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Real Estate Marketing Is More Than The Hardware To Capture Images

Published: 04/01/2012
By: larry

Jim  DHaem, a very long time reader of the PFRE blog. posted a comment on yesterday's post about Pixeet. Software and hardware that let's you create an amazing 360 with an iPhone and a couple of hundred dollars of accessories. Who would have thought you could ever do this with a cell phone?

I think that it is important to point out what's going on in the world of cell phone photography. I am not suggesting that agents should be photographing their listing with iPhones, but I think that real estate photographers need to understand the technology that's available to agents and is being marketed to agents at real estate conventions. Nowadays an agent that is mildly tech savvy can use the iPhone 4 or 4s to shoot and stitch 360s with a couple of hundred dollars of accessories, fisheye lens, and monopod. Not to mention capture full 1080p HD video with their cell phone. Up through 2010 this was unheard of!

You always need to keep in mind that the technical part of capturing images will always be getting easier and easier. Stills, 360s and video can all be captured on an iPhone of similar device that agents carry around in their purse or pocket. But in great marketing capturing the image is only part of the problem. For stills composition, lighting and presentation of the image are huge parts of the process. Similarly for 360s. With video, this is much easier to see. The story, the narration or sound track is a huge part of the marketing success. Anyone can capture bits. Marketing is a much bigger and more difficult product.

So in these days when the ease of capturing the bits is getting easier and easier you need to be selling a product that is much bigger that just capturing the bits. Your product needs to be effective marketing. Successfully selling the property. It's to easy to get lost in the technical part of this business. Remember, a real estate photographers job is to get showings which will sell the property if it's priced right.

15 comments on “Real Estate Marketing Is More Than The Hardware To Capture Images”

  1. The leaps and bounds that have been made in camera and camera phones has been pretty amazing. The iPhone 4s actually sports better specs than my first P&S that I used to photograph my listings when I got into real estate almost 8 years ago. Despite all these gains, I haven't really seen a huge shift toward better photography being used in marketing real estate in my area. Higher resolution and wider focal lengths, ya we got that, but overall there is still a huge void in the 'aesthetics' department. I guess we will just have to wait for the iPhone 5 for that...?

  2. Camera makers having been saying for years that their newest model camera will enable the rankest amateur to shoot like a pro. Pure hype. Back in the 1980's, Nikon's matrix metering system was supposed to solve the problem of having to think about how to take light meter readings for scenes with very high contrast or very uneven illumination. It helped some, but it was no panacea.

    Ansel Adams said that photography is knowing where to stand. There is a bit more to it than that, but, fundamentally, all the rest doesn't matter unless you get that part right. The vast majority of real estate agents and novice photographers in general do not have the talent of finding the best perspective (especially when it comes to photographing buildings); so, when it comes to creating high quality marketing images, it really doesn't matter how much the technology progresses in this regard. Furthermore, simply because the technology may permit cameras to record more detail does not mean that all that detail will look attractive. Much real estate photography has to be done within quite severe time and budget constraints, which often means properties cannot be shot when the ambient lighting is attractive for all, or even most, parts of a house; thus the need for supplementary lighting or extensive post processing, or both to compensate for poor ambient lighting, again something most real estate agents and other novice photographers are not capable of doing without substantial practice and training, assuming they have the basic talent and motivation for this kind of work to begin with.

    Valdimir Horowitz said that, when it was only a matter of playing one note on the piano, there was no difference between him and anyone else. But, when it came to playing two notes, there was all the difference in the world. Talent will always make a difference. And it is not always about having a huge amount of technique. A lot of trumpet players could play a lot more notes than Louis Armstrong, but not so many could make one note sound as good as he could.

  3. +1
    I think if one does not have a good eye, or understanding of 3D space, or post processing, no matter how good the equipment the photos and tours will mostly look like crap. Of course, some folks get lucky with some shots, but there will not be consistency IMHO.

  4. In the end, all this great equip does, is just show all the flaws from the photographer a whole lot clearer!

  5. Let me first say that this is my first comment on PFRE. This is a great site and everyone here is very passionate about what they do. This is a business that deserves better recognition in my opinion.

    I have been shooting real estate photography and virtual "walk-through" tours for over a year now. Great real estate photography takes experience. Period. No different than shooting portraits or sports etc. You need good cameras, lenses, lighting, remotes and more. I see so much HDR photography for real estate and I can see why they do it. I do not like to present HDR photos to my clients or realtors. Images are dark and colors, tone, and contrast are plain messed up. Now I have used the "odd" HDR photo but it is definitely not my standard practice.

    As far as marketing, our main goal as photographers is to help sell the property. Realtors or FSBO's need "showings" and it's our profession work that helps to drive buyers to book showings. There was a time a few years ago when the market was HOT, where people were actually buying homes over the phone. I live in Canada and that was a smokin' hot time for real estate sales. It's my opinion that when a potential buyer is browsing homes online, having amazing photos and walk-through tours is the ultimate combination of visuals for these buyers. I get quite a few buyers that ask me for the videos after they purchased the home. I have had numerous buyers tell me that the reason they setup a showing was because they watched one of my walk-through tours online. Do whatever marketing you need to do but keep in mind that buyers need to see the house and showing them the home online is the way it is done today. Throw away the point-and-shoots and your iphones for professional marketing. That's not the direction we are heading. Professional photos and videos tours IMHO is the pre-sale. The quality of gear today is incredible and it is only getting better and that allows all the professional real estate photographers to deliver a product that just can't be done on low-end equipment.

    The real estate photography business is a viable business and as a professional group of people, we all need to drive this home to sellers and realtors. Iran commented that he has not seen a huge shift towards better photography for marketing in his area and I have to agree 100 percent. Very few realtors take advantage of what we do here. That's ok, because we are seeing a very big shift towards online marketing and that is professional photos and videos. The best marketing we can do for a property is to give potential buyers amazing photos and videos and let them relax at their computer and shop online. This is how my 25 year daughter shops and this is how it will be done for this current generation. They don't call realtors first, they look online. It's our job as professional photographers to "WOW" the viewers and show an authentic photo or video and get the "emotional" juices flowing. If they like what the see, they will book a showing. We could talk about staging and home preparation but let's leave that for another topic. "hint, hint".

    Thanks guys, and keep up the great work on this site. I will be signing up asap.

  6. It is interesting to see the panoramic to still be around even though flash is now obsolete. The quality of the pictures from that thing are terrible, but it would be nice if you could use an slr to shoot something more like google street view but for your home. Where you could move around the home and not just spin in circles.

  7. While the technology may be moving forward each day... most real estate agents don't have a clue how to use the new technology available to them. I've given paid lessons on how to use a DSLR to a couple agents. They went out and spent $1,000+ on a camera, and now their photos look worse than they did with a point and shoot. Just because you have the right equipment, doesn't mean your photos/videos will be good.

    I agree with Russ. Online marketing is where its at for agents. Virtual tours, video, and photos that stand out compared to the rest of the property photos online is what agents need.

  8. I did not think any of the "sample results" were usable. They all look like crud. The saddest part is some people would find that quality acceptable.

  9. OK, I just watched the video on Pixeet and viewed a few of the sample images. That is the reason we do professional photography. Lets stop with all the gimmick devices.

  10. Awful. Awful. Awful. I agree with Robert, our biggest battle is with those that pass of crappy images and poorly presented panos as acceptable. Having sold real estate for many years, and having sat in hundreds of sales meetings, I can tell you that you can sell just about any piece of junk to a Realtor if you can get them to believe they'll save a few bucks.

  11. HDR for real estate photography is like painting your old and discolored linoleum. It works for the most part but you can hardly wait for the day when you can do it right. I have used HDR but only a few times. Colors are muddy, poor tone, and pictures are almost always too dark. If we are going to have a viable professional business in real estate photography, we better learn to use proper lighting and post editing. Let realtors and FSBO's sell the property and we will take care of the photos and videos. If money was a none issue, I'm sure everyone would use proper lighting/strobes/Off Camera Flash to do their work. Don't let realtors dictate what we can charge for our hard work. Times are changing people.

    Have a look at what Scott Hargis does with real estate photography. Now that's what I call professional!

  12. Leo, are you looking at the right Scott Hargis?

    Also, he slightly overexposes some windows in his shots by choice, because the eye expects the outside to be brighter than the inside. Unless you're pulling in a fantastic view, there's no reason to keep the outside as vibrant and saturated as the inside. You should read his book, The Essential Guide to: Lighting Interiors - Techniques for lighting with small flash. Here is an excerpt from Page 22, I hope he won't mind me pasting it here:

    Exposing for the windows is where you exercise your creative control. You have to decide just how much detail you want visible outside. Is there a view of a beautiful mountain out there? If so, you're going to want a rich, saturated exposure that really makes them pop. Is the view just the siding on the neighbor's house? Then you're going to want to over-expose that window a couple of stops. In general, unless the view is truly the major feature of the room, you're going to want to leave the window somewhat over-exposed.

  13. Let me first apologize if I have offended the HDR photography community. I should have emphasized that I rarely see good HDR real estate photos. My bad.

    However Leo, you're just darn right nasty! A few comments about HDR photography and you're firing off offensive remarks left and right. Cheer up pal. You have a point that what I have witnessed has just not been good HDR. Yes I have witnessed good HDR and I have used all the programs that are required for HDR. I choose to use different methods. Maybe you can steer me to a website to check out "good" HDR. What's your website?

    As far as what you know about ME? You know nothing about me. Keep your assumptions to yourself.

    So Scott Hargis is an amateur? Oh...OK??????? Well I will look elsewhere for professional advise on real estate photography. Thank you so much Leo.

  14. Leo and all: I want to restate my policy for moderating comments on this blog: I'd like everyone commenting here to fill in the URL field of their comment with your website. Since WordPress doesn't have a way I can enforce that policy, I let it slide unless you start making controversial, in-your-face type comments. When you start making edgy comments I insist on seeing a URL so we can all see the level of your work. and your not just a blow-hard. I gave Leo 24 hours to give me a URL to see a site... he didn't so I've deleted his comments.

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