Real estate photographers are not considered essential services during the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many real estate agents who rely on photographers for high quality home photography have been left to fend with just their mobile phones. Is all lost? No.
To clear the air, yes, the photographer’s off-camera flashes enhance colors and increase control over shadows and, yes, the photographer’s eyes have developed over years spent squatting in bathtubs and squeezing into corners. Photos from a professional photographer will always look better than photos taken on a phone, even if they are the ones taking the photos on their phone. But, where the real estate photo largely transforms from a standard snap that just about anyone can take into a proper shot that coaxes in buyers is in the edit. Proper editing can mitigate the quality difference between a mobile photo and a professional photo.
If you can arrange photo editing with your real estate photographer, then you are halfway there.
With an editing plan established with your photographer, then all you have to do is take the photos yourself, which, as easy as it is to say easier said than done, can be simplified by following these 10 steps. Save yourself the stress of listings lacking photos or looking haunted and keep the hair on your photographer’s head during this pandemic by adhering to these steps.
Note: A cloud storage service like iCloud, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, or OneDrive is required.
Step 1: Download Adobe Lightroom Mobile
Photographers need more data in their photos to make them look better. The app that takes the best photos with the most data is currently Adobe Lightroom.
Step 2: Create a free Adobe account
Adobe is a huge company offering a full creative suite of editing tools for creatives. A vast majority of photographers, probably your photographer, too, use Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop programs to edit photos. When you first download this app, you will need to create a free Adobe account to access the features of the app.
Step 3: Set up the interface for HDR
After creating an account, click on the camera icon (this will be in the bottom right on Apple and up toward the top on Android). The app may ask you for permissions. Allow those permissions so that it can use your camera. Once you can see your surroundings, click on the AUTO icon near the circular shutter button and select HDR from the dropdown.
Unlike your phone, this HDR feature takes 3 “raw” photos with your camera at varying levels of brightness. This is called bracketing, and it is a technique that many real estate photographers use when taking photos to keep the outside and the inside both exposed correctly.
Step 4: Clean your camera lens
All would be for nought without a clean lens. If you have a microfiber glasses cleaning cloth handy, use that. If you don’t, use a soft shirt. If all else fails, dab a paper towel under the sink and wipe it over the lens.
Step 5: Make the corners of the room parallel to the sides of your screen
Once at light switch height, hold your phone in landscape orientation and make the corners of the walls in the shot roughly parallel to the sides of the screen. This is known as “aligning verticals,” and it is essential to making a home feel welcome. Angling the phone downward or tilting it gives the home a spooky vibe.
Step 6: Get as many corners in the shot as you can
Potential buyers want to get a sense of scale of the room. That scale can be felt more in a three-dimensional way by showing 2 wall corners rather than a single corner. So, if you are in a bedroom, angle the phone so that you see the wall corners on either side of the bed.
Step 7: Hold your phone just above the height of standard light switches
Find a nearby light switch and hold the phone next to it so that its bottom edge is touching the top of the light switch frame. This is the standard height for real estate photography. Keep the phone at this height throughout the house.
Step 8: Hold your phone steady for 2 seconds after pressing the shutter button
The HDR mode on Adobe Lightroom Mobile takes 3 photos back-to-back. Since the photos are not taken at the same time, you have to keep your hands steady so that each shot can be blended together. A good rule of thumb is to hold your phone still for 2 seconds after pressing the shutter button.
To recap: align the corners in the room and hold your phone just above light switch height for 2 seconds when you take the photo.
Step 9: Export all the photos in the DNG format
Return to the non-camera screen by clicking on the X in the corner. There will be an icon resembling books next to the home icon. Click on this icon and then click to view all photos. Long press on one of the photos to bring up the selection tool. Choose the photos that you are going to send to the photographer. If some of the photos that you took are not in the gallery, that means they are still processing. Give your phone a few moments to process these higher quality photos.
When done selecting, click on the share icon (the icon is 3 connected dots in a < shape for Android and a box with an arrow for Apple). Tap “Export As…” and make the file type DNG if it is not already selected. Press the check button to start the export.
Step 10: Upload them to cloud storage and share the link with the photographer
If on iPhone, when done processing you will get a new screen asking where these photos will be sent. Click “Save [#] Images” to save the photos to your phone.
If on Android, you will not see a post-export screen asking where to send the photos. They will automatically be exported to an album called “AdobeLightroom.”
At this point, upload the photos to a new folder on your cloud service. This could be iCloud, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other cloud storage service. Create a link to that folder to send to your photographer.
Tip: Upload over WiFi to save on data and time.
Do not use any of your phone’s built in share services such as the “add to shared album” feature inside iPhone or the “create a link” feature in the Adobe Lightroom app. All of these services compress the photos from their original DNG formats to a small file size that is not suitable for editing.
The only way to retain the photo quality is to upload the photos to a cloud storage service and to then share a link to those photos through that service.
How to upload with Dropbox
Step 1: Create a new folder in the Dropbox app
Step 2: Upload the photos to the new folder
Step 3: Share the folder with the photographer
With Dropbox, tap the Share button. Skip over the “Send to” option and click “Create a link.” The link will be copied to your clipboard. Email or text the link to the photographer.
If you have questions, please contact me.