Over the last few weeks, we’ve been conducting interviews with professional real estate photographers who’ve given us insight into photography and the crucial post-production process of photo editing.
In a recent blog post written by our Chairman, Adrian Gill, he suggests that listed properties with professional photographs are viewed 61% more than other properties listed at a similar price due to features such as good lighting, which attract viewers to an image. The photographers we spoke to were keenly aware of the importance of high quality real estate images, however, many struggle to edit their images themselves to meet the fast paced nature of the real estate market. Whilst some photographers outsource photo editing services, the pain points commonly experienced include a slow turnaround time and poor communication. This leaves many to edit images themselves, so we’ve experimented with various photo editing softwares to round up 5 best photo editing softwares in 2021.
Adobe’s suite of programmes offer excellent do-it-yourself editing services. Real estate photographers use Photoshop to layer images and alter brightness, saturation and white balance. Adobe recently introduced a sky replacement tool which is useful particularly for UK real estate photographers who frequently need to replace overcast British skies with bright blue skies, however, the lack of variety of sky replacements was criticised by one photographer. Photoshop can be combined with Adobe Lightroom to edit, layer and transform real estate images, but this is a long process. The plus of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite is its reasonable costs, at roughly £25 per month; photographers without a big budget can save costs editing and time waiting for enhanced images from outsourced services.
We reached out to Tom Durrant, Director at DCTR, to tell us what he thought about Photoshop for real estate photography:
“The industry standard software for pro retouching is Photoshop, and that's our primary software of choice at DCTR when enhancing photos. It's been around for over 30 years but that doesn't mean it's a dinosaur - far from it.
Photoshop is feature rich which means we can create the very best creative output, at the best speed for our clients. Of all the software out there for retouchers, Photoshop gives the most flexibility and control.
The downside to Photoshop is it's complexity. Apart from their free programme 'Lightroom' that has limited functionality but is quite easy to use, few people would be able to download the full version of photoshop and start using it straight away. For every enhancement and adjustment with photoshop. there will be many ways to approach the project, due to the many tools at hand. Sometimes with adjustment layers, comping in layers, other image assets and layer masks we could end up with 100+ layers in just one photo!
When it comes to property specific editing like removing scaffolding, taking skips off driveways, painting in new tarmac, adding leaves to trees, painting in brick work (you get the picture...) Photoshop is really the only way to go. You can approach the project with a mixture of Photoshop AI tools that help speed up the edit (like content aware fill, that allows the computer to decide what should go behind the object you're removing - warning, doesn't always work!) and manual tools (like the clone brush that allows the user to clone part of a photo and apply it to another part of a photo). Whilst it can appear complex and a little slow at times, retouching is an art and to deliver photorealism with accuracy after a really heavy edit, it does take time”.
Human edited exterior image before and after shot from the DCTR team.
Human edited interior image before and after shot from the DCTR team.
Skylum’s Luminar AI photo editing software powered by artificial intelligence is ideal for photographers who don’t have the time to edit their own photos, and want to cut out costs for outsourcing. Purchasing Luminar AI software starts from £79. Although the software speeds up photographers’ workflow, only one image can be processed at a time which requires a reasonably powerful computer to process. The software can be used for a range of images, with features including sky replacement, for both day and night images, resolution improvement, atmospheric filters for landscapes and retouching for portraits, so it doesn’t focus specifically on real estate photography. Nonetheless, Luminar AI is recommended by photographers for its user experience and customer support.
Luminar AI was a simple programme to install and use, it felt like using advanced Instagram filters. With a click of a few buttons, the software replaced the sky and changed the colour/saturation to create a “goldern hour” feel, making the image seem like it was shot at sunset.
Using the clear and sharp template, this bathroom image was enhanced instantly using the Luminar AI software.
Processed with artificial intelligence, Let’s Enhance improves image quality and picture resolution. Simply create an account on their website to upload 5 photos for free or install their API into your application and receive enhancements within a fast turnaround time. Whilst professional photographers aren’t using it to improve image resolution, it can be used to enhance vibrance and saturation. As real estate photographers are often contracted to their projects, Let’s Enchance offers a reasonable price subscription deal starting from $9 per month. Although many people rate the tool itself, the customer support has been criticised for being non-existent.
Let’s Enhance enhanced the exterior image to appear lighter and improve the quality, which took about 30 seconds. However, the lack of sky replacement makes the image seem dull.
Let’s Enhance edited the interior image in a similar time frame of 30 seconds, sharpening the image and adding white balance and brightness.
We spoke to several photographers who strongly disliked the impact that the editing process has on their workflows, which are slowed down when editing services are outsourced. Remove.bg (Remove Background) is an image background removal tool with a simple drag and drop process, which can be used via the web interface, API and via Canva - the graphic design tool used widely by creatives and marketeers alike recently acquired Remove.bg. Removebg is focused in ecommerce product but has the potential to enter the real estate space with it's highly accurate mask, although currently photographers will need to take their image into Photoshop to enhance the foreground.
Background removal took seconds with Remove.bg but adding a sky replacement manually took about 10 minutes with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
We encouraged the photographers to have a try with our software - Autoenhance.ai - which is an automated photo editing service with features including sky replacement, relighting and perspective correction that enhance real estate image to a high standard. The benefits of Autoenhance.ai include the rapid turnaround time of 10 seconds to enhance and return an image, which attracted photographers and proptechs looking to speed up their workflow and improve the quality of their property images. Autoenhance.ai also enhances multiple images in one go using the simple web interface (we also have an API for uploading images).
We asked Tom at DCTR what he thought about using Autoenhance.ai:
“There are some really great AI tools like Autoenhance.ai emerging that allow more basic edits like adding blue skies and colour enhancements to be done by a computer in seconds. For the customer this can be invaluable because of the time it saves.
It's a really exciting space to be in right now and who knows what [photo editors] will be able to do in the next 10 years! Watch this space”.
Exterior enhancement took seconds with Autoenhance.ai, replacing the sky automatically, correcting the perspective and colour/saturation of the image.
Autoenhance.ai edited the interior image instantly.