Custom Builds

By: Gustav Hoiland

Jul 28 2010

Category: architecture


Focal Length:32mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D80

My Neighborhood

I’ve been looking into shooting real estate as of late, mostly because most every block in my neighborhood here in Naperville as at least two homes for sale. At least. So I’ve been walking around shooting facades and other outeriors in order to have something to present to whoever I try to get hired by (sale by owners, realtors, builders, mgmt companies, etc…). I’m currently targeting the upscale market on the suspicion that potential buyers of custom built mcmansions may be looking for images as nice as the structures, and the cost of my services is a smaller percentage of the value of the home (0.05% of $1m is a five hundred bucks). I may find that that market is saturated with photographers already, and the real one-offs could come from cheap homes for sale by owner that are currently relying on cell phone photos.

The business variables are unlimited, and gal’ darnit I love it.

My other edge just may be my post-processing adeptness. The top photo is the semi-final version (I’ve already noticed about 5 more things to fix), which has come a long way from the lower one. The lower one is the best I could do for that picture. It’s the best exposure, composition, etc… for that image, the facade. Of course it would look different in different light conditions (cloudy, cloudless, half cloudy [or is it half sunny?]), and part of the real estate photographer’s job is to know how environmental lighting will come into play, … what I’m getting at is any image maker there at the same time I was could probably not have made a much better photo of the front of the house.

The real question is, did I go too far with the processing? I think it may be too yellow, but beyond that, it looks like a house when I look at it. As far as I’m concerned there aren’t any blatant oddities in it. When you look at the below image does it look more real, or perhaps realistic, than the above one? Less? Are you bummed when you see the above image because there’s no for-sale sign in the yard because you were just about to plunk down a bag of ducats right now and buy it, if only it were for sale?

In continuing this, I’m shooting inside/outside/nearby a property down the street (found a sale-by-owner on Craigslist) with 3800 sq ft and the rather unique amenity of, ahem, an airplane hangar that connects to the runway system of the airport in the back yard. Portfolio time!

2 comments on “Custom Builds”

  1. Why didn’t you just go fully with the HDR and use several different exposures? Your result is basically that, though it seems that you just cranked the fill in the shadows and added in some colour to the blown out sky.

    The shot just seems a bit too unnatural, though real estate is filled with a bunch of photographers who use HDR processing techniques. I think you need to find some middle ground between the photos.

    The edited shot definitely needs some more shadows in a few places. The trees/bushes look way too flat. Also I think it’d look better if you changed the sky to a more realistic hue.

    All this said, people in general who would see the image when looking for a home know little to nothing about photography, but sure this would attract people to take a second look, which could maybe result in a purchase, who knows.

    Editing aside, I think you should focus on getting more whole of a shot from the get go. Sure it’s nice to be able to edit well, but being able to edit well also can account for some laziness when taking the actual shot thinking “oh I can fix that”.

    Sometimes there is nothing you can do and the shot you get is the one you have to deal with. If you do get into shooting in the real estate market, you really need to choose your times to shoot. Depending on which way the house faces it will most likely be morning or late afternoon, when the house is evenly and well lit, and the sun is still set back a bit so the sky can be properly exposed as well.. not always possible of course.

    Be careful to say things like “any image maker there at the same time I was could probably not have made a much better photo of the front of the house.” You may eat your own words later. Photography is a process and most people who are serious about it are always changing and realizing new things about what THEY like and what direction THEY want to go. What you may “like” or think is “good” maybe be far different from what someone else is going for. Also, what you may “like” or think is “good” is likely to totally change, and in time looking back on old photos of your own you may realize this. Photography is an extremely subjective thing.

    • Thanks for the tips! The above image was actually HDR’d from 4 bracketed images using the Photoshop cs5 HDR Pro (is that its name?). Thus far I’ve had terrible luck using that tool to make images look like the other HDR stuff that I’ve seen around.

      I had trouble with the sky, to say the least. I’ll have to play around with that and probably Lynda Tutorial it. I completely agree with the less than optimal shrubbery – I’ll have to learn more about that too.

      Do you know of any great sites/blogs that cover architecture/real estate photography? I haven’t really been able to find any that actually talk about the process of shooting and creating images in this field.

      Thanks again!

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