Photo Tip # 1: Photographing those nasty north facing houses
This is my first installment of photo tips to try and help you improve your listings. I'm starting a series of tips and tricks from a virtual tour photographer and Realtor. Most will be real estate photography and virtual tour related, but I'll throw in some just plain real estate information as well...as I come across issues that I feel is worth sharing! Of course I'd love for you to see the benefit of hiring a professional to photograph your properties for you, but I'm also interested in seeing better photos on the MLS. I'll try not to get too technical.
Exterior photographs seem to be the easiest to do simply because you can't light them. You think it's kind of a "what you see is what you get" situation. Unfortunately this isn't really the case. Your eyes see a whole lot more than the camera does as far as highlights and shadows are concerned (and the digital cameras we're using today see a whole lot more than the film did.) The best thing you can do is shoot at the right time of day. You want the sun behind you lighting as much of the house as possible. If the house faces east, it's a morning shot; if it faces west, an afternoon shot; if it faces south you pretty much have it made, especially in the winter when the sun is low. Now I do realize you generally need to shoot from both sides of the house and for this you have 2 options: come back at the correct time to get the other side or don't worry about it and just be sure the front looks great.
The real problem is north facing houses. The light never hits the front. When I was doing commercial photography I often had the luxury of waiting for the right time of year (June, when the sun is furthest north) and I would be there all day so I could shoot at just the right time. We don't have that option in Real Estate. We've all seen those photos that show the backround but the house itself is a sillouette. It simply won't do.
There are, however, ways to deal with it. One easy one is to shoot the house on a cloudy day. The clouds work as a giant diffuser for the light, opening up the shadows and darkening the highlights.You won't have those beautiful blue skies or vibrant green lawns, but at least you'll see the house. Another option is to shoot at dusk or dawn, right before sunrise or after sunset. The light is far less severe and it may give you a nice photo. Be sure to turn on the lights inside and out for that lovely warm glow. You may need a tripod for this since the light levels will be low and it's too hard to keep the camera still enough. Another option is to shoot just the dark part of the house, avoiding the part the sun is hitting, and let the backround blow out.
The photos above illustrate my way of dealing with the problem since I prefer working when the sun's out! You can click on the photos to enlarge then if you like. They're all the same shot, done with my digital SLR. The first one is how it came straight out of the camera. You'll notice the front is too dark and the side is too light. The sky and lawn look pretty good, but we're selling the house! The second photo has been retouched, adjusting color, contrast and brightness. You can do this on any photo editing program. I lightened it and added contrast (lowering the contrast just makes them gray). I then added some cyan and some green to lose the red tint. The contrast and brightness need to be messed with to see the shadow detail, but be careful the photo doesn't look washed out. I this photo, the side of the house is too light, as is the sky, but the front looks good and I find this an acceptable listing photo.
The third photo is digitally enhanced. It's a far more complicated process which requires a very steady tripod so I'm not going to get into it. This is what I'm hoping you might hire me to do! The front of the house is perfectly exposed; the right side isn't blown out so you can see the color of the siding; the grass and the sky are vibrant. I use this process on most outdoor shots now (even views) as well as many indoor photos. It just seems to open everything up and really does an amazing job of balancing the lighting. Here are a few more photos to illustrate the concept.
Hope this has helped. My next installment will address camera angle.
Advantage Chatuge Realty
Tips and Tricks from a Virtual Tour Photographer and Realtor in Hayesville, NC and Hiawassee, GA