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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.