HDR Photography For Real Estate – Good Or Bad?

Found on omahavideosolutions.com

Found on omahavideosolutions.com

HDR stands for high-dynamic-range imaging.  While the history of HDR can be tracked as far back as 1850’s when Gustave Le Grey manually cropped and combined parts of a photo with various exposures into one single image, wide-spread use in real estate photography didn’t come into play till late 1990’s when digital cameras and special software made it possible for quicker results.

A stunning HDR photo is hard to achieve.  It often requires between 5 and 20 shots of the same composition at different exposure settings and then using different techniques like tone-mapping or exposure fusion in Photomatix or other program.  Some cameras have built-in software and can deliver an HDR image by combining 3 or more shots which the camera automatically takes at different exposures.

Found of phoenixrealestatephotography.com

Found of phoenixrealestatephotography.com

When it comes to shooting interiors HDR is often used by those who have limited knowledge about lighting with multiple flash units.  An HDR image is usually taken without any flash.  HDR is quicker to shoot, and the results are often good. It’s a great option for beginners.  However, if you really want to create mood in your composition and make it look as natural as possible, using multiple off-camera flashes is much more beneficial.

Lack of flash in HDR results in vibrant yet quite flat images.  A photo will look “artistic” because it will look like a painting, over saturated and not natural.

No HDR here. Using 3 off-camera flashes.

No HDR here! Using 3 off-camera flashes.

Our eyes actually do see things closer to what an HDR image looks like, but the coverage area we naturally observe with our eyes is much larger than a 5×7 photo.  That’s why HDR images are much easier to take in in a form of a poster or billboard.  Cramming every properly exposed pixel into one small image will throw our brain off. Another issue I personally have with interior HDR photos is almost always the windows come out underexposed, which makes a photo look very unnatural.

no HDR - exterior photo St Petersburg house

No HDR here either. Correct exposure and slightly opened shadows in Photoshop to expose texture on the back of the chair. No need to kill shadows completely!

But there are times HDR can be useful.  I’d use it more for exterior shots when the front of the house has heavy shadows.  And also when you or your client do want that artistic/painting look for extra effect.  However, shooting in RAW format will allow you to capture an extra stop each way allowing you to bring out the shadows and turn down the highlights all without fiddling with HDR settings.  So, my suggestion to anyone wanting to produce great real estate photos – learn how to use multiple flashes and shoot in RAW.

Every property deserves a video tour

Every property deserves a video tour

bedroom2bSome less expensive or distressed homes may not require a professionally done video.  When selling these you can simply shoot a video tour on your phone or small camera and narrate as you film.  As long as you keep your hands steady, keep it short and give some valuable information to your potential buyers – you will be just fine.  You can use  your iPad or iPhone to quickly shoot, edit and upload your video to YouTube – it will take just under 15 minutes.

Some homes are worthy of a professionally done video.  There’s a misconception that such tours are only done for expensive high-end homes.  Not necessarily.  I have a Realtor friend and he decided to produce professional videos for every listing he gets over $100k.  The potential commission on a $150k sale is around $4,500 (or $9,000 if you work directly with both the seller and the buyer).  Many good agents will spend up to 20% of their income on marketing and advertising.  So, is it worth spending a few hundred dollars on professional photos and video tour? Here’s an example of a simple video tour I just finished. Trust me, it won’t break your marketing bank.

What is your vision and what is your plan?

Is-your-vision-planned-outDeciding how much money to set aside for marketing and advertising and what portion of it will be used for video and photography – is not always easy.  Realtors have to spend a lot of money every year: Realtors fees, MLS dues, Supra lockbox, desk fees, splits with a broker, office supplies, technology fees, franchise fees – these are often a must.  Video and photo often fall in the voluntary expense fund (if there’s any left) out of which you pay for enhanced listings on home search sites,  mail-outs, postcards, brochures, magazine ads, food for open houses and broker’s opens, personal website, IDX search plug in, membership in local networking clubs, and many more.

My advice would be to start with your vision and skill assessment.  Decide where you want to be in 5, 10 years, what you need to learn and then focus on getting there.  Some aspire to always work on their own, others want to build a team, some dream of becoming a broker, others desire to run a commercial real estate division.  Your plan and your vision will affect how you apply your marketing money.  How much of your budget should go to marketing will depend on what stage you are in.  Don’t spend your dollars on any marketing without having a vision and a plan to accomplish it.

You will have to adapt to the ever-changing world and learn new technology on the way to your dream.  Decide early on to only use technology that can substantially boost your business and give you advantages over competition without changing your vision and core values, and without putting a strain on your budget.

So, You Decided To Sell Your Home!

So, you decided to sell your home!

front47Now what?  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m a believer in the “why” question.  I literally will sit on an idea for weeks or even months before I can prove to myself that I have a legitimate “why” to execute it.  So let’s consider why you want to sell your home.  You may be downsizing, upsizing, relocating, have family issues, stopped making payments, are facing legal issues, or simply done with home ownership and want to rent.  None of these?  Then let me know, I love to know reasons!

Ok, you know why you need to sell.  The next question is deciding how you will go about it.  There are really only a couple options.  You either sell on your own as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO, or “fizzbow” – a name all local real estate agents will be jokingly calling you) or you hire a real estate agent.

I worked in the real estate industry for four years and was involved in over 100 transactions.  Let me give you a few tips from a “client” point of view as opposed to a “Realtor” one.

Deciding whether to sell on your own or with an agent will depend on several factors: how much you need to net, current market conditions, your level of sales expertise, and how much time you can afford to invest in the process.

Let’s start with the market

If it’s a seller’s market, not much is required to find a buyer.  Stick a sign in your yard, put it on Zillow, Trulia and for more exposure MLS.  You can list a home on MLS with a flat-fee limited service agency for a few hundred bucks.  Inventory is low and prices are climbing – these are indications of a seller’s market – you should get plenty of inquiries quickly if your price is reasonable.


Getting inquiries is a good thing, but how do you turn them into legit buyers?  Who will be showing them your home?  If you are not working and readily available during the day, evenings and weekends you can handle your own showings.  Most buyers will be represented by an agent (to whom you should be prepared to pay 2.5 – 3% as a rule).  If the buyer is not represented, however, be careful.   Don’t show your house to strangers when you’re home alone.  Have a friend or family member there with you to avoid any unexpected circumstances.  Before you show your home to a potential buyer, ask lots of questions and request proof of funds (bank loan approval letter or account statement).  It’s totally fine to ask people why they are interested in your home, whether they are employed, and if they are pre-approved for a loan.

So, let’s say you’ve gotten plenty of interest, tons of showings, and finally – an offer! Now what?  At this point, it may be wise to hire a real estate attorney or ask a title company for assistance.  I suggest you use a title company to do your title search, title warranty, and help you with closing paperwork.  If you’ve bought several properties in the past you may have enough experience to feel confident working directly with the title company without a real estate agent’s assistance.


Hiring a real estate agent can be very beneficial since its his or her job to represent your best interests in the transactions (not the buyer’s).  A good agent will take care of showings, pre-qualify buyers, market your home, and take care of all paperwork.  Moreover, a Realtor can tell you with accuracy what your home is worth, maximize the offer amount by creating increased interest via proper advertising, and handle negotiations.   How do you set your home apart from the competition?  How do you expose your listing to as many potential buyers as possible?  A good agent knows answers and delivers results.

Marketing on the Internet is a major portion of any marketing campaign.  Providing top quality marketing and web distribution/promotion of your property, together with correct pricing, will assure a faster sale for the highest dollar possible.  Whether on your own or with a help of an agent – you can do it!

Real Estate Video Misunderstood

Real Estate Video Misunderstood

Slideshow-is-not-video-real-estateFrankly, I have no idea how much longer we will experience the deceptive promise a of a real estate video tour when what you actually get is a slideshow. Including a Ken Burns effect, logo, and (cheesy) music is not exactly what you’d call video production. Most agents host their slideshows on YouTube; however, I believe YouTube has intentions of limiting the presence of the slideshow videos since it is primarily a full-motion hosting service. Yes, full-motion is key!

Quality Issues

In fact, a slideshow put together in a video format and then uploaded to YouTube loses quality because of compression. The photos in your video slideshow become low-resolution and often very pixilated. You can watch a video in 1080p but most people watch YouTube videos in 360p format – a far cry from your 20 megapixel resolution photos you stitched in a slideshow for which you probably paid some serious money. Compressed full-motion video that was shot professionally will still look good even at 360p. This low resolution is offered for faster streaming and only good for full-motion video. Nothing wrong with slideshows, but keep them in that format and avoid convert ing them to video.

They Said “Video”

Most agents have visited a seminar where a real estate social media guru (who has possibly never sold a house) lectured on the importance of using video in your marketing. And rightly so. There’s no question video is one of the fastest growing marketing tools for businesses. What the expert may fail to mention is HOW to use it. So, we take take our cue from others and try shortcuts, often outsourcing to vendors if its easy and cheap. If a virtual tour provider is offering you a video tour, inquire whether its real video/full-motion. Also, ask whether a videographer will shoot your listing or if the offer only includes uploading your virtual tour slideshow to YouTube. If the latter, don’t waste your money. Just do a slideshow yourself for free in 5 minutes. Consumers want to see a video, not the same pictures they just saw in the listing info, now in a form of a sloooow slideshow. Simply check your YouTube watching stats to see that your video views are stopped at about 5th second of your slideshow. The remaining 4 or 5 minutes? They are pointlessly occupying YouTube’s server somewhere on the other side of the world.

Come on, you can do it!

True-Home-Video-Tour-YouTubeWhatever you do, please don’t call a slideshow a video. It really makes some buyers annoyed because, frankly, you are wasting their time. Video sparks emotions and gives viewers a way to connect with the property and the neighborhood (if you include that in the video).

Why not make a video tour of your listing? Pull out your phone, hold it steady, and make a 1 minute video presentation of your listing – trust me, buyers love it. Even better, hire a professional to give you an edge over the competition.