By Scott Umstattd
Most GoPro photo tips focus on how to take incredibly awesome pictures of you doing incredibly awesome things. But can the GoPro do more? Does the camera without limits have a limit? Can a GoPro be used to simply take a picture of a room?
More importantly, can you make money with your GoPro in the competitive world of real estate photography?
The answer is yes. But there are a few ifs and buts that we'll need to address.
First off, I readily admit that I still have a lot to learn about real estate photography.
But one thing I have learned is that it's a really good idea to bracket pictures and combine them in something like Photomatix to create a final image that that doesn't lose it in the highlights and brings out more details in dark and shadowy area.
This is HDR photography.
HDR PHOTOGRAPHY - The above picture was NOT taken with a GoPro.
I used a Canon 60D with a Canon 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens and a tripod. It was made by combining three images each at a different exposure settings. I combined the images in Photomatix and then refined the final single image in Lightroom 5.
A wide angle lens is a must. A huge part of real estate photography is showing the grandeur of a room. You want to show each space in all of its majesty and this is best done with a wide angle lens that will allow you to cover an entire room with ease.
And this is where the GoPro can come in handy. The wide angle of the GoPro really lets in a room and when handled correctly and given enough light, the GoPro can come in handy in a pinch.
The extreme-wide-angle fish eye lens on the GoPro will distort the edges of your pictures causing straight lines to become curved. Meaning, that a rectangular door way may look like an arch because of the fish eye distortion.
Professionally speaking, this alone may keep you from getting into higher end real estate photography. There are lenses that are equipped to handle the challenging lines and depth of field issues real estate photographers face.
Your GoPro needs a lot of light to shine. While improvements have been made, your GoPro is never going to be your best low light photography camera.
This may prevent you from using your GoPro for high end real estate photography. Real estate photographers are tasked with making the most of available light within a space. Your GoPro is not the right camera for rooms and spaces that are not filled with light.
Give your GoPro plenty of light and it can work well. Here's a few shots taken in very good lighting with a GoPro Hero2. Obviously, if you have a GoPro Hero3 or Hero4 or Hero5 you should expect even better results.
Above: This is a great room and I took full advantage of light coming in from both directions. If only every room was this open to light.
Above: Same room. All I did was moved a few feet to my left to gain another perspective. Notice how the door frame on the left is curved? The door frame on the right is farther from the edge and has less of a curve. GoPro Photo Tip: The GoPro curve diminishes with distance from the edge of the frame.
Above: Lots of light is what a GoPro craves. Give it plenty of light and it will give you reliable results. Take away that light and the final results are not as reliable. See the curve in the trees on the edges?
Above: Another perspective of the same scene as above with plenty of light. The curve is apparent over the entire edge of this picture. For serious real estate photography, this curve is unacceptable. But, in a pinch your GoPro can help you if you simply don't have any other options.
Above: This is from a house we lived at in Guatemala. The shower was outside while the rest of the bathroom was under cover. This allowed for good, but not great, light to come in. More curves.
GOPRO PHOTO TIP - The fish eye lens on your GoPro distorts (curves) straight lines. Pay close attention to door frames and corners as they will appear curved in pictures. If possible place your camera at a point that minimizes the fish eye effect.
Taking pictures with your GoPro in great light gives you a better product to adjust in editing. When you take GoPro pictures in low light the resulting darker images may contain more noise which can really get in the way when editing.
Here's another set of pictures taken without the benefit tons of light.
Above: This picture does a good job of showing the room but it does not showcase the room. Real estate photography is for showcasing spaces. This means that your client and their viewers expect more than just a snapshot of the space they are marketing or shopping for.
Above: This picture is not so great. The room is dark and the light from the outside is casting an ugly blue hue over everything. A better place to stand would have been in front of the window or in the door frame putting the light behind me.
Above: This one isn't great by any means but it's not as bad as the previous one because this time I have my back to the window which puts me (and the camera) in the right place to photograph this space. GoPro Photo Tip: Whenever possible have your light source behind you.
Above: The GoPro can't manage this poorly lit room. As a snapshot it does its job. It shows the room. But there is nothing "showcasing" about this picture.
You may find it easier to to use your GoPro outside of the house (where there's more light). Take advantage of that light and use your GoPro to bring in the entire yard.
Keep in mind, when using your GoPro to make sure the horizon line is straight. You get that GoPro curve on the horizon line when the camera is tilted up or down. Keep your GoPro level and that will help you get a straight horizon line for your outdoor real estate photography.
Here's some example of GoPro in the yard. (It helps if the yard looks awesome. A camera can only show what it sees.)
Above: Lining up the steps in the middle helped to prevent the GoPro curve from distorting them.
Above: A straight and level GoPro can take some incredible pictures...of yards.
Above: Of course, the GoPro is up to the task of taking a shot of the house and the yard all in one picture.
Above: The fish eye lens distortion of the GoPro can wreck havoc on straight lines inside a house (like door frames and corners) but the distortion isn't as noticeable when taking pictures of plants and vegetation.
GoPro Photo Tip: The distortion caused by the GoPro's fisheye lens is less noticed in nature scenes.
If the only camera you own is a GoPro, I don't think you're going to go far as a real estate photographer. Among other things, real estate photographers are paid to control light. And your GoPro is just not that good at controlling light.
If you have a GoPro and are putting your house or condo on the market your GoPro will certainly allow you to take some sweeping photos of your property.
Be sure to shoot different rooms or spaces at different times of the day to make the most of natural light.
Some rooms will have more light in the morning others will have more light in the evening.
Take advantage of the fact that you are always there and shoot at the best times based on lighting conditions.
on the other hand, you are like me and dabble in real estate photography but don't yet have a great wide angle lens for interior shots, the GoPro can come in handy if the conditions are right or can be made right. Again, that means having enough light.
GOPRO PHOTO TIPS
The drawbacks of using a GoPro for real estate photography are:
If you want to get into real estate photography don't buy a GoPro. If you have a GoPro and are into real estate photography you may find that it can come in handy from time to time.
Think real estate photography is simply Point. Then shoot? Ha. Think again.
Check out this video by Mike Browne as he walks you through "studying" a room before taking pictures.