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Shots that Sell/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/JUN08/Images/PhotoEditing

Looking for photo editing software that will help you improve your images in print and online? Having trouble getting photos of small areas like bathrooms into your listing? Here are a few recommendations for “picture perfect” marketing photographs.

Everyone knows that multiple property photos have become essential for every listing. The listings with the best photos get the most action, right? Well, not if the photos are poorly done. I hear from my real estate peers about two recurring issues they face in using photos in listings. The first is that their photographs appear too light or too dark in print and online. The second is that it’s a challenge to get wide shots of smaller areas, like kitchens. Here are some solutions.

Solution No. 1: Enhancing Photo Quality    
Why do digital cameras usually default to an underexposed image rather than to overexposure? The reason is that dark images can usually be lightened. But images that are overexposed (too light) can’t be darkened because there is simply no information captured in the brightest area of the digital image. Therefore, many cameras simply default to underexposed images, and this almost guarantees dark photographs in print and online, unless the images are corrected prior to use. An image editing program is an essential tool for users who need to correct exposure and color, resize and crop images.

There are many software options, but not all of them are practical. After all, who wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a complicated photo editing program? I’ll bet you’ve heard the old “Just fix it in Photoshop®” suggestion. In reality, the most common complaint I hear is that it costs $699 to download Photoshop CS6. And an even bigger issue is that some real estate professionals buy this software and then find out it’s incredibly difficult to use. Photoshop CS6 is a powerful, complex program that’s worth every penny to a graphic designer or professional photographer. But, for a beginner or someone who doesn’t want to spend months learning new software, Photoshop CS6 is total overkill.    

I’ve checked out many photo editing programs, and in my opinion, Photoshop Elements 12 is ideal for real estate professionals. Priced at $99.99, it can be downloaded directly from www.adobe.com for use on a Mac or PC. Using it, amateur and even advanced photographers can lighten and darken images either automatically or manually in levels, allowing darker images to be easily lightened for the MLS.

Other imaging programs can accomplish this as well, but Elements’ strength is that it does the lightening process with very minimal image degradation. Color corrections are easily accomplished in the advanced user “levels program” or through beginning user “auto level” controls. Adobe Photoshop products are famous for allowing image modification with a minimal amount of file degradation. 

Here’s just one feature: If you work in commercial real estate, you’ve likely taken photographs of tall buildings, resulting in images that make the building appear wider at the bottom and narrower at the top, or out of perspective.

In the past, it took a professional photographer with a perspective control lens to correct this issue. Now, however, Photoshop Elements allows users a tool called “Free Transform—Perspective Control” to bring tall buildings into proper perspective with a few mouse clicks.  

Solution No. 2: Dealing with Small Spaces
The quality of consumer cameras continues to improve and impress professional photographers and real estate professionals alike. Most cameras work exceptionally well, but if you’re like me, you’ve found that the weak link has been the ability to take wide-angle photographs in places like bathrooms and smaller kitchens. I just can’t quite capture the whole scene with an off-the-shelf camera. This is because digital cameras’ electronic capture arrays are smaller than those of their former film counterparts, and this change results in most digital cameras having great telephoto capabilities while lacking in the wide-angle department.

Quite simply, to get the best small-area photo, you need a wide-angle lens and lots of natural light.

A camera lens option is the Tokina 12-24mm at $490. Now, some may say that’s also a little pricey. But, we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. We’re in the marketing business, and if a new super-wide-angle camera lens is the ticket to showing off small spaces, you should consider this option. 

For budgeting your dollars you might consider sharing the expense and the lens with another sales associate. And, as SLR cameras get better, you will be able simply to move the super-wide 12–24mm lens to a new camera body. One final shooting tip is that your camera’s flash will illuminate only the center of the image, so natural light is the key to great image quality.

Improvement in digital camera software and cameras continues to improve our ability to market homes. In this Internet age, great images can make or break a sale so make sure your photographs are the very best you can create. More to the point, if your home were for sale in this market … would you want the “OK” images often seen on Realtor.com, or would you want those offered by a sales associate who considers high-quality photography a key part of his or her marketing effort?   


John Frank, a Realtor® with Century 21 Palm Realty in Port Richey, is also a professional photographer whose work has been featured in such places as USA Today and the cover of TV Guide.

Frank does not have any affiliation with the companies mentioned.

The Florida Realtors® and Florida Realtor® magazine do not endorse any products mentioned in this article.