One of the first thoughts that will come up when the Residential Realtor gets a new listing is I can save a lot of money by taking the photographs myself instead in hiring a Professional Real Estate Photographer. So a iPhone or other Mobile Smart phone with a 5 or 8 Mpix camera is pulled from the pocket or purse and in short order the listing photograph is taken.

I have taken a series of ground level photographs using a popular Smart Phone Camera then with a very well regarded P&S camera and then with a Professional Camera all on Automatic where the camera takes care of a of exposure, aperture, and ISO speed automatically. A worst case location was selected to show the comparison between the cameras. The house photographed had trees in front and was facing north. There was no time of day that the front of the house would receive direct lighting, the best you could do was a side light near sunset in June. I did purposely chose the time of day when the sun was direct overhead and creating the worst shadows on the house front.

The Apple iPhone 4 was used to take two photographs of the house front. The 5 Mpix camera had a hard time with the sun shinning directly on the lens causing lens flare. The LCD on the back was almost impossible to see to frame the photograph which cause me to actually mis frame the first photograph. The detail in the shadows was very muddy and the small sensor could not well handle the range of hi-lights and shadows.

Residential Real Estate Front Shots with a 5 Mpix iPhone 4

Residential Real Estate Front Shots with a 5 Mpix iPhone 4

The next photographs were taken with the Canon 10 Mpix G10 from the same approximate location still with the camera set on automatic. Notice the additional sharpness and additional detail in the shadows and how much better it handled the lens flare.

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph with a 10 Mpix Canon G10 on auto

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph with a 10 Mpix Canon G10 on auto

The final set of comparison photographs was with a Professional Grade Nikon D700 and sharp 24-70 zoom lens on Automatic. The pro level lens has additional lens coating that along with a Lens hood signifiganly reduces flare. The pro grade camera was better able to resolve more detail and kept the most detail in both the shadow and hi-lights but even then the photograph is still a bit flat but the best of the three cameras.

Residential Real Estate Front Shots with a 12 Mpix Nikon D700 on auto

Residential Real Estate Front Shots with a 12 Mpix Nikon D700 on auto

The next two photographs were again taken with the Nikon D700 with the 24-70 zoom set on manual exposure. The camera was set to take 5 photographs in only 1 second while being hand held. The 5 photographs were “bracketed” with two photos underexposed by one stop of exposure and two more overexposed around the properly exposed frame. The camera sensor even on a pro level camera can not resolve the range of detail from light to black that the human eye can. By bracketing the exposure we have a frame that properly captures the details in clouds as well as another one that captures the shadow where most of the front of the house is. A separate program is used to combine the separate frames to fool it into thinking there is more range then the camera sensor can handle. Additional photoshop editing is done to darken the sky and sharpen the image.

The photographs are much improved with the HDR (High Dynamic Range) frame bracketing but the photograph is still just a bit flat without contrasting light and shadows to give the house more shape. The HDR approach does not need to be done on every photograph just those that are more challenged with the wide range of bright clouds and deep shadows and if you are not careful can result in a unrealistic look.

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph with a 12 Mpix Nikon D700 on Manual with a 3 shot HDR

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph with a 12 Mpix Nikon D700 on Manual with a 2 shot HDR

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph with a 12 Mpix Nikon D700 on Manual with a 2 shot HDR

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph with a 12 Mpix Nikon D700 on Manual with a 2 shot HDR

There is one more technique that can be used to give more shape and dynamic look to the house in relation to its surroundings. We use a Luksa Hi-View 46 foot mast. This type of photography is know as PAP (Pole Aerial Photography) or Mast photography and is one of several methods for Low Altitude Aerial Photography.

The same Nikon D700 was attached to a Radio Controlled Camera Gimbal that allows it to be Pan, Tilted and Rolled while on top of the mast at 25 feet but controlled from the ground. A wire is run from the camera to a Lap top where the camera view can be seen and the camera angle corrected. Full focus and exposure control is also controlled from the laptop. The same highspeed 5 shot bracked HDR frames were taken. The final photo also merged 2 of the 5 frames and edited in photoshop.

Residential Real Estate Photograph Shot from 25 Foot Mast/Pole or Low Altitude Aerial Photography with a 2 shot HDR

Residential Real Estate Photograph Shot from 25 Foot Mast/Pole or Low Altitude Aerial Photography with a 2 shot HDR

In the last photograph the PAP or Mast was risen to a 35 foot heigh and you can now see the house in better contrast to the surrounding neighborhood.

Residential Real Estate Photograph Shot from 35 Foot Mast/Pole or Low Altitude Aerial Photography with a 3 shot HDR

Residential Real Estate Photograph Shot from 35 Foot Mast/Pole or Low Altitude Aerial Photography with a 3 shot HDR

We returned to the house at sunset and setup the mast again for this photograph at dusk. There is about a 5 minute window of opportunity that starts about 10 minutes after sunset. You don’t want to begin setting up too late. The sky was replaced in photoshop with a more dramatic one.

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph from 35 Foot Mast/Pole with a Nikon D700 on Manual with at dusk, sky was replaced.

Residential Real Estate Front Photograph from 35 Foot Mast/Pole with a Nikon D700 on Manual with at dusk, sky was replaced.

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I got a request from Renderthis for a single wide angle photograph of an empty lot just south of the Phoenix airport to be used as the back ground for a rendering they were doing for a Architectural client.

When photographing for a rendering the location and time of day are very important to get right the first time. While doing the actual rending the location of the camera and position of the sun can be set to match the actual photograph ensuring that the shadows match the surrounding buildings.

We used a Luksa HiView-46 push-up mast at its full 46 foot height with a Photoshipone 3XPro Mast mounted 3 Axis RC controlled Camera Gimbal for adjustment of the Nikon D700 camera with 24mm lens mounted on the gimbal in Portrait Orientation. We used Nikon Camera Control Pro with live view on a Apple MacBook Pro to compose the photograph and adjust the exposure after viewing the histogram. After deterring the exposure we shot a 5 photo bracket at each position with two over and two under ensure we properly captured the hi lights and shadow details.

[click to continue…]

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I got a call on Monday Aug 1st from a Commercial Real Estate Agent with a shopping center located at 7th Ave and Osborn in downtown Phoenix AZ with a short deadline for a promotional photo. In the past he has hired a photographer with a helicopter but FAA regulations has removed that as a option.

I have a Luksa Hi-View 46 Foot mast topped with a Photoshipone 3X Pro RC controlled Gimbal for Pan and Tilt control of a Nikon D700 with a 24mm wide angle lens. The camera is wired with a 50 foot Cat 5 Cable down the side of the mast to a Apple Lap Top running Camera Control Pro. Using the cameras Live View I am able to see the cameras view on the laptop and change the settings as well as focus and trip the shutter.

The client wanted the entire shopping center photographed so we had to move across the street. The Mast is a manual push-up that had not ever gone up any further than 35 feet. In exchange for a reduction in price the client was the labor that I normally would hire to supply the muscle to push-up the mast. That might have been a mistake, it was over 110 on the day of the shoot and the mast went all the way to its maximum height of 46 feet. Of course the higher you go the heavier it gets, not a lot of fun that day but the results were worth it.

After a little bit of pan and tilt adjustments to properly frame the photograph I switched to manual exposure and made the adjustments in Nikon Camera Pro then did a Auto Focus then took the photograph. A couple more were taken just in case and the quality of the photos were verified before the camera was carefully lowered back down to the 6 ½ foot level with all nine of the sections lowered.

Following is the final selected Elevated Aerial Mast Photograph with only basic exposure corrections made. Note the cars, people and traffic lights in the foreground of the image.

Elevated Aerial Mast Photograph Raw Image without Photoshop Editing

Elevated Arial Mast Photograph Raw Image without Photoshop Editing

The final image was worked in photoshop to remove the distracting elements and the sky was darkened to deepen the blue and the photograph was tilted one degree to straighten the horizon.

Elevated Aerial Mast Photograph of Commercial Real Estate in Phoenix AZ

Elevated Aerial Mast Photograph of Commercial Real Estate in Phoenix AZ with Final edits and cropped.


Also converted the Photograph to Black & White.
Elevated Aerial Mast Photograph of Commercial Real Estate in Phoenix AZ

Elevated Aerial Mast Photograph of Commercial Real Estate in Phoenix AZ with final edits converted to Black and White


The client was very happy with the Elevated Aerial Mast Photo of his Commercial Real Estate Property in Phoenix AZ and made his Friday Deadline for the final promotional literature.

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I decided to take my LifePixel Infrared Converted Nikon D100 out of the bag and make sure it was still working properly. About 5 years ago LifePixel remove the Hot Mirror filter from the D100 and replace it with the Enhanced Color IR Filter
 equivalent to a 665nm Filter. The hot mirror normally filters out Infrared from hitting the sensor but that is exacitly what we want so it is replaced with a 665nm filter which removes most of the visible light and allows only Infrared to pass through to the sensor.
I used a Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 Zoom on the D100 but the focal point was not changed on the lens to properly focus the Infrared light as I also use the lens on my non converted D700 cameras. My backyard pool was very handy for the test besides it was too hot to go driving around looking for something else. The image SOC is slightly mis focused and also produces a soft image with low contrast and needs Photoshop enhancement to produce a good image. The following image was shot in raw and was opened in Adobe Camera Raw with a couple of minor adjustment to recover the highlights and exposure adjustments. As you can see it needs a lot more work to produce a good image but this is typical of unedited Architectural Infrared Photos.

Raw File From Infrared Converted Nikon D100

The next stop was to swap the red channel for the blue channel in photoshop and this results in the sky taking on more of a blue than the original red tone.

Now for the real fun. The photoshop layer is opened with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 for the first round of adjustments. A Silver Efex Pro Neutral Preset is used as a starting point. Then global adjustments to the structure slider for the highlights to sharpen and remove the ghosting effect. A couple of local U-points are also placed on the pool deck to decrease the brightness and a couple of local U- points are used in the water to also reduce the darkness. The Silver Efex Pro adjustments are applied and saved as a layer in photoshop. The Layer mode is changed to Luminance to allow the color from the layer below to show but still retain the sharpness of the Silver Efex Pro adjustments.

Infrared Architectural Image with False Colors Edited with Nik Silver Efex Pro


For another Architectural Infrared effect without the false color the Silver Efex Pro layer is copied but the blending mode is left at normal.
Infrared Architectural Image Converted to Black & White with Nik Silver Efex Pro

Infrared Architectural Image Converted to Black & White with Nik Silver Efex Pro


For the last Architectural Infrared effect the previous Silver Efex Pro Layer is selected and opened in Nik Silver Efex Pro and the Light Blue Duo Tone slider is selected and the paper slider is made a bit whiter. This effect is applied and saved as another layer in photoshop.
Infrared Architectural Photo Converted to Blue Dou Tone in Nik Silver Efex Pro

Infrared Architectural Photo Converted to Blue Dou Tone in Nik Silver Efex Pro

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