Malia Campbell Photography

Seattle Real Estate Photography by Malia Campbell

I spoke at the NARPM Conference today

…and I feel awful for going over my allotted time and not being able to finish.  Especially since I kept saying the answers to your questions would be covered later.  And then we never made it to “later”!  I’m sorry, you guys!

So here’s a few things we didn’t cover (or covered as people were leaving/coming in and maybe you didn’t hear?): Buy a painter’s pole at Home Depot (or whatever your local hardware store is) and attach the Pole Pixie.  This will get you amazing, elevated shots for your exteriors.  Don’t bother with the resting plate, especially if you’re sending up a small point and shoot.  I use a Canon 20D on pole and the 2 piece pro set would have been more than enough. In the slideshow there’s a group of exteriors and the last two are comparisons – it’s a blue house shot at street level and then shot with the Pole Pixie.  Elevated exterior shots rock!

Compositional tips for different room types (this was what I was going through as we ended)

Some software I recommend : my resource for all my used gear. BGN level is usually almost perfect. If you’re looking for the Nikon SB-80dx be sure to add the “dx”… searching for sb-80 won’t yield any results for some reason.

It was a pleasure speaking with you this afternoon. Feel free to post any questions either here or send me an email (which I might post here anyway) – things we didn’t cover in the lecture, things we touched on that you’d like more clarification, things that didn’t come up but that you have a burning desire to ask… or if you just want to keep in touch that would be cool, too. Happy shooting!

Click here for the slideshow we went through during the presentation.  

I: Basic Elements of Good Photography

–       Lighting

–       Exposure

–       Composition

II: Equipment

–       Point & Shoot compact cameras

–       DSLRs

–       External Flash Unit

–       Tripod

–       Miscellaneous

III: Software

–       Basic workflow

–       Photo processing in the Digital Darkroom

IV: Organization

–       How to label your photos

o   Multiple uses of photos from marketing to maintenance to legal

–       Storage Strategies

I, Lighting

–       Ambient is fine for most situations, especially if you’re doing any type of post processing, which I would highly recommend.  If you’re not, we’ll cover some tips as to how to compose your image to take advantage of your light sources in a moment.

–       External flash can be introduced for situations where light is uneven (rooms are dark and/or for color integrity).  Hot shoe flash (strobe/speedlight), or the onboard flash can help with dark rooms.

–       Light sources – windows vs tungsten vs fluorescent.  Which is the brightest light source?  Windows = blue, tungsten = orange, fluorescent = green.  Why is this important?  If you’re using a camera that allows for white balance adjustments you’ll need to know where your primary light source is coming from so you know how to set your white balance.  (show example of different light sources).  What do you think the primary light source is in this room?

–       If there are lights and/or lamps turn them all on and, if appropriate, set your white balance to whichever the primary light source is.  Carry extra light bulbs, if possible, to avoid mixed lighting situations (fluorescent vs incandescent bulbs).

I, Exposure

–       White balance – we’ve all seen photos of interiors that are dark and have an orange cast.  Heck we’ve all shot those photos!  Don’t lie, you know you have.  As your eye for photography develops you’re quickly going to cringe when you see these photos, especially when you discover how easy it is to correct!  We just talked about light sources – what do you think gives images this ugly orange cast?  By setting the white balance on your camera for the primary light source you can easily avoid ugly color casts.  Many cameras even let you set a “custom white balance.”  If you have this option USE IT!  Carry a piece of paper or a white card or a gray card with you and set your white balance in each room.  If you’re really serious about stepping up your photography you can even get a color checker card.  XRite carries a few option – I like this one: the color samples are large enough to sample easily in large rooms and XRite is a well established brand.  This card was about $60 online.  XRtie also has a really slick product called the Passport Color Checker – this is the size of a passport and comes with some really comprehsive software but it runs about $100, is really small and, unless you’re doing a lot of portrait photography it’s not as usefully for interiors.  If you have the ability to shoot in RAW format on your camera do it.  The files will be larger and you’ll definitely have to do post processing (you can’t upload these images straight out of your camera) but you’ll have much more forgiveness when you’re trying to do things like correct for color casts and white balance.

–       Strive for light and bright photos.   Use histogram if camera has one.

I, Composition

–       Shooting in the corner of large rooms helps capture more or the room (as opposed to shooting straight on).  If you’re shooting a bedroom, step outside of the doorway and shoot in.  You don’t have to be inside a room to shoot it.

–       Wide angle lenses makes rooms look bigger.   If you’re shooting on a zoom wide angle lens (ie: 10-22 for Canon or Sigma’s 10-20) try to stay away from the widest setting.  You’ll see a lot of barrel distortion – where the image seems to be distorted and none of your lines are straight.  It’s tempting, and maybe you don’t care, but if you’re striving for good photography you’ll want to avoid this.

–       Don’t shoot too high or too low.  Too high will skew the camera angle and shooting too low will make viewer feel like a kid.

–       Including tighter detail shots can help create a mood/emotion of a space.  Use these to feature anything unique in a room – wood carving detail, special moldings, kitchen ranges, etc.

–       Turn all lights on, including lamps.

–       Be sure to shoot to feature anything special or unique: fireplace, windows, special features, etc.

–       Some little tips to make rooms photograph better:

o   Kitchens –

§  remove small rugs and floor mats (generally found next to the sink and if there’s a door that leads outside)

§  Remove dish towels (or at the very least, straighten them)

§  Ovens, refrigerators and sinks are quick and easy places to stash items when you’re trying to de-clutter counters

§  You never need as much ceiling as you’re probably shooting

§  Shoot high enough so you’re not seeing the underside of cabinetry

§  If there is no fridge don’t shoot the empty space, compose around the void

§  Remove EVERYTHING (magnets, flyers, etc) from the fridge

§  Shoot “inside” enough to shoot the front of the cabinets

o   Bathrooms

§   Remove small rugs and floor mats

§  Remove towels

§  Straighten toilet paper so end is not visible

§  Lower toilet seat

§  Open shower curtain, remove clutter inside if necessary

§  If your camera reflection in the mirror is unavoidable try to place it in an area of solid color to make removing it in post processing easier

§  If it’s too small don’t shoot it.  Seriously.

o   Living Rooms and Bedrooms

§  If there’s a fireplace shoot it

§  If there’s a view capture it

§  If there’s a window include it in the composition

§  Shoot into furniture; backs of couches and chairs are ugly and not very inviting

§  If there are blinds open them unless they’re the sheer, gauzy kind and/or the view is ugly

§  If there’s the slightest chance of doing a window replacement shoot an extra shot of just the window, correctly exposed

§  Never pull as much window as you think you need.  Windows are naturally overexposed

§  Two walls are almost always better than three.  Like 99% of the time

o   Exteriors

§  Get as high as you can

§  Pole pixies are cheap and awesome and you’ll have an edge over your competition.  Just be sure to practice A LOT with it


–       Be sure to back up as far as possible, even if that means stepping out of the room, into the doorway.

–       Do not use the onboard flash.  This will create a very bright, flashy look in the middle of the room which also creates artificial shadows and dark areas in the room.

–       Always shoot in manual/RAW modes if possible.

–       Best P&S for real estate/interiors: Sony Alpha NEX-5, Canon G10, Panasonic LX3

–       Don’t be afraid to put your P&S on a tripod.  Tripods are cheap, especially if you don’t need a lot of stability, which you won’t with a P&S.

–       Look into a gorilla pod


–       Basic, entry level cameras are fine (Canon’s Rebel series, Entry level Nikons… any camera that lets you shoot in manual and RAW mode are fine).  It’s the lens that you’ll want to splurge on.  That said, get as many megapixels as you can afford.

–       Shoot in RAW, manual modes.

–       The most important part is  the lens –  need wide angle lens (Canon 10-22, Nikon 12-24, Sigma 10-20).

II, Flash Unit

–       On camera flash is useless, don’t use it.

–       External/hot shoe flash can be used on any camera with hot shoe (P&S or DSLR).

–       Bounce your light!  You’ll get a huge, soft, beautiful light for your images.  Either point your hotshoe flash straight up into the ceiling or rotate the head to bounce off the wall behind or to your side.  Bounce into white walls.  Colored walls will give you a weird color cast.  If the walls are colored you can almost always still bounce into the ceiling.

–       Talk about triggers/opticals.  Flash of choice for most REPs is the Nikon SB-80, even for Canon shooters).

–       Talk about features (opticals, low power, WADs, stofens, Dan’s Chinese lantern)

II, Tripod

–       Cheap tripods are fine for P&S cameras (Slik, Sunpak, GorillaPod, etc… all around $25-$30)

–       You’ll want heavier/more stable tripod for DSLRs (Benro, Manfrotto, etc).

–       Discuss features of tripods, tripod heads (ball vs geared), quick release plates, bubble levels (to help with straight verts).

II Miscellaneous

–       Gaffers tape – strong but doesn’t leave a sticky residue on anything.  Good for securing flashes in awkward situations.

–       Reflectors – if you can’t get your hands on a good speedlight use the natural light and a reflector.

–       Remote – always a good idea.  Good when using a tripod – more stability – or if you’re exploring HDR photography (multiple exposures of same comp).

–       Stofen/softbox/umbrella – all cheap (under $30) and great for diffusing flash and creating soft, beautiful light.

III, Basic Workflow

–       Download cards, brighten exposure, boost satururation/colors, white balance, fix verticals.

–       Export various sizes.  Talk about Dr. Brown’s 1-2-3 plug in.  Free!

–       Talk about file types (raw, jpg, psd, tif)

o   Original files should be saved as tif or psd (or any non-lossy format).

o   .jpg is a lossy format

III, Photo processing

–       Photoshop Elements, CSx, Lightroom, Aperture

–       Talk about plug ins (PTLens, Nik suite, Noise Ninja)

IV, How to label photos

–       File names and types (.jpg for any delivery)

–       Metadata – protects photographers from theft of images

–       Keywording – helps locate files

–       Copyright – You own the copyright as soon as you fire the shutter.

–       Licensing – Never give up your copyright.  When you sell an images you should be selling a license, not your rights.

IV, Storage strategies

–       External hard drives – cheap, small and portable.  You should have at least two – one on site and one off site.  Can use online storage instead of offsite drive if preferred.

–       CD/DVD

–       The DAM Book is a great read about archiving files.

Written by Malia Campbell Photography

October 14, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Words

2 Responses

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  1. Great presentation. I was of course a little skeptical going in. I thought it might be silly or just a diversion. In the end there was great information for photographers of all level, including the accidental photographers like me!

    Aaron Bosshardt

    October 15, 2010 at 7:10 am

    • Hi Aaron! Thanks for the feedback – I’m glad you were able to take something away from it. I can’t believe I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough information to fill the hour!

      TulipChain Photography

      October 15, 2010 at 8:18 am

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