How to Overcome Challenging Real Estate Property Layouts In Aerial Photography
I recently had an opportunity to do an aerial drone photography job for a real estate agency that had a very challenging listing and property on their hands. In the end a vertical drone panorama stitched together from multiple images solved the problem and delighted the client.
When most people think of drone panoramas, they have beautiful wide panorama images in mind. Few of us think of vertical drone panoramas as something of much use. However, in certain situation this can be just what\’s needed to solve tricky property layouts, or when there is a need to showcase a hidden view.
The job brief went something like this:
- The property was considered somewhat of a “tear down”, so any building on the property should be de-emphasized and not be highlighted
- The layout of the lot was extremely long and skinny, as well as positioned on a slope
- However, the lot extended close to the harbor\’s edge, and features some amazing views of Manhattan and Sandy Hook National Park, and the realtor wanted to highlight this
- A video fly-over with a slow vertical pan and reveal could have been useful if not spectacular here, but the agency wanted only still photographs
- Because of the steep wooded hill, there were lots of trees obscuring the property, as well as making positioning of the drone a challenge even with my assistant spotter
- Any low angle of view had too much of derelict buildings and the trees themselves in the way
- Flying high over the property (up to 400\’) still only captured part of the entire layout, and could not illustrate how beautifully this lot is positioned
Here is the view from the top level of the lot, taken with a 300mm lens.
Vertical Drone Panorama – To The Rescue
The below slide show illustrates the way to position and capture a sequence of aerial images that can later be stitched together into a vertical panorama. The benefit of this is to highlight properties that have water views, or to provide a general context of how the property is situated.
The trickiest part is capturing the images in the first place, positioning the drone correctly and observing some common rules for drone panorama as well as regular panorama stitching. Post processing and stitching techniques are relatively common and easy, and most graphics platforms support both horizontal and vertical layouts.
Some Tips For Setting Up A Vertical Drone Panorama
- Use manual exposure settings, which helps in the post production workflow by locking in the same exposure for all images to be stitched together
- Determine the exposure based on the brightest image, which is often the part of the scene that has sky in it. Then go to manual settings for tilting the gimbal downwards.
- Do not move or allow the drone to drift. In general, DJI drones like the Phantom 4 will do an excellent job staying in place for a stitched panorama.
- Make sure there is a lot of overlap between the frame of each exposure. This is what helps the most in post-production when stitching a vertical together. I typically plan for 4-7 shots for each sequence, and allow for an overlap of 1/2 of the frame.
SomeVertical Panorama Examples
Considering the shape of the property, the agent was very happy with the resulting listing of using this drone panorama technique. Here are 2 examples of this approach in action:
Example 1 just provides an overview of the property, and we included property lines in order to illustrate the shape of the lot.
Processing A Vertical Drone Panorama
There are a lot of software programs out there that can handle stitching images into panoramas. Fortunately, most of these will work with verticals as well as with horizontals; it\’s just that not many people are aware of this or produce vertically oriented panoramas.
For me as a Mac user the best choices are
- Adobe Lightroom\’s built in “Photomerge Panorama” option. Lightroom is an amazing workflow and editing tool I use for all aerial and non aerial photo work, and I can highly recommend it for both Mac and Windows platforms.
- Here is a Lightroom Panorama Tutorial using the latest boundary warp options to finalize your image. The tutorial is by Julianna Kost, one of the original creators and amazing contributors to both Lightroom and Photoshop. Her blog is always a good source for the best Lightroom tutorials out there.
- Adobe Photoshop\’s built in “Merge to Panorama” option is also a good choice, although I find the Lightroom tool more flexible and intuitive.
With the new Boundary Warp feature in Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Lightroom you can adaptively stretch or reshape the edges of a stitched panorama to fill the rectangle boundary. (Julianna Kost)