The benefits of virtual furniture for real estate sales and rentals on The Sunshine Coast.

It can often happen; you have a home, apartment or unit for sale or rent on The Sunshine Coast and the owners or previous tenants have moved on, leaving the dwelling completely empty of furniture. As a tempting marketing morsel, a photo of an empty room has far less appeal than one that is tastefully furnished. It used to be that, if the budget allowed, one might rent a house-lot of real furniture to dress up the place and impart a homey vibe so as to entice folk to visit. However, advances in 3D modelling have provided a second, cheaper solution: virtual furniture.

Virtual furniture:

“… has proven excellent results in us being able to achieve maximum interest levels and numbers attending our open-for-inspections, with the subsequent leasing of that property quickly, at the highest rental return possible.”

– Sarah Latham, owner and director of Latham Cusack Property Services’ North Shore office

The quote above was from a blog post at Residential Property Manager called “Turning to the virtual world for real life success“, and if you’re not familiar with it, virtual furniture is a service offered by many real estate photographers where they use Photoshop or 3D software to add furniture to an otherwise empty room.

As Sarah notes in her article, the use of virtual furniture in her rentals has helped to attract more tenants, meaning less time that a property is left vacant.

The presence of virtual furniture helps Sunshine Coast viewers gauge the size of a room, and can open their eyes to a space’s potential. If the VF is tastefully chosen it can add perceived value to the otherwise-empty dwelling, much in the way that garnishes artistically arranged around a meal can make it appear more appetising. This psychological appeal may help garner a higher asking price.

And as noted in the Daily Mail article, “The latest real estate trick to lure buyers“:

“Sellers are saving ‘thousands’ of dollars by paying photography companies to add virtual furniture to their photos instead of hiring the real thing…”

What about the buyers? Are they annoyed by seeing photos of a furnished home and arriving to find that it’s empty when they visit? According to real estate agent Graham Green that hasn’t been a problem for him, and he has used virtual furniture a lot:

‘At the end of the day the better looking it is the more people who will fall in love with it’.

Or as one virtual furniture service provider mentioned in this article, “Virtual reality technology transforms real estate“:

“We say it is for illustration only; if people come through and say, ‘where’s the furniture?’, be honest and tell them it is digitally staged.”

Most buyers are fairly understanding of that, so long as the actual features and presentation of the home they are thinking of buying isn’t changed. In other words, when it comes to digitally altering images for real estate sales, placing a dining table in a room that was actually empty when the photographer took the photo is fine, but repairing a large hole in a wall is not. In real estate marketing it all comes down to what’s permanent, and what’s temporary, and virtual furniture is very temporary.

Here are a few samples of virtual furniture so you can see what’s possible:

Do you think that the use of virtual furniture is in any way deceptive? Leave a comment below.

Knowledge of capture and processing techniques trumps how expensive your camera is.

Occasionally photographers hear the comment, “Gee, you must have a good camera!” It’s certainly meant as a compliment but I thought that I’d show you a situation (one of many) where a good camera alone could not cut the mustard, and where the photographer’s knowledge and technique were essential in producing an acceptable result.

Recently I photographed Noosa’s fabulous Ricky’s Restaurant, which has the most beautiful outlook of any on the coast IMO. You walk in and can’t tear your eyes off the river glittering just beyond the equally sparkling table settings.

I set up the camera, dialed in an exposure that favoured the interior and made the first shot below. Hmmm… underwhelming. The windows are too bright and the colours of the walls, door frames and floor are rather washed out. Now that’s a $3000 camera and lens and it still can’t always produce a photo that matches the human experience!

Unedited restaurant shot by Propertyshoot Sunshine Coast

 

In the second shot that gob-smacking view is clearly seen. The tablecloths are bright and white and the glassware and cutlery sparkles. To do that I lit the woodwork and floor and each individual table with flash, then made a separate shot for the view. It ended up requiring parts of 8 shots to form the completed photo. Is it a misrepresentation? I believe that I merely compensated for the inadequacies of the camera and made an image which closely captures how I saw the restaurant when I walked in.

Edited restaurant marketing photograph by Propertyshoot Photography Sunshine Coast

And which shot would prompt you to pick up the phone and make a booking? That reaction is what marketing photography should stimulate.

Would you like something similar for your marketing?

Marketing Photography – applying an interior lighting technique to a products and services shoot.

I recently had the opportunity to shoot some marketing photos for Noosa company “Classic Coffee Roasters”, whose visual signature is an awesome customised VW Kombi. We met up early one morning on the Noosa river. I wanted to light the van so that it would stand out from its background, and it was immediately apparent that the van’s  interior, and Sam the barista, would also benefit from additional light. Although I had a studio flash on a stand providing a wash of light onto the van’s exterior, it wasn’t of any use for lighting the interior, as cranking up the flash’s power merely caused the coffee machine and the van’s pneumatic hood to cast hard shadows. Out came the trusty FOS (“flash-on-a-stick”). Armed with a wireless remote to fire the camera I was able to light various parts of the interior, and Sam, and then combine the lit parts of those photos to create a finished composite. And because Sam was the only object in the scene that moved, he could be placed into the interior in different poses. It’s a cool technique that can also be applied to any photos of interiors, with or without people, in a home, office, bar or restaurant.

Photo of Customised VW Kombi coffee van by Propertyshoot Photography Sunshine Coast
Completed photo

 
 

Behind the scenes photo showing Propertyshoot Photography at work.
Behind the scenes – lighting the interior.

Light Painting

Light Painting refers to a photographic technique where light is artificially added to a scene (and thus to the completed image) while the camera shutter remains open. Typically it might involve ‘painting’ parts of a scene with a flashlight, or writing your name against a dark sky with a glow-stick. I demonstrate the lighting of an exterior here , and that same technique can be used for interiors as shown below.

Light painting demo by Propertyshoot Sunshine Coast

Travel

A handy thing to have while traveling is a small tripod or even a clamp that you can use to hold the camera steady in low light situations.  eg the dim interior of a cathedral. When the shutter wants to stay open for several seconds in order to gather sufficient light, any tremor imparted by shaky hands will result in a blurry shot. I took this photo in a Moroccan garden a few years back, the camera atop a small flexible tripod balanced on a window sill. Luckily the only significant movement on this still evening was from the fountain, and its spouts have blurred into creamy trails. On the hillside, the house lights of Chefchaouen begin to come on…

Moroccan garden at twilight by © Propertyshoot Photography

Behind the Scenes

Like the fine art of cat skinning, there is more than one way to photograph the front of a home. Each method produces results pretty much in line with the time invested; from a single ‘snap’ to a composite of multiple photos, each individually lit, taken over 30 minute window. Here is a short video that shows one way of capturing and processing such a photograph shot at twilight.

Property Imaging Sunshine Coast