Real Estate Photography Questions From Readers

April 2nd, 2014

QandAI answer a lot of PFRE reader questions via email. I thought it may be useful to answer these questions publicly so more people can join in answering the questions. Answers from several thousand people are better than answers from just one person! Here are some recent reader questions:

Tom’s Question: I am new to this and was wondering if a light meter is needed or handy for setting up flashes and exposure? 

Answer: The light meters built into modern DSLRs are adequate to deal with shooting real estate photography. It’s quite easy to setup flashes with a couple of trial and error shots and looking at the resulting LCD screen of your DSLR, also called “chimping.” This is not to say you couldn’t figure out a system of using an external light meter if you had one, but you don’t need one to do a good job of shooting interiors. For a good summary of how to do the whole process see this post by Scott Hargis.

Todd’s Question: I just read an article from Inman News regarding a new feature that Welcomemat has where you can pull still frames from videos. Do you see new ground being broken? Do you think photographers will embrace this and move to creating more video?

Answer: This is not new technology that is going to change anything because no competent interior photographer will be willing to simply pull a frame from a video and use it as a still. Here’s why:

  1. When shooting interiors, lighting is important. Professionals shooting stills use either flash lighting or shoot bracketed images and post process to get a bright well lit room.
  2. On the other hand when you are shooting property video you have to make lighting compromises like shooting at much higher ISOs than you would shoot a still and having to let the windows be brighter than you would allow when shooting a stills.
You’ve been able to pull still frames from a video with Lightroom and other post processing software for a many years yet few people do it except to get a snapshot. I don’t see this feature as a way of getting quality stills.

Jason’s Question:  I have been asked to add a virtual staging to one of the properties I am going to shoot. Any chance of an article on virtual staging.

Answer: I’ve only ever talked to one real estate photographer that did virtual staging , and he’s since given it up. My sense is that a few people provide this service because it’s not a ragingly popular product. My guess the reason is that good listing agents are concerned about both what the property looks like on the web and how it shows when potential buyers get to the property. Virtual staging only deals with part of the problem. As an ex-listing agent I’d never use it! If you have a client that wants the service, they could send your finished photos to the virtual stager for virtual staging.

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4 Responses to “Real Estate Photography Questions From Readers”

  • Yeah I don’t really see the benefit of the WellcomeMat feature. Love them and their company though. I just don’t see how those screenshots would be worthwhile. And even they have been grabbing screenshots from videos since day one for the thumbnail that’s shown to viewers before hitting play. It’s just the user didn’t have access to so many different screenshots from the video – just a select few.

    Yes, virtual staging leads to a disappointed buyer when they show up in person. It’s similar to staging the house, taking photos, and then the seller moves out and takes everything with them. However in that instance at the least the furniture looks real in the photos. 🙂 I think it’s also quite expensive to virtual stage though? I can’t imagine what goes into it to get furniture perspectives correct, lighting/shadows, etc.

  • I also have inquiries about virtual staging but as soon as I mention price, amazing how the interest disappears. Of course, I am not conservative on the pricing as I don’t want to do it, but if I do it, will be compensated well.. I really have a hard time with the secondary argument – even to the point that some use the ‘misrepresentation’ word. Put it in context. Is there the representation (or expectation) that the owner’s furniture pictured in most photos will come with the house? I see it more as the buyer’s agent not doing their job, unable to handle perceived negatives and bring them about as positives. It is much easier to agree with client and call it misrepresentation – but is it really professional. The better reply – a furnished home (real or virtual) shows what it would look like, however, when you arrive and it is empty, it shows all the defects that the furniture hides and would otherwise not be seen until the day of closing. Now if buyers agents actually knew how to sell, it wouldn’t be an issue. (I know, a bit harsh and using a wide brush – but sometimes they need to be slapped up side the head with the proverbial 2×4!)

  • For Tom’s question: I agree with Larry that your camera’s built in meter is more than adequate. Actually, over time you probably won’t even use it. I know I don’t 99% of the time. A time will come when you can walk into a room, evaluate the existing ambient and pretty much know what your camera settings will be. Take an ambient shot then look at the results (chimping) and then based on that image you can pretty much determine where and at what power levels you will need for your flashes. Will you get it right the first time? Probably not. There will always be something that you didn’t anticipate, i.e. a reflection you didn’t anticipate, flash spill, an unexpected shadow, not enough flash in one area and too much in another, etc. That’s why chimping is so important. But, over time you will find that it gets quicker. Initially you may take 300 exposures to get 10 keepers….later you will probably be down to 150 exposures for 10 images. Will you ever get down to 10 exposures for 10 images? I highly doubt it. That would be an unrealistic goal IMO.

  • For Jason’s question about virtual staging: has a new interactive “virtual remodeling tool” called vStager that uses 3D rendering technology. Obeo has a library of furniture images home buyers can use to virtually redecorate and they can even change the paint color on the walls. You can see more about the service here:

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