If you’ve read our “Keep Straight Lines Straight” tip, then you already know how important it is that a camera stays as level as possible during a photo shoot. The easiest place for that rule to fall apart is on exterior photos. In our local market, we have more than one neighborhood where houses are 2-3 stories tall but the lots are small. The only way you could photograph some of these houses while keeping the camera level would be to knock on the neighbors door across the street and ask if you can take a photo from the second floor balcony (yep – we’ve done that once or twice). In situations like that, you really only have two solutions:
Point the camera up to capture the entire house – This is certainly a feasible option, and sometimes it’s the only way to go. Your straight lines are going to slant in this scenario, but the good news is that this can be fixed in post-processing and it’s something we here at RealEstatePhotoFix.com do on a daily basis. The caveats are that there may be some slight distortion if the camera was pointed up dramatically, and the image will undergo some cropping, so make sure you leave room for that.
Find a way to take the shot from a higher elevation – You can go with the neighbor tip from above, but I’d discourage it. There are a few solutions for gaining some elevation without knocking on doors, but it all depends on what you want to spend.
Use a drone. This isn’t a cheap or easy method, but it’s probably the best. Having a drone as a part of your photography toolkit can be very useful. All sorts of homes will benefit from drone photos: houses that back up to water, houses on a golf course, houses with acreage, etc. Just keep in mind that the FAA requires all commercial drone pilots (real estate photographers and agents would fall into this category) to be licensed. Even then you may run into issues with certain areas not allowing you to fly a drone.
Use a giant tripod. I don’t have any personal experience with a giant tripod, but I have looked into them a few times. The one I remember from several years ago was the Gitzo Series 5. You can take shots from 14 feet up with this giant tripod. The downside is that it’s expensive.
Use a ladder. You may only gain a few feet with this method, but a few feet can make a huge difference.
Camera on a stick. There are all sorts of solutions available, but my favorite is called the Polester by longshotcamerasystems.com. You can visit their website for detailed information on how it works, but the basics are a telescoping pole, a camera mount, and a shutter trigger. You mount a point-and-shoot camera (not a DSLR) to the top of the pole and extend the pole to the height you want. You pull a cord that’s connected to a shutter trigger and snap away. This is actually the method my real estate photography company has used since 2010. We introduced drone photography in 2015, but we still use the Polester in situations where the drone isn’t needed.
Polester Pro Tip: I made a couple of upgrades to our Polester setup to improve it a bit.
I Velcroed the Polester to a cheap $30 Best Buy tripod to give it a bit more stability.
I invested in a point-and-shoot camera that had a companion phone app that allowed for shutter activation and live view right on my mobile device. This made set-up time quicker because I didn’t need to use the shutter trigger. It also made the shoot time quicker since I wasn’t shooting blind and hoping for the best.