The Importance of Using the Digital Darkroom…

Back in February I wrote my first and only article on Real Estate Photography for Rain City Guide with suggestions for improving the quality of real estate photography images. I guess I had high expectations. But sadly, there are still listings out there with what I’d have to call ‘awful’ pictures. I’m somewhat disappointed. I thought I could change the world, or at least the quality of marketing images of Real Estate. Today I picked up a very slick, glossy Real Estate publication of premier listings to ogle what I expected would be some awesome and inspiring interior photography and I really couldn’t believe what I saw. There were certainly good exterior photos, including aerial views of sweeping estates, but I saw several poor interior images on full page listings of multi-million dollar homes which must have been a significant advertising expense for the Realtor. Several of the interior images were much too dark to really show off what must have been beautiful interiors and many of them showed converging verticals created by the use of a wide angle lens, which may not have mattered much anyway as the images were so dark. I have to tell you, a digital camera in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what he/she is doing is a dangerous thing. I don’t know if the Realtors don’t think it’s important, they don’t recognize poor image quality or some other esoteric explanation.

However, I have a confession to make. Some of the images that come out of my camera are pretty darn bad. Fortunately no one sees them at this stage and I wouldn’t want you to. So how do I get people to pay me to photograph their listings? Well, the image capture with my camera is only the first half of the photographic imaging process. The other half is image editing or post processing that takes place on my computer with software such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. And it’s amazing what image editing tools can do to transform an image. Referred to as the digital darkroom, I learned fairly early at my entry into
digital photography to regard image editing as an extension of the camera. Although camera manufacturers strive to create cameras for the point and shoot crowd that will require little or no post processing, almost all images will benefit from some editing and the high end digital SLR camera’s are intended more for user involvement in the post processing. This involves making necessary corrections in lighting, color balance, saturation and perspective. Sometimes even a few more tricks are at our disposal for a photographic faux pas or a special touch like a sky replacement. Ideally, photographers consider a good original capture important and reliance on too much editing to be a bad strategy. In the case of interior photography for real estate professionals, I have a choice between bringing in and setting up lights (a time consuming process on location) or simply shooting with both flash and/ or available light and working out the results on the computer. For most homes, the Realtors or home owners are comfortable with about an hour of their time to be present while I’m shooting the interior. After about an hour for the average home, I’ve worn out my welcome, so I’ll only set up the lights in a situation where I consider it a necessity.

For the purposes of illustration, I’m going to be brave and show you how one of my images looked when it came out of my camera and follow it with what it looked like when I submitted it to my customer.


Pretty bad, huh? Would you pay me for something like this? I could try to convince you that the carpenter was really incompetent to explain those slanting cabinets and walls, but would you believe me?


The final image may not be quite ready for the cover of Architectural Digest but most people (agents and buyers) when they see the ‘after’ image are likely to respond ‘wow, what a beautiful kitchen!’ After all, it’s one of the primary selling points of this home and it should make that impression. Do I make my point?