Mark Walser (Eastman Kodak Company) posted an excellent, educational piece on taking great listing photos, along with a free webinar archive regarding the kinds of cameras that would be good to purchase. Rarely do I re-blog another's post - but this is so informative! Don't you agree?
This post is about taking good listing pictures! As we all know, bad pictures make for bad listings, and cause your listing to get overlooked. This past Thursday I had the privilege of being a panelist on the "LISTINGS THROUGH A LENS" seminar for NAR's Realtor Magazine. Over 700 agents from around the country joined me, my colleague Brian Fox (Kodak's Photo Training Manager), and Erik Grammer (Erik Grammer Pro Photography) to learn how to take good pictures of homes, and learn the basics of what kind of camera functionality they need to do it well.
I give you below the free Webinar archive where you can watch and learn about the kinds of cameras you should buy, and the actual photo techniques to get the most out of your listing photos. It's a 1 hour recording of a great Webinar! One of the great things about today's cameras like the KODAK EASYSHARE M580 is that you can get great wide angle shots with awesome quality, and really take great pictures of your listings with some basic tools! What was great is that this Webinar features TONS of great actual photo tips and techniques for agents.
If you're in the market for a better camera, or just looking to learn how to take better pictures, this is a "Must Watch" link - Enjoy!
Below, I call out a few of the "need to have" features that your camera should have that we covered in the Webinar and why those are important.
Now if you're looking for a wide-angle camera, I'd like to recommend our KODAK EASYSHARE M580 Digital Camera for $135.96, with free shipping in the continental USA. As the name implies, Kodak cameras have an important feature for easily tagging and sharing images and video for social media - it's called the SHARE button. Once you take an image you can tag it on the camera, then plug it into your computer. The camera software will auto-download the pictures, and recognize which ones you "tagged" for upload to Facebook, Kodak Gallery, Flickr, and other sites and it will automatically post them to those sites for you. You control which ones you want to send! It also has 720p HD Video, not quite as a good as our Zi8 camera with full 1080p, but great for most situations you'll encounter!
This SHARE feature is unique to Kodak cameras, and a "must have" feature for those who engage in social mediamarketing. The M580 is also a high quality 28mm wide angle, featuring a Schneider Kreuznach lens with an 8X optical zoom. It features PANORAMA stitch mode as well, which is a key feature that I think all agents need.
The Webinar highlighted tips for shooting in various challenging light conditions commonly encountered in listings. There are obviously advantages to hiring pro photographers for certain situations and listings as well. But what about everything else? Let's face it, it's difficult for a lot of agents to hire a pro for a lot of listings. That's where the right camera can help you - and as my colleague Brian Fox would say, "If you use Photo 101 and today's 'point and shoot' cameras, you can really go a long way and take some great photos".
So here are some of the key features you need in a point and shoot camera and your basic photo kit, regardless of the model you buy! The images were taken on the KODAK EASYSHARE M580 Wide angle camera.
- At least 12 Megapixel Resolution - Often marketed as "image quality", this actually has less to do with image quality and more with how "big" you can blow the shot up without distortion or pixelization. For example, most 5 to 7 Megapixel cameras can take an image that can be printed with great clarity on an 8.5" X 11" piece of paper, or display as a 5 or 6 inch picture just fine on a computer screen. So why do you need the higher megapixels? The answer is for cropping, or blowing up the details. Watch the webinar for a detailed explanation and examples, but the basic answer is that if you take shot of a house and you want to blow up a particular detail like the 2nd story window shutters, you can easily do that by zooming in and cropping that portion of the shot after the fact, and with a high resolution, you can do that without distortion or pixelization. See the example below:
In the above example, a picture was taken of the front door and porch area and then we were able to zoom in on the shutters and window above afterward and crop the picture to highlight just that area without pixelization.
High Resolution also helps if you want to print these pictures in large format or a poster. So remember to take a picture in high resolution if you intend to print it.
(By the way - What Is Wrong With The Picture Of The Windows Above? Take a stab at it by posting back to me in the comments section)
- Auto and Program Modes: Today's cameras usually have both. But getting to know and use the Program Modes of your camera allow you to take better shots in low light conditions, and also to override the flash and increase or decrease shutter speed and aperture of the camera (called exposure control). This helps you get better saturation and take advantage of natural lighting conditions to show the room in its true colors. Often times, when we use the auto flash, it washes out the room, or we focus on the wrong things so the camera exposes the room incorrectly in Auto mode. Watch the webinar for a lot of helpful tips on when to use and not use the flash, and when to override the automatic settings (which can be quite often when shooting listings).
- At least an 8X Optical Zoom and 28mm wide angle Lens- So optical zoom means the zooming is done with lenses. The higher quality the lens the better the quality of the shot too. Pick a camera with a great lens like a Schneider Kreuznach, a Carl Zeiss, or similar lens. The big advantage of having a large zoom is that you have the ability to really get in on the details easily. The advantage of wide angle is that it helps make smaller spaces look bigger, and allows you to take more of the room with a single shot. Lenses that have a wider angle than 28mm are also available. Once you get past 26mm and go wider, you'll typically start seeing a "bowing" effect where the shots start bowing out at the edges. In fairness to the companies that manufacture these cameras, they often come with software on the cameras that try to compensate for this.
For those looking to go a bit wider today, we have a camera called the EasyShare Z981. This camera has a 26mm wide angle with a 26X (676 mm!) Optical Zoom, featuring a Schneider Kreuznach Variogon lens! It's a great digital ZLR, and a high performance camera with HD Video too. Check it out and be sure to use the www.kodak.com/go/redeal site to get 20% off and free shipping on these cameras!
Flexible Tripod: Having a tripod gives you the ability to take pictures using the Program modes. When you are using the "no flash" and manual exposure modes, you can't have any camera shake! A tripod will enable you to use these modes and eliminate the shake. There's another advantage to the tripod. Sometimes you cannot get into a corner or far enough back to take the whole room. Let's say you have a large piece of furniture that prevents you from getting back far enough to get the whole room in the shot. Well, the tripod and self-timer feature of your camera will help take that room! In the example below, there is a large piece of furniture in the room, and unless you put a tripod into the corner, you just wouldn't be able to take this shot unless you have ample room to work with, even with a 28mm lens. The tripod enabled us to get this image in a place that no person can get to.
- Panorama Mode with "On Camera Stitching": Panorama helps you take shots of large spaces. The M580 can shoot a room 30 feet wide by 9 feet high with it's wide angle lens and 3 shot Panorama feature as in the example below. It's easy to use, and once again, use a tripod to get the best results! The EASYSHARE M580 will stitch the pictures right on the camera for you. Note that this is the same room as the previous shot, but we were able to capture a sense of the space with a few stiched photos.
6. Creating a virtual tour out of still pictures: This is my own tip for some great companies that can help you "stitch" together a wonderful tour out of just the still photos quickly and easily.
a. Do it yourself: Animoto - www.animoto.com
b. Assisted tour building along with ability to demo different color, floor and wall schemes automatically on your pictures: OBEO - www.obeo.com Check these guys out, this software is just amazing!
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the nice to have or "highly recommended to have" features of a point and shoot and your basic photo kit, but these are definitely things you would absolutely want to have if you're an agent looking for a camera!
I hope this post was helpful in getting you started on taking better photos, and selecting the right equipment. I'm aware that some of you out there are incredible photographers, and have a lot of great pro photo tips of your own to share! I hope you do share them here, and certainly look forward to interacting with you. Please let me know what you think of the Webinar as well - NAR worked really hard to get it together and it got a lot of great feedback as a very helpful and informative Webinar. I hope you feel the same, and have a great Thanksgiving everyone!