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Real Estate Photography Question and Answers - #6

Published: 09/06/2014
By: larry

QandALionel's Question:
  I have an off-camera Nikon SB-600 which I fire with my Cactus 5 in the camera hot shoe. I want to add 3-4 more flashes. I was thinking of  Yongnuo-560 III's. Do I need to mount a Yongnuo trigger for the 560's on top of my Cactus 5 in the hot shoe or can I depend on the Yonguo-560's to flash by optical sensor alone when the SB-600 flashes?

Answer: There are two ways to go to trigger your flashes:

  1. Set all your new YN-560-IIIs to optically trigger from the light of your SB-600.
  2. Get a pair of RF-603 triggers, mount one on your camera hot shoe and one on you SB-600 and set your new YN-IIIs to trigger wirelessly and all the flashes will be triggered together.
Either way or a combination of both will work fine. With option 2 you may have more range in some situations.

Bill's Question:  Lots of LED light kits out there for video. I checked the PFRE site, Scott Hargis's book "Lighting for Real Estate Photography", and Googled "LED lighting for real estate" (and similar terms) but did not find a definitive source about using LED lighting for RE photo/video shoots. Always wondered if it might be possible to use an LED (variable color) light to help offset the ambient light source. LEDs are getting less expensive so I wondered if - instead of flash - it might be less expensive/easier to use some form of "moderated" LED lighting source [w/dimmer switch] on my property shoots.

Answer: LED panels may make sense for studio lighting but with real estate shooting the amount of gear you pack around is super important. When you need to shoot a home in 1.5 hours or less you must limit your gear. In my experience it seems impossible to improve on lighting a home with a few $75 manual flashes that are small, light and are powered by AA batteries. Real estate shooters that shoot brackets and process with Enfuse don't even have to carry the light stands and flashes. So from the amount of gear perspective, LED light panels seem like they wouldn't be a big help to real estate photography.

Ilya's  Question:  I recently discovered that one of the real estate agents used my photos in her website design. The photos are of the listings she hired me to shoot, some are amenities photos. Those were sold to her for the purpose of marketing the listings, but now she has outfitted her website them, using photos in the header, sliders and on website pages as part of decor/design. I feel like that's different type of use than what initially bought for. Should I ask to be compensated for extra use rights?

Answer: This situation is extremely common in real estate photography. Photographers mistakenly assume that agents understand photo licensing and know that the money they paid the photographer for the shoot was for the license to use those photos only for selling the home. In actual fact, 95% of agents think (unless told otherwise) that the money they paid the photographer makes the photos theirs to do anything they want forever.

To fix this problem you must have a photo licensing agreement included in your terms of service and either have them sign it each shoot or at least have them sign it once on your first shoot and have it apply to all their shoots you do for them.

So what do you do with this agent where you didn't make sure your client understood you photo licensing terms? Half of the problem is yours for not explaining your terms and photo licensing up front. Only you can decide if this customer is important enough to let her keep the photos for her site without charging her more.

If it were me, I'd make a photo licensing agreement and explain to each customer going forward, including her and explain to her you are letting this incident pass because it was half your fault for not making your terms clear.

8 comments on “Real Estate Photography Question and Answers - #6”

  1. @Ilya... As noted, it is relatively common but there is an additional question you need to ask as you tighten licensing to make sure it doesn't fall into the penny wise, pound foolish category. Just as with your website, you use your best work to present to the public to generate future clients, Realtors do the same. Most common usage is recent solds, but an overall inviting web design with supporting information is also part of the marketing effort for future business. Now the question to ask...Who do you think will be shooting those homes that the Realtor's marketing efforts generate? Is a one time additional licensing fee worth it, potentially alienating your client and costing you future business, or is the Realtor functioning as an extension of your marketing effort to generate future photography business? That is a tough one to call, but be aware of the total picture vs tunnel vision as you draft your licensing agreement.

  2. Ok, I'm probably stepping into a minefield here but hear me out! I let my clients use their photos for up to 500 impressions beyond listing promotion. In other words, they can make postcards and fliers to their hearts content to promote the listing and then they have an additional 500 impressions for anything else they might want to do. At first it was 100, but I wanted them to be able to do one round of post cards or fliers if that's what they opted for. Further, I specify that they can use the images anywhere on the web that they want. I do request a link back to my site when they do that. I don't hold them to a time limit.

    Here's the reason: There is a lot of very CHEAP competition in my area and I simply can't function at their fees. So I opt to give my clients a hassle-free experience and generous usage terms as a sweetener.

    I've been an agent and came to this field from working as an agent. Real estate agents CAN be cheap. VERY cheap. Sadly, some of the most productive are horribly cheap and their clients suffer for it - though they don't know that they do.

    Having said all that, there are GOOD agents and those are the ones we want to cultivate. They go that extra mile for their sellers and swallow the cost. In an area filled with agents who think I should shoot a 3000 sf home on 1 acre for about $100 in a town billed as one of the most 50 expensive places to live in the US, I want to cultivate those few GOOD agents. So I have no trouble offering them some perks.

    Finally, agents don't make nearly as much as people like to think and the cost of doing business is considerable. It does not help them that everyone thinks of their commission as a big money-grab. These days they are being fleeced by the likes of Zillow and Trulia to even be shown on their own listings. They work countless hours that they are uncompensated for. (No closing - no check).

    Just trying to get some perspective on this...

  3. @Ruthmarie - Your terms are not unreasonable. The main issue is to be clear with clients what your photo licensing terms are because most agents have never heard of photo licensing.

    A Realtor in the Seattle area told me about a year ago that when he brought up the issue of photo licensing at a office meeting, literally 100% of the agents swore up and down that they owned the photos from a real estate photo shoot.

  4. @Lionel You can fire all those flashes with more Cactus units as well, and Cactus are 2 for $60. Odds are, you won't be using TTL to shoots homes anyway, so all you need is a "dumb" trigger. I have found that some of the smarter triggers limit how you might use them with a smarter camera. For instance, if you mount a YN 622c on a 6D, you can't use bracketing at the same time (it assumes you don't want to use bracketing when it senses a speedlight). But, i DO... therefore, I have to use a Cactus/YN622c sandwich on my hotshoe to dumb the setup down.

  5. @ Bill LED's can be the perfect solution for home theaters, but rarely for rooms with windows unless you are only doing shoots at dusk and dark. I shot 40 properties last month. That means I am literally shooting at all times of day, not just during the hour where the interiors luminance matches the outside... and LED's won't even show up in daylight. I do sometimes make use of them to accent kitchen cabinet details, and lighten a dark corner behind a plant. They are probably never going to have the output that flash unit will have though, and bouncing them off the ceiling would cut what little power they have in half.

  6. @Steve... Re the Enfuse exposure blending software that is mentioned above, it is available as plugin for Lightroom on a donation basis . It is a great bit of software that enables you to create images which get over the old interiors problem of high contrast without the unnatural look of HDR blending. This is a shameless bit of self publicity but I hope I will be forgiven for mentioning that PFRE has a page of my video tutorials about processing images in Lightroom with a couple which give an overview of Enfuse, and Larry has put the link to the enfuse download page there.. Please click on the green Free Lightroom Tutorials banner on the upper right hand side of this page. Simon

  7. @Ruthmarie,

    OMG how true your comments are and you are right, it's the ones who truly understand the quality of your product that you want to cultivate. I had lunch today with a client who is a Broker and owns his firm. He told me that at an open house, some guy came in and waited until everyone left and introduced himself as a photographer and told the broker that he would shoot every house the broker could give him for $50.00! The savvy broker of course knew better. Those are the keepers.

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