Real Estate Photography: Using Photoshop To Take Out The Garbage [How I Shot It]
Real estate in London is a very competitive industry to be in with estate agents cropping up all over and housing prices rising; there is massive competition for agents to close a deal first. Without a doubt, the sense of urgency to obtain marketing material trickles down to even us, the photographers.
I was recently asked to photograph a property in one of the most competitive locations in Southwest London, and I was presented with a little challenge. The previous tenants had officially moved out of the property, but had unfortunately left a few things behind, one of which was a humongous couch!
With the aim to help satisfy the clients as much as possible, I sought to do what I could with getting this couch out of the shot completely with the magic of Photoshop.
Lighting this room was relatively simple; I set the exposure to a level where enough window detail had been retained and then added flash which was set to ¼ power and bounced upward/behind me.
I composed the image by standing in the doorway, so I am as far back as I could be, and zoomed out to reach corner to corner of the room at 8mm (12mm equivalent on full frame).
Although I was shooting a full frame camera, I opted to use the crop sensor Sigma 8-16mm lens as it reduces the file sizes so it’s easier to manage and edit. (Nikon unfortunately does not offer the small RAW function and I do need full frame for the other work that I do).
With the above composition and exposure settings in mind, you come out with a very generic basic shot.
Now this shot definitely is not going to sell the property very well as this couch was taking up a lot of space, and the photo needed to show an empty room to properly market it.
I unfortunately could not lift the couch out of the room completely due to the sheer weight of the thing, and because of the size, I could not have gotten it through the door without assistance as it definitely would have needed to be tipped on its side and/or have its legs removed.
So, I took the photo as it was, then slid the couch back to the other side of the room whilst leaving all camera settings the same. So then I had two photos with the exact same exposure but with the couch slid to either side.
After a few basic adjustments with the RAW files, I then opened them up as layers in Photoshop.
As both shots were taken on a sturdy tripod with the exact same exposure, they should (in theory) be an exact match with the exception of the couch being in two different places. So then, it is just a simple case of using the Eraser tool while they’re layered on top of each other to reveal the empty space of the room.
Using a brush at 400px wide and the softest edges, I erased a portion of the top later. The resulting image did show a tiny bit of couch left over under the window on the left side.
This was easily removed with the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop, and now the final image shows the room completely empty.
This situation above is not your everyday occurrence as, generally speaking, the properties should be well presented before our arrival. However with the competitive nature of the industry, added with competition amongst other photographers, we do have to look for ways to add value to our clients.
[Related Article: How to Become a Real Estate Photographer]
To us photographers, quality of work will always be key, but to our clients, they will equally demand a speedy turnaround time. Currently, the other agents/competitors are still not yet marketing this property with photos as they are waiting for the removal company to take away the couch, but my clients were able to market this property a few days ahead of everyone else giving them a slight advantage to close this deal first.