Would you allow your clients to only peek in the window for a showing?
Absurd question, I know. But, I use this analogy to drive home the point of the poor image quality with many photos I see of homes for sale in our local MLS here in Greater Cleveland, Ohio and that a buyer looking at photos on the Internet is really a home seller's first showing and a home seller should make a great first impression.
Part of making a first good impression is ensuring photographs are crisp and clear. Understanding how to achieve this lies in first understanding some basic characteristics of the most commonly used file type that digital cameras store photos as: JPG.
Before I show some examples so you can visually see the difference, it's important for a real estate agent who is taking and processing photos to understand a few basic concepts. I won't diverge from the post and talk about resolution sizes of thumbnail photos that I also commonly see in the MLS -- you know, the ones you almost need to use a magnifying glass to see or take off your glasses (if you need them) and eyeball the screen up close to see the photo, or other common mistakes such as under exposure, tilted shots, etc.
In order to take, process and produce exceptional photography for real estate, the skill set needed is vast, and the purpose of this post is also to not talk about this as that is really a series of posts, so this post will just touch on a simple concept called "file compression."
JPG or JPEG -- This common acronym is the most common file type for pictures to be displayed on computers, websites, etc. While this post is not a comprehensive article about JPG, the main point I want to drive home that most REALTORS in my conversations I have found do not understand is that JPG is a lossy compression. Lossy meaning "with losses".
In other words, every time one hits the save button to save the photo being worked on, pixels (the underlying representation of the photo) WILL BE LOST FOREVER. It is a destructive file compression algorithm. Other file types are not lossy (such as TIFF), meaning you can edit them, save them twenty times, and you won't lose image quality.
Not so with JPG, each time you make a change and save the file, pixels are lost.
For example, common editing techniques employed by a person with moderate photo editing skills include:
- histogram editing
- hue, brightness, saturation
- resolution reduction for the web (300 dpi to 72 dpi)
The problem is, every time a jpg image is modified in some way, image quality is being degraded with each destructive action.
There is an easy solution to this destructive dilemma, and using Adobe's Photoshop Elements, the answer lies in using a frame layer.
In short, throw your photo into a frame layer as the first step, and the integrity of your photo will be preserved. Frame layers are built using a technology called Smart Objects. The smart objects makes changes to a copy of the pixels, not the original photo itself.
What is the resulting impact if you don't use technology to preserve your pixels? Well...see for yourself.
I don't want to give the impression that JPG is bad. In fact, depending on implementation, it does a rather remarkable job with maintaining quality given the file size reductions it is capable of achieving. Moreover, some photo editing programs like Photoshop Elements can do a fabulous job by allowing the user to create "layers" so as to avoid non-destructive behavior to the underlying pixels.
Also note: Not all operations are equally destructive to image quality. Resizing is one of the worst offenders in my experience.
The 1st photo: Is the original photo I took with absolutely no edits of any kind applied to it, it is straight out of the camera.
The 2nd photo: I took the original photo, created a Photoshop Elements frame layer, and then re-sized it up and down about 10 times, re-sampling the pixels like crazy. You can see the end result is almost identical if not identical to the first photo.
The 3rd photo: I took the original photo, there is NO frame layer, and I resized the photo 8 times.
The 4th photo: I took the original photo, there is NO frame layer, and I resized the photo just 2 times. I resized it down to 50 pixels and back to the original 496 pixels. You can see the dramatic effect significant resizing has on photo quality.
The 5th photo: To show how an advanced photographer can use advanced photo processing techniques, you can see how I took an ordinary photograph and made it better:
Here is an original photo that came out of my camera and here is another one using a circular polarizing filter, tripod and advanced digital editing techniques. You be the judge of what you as a buyer would rather see:
Before...Straight out of the camera:
or...After...using a circular polarizing filter, tripod, correct time of day, no overcast sky, and advanced digital editing techniques:
Now then...about that 1st showing...