Post-Processing a Real-Estate Exterior

Post-Processing a Real-Estate Exterior in Lightroom Classic CC 2018

Real Estate photography is nightmarishly competitive. There are several national companies that offer complete packages to Realtors, and they have on-staff post-processing professionals. As a photographer – even one with nearly 38 years of experience – it is difficult for me to offer the same type of post-processing in a 24-hour window that the national companies offer. Just in the spirit of full disclosure, I do shoot for several of the national companies and have a non-compete agreement in place with each of them. I can, however, shoot for my own clients without violating those agreements.

What follows is a series of intermediary steps in the post-processing of a Real-Estate exterior that I recently shot for Coldwell Banker Realtor Debbie Anderson. This post-process was the result of criticism Debbie gave me when I delivered the images. (Debbie typically uses Fotosold, and likes the style of their finished images. I find them garish and unprofessional. To each his, or her, own.)

The Available Light on the Day of the Shoot

I arrived at 4 pm to photograph this listing, and the sun was already beginning to set behind the house. This meant the sky would be over-exposed and the front of the house still in deep shadows. I decided to make a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image, and made several images at differing exposures. I choose the following two images to stitch together into a final working image.

Slightly Over-exposed to Capture Shadow Details
Slightly Over-exposed to Capture Shadow Details

 

Slightly Under-exposed to Capture the Dramatic Sky and Highlights
Slightly Under-exposed to Capture the Dramatic Sky and Highlights

I stitched these two images together into an HDR images using the built-in Lightroom HDR utility.

The Stitched HDR Image
The Stitched HDR Image

The Steps to the Final Image

I first cropped the HDR image above to its final dimensions. I did this because the extraneous pixels would complicate the process of color-correcting (correcting the white-balance) the image. The following is the cropped image.

The Cropped HDR Image
The Cropped HDR Image

The next step is standard in all of my post-processing. I applied Lightroom’s lens correction algorithm for the lens I used to make the images. The following image show the result of this step. (To me, the difference in the previous and next images is quite obvious, although several people who read this article before it was published claim to see no difference.)

Lens Correction Algorithm Applied
Lens Correction Algorithm Applied

In the next image, I have used Lightroom’s transformation tool to ensure that “my horizontals are horizontal and my verticals are vertical”. If they aren’t, the final product is garbage. I do my best to ensure this is achieved in the camera, but slight adjustments are always necessary. As before, several pre-readers claim to see no difference in the before and after images. As before, the difference is obvious to me.

Horizontal Horizontals and Vertical Verticals
Horizontal Horizontals and Vertical Verticals

Now, the Fun Part

Now that all of the basic image housekeeping has been done, its time to get down to making this a money image. This involves several exposure correction steps, white-balance, and color saturation modifications, and finally, a clarity adjustment.

First, I do a basic exposure adjustment. (Because there are two exposures in the HDR image, I will ultimately make three exposure adjustments.)

First Exposure Adjustment
First Exposure Adjustment

You should be able to see that I have lightened the entire image quite a bit. The front of the house that was initially in shadow is now properly exposed, but I have lost some of the detail in the sky.

Before making any further exposure modifications, I will correct the white-balance. I typically do this at this point in my post-processing workflow, but other photographers may finish all of the exposure modifications first. It is largely a matter of preference.

White Balance Correction
White Balance Correction

In the next two steps, I want to recapture some of the dramatic effect I have lost in the sky in the previous exposure modification. The first step in this is to make a split-tone correction that will reduce the range of exposures between the shadows and the highlights.

Split-tone Applied
Split-tone Applied

Next, I increase the brightness of the entire image, recapturing detail in both the shadows and the highlights.

Highlights and Shadows Recaptured
Highlights and Shadows Recaptured

In the next two images, I make a pair of saturation adjustments. First, I reduce the yellow saturation, and then increase the blue saturation. This serves to “whiten” the final image, and make the sky more blue.

Yellow Saturation Decreased
Yellow Saturation Decreased
Blue Saturation Increased
Blue Saturation Increased

You can see in the histogram (in the top right of the image) that this image is quite good. However, Debbie said she wanted the images to “pop”. This is Realtor-speak for clarity. In the next image, I have made a clarity adjustment. You should be able to see that the next image is not as “soft” as the previous image. This has nothing to do with focus. It is simply a pixel manipulation.

After a Clarity Adjustment
After a Clarity Adjustment

The Delivered Image and Some Final Comments

The next, and final image is the image that was delivered to Debbie. It has been exported at 1600 pixels by 1067 pixels, the dimensions required by Debbie’s MLS.

The Final Images
The Final Images

I could have made this image much more extreme, in line with the post-processing done by Fotosold, but I believe the final image should as accurately as possible depict the actual house. I believe any more extreme methods would have compromised this. The final image could also have been further cropped before being exported. This is also a matter of preference. I defer to the listing Realtor’s preference when making any final image crops.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts, opinions, criticisms, etc.

Scars

 

This photograph of the scars boren by a newly released slave is a well known photograph, although I am unable to find any detailed information about it. It is almost certainly a Daugerreotype photograph, given the time period in which the image was made. It is a brutal reminder of the cruelty American slaves suffered at the hands of their masters, and a reminder that we must be vigilant to the politics of our own time.

Karen Switzer – First Woman to Run in the Boston Marathon

For Alison:

This historic photograph, taken at the 1967 Boston Marathon, is of an angry man, Jock Semple, attempting to stop Karen Switzer from participating. When he noticed her participating in the race, Jock Semple shouted at Karen Switzer, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!”

Karen Switzer was the first woman to compete in the Boston Marathon as a numbered competitor. Jock Semple was shoved to the ground by Karen Switzer’s boyfriend, Thomas Miller. Women were, in fact, not allowed to compete in the Boston Marathon officially until 1972.

Jock Semple’s behavior is bewildering today, but in 1967 – not so long ago, I was myself 5-years old – a “woman’s place” was still something to be determined either by her father, husband, or boss. When asked his opinion of Karen Switzer having competed in the 1967 Boston Marathon, Boston Athletic Association Director Will Cloney reportedly said, “Women can’t run in the Marathon because the rules forbid it. Unless we have rules, society will be in chaos. I don’t make the rules, but I try to carry them out. We have no space in the Marathon for any unauthorized person, even a man. If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her.”

Asked why she had continued in the race after the attack by Jock Semple, Karen Switzer said, “I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I’d never run Boston. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win. My fear and humiliation turned to anger.”

How Not To . . . Teach via YouTube

As a 15-year veteran of the classroom (Mathematics Teacher), I would often become incensed by administrators entreaties to “entertain your students.” The thought that went through mind when I heard this was;

First – Fuck that!, and

Second – Fuck you!

Just don’t do it. If your goal is to entertain, then by all means, entertain. But, if your goal is to educate, do not attempt to entertain your students, regardless of what some so-called experts say. Here is a particularly egregious example of a YouTube how-to series. (I do own the product of interest in these videos, and I do use it. It does work. These videos do not.)

 

Phan Thi Kim Phuc – the Napalm Girl

 

This photograph, known popularly as Napalm Girl, is of Vietnamese-Canadian Phan Thi Kim Phuc running from her village of Trang Bang after a napalm attack by South Vietnamese aircrews on June 8, 1972. The photograph was taken by Associated Press (AP) photographer Huynh Cong ‘Nick’ Ut. This is the “cropped version” of the historic photograph, with other AP personnel standing to the right of the scene removed. Napalm Girl won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Photography, and was also chosen as World Press Photograph of the Year for 1973. It is, in my opinion, one of the two most powerful photographs taken during the US led assault (11/1955 – 04/1975) on the nation of Viet Nam.

Ansel Adams – The Tetons and the Snake River

 

This photograph of the Tetons and the Snake River was taken by Ansel Adams in 1942. Why is this particular photograph historic? It isn’t a necessarily historic photograph on its own, but as part of Adams’ corpus, I think it represents his mastery of Black and White photography quite well. As a practicing photographer since 1980, I have seen many, possibly most, of Adams’ published photographs, and this is one of my favorites.

Ansel Adams is famous, at least among photographers, as one of the developers of the Zone System, a method of exposing, developing, and printing photographs in order to control the scene’s dynamic range in the final positive image.