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Shooting Up from Street Level

Published: 12/07/2020

“I’m fairly new to real estate photography and one of the things that I’m having trouble with is shooting exteriors when the street-level (and my camera) is well below the house. I've tried to correct things in Photoshop but it looks odd. Any suggestions?”

Jerry, from Caledon, ON, Canada

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Hi Jerry. Yes, you’re right. It can be a challenge because when you’re situated so far below the house, you have to tilt your camera upward to be able to capture the entire structure. This, of course, makes the house look like it’s “falling backward” as the sides of the house are not parallel to the sides of your image. It can be the best-looking house on the street but if the home is looking that skewed, there’s no way it can make the best possible impact on a potential homebuyer viewing the home in a listing. You’re also right, Jerry, that even if you “fix it” in Photoshop and straighten the edges of the house, it still doesn’t look or feel right.

The best way to address this is to try to get the camera physically higher. My go-to solution has always been using a collapsible ladder. The one I use collapses to 5', which means I can fit it in the trunk of my car. Fully extended, it reaches a height of 8' at the top but obviously, we don't want to stand on the very top of the ladder! I've always found that I felt secure standing on the third step, which is about five feet up. This, combined with my height, plus the fact that I would hold the camera well-above my head to get even more height, (gauging my composition on my tablet that I placed at the top of the ladder), got my camera to about 12’ above street-level. Anyway, here’s an example of a front-exterior shot using this approach:

This isn’t the only way to raise your camera-level, of course. Indeed, over the years, there’ve been many different suggestions offered by the PFRE community. These have included:

  • Standing as far back from the property as possible, zoom out and shoot level, then crop it in post.
  • Purchase a tall tripod. These are not cheap but should be a one time purchase.
  • Placing a stable step-ladder (or just standing) on the bed of a pickup truck, if you’ve got one.
  • Using a 20’- 30’ extension ladder and propping it up against something that could support it, like a telephone pole or a tree across the street
  • You can purchase a ready-made pole-extension for your camera (or craft one on your own, using a solid painter’s pole)
  • If you don’t have a drone, you can work out a deal with a local pilot and have them take some exterior shots with their drone.
  • If you don't want to spend any money on this, you can go to the neighbor across the street and get their permission to stand on their stoop/porch to take the shot (remember to have your business card ready to show them when they answer the door).

At the end of the day, the front exterior is one of the "hero shots" of the listing and, if your MLS is like mine, Jerry, a front exterior shot has to be the first shot in the listing. Anyway, I hope this helps and I also hope you’ll get good suggestions from the comments.

Tony Colangelo