Taku Homes Information

Sky Replacement

We live in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a great place to be, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate for real estate photography. No blue sky? No problem! We can can swap a gray sky for the blue one and add a bit of sunshine magic to the rest of the photo.

Sky replacement by Taku Homes

The Taku Homes difference

Sometimes a real estate photo needs a touch of Taku magic, our post-processing reimagination, to bring a property to life. Drag the slider to see the before-and-after difference.

Understanding Image Licensing and Copyright For Real Estate Agents

Image Licensing and Photo Copyright for real estate agents


Sometimes real estate agents wonder why they don’t own the photos they hire me to take. “There wouldn’t be any photos if I didn’t hire you, no?”

As a real estate photographer, I periodically get questions from brokers about image copyright, image rights and licensing. It can be a confusing subject – who owns the photos after they are taken and what agents may do with them.

Let’s look at the common, but often confusing, terminology and and how it applies to real estate and selling homes.


What is Copyright?


In the most basic sense, copyright is the ownership of a digital or physical image. Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, whenever any literary or artistic work is created in the US, the copyright is automatically assigned to its creator. Creator of that work doesn’t need to register or file any paperwork to get the copyright. It’s automatic.

When you snap a photo on your phone of your kids, friends or their dog, you automatically own the copyright to those photos.

There are two exceptions to this rule. The first one is when a photographer is an employee of an organization, such as a photojournalist. The second exception is when a photographer does work-for-hire and signs a written agreement that explicitly states that work is to be considered a work made for hire and ownership of the copyright is transferred to the client.

Otherwise, the copyright stays with the person who presses the shutter button. If you hire a photographer and absolutely must own the photos, copyright transfer must be explicit and done in writing. But do you really need to own the photos to sell a house?

In most cases, no. Full copyright transfer generally costs much more money than image licensing and is almost never needed for real estate listings. So, how do you then know what you can and can’t do with the photos? A photo licensing agreement is that key document. It spells out exactly how images may be used. It needs to be in writing, and reviewed and agreed-upon by both parties before the first shoot.


Image licensing


When I start working with a new client, I ask her to read and review my Taku Homes Agreement. The agreement goes over a number of things, which I mentioned in a different post (see Photography Agreement… Should You Bother?). One of them is image use licensing. Here’s how my licensing agreement reads:

Photographer grants a non-exclusive license to use the above images to [Client’s Name]. License covers publication and display of images in the following media: the Internet and print, editorial, publicity, broadcast, and display throughout the world. License is valid in perpetuity. Images may be submitted for entry in contests. License is not transferable. Third-party usage, except as defined above, is not granted with this license.

My licensing agreement is an industry standard and boils down to one key message – the photos may be used by the client and her parent agency to promote the listing and her and her parent company’s brand in any way she chooses. However, the photos cannot be given or sold to a third party, such as stagers, architects, other real estate agents, etc. The license is non-exclusive, meaning I can use the photos to promote my work and license the photos to others.


Are you buying my photos?


“Wait,” you might ask, “how is it fair that the photographer can keep relicensing the photos that an agent has paid me to shoot?”

Think of it this way: when you “buy” a song from iTunes for 99¢, you can listen to the song as much as you want and keep it for as long as you want on any number of your devices. But do you actually own the song? No! If you read Apple’s agreement that you agreed to when signing up for iTunes, you will see that you are just licensing the use of the song, not actually buying it.

The difference is, for 99¢, you cannot use it commercially – as a soundtrack to your advertisement or on your website, for example. You can’t sell it to others. Technically, you can’t even give it to others for free. Your 99¢ license only lets you listen to the song.
The same principal applies to real estate photography as well. My ability to relicense the photos helps me and other real estate photographers keep our fees lower. While a two to four-hour commercial photo shoot with image copyright transfer can easily cost over two thousand dollars, image licensing allows us to keep real estate photography fees much lower.

Aerial drone video

If you have a waterfront property or a property with a breathtaking view, the best way to showcase it is with an aerial drone video. We do drone photography and video in Tacoma, Gig Harbor and the surrounding areas.

Elevated Pole Photography

Taku Homes | Elevated Pole Real Estate Photography

Securing my camera to a 15-foot pole and using remote control to take photos give listing exteriors a unique and pleasant view.

HD or HDR Photography? The answer is “Neither”.

Interior real estate photographer in Federal Way, Washington

I get asked if I do real estate HD photography. No! Because there is no such thing. “HD” – or high definition – refers only to video (and yes, I do shoot 4K high-definition video).

Most modern cameras can take photos with plenty of resolution to display on high-definition monitors and for printing. Even good phone cameras can.

As a real estate agent, don’t ask the photographer what camera he uses, it hardly makes any difference. A violinist will make melody with a $50 Merano violin. I wouldn’t be able to make one even with a Stradivarius violin.

The real question should be about his lights. A good camera will make getting a good photo easier. Good lighting will make or break the photo. How a photographer lights the space is crucial. And that brings me to my second point.

Avoid HDR photographers like the plague.

In real estate photography, HD gets mostly confused with HDR – or High Dynamic Range. HDR is a technique where multiple shots of the same subject are exposed for the dark and bright parts of the scene. These photos are then digitally combined to produce a photo that captures a wider variation of brightness levels than a single-exposure photo can.

It’s trendy and you see it all across MLS listings.

So why is it bad?

HDR is a technique – it’s a tool in a photographer’s toolbox. It’s not a be-all and end-all. A photographer who relies solely on HDR to balance the brightness of windows with the shadows of the interiors is a one-trick technician. No matter the personality, mood, atmosphere of the house, the photos will all be the same. It’s like a chef using one spice for all of his cooking.

Badly done HDR photos look surreal with characteristic halos around dark edges and unpleasant contrast. The colors are off, midtones are muddy, color cast prevalent. I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about.

By using off-camera lights, good real estate photographers can interpret what they see. They play with lights and shadows to give mood and atmosphere to rooms, emphasize interesting architectural features, direct attention from unsightly defects toward charming elements.

So, the next time you’re interviewing a photographer, ask him if he uses off-camera flashes or relies just on HDR.

Drone aerial photography

Drone aerial photography in Tacoma, Washington

I now offer drone aerial photography in Tacoma, Gig Harbor and the surrounding areas! There is nothing like a breath-taking view from up high of a property with a vista.

A breakfast-perfect kitchen

Taku Homes | Real estate photographer in Olympia, Washington

Sunlit cute, bright kitchen in a Gig Harbor, Washington house. Can you imagine a better place to enjoy your morning grapefruit?

Photography Agreement… Should You Bother?

Real Estate Photography Agreement | Taku Homes

As a real estate agent, you found the photographer you like – he takes great photos, shows up on time and sends you the edited photos within a day or two. You’re excited to give him a try for your next listing. What do you do next? That’s right – review and sign a photography agreement.

As a real estate photographer, I regularly hear complaints from both photographers and agents that can easily be prevented by a simple agreement at the beginning of a new professional relationship. The most common complaints are about photo usage – who and how can use the photos, for how long, whom they belong to.

Other common misunderstandings are about the expectations – how much staging, cleaning, rearranging a photographer is expected to do to get the shots, how many photos will be delivered and how quickly. If either the photographer or the agent doesn’t show up to the appointment or are substantially late – what happens then? A last minute cancellation? An inaccessible to the photographer property? What if the agent doesn’t like the photos?

For example, a stager or an architect just love the photos that were taken of a listing and want those photos of the house they’ve staged or a home they’ve custom-designed. They email the real estate agent asking for the photos. Should the agent forward those photos to a third party?

Another real-life example – photographer arrives to a property to be photographed. There is remodeling hardware scattered around the outside of the house. Or the living room has magazines and other personal items left behind. Or the kitchen is not tidy – the counters, floors need to be washed, appliances put away. The bed is not perfectly made up. Should the photographer spend the time tidying up or shoot as is?

There is no one right answer. It all depends on the expectations and the preferences of the photographer and the real estate agent, but there is no need for misunderstandings. A simple photography agreement can set clear guidelines for what is expected from both parties.

I strongly believe in open, straightforward communications. Not setting these expectations – in writing – from the get-go is a sure path for misunderstandings down the road. If we don’t set these expectations in writing – in the form of an agreement – they don’t exist, even if they were agreed upon verbally. We forget, we misinterpret, no matter how good the intentions are, the expectations need to be in writing.

The agreement doesn’t need to be in legalese. For me, it’s a two-page summary of what the real estate agent can expect from working with me and what I can expect from working with the agent. It outlines what happens before, during and after the shoot, how the images may be used, if there are any fees and how they apply. It helps prevent surprises.

Before starting to work with a new agent, I ask her to read over the agreement. We discuss any questions she might have and I address them by clarifying and, in some cases, modifying the agreement. Once we both sign off on the agreement, I am ready to book the first shoot.

Here’s the photography agreement that I use:

Taku Homes Photography Agreement 1/2 Taku Homes Photography Agreement 2/2

Do you use photography agreements? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Chambers Bay at twilight

Taku Homes | Tacoma real estate photographer

How do you showcase the sunroom of this turn of the century home overlooking the Chambers Bay? On a clear evening at sunset, of course.

Pink … is for boys?

Taku Homes | Federal Way real estate photographer

Did you know that in the early 20th Century America, pink was generally associated with boys and blue with girls? It wasn’t until the 1940s when the reverse color scheme was accepted.

According to Wikipedia, “an article in the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department in June 1918 said, ‘The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl'”.

Feline model

Taku Homes | Real estate photographer in Puyallup

Models are not common in real estate photos. But when they are as cute as this feline friend, how can I resist?

Elevated Pole Photography for Aerial Views

Elevated pole photography for real estate | Taku Homes

I am excited to introduce a new photography service for real estate professionals in the South Puget Sound, Washington area. Elevated Pole Photography allows for a 15-foot high view of a listing shot from a professional-quality camera and lens.

Unlike drone photography, which is usually shot from a poor-quality GoPro camera, I put my DSLR camera on a 15-foot high pole and remotely adjust the exposure. This technique allows me to do HDR bracketing and get the exposure just right.

Compare the above photo taken from the pole with the photo below taken from my normal tripod.

The Blackwell Mansion

Gig Harbor real estate photographer

The Blackwell Mansion that I photographed for its new owner is now officially on the Register of Historic Places. Located at 401 Broadway in Tacoma, Washington, the mansion was built in 1890 by William Blackwell, an early Tacoma entrepreneur, who rode the first train to Tacoma to bring furniture for his then-unfinished Tacoma Hotel.

Here’s a historic view of that hotel from https://tacomahistory.live