When showing houses, watch where you’re stepping

Real Estate photographers come across some interesting subjects and situations in the course of their work but this one is at the top of my list. An inter – species friendship that’s truly unique…


And when you’re showing houses, please watch where you’re stepping. The gal on the right would really appreciate that.

Photo Synth will change real estate

Remember how we were once blown away by the amount of information on the web? The number of facts, rumors, discussions, and, well, the shear number of words that were generated daily?

The textual web is fascinating, but it’s yesterday’s news. The innovation now is the visual web. It’s already begun with Google Street View – you can look out the window of a virtual car on nearly every street in a metropolitan area now. Next up? PhotoSynth. We saw previews of it two years ago, but (holy smokes!) it will be real in 24 hours.

Photosynth takes overlapping photos and constructs a pseudo 3D scene out of them. More images: better scene. An agent could take 400 photos in a house and instead of virtual tours (or annoying video tours), users could walk themselves through the house.

I can only imagine it will get more powerful. Add some more horsepower and they could create scenes from video. Add some more horsepower and they could let you travel through time in a square – through all of the previous users “synths.” You’ll be able to wander off of Google’s Street View and into someone’s yard and, if they’ve uploaded photos, into their home. Creepy, but cool.

I will be very excited to use it. Once they’re “cool enough” to support my operating system. What is this, 1999?


no, you aren't

Update on staging of house…

I put a post here the other day about staging a house and then saying I’d put in photos of the finished product to get responses from readers here (preferably readers and not regular contributors) about whether or not they could see the value and difference staging (and good preparation) makes in a sale. This listing got multiple offers and has a contract on it for more than asking price right now which was somewhat expected since we priced the home in the mid-range of what it could sell for based on our market analysis for the area.







Comments?  I have not posted every single photo but this gives a good layout of the house and most of the amenities it has to offer.

A bit of staging magic goes a long way

This past weekend I attended a three hour class on staging. I was motivated to take the class because, as a real estate photographer, it helps to understand something about staging a property as agents frequently defer to me over last minute details of the home staging when I am on site doing the shoot. It’s not part of my job description but many agents have come to expect it and I do enjoy surveying a room and making simple, and quick, recommendations. I am fascinated by the psychology of staging and the dramatic changes staging can have on our perception and impression of a property.

Prospective buyers largely lack the imagination to see what one can do with a space so the seller, listing agent and/or stager need to provide it for them and hopefully do it well. In some cases it may be adding, subtracting or both. Immediately after my class I had a shoot that the listing agent had requested a few new photos as they had redone the staging since the original shoot. I think this is a great example of how a few changes really add considerably to the appeal of this condo. I especially appreciate the accent wall which was easy and inexpensive but really makes this condo, or at least the photo, look so much more inviting.

And to just pass along a tip to realtors from the class I took, get rid of dead vegetation in the landscaping. Especially in the front of the house. I walked by a home for sale in my neighborhood and I saw some dead plantings and I could see how detracting it was from the impression, or curb appeal, of the property.

I’d also recommend checking out Barb Schwarz’s existing book on staging and/or pre-ordering her new one that will be available in May.

Learn as much as you can about staging, regardless of who does it.

Your seller, (and photographer) will love you for it.



The Value of High Quality Photos for Real Estate Listings

In previous writings for Rain City Guide on the subject of real estate photography, I’ve emphasized more of a ‘how to’ or ‘how to improve’ approach for Realtor’s who photograph their own listings. I want to shift my emphasis toward raising awareness regarding the value of high quality photography for listings and actually learning to recognize the difference between a bad photographic presentation of a listing and a really good one. Or to put it another way, acknowledging a poor photo presentation when it is and hopefully doing something about it. As a photographer who works almost exclusively with Realtors, I am continuously mystified by the disregard by so many Realtors locally and nationwide who seem to be clueless regarding the photos used to market their listing. To simply purchase a ‘point and shoot’ digital camera and walk around your seller’s home snapping away and expecting a satisfactory result is simply not going to cut it. In most cases there is more to it than that and unless you consider photography a hobby and worth time invested in the necessary skill development, you might be much better off hiring a professional photographer to shoot your listing. Many of the best Realtors do use professional photographers and they’re not fools.

This is a comment from my previous article by a St. Louis Realtor that deserves a more prominent view.

First time poster here: Glad to see some recognition of this problem! The most important thing an agent can do for their sellers today is to get lots of superior images up on the web. Here in St. Louis I am continually astounded at the plethora of dark, awful images, and “what were they thinking” photos of toilets, ceiling fans, etc, or NO PHOTOS at all! How do these [realtors] even get listings?

For most of my listings, I take a lot of my own photos, as I have a background in photography and image correction, so I have hi-res images for color flyers, but I ALSO have a great local photographer who comes in and shoots a batch of wonderful web-ready wideangle shots and virtual tours…

It’s worth the investment (typical agent–“you mean you actually PAY someone to shoot your listings? That costs MONEY!”) My business would be a lot less successful without quality photos.

And this is taken from a follow up email from Shannon. “It would help the profession if we all did better than this, although I’m happy many of my local competitors are still so bad at it!

This is really a great article by Norm Fisher, a Saskatoon realtor, with a virtual tour of some of the photos that were taken from the Saskatoon mls. “The Unbelievably Bad Real Estate Photography Hall of Fame”. Click on the links in the article to be taken to the virtual tour page. Norm’s humorous audio narration of the tour are really worth a visit.

A typical comment from a friend who have done an internet search for a home makes comments like, “I sure see a lot of dark, out of focus, awful photos’. Are they hiding something they don’t want me to see?”

I am getting calls from Realtors with listings from low end houses and small condos to spacious multi-million dollar homes. One might think that even a very basic home that is in decent condition deserves to be marketed well. If I’m the seller of a modest home, the sale of my home and the potential price is certainly important to me. I’d like to know that my Realtor is doing a professional job of marketing my home and taking care of the details. Lousy shots do not inspire confidence in the agent and the points a Realtor might earn by producing a good photographic presentation, or in many cases, simply hiring a professional photographer, are going to make it more likely that I’m going to be a happy customer. Happy customers equal referrals. And where are Realtors without referrals?

I’d like to conclude with one of my favorite photos of 2006, taken from a listing near Greenlake. This is one of the most ‘kid friendly, family friendly’ homes I’ve ever seen and it was a delight to see and photograph this whimsical, artsy abode. Doesn’t everyone wish they had swing and a chalkboard wall in their living room when they were kids?


Your photos are staid because you do not obey the peekaboo law

By and large, real estate photos are staid and boring. They don’t solve a problem and they don’t follow the “peekaboo law,” which states:

Evolution has seen to it that the very act of searching for the hidden object is enjoyable

i.e. they try to put it all out there. The first photo is usually the front of the house (that’s probably fine) and then we proceed to get a full view shot of each room. That’s not seductive! Usually the photographer (agent?) uses the same lens in each room and does nothing to focus the eye or the mind on what makes the property attractive or problem solving. Specifically: why show the kitchen, including the 6 burner stove from a distance? Why not take a very wide angle lens and show the rest of the kitchen from the perspective of the stove? Or show the view from from sitting at the counter?

One of my favorite real estate photos, which does none of the above, was found by BoingBoing a couple of years ago:accidental real estate pornography (safe for work).

(I’ve looked at a lot of real estate photos over the past couple of months preparing for the launch of ShackPrices.com. We’re coming down the final stretch – get your name on the list now if you want to hear about it when we launch!)

Night shots

[photopress:15.jpg,full,alignright] Night photos have become very popular here in the Seattle Area.  Used mostly for high end homes, rather than this price range of $599,900. 

I’m thinking a digital camera is likely not the best way to take these, though this one didn’t come out badly for an “extra” shot.  Looks fairly appropriate for Halloween. If anyone has any tips on how to best take a photo in the dark with all of the lights on, please post them here. 

And before Galen asks, yes.  I broke my own price tier rule on this one because I already market tested it at $600,000 to $650,000.

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?