Before & After – Post-Processing in Real Estate Photography…

LR - 1 Franklin - Edited3 - Small:AfterVery often I run into real estate agents who just can’t wrap their heads around why good photography has to “cost so much”.  After all, you just show up and take a bunch of pictures, download them, throw them into email or dropbox and you are done!  Zip, dang, do!

I wont go into the weeds about the expenses incurred by going to a site.  That’s a different topic.  However, as in most things, its more complicated than you think until you take a close look.  A lot more goes on after the shoot than most agents and brokers imagine.

What is Post-Processing?

Post-processing is what comes AFTER the photograph is taken and downloaded.  Most agents do not do much in the post-processing department because wrapping them heads around programs such as Photoshop, LightRoom and Photomatrix goes way above and beyond the range to which any agent should need to apply themselves.  Some agents, like yours truly, get caught up in such things and end up in a new business, but that is (and should) be the exception.  You can be a great agent AND not be a near-pro photographer.  The trick is understanding the limits of your abilities, and knowing when to outsource.

In order to understand all that, I think its important to see where the actual photography ends and the processing begins.  So I’m doing a series of before and after shots to show what goes on after I download the photos I took of your listing…

Before & After….

The photo above is an example of what I would submit after processing.  But to understand what was done, you need to look at where it all started.  The original, unprocessed photo is below.  Its actually not a “bad” photo.  But I would never submit it to an agent in that condition.

1. Color correction – As is typical of an interior photograph, the incandescent lights have made the interior a bit too yellow.  Although the room is yellow, it appears more yellow in the photo than it did when I was in the home.  Our eyes tend to compensate for the incandescent yellow, but the camera lens is not so discriminating.  So one of the first things I did was to correct the light balance.

2. “Painting” the Ceiling – A white ceiling suffers the most from hot spots of yellow incandescent light. Once again our eyes correct for this, but the camera lens does not.  I gently “paint” the ceiling with a light white paint overlay to smooth this out.

3. Lightening – The original photo was a bit too dark.  Lightening has to be done with care, since not all computer screens are set the same way.  But this was too dark, so I lightened the photo and then upped the midtone contrast.  I also did some light burning and dodging to add to make a couple of features pop a bit more.

4. Straighten those walls! – Wide angle lenses are a blessing in that they let you see the whole room. But they tend to create some barrel distortion that can give a room a “funhouse” look.  One of my pet peeves is photographers who don’t take the time to straighten the walls. The photo looks distorted and its disorienting to potential buyers.

5. Carefully Crop – This is a charming living room, but it is a room with a good deal going on, so less is more.  The original was cropped to remove some distracting features and allow potential buyers to focus on the room.

LR - 1 Franklin - Unedited - Small:Before


The bottom line here is that rarely is a photo “ready” after shooting.  Processing is a must not a formality.   Let me make this clear.  I am not misrepresenting the room!  I am correcting  the image so that it is as close to what the eye sees as is possible.  Sure, I can work to minimize the post-processing while onsite.  Since I took this photo, I have added more lighting that has reduced the need for some of the color correction. You still need to tweak it, but perhaps a bit less.

Sorry this was such a long post.  If people like this insight, there will be more of this in the future.

© 2013 – RGHicks – – All rights reserved.

  1. Hello Ruthmarie,
    Thank you for writing this article.  As a fellow real estate photographer, I thought you did a nice, balanced job discussing this topic.
    Delivering quality photographs takes time, experience, and equipment. Like what you see of an iceberg, clients watching their hired photographer ‘click’ a photo is just the tip of the process.

    • Thanks JT,

      You have a very nice site…so I really appreciate the comment. I am a licensed real estate agent as well, so I understand where the limits of profitability are. The good agents want their clients to have the best exposure they can get. Others want to chase the price down and apply tremendous pressure to keep prices absurdly low. There are a few large companies out there that truly exploit their photographers which add to the heavy duty pressure to keep prices crazy low. But recently I had people suggest that I do shoots for about $50. Another agent wanted 50 finished photos per house and a video – some of them on toll roads as mush as 60 miles away for $125.00! I’m in NY! 20 miles north of midtown manhattan. It is crazy expensive to live here and those prices just make no sense given the area we are in. After a few of these recent encounters, I wrote the post. I plan to write one or two a month like this so the notion of what is involved starts to sink in. A lot of agents have a DIY thing going. But seller demands are changing and this is going beyond what most agents are going to be able to master. Like it or not, most are going to have to add photography to the list of listing expenses. I get the problem because agents and brokers aren’t guaranteed payment until a home closes. But there is a fine line between being cautious about outlay and downright cheap.

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