Twilight or "dusk" photography is one of the many tools that a property marketer uses to create emotion for a property. There is really quite nothing like scrolling through images and then pausing on one that really catches the eye and draws you in. The magic of this imagery is that it has so many colors, so much depth, and it tells more of a story than a traditional HDR still photo.
The prospective buyer will imagine that time of day, or that location with much more emotion when viewing a twilight photo. But, not all twilight photos are created the same, and the ability to work quickly to capture an image at the right time of day requires some skill and agility on the part of your photographer. The standard twilight shoots that we do can begin as early as 4-5pm in the winter, but the longer summer days mean that sun sets closer to 9pm around the summer equinox, which puts a photographer out in the field way past 9pm. This is why traditional twilight photography in the summer can be expensive, and also why it's so powerful - it's exactly the capturing of that late summer evening that makes images completely stand out.
There are actually three different phases to twilight and dawn, and these phases make up the entire time through which a photographer is working. In the civil twilight, this is the time just after the sun dips below the horizon, we can still see quite a lot, but all of the hard and long shadows from just before sunset have disappeared. This phase has a lot of light and is a beloved time to shoot patios and exterior spaces that are not well-lit with landscaping lighting.
Just after that we have the nautical twilight, which is when the rays are still lighting up the sky, but it's not quite as bright, and then we have astronomical twilight, which is the last phase and the darkest. We shoot typically through the entire duration of twilight to capture different images and to get the mood exactly how we want it for a shoot. But, again, this takes patience to start shooting at just the right time and it also takes the ability to move quickly through your setups. Typically in a twilight shoot we will have a loop of images that we know we want and we will do that loop 2-3 times to make sure that we have captured the different locations on the shot list throughout all three phases. You can see this in the slide show below.
But, not everyone who wants a twilight photo can afford a full twilight photo shoot which can add another $150-$600 to a photo shoot. That is where the twilight treatment or dusk treatment comes in, and at a much lower price-point, a similar effect is achieved. Sky replacement has become standard in photography, so much so, that we hardly think anything of it. And, it saves time both for the photographers being on site and getting images back and processing later, as well as money since we are able to use the same photoshop and sky replacement techniques to achieve a beautiful photograph from a daytime photo. It also enables photographers to have amazing results even when we have just a foggy evening and the sky enhancement adds just that something extra to the shoot.
Twilight treatment is therefore now within reach of many, many more people, so why don't they use it? I think it's because some folks think that the twilight photo is much like a virtual tour and really the domain of a more high-end home. I think that while this used to be true, it no longer needs to be the case, and for a photograph treatment in the $25 range, it makes so much sense to add it to a marketing package. When there is budget for a traditional shoot, then it makes so much sense, and the authenticity of the image is amazing - showing off the landscape lighting and all of those other property accents that you would not otherwise be able to see until the evening. But, for many properties where the exterior lighting is not as extensive, then a well-done twilight treatment can still do wonders at an accessible price-point and help buyers make that emotional connection.
Below, a series of photographs taken throughout twilight show how the light at a property changes during the shoot, and what the final results are when you finish merging and editing the images.
On July 14th I had the honor of speaking with the Immersive Tech Africa meet-up members, hosted by Arome Ibrahim, the founder of Immersive Tech Africa, and other members of the African XR network. Arome is based in Lagos, Nigeria and is working hard to bring XR to Africa and is especially interested in XR for Real Estate and the use of Proptech to create new opportunities for African companies. It was a great opportunity to share my insights into the use of XR for real estate and to make some great new friends. Prof. Eugene Ohu, who this week received a huge grant of $234,000 to pursue research on the impact of XR for Education from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, also spoke about his work. Prof. Ohu is the senior Lecturer and Director of the Virtual Human Computer Interaction Lab at Lagos Business School. Other speakers included Priscilla Koukoui, founder of OviSquare, based in Sydney, Australia, Dale Deacon who is the R&D Director of EPIC: Research and Development in Johannesburg South Africa and a Guest Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, and Onyinye Enyioha, Founder of TotalView, a real estate virtual tour platform that looked great during the presentation. I look forward to staying in touch with everyone as we keep growing the XR community around the world!
On June 25th I participated in a webinar with the Commercial Real Estate Professionals Network discussing the state of the art of virtual tours and virtual visits for commercial real estate. The event drew professionals from the Bay Area's CRE world, and we discussed a wide range of topics, including 360° photography, 3D photography, and documentation. I am working on some new concepts around my 3D philosophy for documenting a property as part of creating a virtual representation of the space to be used for marketing, as a visual and physical reference, and also as part of the property's digital archive which is something that many properties can benefit from long after the leasing cycle is over. I will be putting these thoughts into a future blog post or article, but it's been an exciting and eye-opening few months working with CRE and documenting their spaces for a variety of purposes. I am looking forward to expanding upon the services that we offer to CRE professionals, and it seems like in the post-COVID-19 world, we are going to need these services more than ever. I appreciated being a part of the panel and was joined by my esteemed colleagues Steven Donaldson of Radiant Brands, Anthony Shell of Avison Young, and Mike Hoppe of Geopogo. I am looking forward to continuing the exploration of this work and how it benefits CRE customers and I will post the YouTube video of the chat as soon as it's ready! -Emily Olman
It started in April this year with a conversation, and turned into a great opportunity for Hopscotch Interactive to make a difference for our local community in the East Bay. When Metro Lighting called us in the middle of shelter-in-place to ask about virtual tours, we realized that there was a great need for local retailers to get visible again to the local community and to showcase how things may have changed in their retail locations since the pandemic. Metro Lighting is a proud member of the West Berkeley Design Loop, as is Hopscotch Interactive customer Sogno Design, and so we thought that possibly creating a promotion that helps the Design Loop Members get fresh media would also help Hopscotch Interactive get the word out about our services for virtual tours, floor plan creation, and other photography media. We are kicking-off our promotion with the West Berkeley Design Loop this week, and will be scheduling Google Street View shoots for the last two weeks of June at a very special promotional price. More to come on this promotion, but we are excited to be using our skills with virtual tours and Google Street View to hopefully make a positive impact for these retail locations.
West Berkeley Design Loop
Metro Lighting Virtual Tour
Metro Lighting May 2020, photography by Hopscotch Interactive
4/29/2020 Update from BRIDGE AOR on Shelter in Place - STAGING NOW permitted in contra Costa County!
THIS IS A REPOST from the BRIDGE Association of Realtors. If you are interested in an amazing local stager, I highly recommend getting in touch with Natalie at Casa Di Vita, I have shot homes she has staged many times, and she is a delight to work with!
Shelter-in-Place and Real Estate Transactions
The Order of April 29, 2020 EFFECTIVE 11:59 pm May 3, 2020
Questions and Answers
(As of May 1, 2020)
The information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Please check the County/City Orders and FAQs for any changes and updates
Always check with your broker before undertaking any activity related to the sale of property. If questions arise consult your broker, and with the broker’s consent, legal counsel
What does the new Order allow with regard to real estate services?
The new Order provides in summary as follows:
1. Service Providers that enable real estate transactions are included in the excepted services
2. Service providers include real estate agents, escrow agents, notaries and title companies, (see below for additional information on service providers*)
3. Appointments and viewing are to occur virtually
4. If a virtual viewing is not feasible, viewings must be by appointment with no more than two people from the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit.
5. Commercial real estate activities are permissible if performed within the rules of the Order.
Service providers also include inspectors, appraisers, photographers and videographers.
In Contra Costa County services providers are defined to include inspectors, appraisers, photographers/videographers AND stagers.
Does the new Order allow for staging and stagers?
No, in Alameda County and the City of Berkeley there is no provision for stagers, and until further change or clarification, stagers should not be permitted to enter a property. In Contra Costa County stagers are permitted.We are currently working with Alameda County and the City of Berkeley to include stagers in the definition of service providers.
Can properties be viewed by a family of more than two people at the same time?
No. The Order allows only two people from the same household to accompany the agent during a showing.
Can brokers and agents conduct Live Open Houses or Broker Tours?
No. Marketing preview tours, caravans and other similar visits are not permitted.
When should the PEAD be signed?
According to C.A.R. and subject to the direction of your broker, C.A.R.'s PEAD Form, the latest of which is dated April 30, 2020, should be completed each time there is an entry into the property, irrespective as to whether it is occupied or vacant. It should be signed by all service providers, buyers, or anyone else entering the home; and it should also be signed by the seller for each entry.
Can a listing agent visit the property to conduct the visual inspection required by California Civil Code, Section 2079?
Yes. Because it is not feasible to complete the mandated visual inspection and completion of the Agent’s portion of the Transfer Disclosure Statement, an agent may visit the property to complete the statutory requirements. The C.A.R. AVID Form is available for agents wishing to do this. Agents should consult with their brokers concerning the conducting of any inspections.
Can a buyer visit the property after the execution of a Purchase and Sale Agreement for the purpose of fulfilling the buyer’s obligation to conduct inspections as allowed by California Civil Code, Section 1102.6?
Yes. In performing any such inspections, the agent must accompany the buyer to assure the health and sanitation protocols are followed.
What are the protocols for viewing a property?
1. Compliance with Social Distancing Requirements of Section 16.k of the Order
2. Following the directives of public agencies for sanitation and health, including avoiding the touching of surfaces and wiping any touched surfaces with disinfectants.
3. Following the directives of the Order issued April 17, 2020 pertaining face coverings
4. Follow the directions of your broker.
Can a listing agent schedule back to back appointments to show a listed property?
Yes, under certain conditions. Any person coming to view a property must have previously made arrangements through the appointment process referenced in the Order. Only two persons of the same household or living unit may be on the property at the same time. The viewing can be accomplished only if a virtual viewing is not feasible. Only one agent can be on the premises at a given time and the buyer’s agent should access the property through a lockbox or other secure method. The listing agent and buyer’s agent cannot be on the property at the same time.
What are the protocols for showing properties occupied by tenants?
The same protocols in effect for occupied properties apply to properties occupied by tenants. Tenants must not be present when properties they occupy are shown. The coordination of gaining access to a property occupied by a tenant is the responsibility of the seller and must be obtained in accordance with any applicable provisions of local laws and the written lease between the tenant and seller.
If furniture was staged before May 4, 2020 and the property sells, how can the stager retrieve their furniture?
In Contra Costa County the furniture may be removed by the stager at any time provided all of the protocols for sanitation and health are followed. We are currently working with Alameda County and the City of Berkeley to include stagers in the definition of service providers
Can a seller arrange for staging in Alameda County or the City of Berkeley?
It does not matter who makes the arrangement, certain disciplines are not permitted to take place during the effective period of the Order. In Alameda County and the City of Berkeley, staging is not deemed an essential service, irrespective who makes the arrangement. We are currently working with Alameda County and the City of Berkeley to include stagers in the definition of service providers
Can inspectors conduct home inspections?
Yes. As with any other viewing, all of the health and sanitary protocols must be followed.
Can appraisers conduct in-person appraisals?
Yes. If an appraisal is required in a pending transaction, an appraisal may be conducted subject adhering to social distancing guidelines established by the County. The appraisal should be conducted as expeditiously as possible. Sellers must vacate the property prior to the appraisal.
Can buyer’s agent conduct “buyer walk-throughs” prior to closing?
Yes. If a walk-through is required in a pending transaction, a walk-through may be conducted, provided that it is by appointment, a total of no more than two people from the same household or living unit, and the agent are at the property at any one time, and they all adhere to social distancing guidelines established by the County. The walk-though should be conducted as expeditiously as possible. Sellers should vacate the property prior to the walk-through.
Can professional photographers take photos and create virtual tours during the effective period of the Order
Yes. Information concerning real estate services indicates that professional photography for listings is permitted. Like all other in-person activities, photos and virtual tours must be by appointment, a total of no more than one photographer may be at property at any one time, and the photographer must adhere to social distancing guidelines established by the County. Sellers must vacate the property prior to any photography activities.
How much time should a seller be gone from the property before a viewing and how much time needs to elapse before a seller returns to a residence after the viewing or service provider leaves?
There is no scientifically accepted measure, however, there should be sufficient time between the time the seller leaves and the viewer or service provider arrives. Likewise, after the viewer or service provider leaves, the seller should allow sufficient time before returning to the property.
Do listing agents need to remove lock boxes from Active listings?
No. Lock boxes may stay on Active listings, as previews and showings are permitted by appointment only, if a total of no more than two people residing in the same household or living unit and the agent are at the property at any one time, and those two people adhere to social distancing guidelines established in the order.
Can moving companies move buyers into a property and move sellers out of a property?
Yes. The new Order specially recognizes the role of movers in a real estate transaction. All of the same protocols and rules apply to movers. All moving work should be conducted with the fewest employees possible and follow social distancing and sanitation measures.
Can agents install for-sale signs at a property during the Order?
Yes. Agents are permitted to install for-sale signs, provided that the sign is installed adhering to social distancing guidelines established in the order.
Can my landscaper/arborist/gardener continue to maintain my yard?
Yes. Arborists, landscapers, gardeners, and similar service professionals can operate as outdoor businesses, as that term is defined in the new Order, but they must strictly comply with social distancing requirements.
Can home service workers continue to provide their services?
Home service workers can keep providing services in homes if they are essential to health, safety, sanitation, or the necessary operation of the home. This includes plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other services needed to maintain a safe and sanitary home. Home construction and repair work is also allowed, as is home-based care for children, adults, seniors, and pets.
Can we bring in sanitizing and cleaning services to clean/disinfect homes?
Yes. Service providers that are necessary to maintain habitability, sanitation or operation of the residence are permissible under the new Order.
If I see a violation what do I do?
Consult with your broker. The appropriate law enforcement agency is vested with the responsibility for enforcing the law. The Bridge Association of REALTORS® is not a law enforcement agency and cannot legally engage in any enforcement activities.
Where can I get more information?
The Orders are available at the links below.
Alameda County Order
Contra Costa County Order
City of Berkeley Order
With shelter-in-place affecting the way that everyone is doing business these days, I felt like it was really important to share some of my expertise with virtual tours with anyone who needs it. This led me to creating a series of DIY videos that I published on YouTube on Zillow 3D Home Tours and also Smartphone photography. It's great to help people any way you can, and for me that meant documenting something I'm doing anyway, and hopefully sharing some of the tips that helped me get better at what I do with folks who could really use some help!
If you are looking for ways to create inexpensive marketing content for your listing, and you want to try the Zillow 3D Home Tour App, I recommend giving it a try and if you can't make heads or tails of it, give us a call and we can schedule a professional for you to create a tour.
On April 9th, the BRIDGE AOR sent a breaking news update that photography is now explicitly included as an essential service for facilitating real estate transactions. The order concludes that only vacant properties can be toured, but that vacant or non-vacant properties can be visited by photographers if we comply with Appendix A (appendix to the various county orders issued below). This is a helpful update, as it clarifies the confusion around essential services and pre-marketing activities including the creation of virtual tours.
Appendix A is a "social distancing protocol", and we believe that it must be followed, in addition to following the CDC Guidelines as common sense practices. All Hopscotch Interactive personnel will be required to wear masks, shoe coverings, gloves, and will refrain from touching their faces. We will also wipe lockboxes and keys as an extra precaution.
This is in addition to hand-washing, and keeping a social distance of 6' at all times. To determine if your city and county are still under stricter guidelines during Shelter in Place, we are in touch with each regional association of realtors, as well as city health officials (i.e. Sonoma County), to confirm whether or not any services are permitted at this time.
We will also require the Coronavirus Addenda (PEAD) for signature with contracts.
Appendix A - NEW Update 4/9/2020
Alameda County Order
Contra Costa County Order
City of Berkeley County Order
The Coronavirus has had impacts already that will change the way that we do business in Real Estate marketing forever. Hopscotch Interactive is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the first locations in the country to have a shelter-in-place ordinance. We slowed operations to adjust to the changing information that was coming to us on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. But, as things have come more clearly into view, we have followed the situation closely as it pertains to real estate and we can now share the following update:
1) March 28, 2020 There was a change in the list of California Essential Services, and Real Estate was listed as an essential service. However, local cities and counties may have stricter rules in place, so everyone must make sure they have clearance from the local health officials before proceeding with any property marketing or visits.
2) March 31, 2020 The BRIDGE AOR announced that real estate services are an essential service in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, as well as the City of Berkeley.
3) CAR issue these Coronavirus Addenda (PEAD_4-2020 & form RLA_CAA_4-2020) which now must be signed by anyone who is entering a property to acknowledge the risks, and as a declaration that to their knowledge they are not sick. You can get the documents here or download them from the MLS.
4) April 6, 2020 The CAR shared this document that helps us navigate which cities and counties are acknowledging real estate marketing and services as essential
We are not returning to business as usual just yet, even if a property is in an area where we are considered essential. Here are some of the things that we are reviewing on a case-by-base basis to determine if we can enter a property:
These are just a few of the considerations that we are making. So, we are operating with a more conservative approach to this situation than other service providers, but we believe that following the CDC Guidelines for Coronavirus is the minimum we should do, and we also have to use common sense to understand what the risks are and if we can proceed.
Our greatest concern is the safety and well-being of our clients, and the health of our community, so we will always put that first.
We will continue to update and monitor the situation as it evolves, and thank all of our customers for their understanding as we navigate this together.
I also want to say thank you so much to the many Realtor Associations and representatives that I have spoken to all over the state during the last three weeks, you have been an incredible resource for me and I appreciate it very much.
Starting this month we will be offering Zillow 3D Home Tours in addition to our regular real estate marketing services such as still photography and Matterport 3D photography. First, let's get things straight, although they are called "3D", the Zillow 3D Home Tours are not really 3D. They are created with 360° panoramas, and are sequenced together into a 360° player without any photogrammetry or depth that would allow for their tours to be "true 3D". While this difference may not matter to some property marketers, it's a notable difference when comparing this service to a 3D photography offering. And, the creation of the tours is not entirely automatic. Although there is a bit of assistance from artificial intelligence (AI) to help place the panos in the right spots, this process is still largely manual and requires human intervention to make sure that the tours are indeed showing the correct relationships between images. Will there be 3D in the future? It's quite likely, so we are getting a head-start on working with their tech, and are looking forward to seeing this service evolve in the coming months
What the Zillow 3D Home Tours really have going for them is that although they aren't the highest image quality yet, they are incredibly efficient at reaching a ton of eyeballs via the Zillow platform. There are 40+ million unique users searching on Zillow every month, and early tests of the platform showed us that properties were getting hundreds of views on their tours. One of the reasons for this is that the Zillow app is wildly popular with home seekers. The other reason has to do with the way that Zillow promotes content. If you have a home with a Zillow 3D home tour, it will get bumped up in their search for an entire week as soon as it is published. Those seven days of premium placement on Zillow can be a huge game-changer for properties, and the thing that the 360° tours accomplish, which most photos cannot, is that they are still able to show the relationship between rooms.
There's also a surprisingly helpful boost in understanding the property through the tours in spite of their modest visual quality. When using the app, we can tell that the beautiful photographs we have taken of properties are suddenly even that much more helpful when paired with a Zillow 3D tour; they help viewers understand the context of the rooms and layout a lot better. And, these links can be repurposed on any other site that has a field for a link (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). With the tours starting at $75 for a simple tour with 5-10 panos, this is an additional marketing boost at an awesome price and efficiency for a broker on a budget. We will continue to sell our clients on premium tours, but there is no reason that any property marketer would not list their home on Zillow and include a 3D tour now that the platform has integrated it so well.
Please contact us today to learn more or to add the new Zillow 3D Home Tour service to your booking!
Earlier this year I started a facebook group called "Real Estate VR/AR News". We now have 70 members, and I am always looking for great content to post there and to share what I find with others. Everyone is welcome and invited to join the group - realtors, content creators, real estate marketers. You can definitely learn something from each of the posts and I'm happy to share all sorts of fun experiments such as this one from a recent listing in Berkeley, CA for which I created an XR virtual tour on Facebook!