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Using Stitched Images in Real Estate Photography

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Published: 16/11/2007

I'd like to comment and elaborate on a discussion thread that is going on in the Photography For Real Estate flickr group. I've noticed quite a number of folks using stitched images for real estate photos.First I need to admit that when I first discovered stitching I used an image of a large master bedroom on a flyer layout. My wife (my Realtor client) and the seller both went ballistic about the curved lines. I recall not agreeing with my clients on this criticism at the time because I was fascinated by the technology of stitching. I thought this was a wonderful way to show this large room but I changed my flyer to use rectilinear images.The example image above is six images (shot with a Canon 10-22 mm lens on a Canon 20D) stitched together with the photomerge feature of Photoshop CS3 (fantastic stitching software by the way). I think the image above is a wonderful image except for the fact that the lines of the windows are curved. These curved lines create a very similar distraction that barrel distortion causes. That is, you know very well that it is unlikely that this wall is curved yet the wall is curved is curved in the photo. It's a visual contradiction that grabs the viewers attention and distracts from the real purpose of the photo; not what you want in a marketing photo.The reason the lines are curved is that this image is a cylindrical projection of the 3D space of this room onto a 2D surface. Photomerge will try make a rectilinear projection if you use the "perspective" option. However, if you try to make a rectilinear projection of an image that has a field of view (FOV) wider than 120 degrees the perspective gets wildly distorted and the distortion is all on the left and right edges. For more interesting reading and examples on the subject of cylindrical vs rectilinear projections see this article. The conclusion of this article is:

"deformation is evenly distributed in a cylindrical panorama while it's concentrated near image sides when rectilinear mode is used. 360° is possible when using cylindrical projection. 90° to 120° is acceptable (depending on the subject) when using rectilinear projection."

Interestingly this straight line problem with using cylindrical panoramas for interiors almost never happens when you use them for landscapes. That's because your eye usually can't even spot straight lines being rendered as curves if there aren't long straight lines.The bottom line on using stitched images for interiors or exteriors with long straight lines is that if you use them, use rectilinear stitching and keep the horizontal field of view less than 120 degrees and probably closer to 100 degrees so the perspective distortion on the left and right side of the image is not too objectionable.

Nov 18 Update: I want to point out the excellent comment below that Jon May made today. It points out a article by Georges Lagarde and a photo in Jon's flickr photo stream where Jon has used the technique described by Lagarde. In short, what this means is there are in fact techniques to "fix" the perspective distortions I described above and the seventeenth century venetian masters understood and used these techniques. These non-classical perspective "tricks" that the venetian masters used can be used for photographic images.

This is what I love about this medium (collaborative Internet discussions). When you carry on a global discussion like we are here you end up with far than you would in any other form of interaction! Thanks Jon for this insight!

Larry Lohrman

10 comments on “Using Stitched Images in Real Estate Photography”

  1. Yeah I hate the curved lines for interior shots, you just know you aren't looking at "reality". For landscapes of course you just never know the difference so it's more acceptable. Plus I suspect the photo stitch thing for panoramas is fine as everyone gets that "it's outside and outside is big".

  2. Cylindrical panoramas seems amateur. If the scene is wider than 120°, change your point of view, walls aren't more than 120° apart in most cases.

    Here is two samples of the same scene with both projections, with approx. 90° Hfov:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/croco/188121570/

    I figure mentally perspective projections as the cartographer's dilemma:
    * cylindrical projection (like Mercator) can revolve aroud 360° but curves straight lines and alter surfaces,
    * fisheye lenses use some form of azimuthal projection,
    * rectilinear projection is conformal, preserves angles and lines, but distort surfaces away from the center.

    There is many variations of each, and some other, too.

  3. Jon,
    Thanks for the reference. So on the flickr example you sited, I assume that you just photomerged in rectilinear and then squeezed the output of photomerge in the proportions suggested on the tawbaware.com diagram to correct. Is that right? or did you just squeeze it based on what looked right?

  4. Hi Larry

    Yes, I stitched as you describe then squeezed by eye. I think I may have simply moved the right transform handle inwards until the wardrobe looked OK. With a diagonal structure in the shot, such as that beam or the edge of the bed, you get line breaks, or changes of direction, transforming 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 sections if the lasso intersects the structure(requires rotation to realign - if you're lucky - and loss of image area on cropping). So if straight diagonals are present, try to include the whole thing within the lasso rather than be a slave to the fractions.

    Illustrated here....https://www.flickr.com/photos/8454849@N05/?saved=1

  5. Hi Larry

    Yes, I stitched as you describe then squeezed by eye. I think I may have simply moved the right transform handle inwards until the wardrobe looked OK. With a diagonal structure in the shot, such as that beam or the edge of the bed, you get line breaks, or changes of direction, transforming 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 sections if the lasso intersects the structure(requires rotation to realign - if you're lucky - and loss of image area on cropping). So if straight diagonals are present, try to include the whole thing within the lasso rather than be a slave to the fractions.

    Illustrated here... https://www.flickr.com/photos/8454849@N05/?saved=1

  6. Len,
    They look good... best limited vertical field of view panoramas I've seen. What do you use to stitch?

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