I thought I would start sharing my week in professional photography with you fine folks. This (hopefully) weekly column will give you an insight into what I am busy with in photography and related matters, things I have discovered and things I am hoping to do. Maybe some opinions too. They won’t be in-depth pieces, but I hope you will enjoy them.
So, at the beginning of April a new chapter opened for me. I am now doing real estate photography for a new realtor that has set up shop in my city. They charge a flat rate of sales commission regardless of the property value, which when compared to traditional agencies is way, way less than the normal 5-8%. They send in a professional photographer (like yours truly), upload the resulting photos and description to their website, advertise on other sites and facilitate both appointments to view the property as well as negotiate any offers received for the seller. They also arrange conveyancing, bank loans and everything in-between.
When a shoot is required I get given the client’s contact details via email. I must make an appointment to do the shoot and then take no fewer than 20 photos of the property, showing all it’s main features. The money from each individual shoot isn’t a lot, but because there are potentially going to be a large number of people opting to sell via these guys the volume will make up for it. I’ve done 8 properties in the first 3 weeks since they opened, but there has also been Easter holidays to contend with, so it’s bound to improve. This past Friday I did 3 in one day!
Truth be told I love this kind of photography. I have always loved residential architecture and interior design and you’ll find me visiting Houzz and Apartment Therapy every day to look at the house tours they do. For me getting this work is kind of like winning a jackpot.
Property photography can be challenging though. Some of the houses I have been to photograph have been nothing short of magnificent, while others have been truly abysmal. On the workflow side of things, I have been using the HDR Merge feature in Lightroom made from 3 - 5 exposures, a stop apart. They do need further tweaking once the merge has run, but not that much. The agency only wants images that are 1000px on the long edge, so I have lots of latitude to work with as far as processing goes.
So it didn’t help this week that my iMac is still in for repairs to the hinge mechanism that snapped (a common issue with 27” iMacs). I have been doing my editing on my 13” MacBook Pro using that infernal Dell monitor. It hasn’t been calibrated for ages and I am not sure if the colors are correct, so I dare not fiddle too much with things like white balance in my process.
Another thing currently working against me is that I decided to upgrade Lightroom so that I could see the new Adobe profiles on offer. They’re very nice, but Adobe has also done something incredibly stupid in this latest version. When you hover your cursor over a preset you get an almost immediate rendering of the effect on the main image window. Great if you want to see what the preset will look like on your shot, but terrible if you have a lot of presets and happen to run your cursor across a few of them on your way to the one you want to use. The computer will engage the preview process for each of them and of course the net result is a spinning computer fan and beachball on my MacBook Pro.
Also, the way I have been working for the past heaven knows how many years, is I click the presets I want to use sequentially and assess their effect on the image as I go. For instance, I have Dehaze presets for 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 which makes it a lot faster to chose one than it is to go find the slider and play with that. If I chose one of these and accidentally happen to hover over another one, I am not seeing the effect of the preset I just applied to my image. I have to basically re-wire my brain to use this new edition.
But wait, it gets worse! In their infinite wisdom Adobe have not offered the user any way of switching this preview loader off! Nowhere in the preferences will you find it. Unbelievable! Honestly, sometimes I get the feeling that they are trying to force us away from their own product by introducing poor logic to it. Needless to say when my iMac eventually gets returned to me there is no way I will be running the update to that version of Lightroom Classic CC until they sort this preview business out.
Anyway, back to the business of photographing houses. As any photographer will discover when they undertake a new project, the question of whether you have the right gear for the task comes up. My widest lens for the micro four thirds system is the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is OK, but in my opinion, it’s just not quite wide enough for small rooms like bathrooms and some other places in small houses. The options I have to remedy this are either I get myself an Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, or the newer Panasonic-Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0. If you’ve read my review of the Olympus 7-14mm you’ll know I never warmed to that lens. To my eye it looks a bit “off” with the way it renders the extreme wide angle of 114˚ at 7mm. It doesn’t look right to me, so I am not giving it much consideration as a lens for real estate photography. This new Pan-Leica 8-18mm lens however, does look very interesting as an alternative. Not quite as wide, but definitely more versatile than the Olympus as it can accept threaded filters whereas the Olympus can’t. Price wise though, it isn’t looking great as it will cost me a whack to import one via B&H. And then I have no local support or warranty.
Just not quite wide enough
However, there is the option of doing this type of work with my little Canon 200D (SL2 for you American folks) and getting the very cheap but highly rated Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 STM EF-S lens for it. Everything I have read about that lens indicates that it is more than up for real estate work and it costs about $250 here, less than a quarter of the price of either the Pan-Leica or Olympus wide angle options. However…. while I find working with the Canon 200D in pseudo mirrorless mode using live view and the touch screen pretty easy to do, there is a serious feature limitation with it that might scupper this plan. The AE bracketing feature only allows for 3 frames to be shot at a time. There are some instances, as I mentioned earlier, when I need to bracket up to 5 frames to get a decent spread of exposure range. I’d have to do that manually and while it isn’t difficult to do, it will add a significant amount of time to the job.
If I do this I’ll then be reliant on two different camera systems again, which is not something I enjoy because I’ll have to get more batteries and might be tempted into buying other things too. Decisions, decisions…
Micro Four Thirds definitely needs to look at offering some cheaper wide angle lenses for their system. I wish the likes of Rokinon would bring out a manual focus rectilinear 8mm lens.
OK, so that was last week in photography for me. I look forward to seeing what this week brings and also hearing from you folks.