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We all know about 360 Virtual Tours like the Matterport and RealVision, but have you ever seen a 360 video of a Real Estate property? You know, like the ones you see on Facebook – usually from National Geographic or something that show penguins or the serengeti.
With a quick Google Search I found the video below which shows the RC drone moving a 360 camera around the home allowing the viewer to experience the home in a new way, but still doesn’t allow the user to go where they want. They’re forced to go along with the robot to different parts of the house, even if they weren’t done looking at the former.
The problem with the Real Estate VR experience is that it’s still kind of boring. Nothing moves in the homes, unless it’s a fan, candle, or outside trees really. What might make it more interesting is a time lapse to show how the lighting changes, but this would obviously take a full day to shoot, or more.
See for yourself:
Drone cinematography is tough, at least when you’re new to flying, and may take a while to get the hang of. The Part 107 FAA license testing is even tougher though! Knowing the maps, airspace, acronyms, etc. is a job all in itself. The only reason I managed to pass (and not pay for a course) is thanks to Tony Northrup! I spent 3 days or so reading, watching, taking practice tests, and reviewing the questions I got wrong before scheduling the test. When I did actually take the test, it was so close that I told the curator I probably failed. Luckily, I passed by 2 questions… clearly I need to study a bit more.
After sending off the paperwork and results to the FAA it took an additional 8 weeks to actually get my license in the mail. They do give you a temporary license via email so that you can fly commercially without having to wait such a long time.
Check out Tony’s FREE study videos and websites (in the description):
Interior work is unlike any other form of photography – the lighting is complex and requires delicate planning and balance. Even more so, to make images “sexy”, as famous architectural photographer Scott Hargis puts it, you typically put multiple strobes in separate areas of a room or even outside a window to create the illusion of natural light. Scott’s method is quite unique and took years of trial and error to perfect. One of the aspects I have yet to try in his published workflow is the bounce umbrella. I’ve only used shoot throughs or bounce diffusers but absolutely see the appeal is bouncing the hard light to make it softer and wider.
The current technique I’m working on is meant to speed up my onsite time but is slow during the post-processing. It’s Nathan Cool’s one light strobing technique and you go to each room or sections of open space in a single room to light them separately with your light-on-a-stick. It definitely creates a harder light and the shadows can be tedious to deal with but, like I said, the onsite time has decreased by about 30%-40%. I’m currently averaging about 85 minutes onsite for a 1700sqft house and 2-3 hours in post processing. With the multi-strobe technique I think my work was getting to be better quality but was taking 120-150 minutes of onsite time with 2-3 hours of processing.
Here I am lighting the far side of the room, next I would have lit the black hole on the left.
Recently I wrote a question to one of my favorite blogs, PhotographyforRealEstate.net, explaining that when shooting homes it’s common to come across burnt out light bulbs, different hue light bulbs, or crazy color casts that change the color of true whites. Most replies (http://photographyforrealestate.net/2017/05/25/do-you-shoot-with-interior-lights-on-or-off/) seem to indicate that photographers doing real estate (as opposed to magazine shoots, etc.) take it on a case-by-case basis deciding if there is a need for the extra lighting.
If there are large windows with plenty of ambient light, then having the light fixtures on may seem redundant. But what I’ve noticed is, as some others explain, that when shooting with lights off – the environment seems less inviting and sterile. That’s what we see in magazines like Architectural Digest – and isn’t this what we’re striving for as photographers? To be compared to the best in the business of photographing buildings and interiors?
My conclusion is that if there is an interesting lighting source and it isn’t going to cast a giant yellow spotlight onto the white cabinetry, turn em on and let it shine. However, if there are green lights or different contrasting hues in a fixture – it’s probably better to just leave it off. Still, this yields the question – is it odd to have some lights on in home photos and others off? Does it create an imbalance and draw the viewer’s attention? Something to consider for sure…
Here are some examples I’ve taken:
“Videos sell lifestyles, photographs sell the home” a colleague once wrote on a popular industry forum. I’m partial to agree but when you buy a home, aren’t you also buying a lifestyle? When you’re buying a 4 bedroom home, that probably means you’re after the family atmosphere and when scouting a studio condo you’re probably looking for a single life with quick access to downtown.
Being a member to several Real Estate Photography Groups and clubs I’ve had the chance to go over numerous videos and photos. Some of the best in my opinion have a professional voice over, inlay text, aerial imaging, and stock lifestyle footage.
Though the example below doesn’t have all the features I listed, it’s still a fairly simple example to a good RE video.
Virtual Reality is still in it’s infancy, but the fact remains that it’s showing no sign of slowing progress. I agree, it’s still too expensive and requires too much computing power/hardware to make an ideal alternative to touring a house in person. Though, with the progress made of 360 tours (Matterport, Realvision, etc.) it shouldn’t be a long stretch to move from the 360 view to the virtual reality view.
From the viewpoint of where we’re currently at in terms of advancements and cost effectiveness, the only current option is to have a headset at an RE office and allow customers to come in and experience multiple homes in one trip. In my opinion though, having vision isn’t the only important factor of a home. You also need to know what it sounds like, to a T, is the refrigerator buzzing? Is there a loud dog next door? Do the windows howl? VR needs to be an experience, not just another showing.
Heck, if there was enough thought and progress put into it, you could charge home shoppers to use the service. What might even be crazier is Realtime VR. Having a motorized RC with a camera and mic strapped onto it would seem far fetched and might just be crazy enough to work. Of course, you’d need internet connection with lots of fast bandwidth, more gear, and a willing home-owner. Probably more work than it’s currently worth.
No, the smart move right now would be to use a 360 view of select points and allow customers to come in and view the home with a controller instead of a keyboard/mouse. I still say sound is important though. Also! Why don’t 360 view companies allow users to make notes on certain sections of homes (i.e. re-curtain, needs new sink, etc.). That could also be done on regular images though… someone make it happen!
Image Credit: Josh Sprague
Virtual Staging is still new and may not be considered by most as an alternative to interior designers. Don’t get me wrong, having the right interior designer properly stage a home will nearly guarantee a quick sale – but no one is really going to notice a difference between real and digital furniture in the property photographs.
However, when the potential buyer physically tours the home they may ask, “where is the furniture!?” All those nice furnishings added an inviting feeling and now they’re stuck with blank floors and walls. Just be honest and tell them it was virtually staged – they may be even more impressed with your commitment to service!
Here is a great example of a virtually staged room:
Photo: Michael Asgian
And the before:
Photo: Michael Asgian
Blue-Sky Replacement can be very tricky and there a few different ways you can do it. The easiest way I’ve found is to get a blue sky photo, I just googled “blue sky”, and follow these steps:
- Place that image on top of the one you want to get replaced as a layer in photoshop.
- Set the opacity of the bluesky layer to around 50% so that you can see and move it around to line it up on the bottom (photo) layer.
- Once you have it where you want double click the blue sky layer and drag the underlying layer slider (bottom of blending style) from left to right.
- You’ll be able to see the blue sky disappear until it’s essentially gone.
- You want to find the point where you have the sky covering the old one and there may be bits and pieces of the photo that need to be masked out.
- Click okay and add a layer mask.
- Get a black brush set to hard and 100% flow/opacity to color over the remaining parts of the photo that aren’t part of the sky.
Note that this works best when the sky is completely blown out and white. It may take a couple times to get perfect and if you’re drawing straight lines over rooftops or windows – press a starting point to paint and hold shift then press along the other end of where you want the straight line.
Here is an article from the Boston Globe called “Advice on taking knockout real estate photos from a Pulitzer-winning photographer“, and there are some interesting points about how to shoot real estate. The piece is written by Stan Grossfeld, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who shoots photojournalism. Stan has done a lot of terrific work, and should be commended for his contribution.
Here’s the bit I want to focus on, Stan writes:
“Because in America, everyone who has a cellphone thinks they are a professional photographer.
They are not.”
It’s true, most homeowners and real estate agents are not professional photographers, despite what they might think about their photos. Stan Grossfeld included some samples of real estate photos he’d taken inside a home for sale in Quincy, and unfortunately they are not very good. I mean, seriously, they’re not good at all.
The images are taken at a bad angle, the verticals and windows are converging on each other, they’re poorly lit, and surprisingly disappointing.
This does not in any way take away from the brilliant work Stan Grossfeld does when shooting areas hit by war, or famine-affected children in Ethiopia. His images are full of emotion and he does a fine job as a photojournalist. I could not hope to do as well as he does in that area of photography, because that is not my area of expertise.
Hire the right person for the job
We need to recognize that just because a photographer might be specialized in one area of photography – such as photojournalism, weddings, or pets – that does not mean they’re good at all forms of photography.
When it comes to shooting interiors and exteriors of property, it takes a LOT of hours behind the camera shooting and at the computer editing. It’s a very technical form of photography – the composition and lighting has to be just right, and everyone gets it wrong when they’re first getting started.
That’s why it’s important that you hire a photographer who is experienced in the field you’re promoting. Get an architectural photographer to shoot your new architectural project. Bring in a real estate photographer to take photos of your latest property listing. Have a wedding photographer shoot your wedding.
In other words, bring in the right photographer for the right job, pay them whatever it is you need to get them there, and you’ll get the result you want.