the “good enough” mentality the prevalent mentality with realtors.

  • I know of an app that is being developed that will allow an iPhone to autobracket from 2, 3, 5 or 7 steps with a maximum EV range of about 10. Processing (HDR or Enfuse) will be done outside the phone.
    Not sure if this will catch on since there will be post processing involved.
    Does this have the potential to hurt the REP market?

  • Smartphones are just another imaging tool. It all depends on who is using the tool; a fine craftsman…or an amateur.

  • @Ron, I agree, but in this case is the tool being used the best tool for the job, I can work on a car with 1 adjustable wrench (a tool)…but experience has taught me it is not the best tool for the job if I value my sanity.

    @Bob, good question..I guess that depends on who is taking the images, I have seen enough converging verticals in realtor supplied images to make a logical assumption that most of them wont bother with the app if it involves post processing, for others…I guess we will have to wait and see..

  • The technologists are always trying to find ways to put people out of work by automating and “dumb proofing” electronic toys in order for the “good enough” people to imagine themselves a pro.

  • When agents tell me that they bought a DSLR and a wide angle lens for X thousand dollars so they can take photos themselves, I tell them that if I bought a set of golf clubs worth $20,000, will I be able to play like Tiger Woods? Well I don’t, but I’d like to.

  • That’s great Tim!. That’s the way to go to show the differences. An image is worth much more. No need to have loads of arguments and discussing abilities. Just show the before and after. Even the most uneducated agent can see the difference. I love it.

  • A good photographer can do a lot with a smartphone. The iPhone 4s and 5 (maybe others) have a Panorama option that is very useful for small interiors or even exteriors. It’s pretty effortless to just click and sweep across the scene, the camera does a great job assembling the panorama. They also have a built-in HDR feature which does a pretty good job blending two exposures, especially if used with a tripod. Gorillapod makes an adapter for attaching any smartphone onto a tripod.

  • Tim, that’s a great way to show the difference. I have a friend that just became a realtor in CA, she in inundated with gimmicky sales and marketing seminars. She said that if she participated in everything the broker is recommending it would cost her about $700 a month. One of the things they told her to cut costs is to use a smart phone for pics and video.

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