I get many
questions from Realtors about taking photographs. So instead of
filling up the frequently asked questions page with photography
questions, I created this page. My first recommendation is to hire
a professional photographer, even if it's only to take one shot
of the exterior. The only thing worse than no photograph is a bad
photograph......Having said that, here is a typical question I get:
afford to hire you or to have one of your tours done, and I hate
those cheap roundy round virtual tours that make me dizzy. Can you
just tell me how to take a decent picture of a house for the MLS
and a simple flyer.......
asked a plumber almost the same question. I just wanted to replace
my garbage disposal. He gave me some basic plumbing tips and wished
me luck........Well, ten hours and a pint of blood later I had it
replaced, and it worked......kind of.
.........The very important difference between my garbage disposal
and your pictures is that my garbage disposal installation doesn't
reflect on me professionally.
you still insist on taking your own photographs after giving the
above story some thought; here is a list of problems I found with
photos on the MLS and the local real estate photo magazines and
a few suggestions on how to deal with the problems.
OF PLANE: In my opinion this is a pronounced problem with the
MLS photos. Unless you are trying to achieve a dramatic effect,
hold the camera level. In photography this is called shooting
"in plane". Remember you have two planes or directions;
up, down and horizontal tilt. If you have to point the camera
up or down to get a shot make absolutely sure it is level horizontally.......Back
SHOTS: The most common problems associated with blurry (soft)
photos are camera shake and/or missed focus. The new point &
shoot cameras are fairly good at judging what you are wanting
to focus on, and at making correct exposure settings. The problem
is that point & shoot camera lenses just aren't that fast
(they do not allow a lot of light in). The camera adjusts the
shutter speed to let enough light in to expose the scene. The
problem then is you are trying to hold it completely still while
the camera exposes the scene. One eighth of a second is a long
time when you are trying to hold a camera steady.
solution to both of the above problems is to get a tripod. It
doesn't have to be a high dollar graphite tripod, you can get
a steady aluminum one from Wal-Mart. I prefer to use a ball
head instead of the heads that come on most tripods. Nova Flex
sells a nice little panning ball head for around $40.00 that
will support most point & shoot cameras. If you decide to
use a ball head, make sure the head on the tripod you buy is
removable. Buy a small bubble level to set on the camera and
you are ready to go.
reason I prefer a ball head is that I find it much easier to
level the camera. Just level the camera with the ball head vs.
trying to level the camera by adjusting the tripod legs. The
whole setup is less than $100.00 and will improve your shots
dramatically.........Just remember this is a minimal setup.
For comparison, my ball head, camera supports, and tripod cost
a little over $3,000.00..........Back To
BALANCE: Photos shot with the wrong white balance are the shots
that have an odd color tint to them. This is one area where most
cameras have a difficult time, especially with architectural photography.
Why?......Let's use a kitchen for example. Many times there is
fluorescent light coming from the ceiling, tungsten light from
the fixtures over the counters, and sunlight from the windows
and/or skylight. Kitchens are usually well lit, which is good,
but they are lit with several different types of light, which
type of light has a different color cast and is measured in
temperature (kelvin). Technically, color temperature refers
to the temperature to which one would have to heat a theoretical
"black body" source to produce light of the same visual
color.......I have found the study of light to be a fascinating
subject, but, for a more detailed explanation I would need to
break out the physics textbook, and my wife tells me most people
would prefer I not do that.
the kelvin temperature scale of light is why you see those goofy
numbers in the custom white balance settings on your camera.
Below is a list of "in general" settings for different
types of light. These will give you a place to start from; the
settings will vary from camera to camera, so it is best to test
your camera. Set your camera on your new tripod and turn on
all the lights in the kitchen. Then repeat the same shot using
different white balance settings. I think you will be surprised
at the difference you will see between the shots. With just
a little practice, you will be able to achieve some pleasing
K: Match Flame
1850-1930 K: Candle Flame
2000-3000 K: Sun at Sunrise or Sunset
2500-2900 K: Household Tungsten Bulbs
3000 K: Tungsten Lamp 500w-1000w
3200-3500 K: Quartz Lights
3200-7500 K: Fluorescent Lights (fluorescent lighting comes in
many different spectrums)
3275 K: Tungsten Lamp 2k
3380 K: Tungsten Lamp 5k-10k
5000-5400 K: Direct Sun at Noon
5500-6500 K: Daylight (Sun + Sky)
6000-7500 K: Sky (overcast)
7000-8000 K: Outdoor Shade Areas
8000-10000 K: Sky (Partly Cloudy)
usually use a calibrated white or gray card, or a great little
device called an ExpoDisc. We also shoot in the "RAW"
file format which gives the greatest latitude for adjustments
during post processing..........Back To List
RANGE: In my opinion this is the most difficult area within architectural
photography. The dynamic range (exposure range) of a camera is
the range of light intensity the sensor can capture without clipping
(losing information). You can graphically see this using the histogram
on your camera. All of you have tried to take a shot of a room
facing the windows. What happens? If you can see the beautiful
view out the window the inside is almost black; if you can see
the inside of the room the windows look like big white spots.
Even the human eye has a set dynamic range, this is why you can't
see anything when you walk into a movie theater on a sunny day,
or when you walk out of the theater you are blinded by the bright
outside light. It takes time for your eyes to adjust their "f-stops"
so to speak.
solution to this problem is simple, we need to "balance"
the light. In other words we need to adjust the light so the
whole scene is within the dynamic range (exposure range) of
the camera sensor. But, as with many solutions in life, simple
doesn't necessarily mean easy.
of you don't have a medium format camera and two assistants
with 1600 watt strobes in each hand following you around. So
how do mere mortals deal with the dynamic range problem?
first thing that comes to mind is don't point your camera
at the windows......I'm not being a smart b*** so don't get
the light from the windows to your advantage. Put your back
to the window and look around the room, you might be surprised
at the shots that are available to you from this angle. Open
the doors and shoot into the room with the light behind you.
Then turn on all the lights while doing this and take another
set of shots. If you pay attention to your white balance you
can get some very pleasing shots.
point & shoot camera flashes are useless when it comes
to photographing a room. But practice with it anyway and learn
how much coverage your flash gives you; it could come in handy
in certain situations.
all the drapes and window coverings if you can and take a
set of shots. What looks dim and dull to you, the camera will
expose very nicely. You will definitely need a tripod for
these shots. Try this with different room lights on and off.
Again, pay attention to the white balance.
so far we've done our best not to shoot those big beautiful
windows with the gorgeous view. It's time to face the music
(or window in our case). Remember, we need to balance the
light. We have two choices; we can brighten up the inside
light or we can darken the outside light........You can go
to Home Depot and get some of those contractor lights, the
ones with two to four halogen lights mounted on a stand. You
will be surprised at how well these work. Just remember to
point them at the ceiling or a light-colored wall that will
not be in the shot. Bounced soft light is much better than
harsh direct light. Be careful to watch for reflections in
those big windows. With a little practice you will get some
very nice shots.........The other option is to darken the
outside light, in other words wait for the sun to go down.
It will take a little practice but soon you will be able to
judge when the light outside is balanced with the inside.
This is usually a very doable option during the winter because
the sun sets so early. Your clients may not want you hanging
around until 9:00 or 10:00 o'clock in the evening during the
summer..........Back To List
The lenses on point & shoot cameras are simply not wide enough
for most architectural photography, so literally speaking, your
back should be up against the wall. Try to get as wide a shot
as possible......Shoot from the corner of the room when possible.
If the camera is level you will get some good shots, especially
in the larger homes. Shooting at an angle vs. straight on will
also work on the exterior of the house. You will be able to get
more of the house in frame and you will find that shooting at
angles will give a more pleasing effect to the shot. It is critical
that the camera is level when shooting at an angle.........Back
IS NOT BETTER: I want to drive this point home......It is better
to have a few good shots vs. several bad shots. Looking through
the MLS I thought I was browsing through a home furnishing site.
There is really no need to shoot "the bed". If you can't
get the shot then you just can't get the shot. Don't ruin your
good shots with silly ones. Any marketing professional will tell
you that one good shot is much better than a hundred mediocre
or bad shots. So learn a little about your camera and concentrate
on getting a few good shots...........Back
QUALITY SETTING: Another problem that stands out to me is that
many of the photos on the MLS are very low quality. I think much
of this problem stems from the misconception that because the
photos will only be used for the web, real estate agents think
their camera should be set on the medium or low quality setting.
I've had several agents brag to me about how many photos they
can get on their memory card. It really doesn't matter that you
can get fifteen hundred low res photos on your card, what we need
is three or four good shots. Your
camera should be set on the highest quality setting it has. Photo
processing software has become very adept at downsizing photos,
but, the higher quality the photo is to start with (more information
for the program) the better the software can downsize it. Shooting
with your camera set for the highest quality will also allow you
to crop the photo and still have enough resolution left in the
crop for it to look good............Back To
PROCESSING: Digital photographs are not that much different than
film photographs. We are just using a different medium to capture
the image. In the old days we used different types of film and
chemicals. Today we use flash memory and computers. Digital images
need to be processed just like film needed to be processed.
rule still applies; the better photo you start with the better
photo you will end up with. Don't rely on the post processing
software to salvage a bad shot.
the photos on the MLS aren't that bad, but it's obvious they have
either had no processing or the wrong processing. I don't mean
you have to become a nerd; hitting the auto correct button would
improve the photos substantially.
are numerous versions of photo processing software available.
I recommend Photoshop Elements to beginners. It is reasonably
priced (about $100.00) and easy to use. If you decide to get more
involved, Photoshop Elements will use most of the add-on programs
and actions that Photoshop does. Later if you really get fired
up and upgrade to Photoshop it won't be a totally new program
to learn..........Back To List
To write this page I thought I should "walk a mile in your
shoes" as an old saying goes; so I borrowed several point &
shoot cameras and photographed a house I have access to.
I was impressed
with some of these cameras. A couple of them had IS (image stabilization)
which did help with the low light shots. I still recommend using
a tripod even with the IS cameras. A couple of the cameras had a
"wide angle" add-on lens. I found these to be mostly useless.
The photographs were terribly distorted, even after using "defish"
software on these photographs the quality just wasn't there. Using
the suggestions in the above tips I was able to get some nice shots.
As I mentioned above, the two most pronounced problems with these
cameras are the slow lenses and the the fact the lenses just aren't
wide enough. The tripod took care of the slow glass, and if you
use your imagination to get as wide a shot as possible you will
end up with some usable shots.
I used the
MLS photos to critique because these photos are seen worldwide;
Realtor.com, the public side of MLS, etc. The photos on the MLS
are a direct reflection on you and the way you do business, so get
out there and practice with your camera.
many areas of photography I haven't covered on this page. But if
you will try the above tips and practice with your camera, you will
get some pleasing shots.
visiting my website,
& Good Shooting................Back