property

Ten top tips for better property photographs by Neil Alexander

Because more and more people are searching for properties online before they even step into an estate agents office, great photographs are increasingly becoming essential in marketing a house. A good photograph of a property will catch the eye of house-hunters instantly, whereas poorly lit, wonky pictures are off-putting and relegate a property to the ‘to look at later’ list. This is a bit of an expansion on an article I wrote a few weeks back for the Right Move blog.

Photograph of an expertly crafted Mowlem and Co kitchen

  1. Attach your camera to a tripod. Hand held cameras are great for taking spur of the moment pictures, but a tripod will give you the stability to take clearer, sharper photographs. Work the scene until you have the composition you want, then get out your tripod. Even in the brightest of rooms, I'm quite often surprised about how low a shutter speed I'm working with. Being clamped to a tripod guarantees a sharp picture even at the slowest shutter speeds.
  2. Switch on all the house lights Even during the day. Having all the lights on in your home will instantly make it look warmer and more appealing. Hotels do it, estate agents do it, and they do it for a reason.
  3. Use lighting equipment. Dark corners don’t do your home any favours online, but simple lighting equipment will help you illuminate them. A flash will help, as will a reflector and even a light stand.
  4. Room preparation. Sometimes called staging, preparing a room is a way of showing how best it can be used. This is very often done by temporarily repositioning furniture in a room and putting lamps on tables and flowers in vases, or setting a table for dinner.
  5. Hot shoe bubble spirit level. To prevent your pictures looking wonky, use a bubble spirit level to ensure your camera is perfectly angled for each room. You can get these from ebay or your local camera store for a few pounds. They pop right into your hot shoe, and they make all the difference. If your picture looks lopsided, it's an instant turn off.
  6. Take your exterior shots in the morning. Getting up a dawn isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it’s the ideal time of day to get the best photographs of the outside of a property: dawn light is better and there are fewer people around. In fact civil twilight is the best time. That's around 30-40 minutes before dawn, or the same after sunset (it varies depending on the time of year). Agreed mid-summer, not too many people are going to want to get up at 3am to shoot, but if you want that winning shot.....
  7. Watch how the light hits your house. At different times of the day, and at different times of year, the light will change how your house looks. Take some time to stand outside and see how it looks on different days. So plan ahead, if you think that your house looks at its best in mid-December then why not try and get some great photographs of it. There's nothing stopping you using these when you want to sell it mid-summer three years later.
  8. Processing the image. Today, processing is a term for how the image is put through photography software before it is ready to be used. This helps to soften, sharpen and generally tidy up any imperfections. Sometimes a little vignette helps draw the viewers eye to a particular area of the photograph, or you may want to bring out the colour a little more. Adobe Lightroom is a must have for any serious photographer, and the tools available inside this application in it's latest iteration are really quite incredible.

  9. Take a photography course. There are photography courses run at adult education centres all over the country, and are the best place to start learning about taking better pictures. Alternatively many professional photographers now run their own workshops. Look at the work of photographers you admire, and contact them to see if they offer any instruction.
  10. Get a professional photographer. Hiring a professional is very cost effective. They are not expensive and can make the difference between the house selling/renting quickly or not. If you’re thinking of renting your property, then with a one-time investment in professional photographs, you can re-use them each time you come to let the property.
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  1. If you'd like to know more about the services I offer to home sellers, estate agents or lettings agents, then pop on over to my dedicated site - www.interior-photo.net

 Photograph of the Lake House at the Relais and Chateaux Gilpin Lodge Hotel, Lake District

Photograph of the Lake House restaurant at the Relais and Chateaux Gilpin Lodge Hotel, Lake District

 Photograph of the Lake House at the Relais and Chateaux Gilpin Lodge Hotel, Lake District

Why Photoshop is essential by Neil Alexander

Property Photography - Neil Alexander

This last week I was asked to shoot a property for a local estate agent. With this hopefully being the beginning of a fruitful relationship, I was determined to do everything within my powers to make sure the job ran smoothly. I try and go the extra mile as a matter of course, but for this I was prepared to go further! The job itself was straight forward enough and it was very useful to have the agent himself with me as he provided some very useful feedback there and then to better understand exactly what he wanted from the shoot.

Many layers with their layer masks went into making the resulting image

Many layers with their layer masks went into making the resulting image

There was one particular shot though which was a challenge. The property is fronted by a 7 foot hedge, and this hedge is probably no more than 6 or 7 feet from the front of the building itself. The main image of the front of the property needed to be in landscape format, give an overview of the property including the surrounding properties, the path leading up to the front door, and not have the enormous hedge obscuring the ground floor. After several test shots, it became quite apparent, that even with the use of step ladders to get above the hedge, it wasn't going to be optically possible to get in one single frame.

I use a pair of Nikon D300 bodies, which are probably into 5 figures actuations and are far from new. But they do me just fine. Occasionally low light causes me a problem and they can get noisy but for 95% of what I do, they're great. They do however have a cropped sensor. About a 1.5 crop I think. The widest glass I have is a Sigma 10-20, so at it's widest I'm probably getting about 15mm. That in itself is fine. Plenty wide, believe me. Much wider and you're going fish-eye and that's a complete no-no for real estate photography. A full-frame body with the 10-20mm may just have squeezed it in, but I doubt it. So for this particular frame, due to the constraints of the enormous hedge, the only way I could have got the photograph in one frame would have been to use a fish-eye.

After a rather substantial amount of head-scratching, I was left with the conclusion that the only way I could make this shot work was with Photoshop and a spot of layering and masking. After fixing the converging verticals, the next step was to layer in several adjacent photographs and mask them in. While not technically optically possible, the resultant image is still a very accurate reflection of the property itself, and one with which the client is very happy with. It took me a long time to get there, and left me a little stressed at times, but failure was not an option.

Incidentally, without a Wacom tablet, and only the use of a mouse, this masking process would have been a really arduous task. I've been using a large Wacom Intuos 4 tablet for some time now, and I have to say that it's been an absolute revelation for my workflow. I've seen that Wacom have just recently released version 5 of the tablets, but not yet had a chance to have a play with one. The reviews have been outstanding and if the previous model is anything to go by, then it's a tool that you really need to have in your workflow. Have a look here - Wacom Intuos5 Large Pen & Touch Tablet

 

Finally, some of you may have heard that I am exhibiting at the Greater Manchester Business Exhibition on the 29th May. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all along.

- It’s INDEPENDENT (not affiliated with any others you may have seen before – it’s being run by 2 businessmen from Manchester)

- There will be over 60 EXHIBITORS that are non-conflicting (See flyer – no two offer the same service - http://pic.twitter.com/lgGwMSTW )

- There will be  4 FREE seminars to all visitors from market leaders on management skills, networking skills, marketing skills and social media.

- There will be a VISITOR LITERATURE table (you can bring your own flyers and market your company)

- Its FREE!

- There will be a REDUCED RATE HEAD SHOT for your online profiles on the day by yours truly.

The buzz that has already created about this event has meant that places are going fast! If you want to reserve a place, the go to: http://gmbizexhibitionmay29-esearch.eventbrite.co.uk/?srnk=1&ebtv=C

It is also being run as  a linkedin event. Some of the exhibitors and visitors have left messages. Feel free to go and have a browse, leave a comment. http://linkd.in/GHvTEP

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch and if I don’t see you before, see you on the 29th. Bring plenty of business cards!