It is that time of year again, the days are short and most of the time we have grey or overcast skies, rain, or a combination of these weather patterns. Living in Vancouver we get used to this type of weather from November through March. Unfortunately people are selling their homes all year round and if you wait for nice weather, you may be waiting weeks to get a bright day for that all important exterior view photograph of your property.
Pretty dull looking right? This is a home in North Vancouver that was extensively renovated inside and had some nice landscape features. Unfortunately this is November and the sun days were few and far between. If you wait for sun you have to also hope that a photographer is going to be available on that day for the exterior photographs.
The first thing most real estate photographers will do, other than suggest you wait for a bright day, is to simply brighten up the whole photograph. Fine, but now your grey sky has turned white. Next step is to add a blue gradient in the sky so you have a bit of blue. Okay, but now we have something that definitely is going to look a bit phoney. The last step is for the photographer to completely replace the original dull sky with a photo of a sky that is blue and has a few clouds. Some photographers simply replace the sky without clouds but this can cause problems because then you have to deal with the issue of adding shadows to create a sense of reality. Clouds are a photographers friend, because it can reduce the need for trying to realistically create shadows. If a sky has clouds from your viewpoint, it most likely has clouds behind you which eliminates some of the shadow problem.
That’s better, now we have something that is a bit more appealing. The photo still has a few problems but those would involve quite a bit of work and an investment in time and money. The paving blocks are covered in moss and dirt, despite the fact the owner had power washed the area just before I arrived. Also, the leaves are falling from the trees so we have bare branches and a lot of the colourful planting are gone now. Not much we can do about that but at least the front view of the house is more inviting.
Depending on the retouching skills of the photographer you can get a good looking replacement, or one that tells the viewer the photograph has been “photoshopped”. The tell-tale signs something has been doctored really pops up when you have holes in the trees, bare branches and in this case a couple of power lines. A good retouching job shows the bare branches, you can see through the spaces in the trees and see blue sky and clouds where they should be, and small objects like power lines are still in the photo. From an ethical and possibly legal standpoint, if those wires exist in reality, they need to do so in the photographs. To remove power lines, telephone poles and other “permanent” objects is to mislead a potential buyer.
I go the extra mile in my sky replacements. I not only make sure the small objects are still part of the photo, I take care to adjust the lighting. Sometimes what I do is not clearly noticed but there are some steps in retouching that should be part of the process. I use a specialized program that goes beyond just placing a new sky into the photo. I have control over the lighting and the colour temperature, not just for the sky, but the building, the plants, the ground and a few other things. each of those is adjusted separately so it’s not just push a button and the whole thing changes. Reality is, the light is affected differently by the objects in the scene.
Here is another example. It was raining outside, lightly but you can tell the rain has been coming down for a while. It was mid morning around noon when the photograph was taken. Water is sitting on the deck and the roads are wet.
Replacing the sky is more than just throwing some blue and white into the photo. You need to make it somewhat believable. I can’t dry out the roads and get rid of the water on the ground but I can do something about the sky. In this case I chose a sky that looks like it is morning and the rain has stopped, or is going to stop any time. Many photographers use stock photos of skies, I take many of my own sky photos because skies in BC are different from those in Arizona or Germany or Japan. I also photograph my skies in 4 orientations so if I must use a view that is north, it really is north and a southern sky is just that.
The scene below, for my sense of reality, looks believable, the colours are what one might expect after a storm has just passed and it blends in nicely with everything. The power lines are still there, you can see the new sky through the trees, it’s all believable and I think you might agree the new image is a 100% improvement over the original photo.
So, don’t be afraid the book a photo shoot because the weather is going to be less than ideal. In most cases I can do everything in one appointment and you will get your photographs on time. No waiting for a sunny day to re-take the exterior photos and then change them in your listing presentation. In most scenarios your client wants the listing up as soon as possible and delaying getting the property onto the market because you have to wait for photographs is not an option for a lot of sellers.