What Program Should I Choose to Edit Real Estate Photos?

There are a lot of applications out there that you can use to improve the appearance of your real estate photos.  The programs range in price from free, to moderately priced, all the way up to expensive.  I have experience with a few of these systems and wanted to give you my opinion on which ones will work for the majority of real estate agents.  There are a lot of programs out there and I only reviewed the ones that I have had personal experience with.  Please feel free to leave your reviews of any other system in the comments section.  Also, this is the first post in a two part series.   I will be going live into the applications and showing you how to perform some basic editing techniques to improve your photography in the next post.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 (Mac or PC) 

Adobe’s Photoshop CS5 is the most powerful photo editing program on the planet. Period.  Graphic designers and photographers all over the world use this application to do anything they want to any graphic or image.  Does that mean it’s right for the “average” real estate agent?  Nope.  I would highly recommend passing on this product unless you also have a passion for photography and 100’s of hours to learn this complex system.

Most of the editing you will want to do on your homes will fall under the “basic” category.  Using this program to complete these small editing tasks would be like using a dump truck to haul away the dirt from a 10 inch potted plant. Plus, the price point is probably not in the ballpark for the typical agent.

Price- $699 as of 8/2/11 for the non student/teacher version.

Rating (for the average agent) – 2 out of 5 stars due to a steep learning curve and price

Photoshop Lightroom 3 (Mac or PC) 

Adobe’s Lightroom 3 product is a fantastic tool for editing and organizing your photos whether they are for real estate or personal use.  The tool set contained in this system will be more than enough for the average agent’s personal and business needs.  The learning curve is still quite steep, but much easier than it’s big brother Photoshop.  Editing a set  of photos for a property can be quickly done, due to it’s batch processing, which I will cover in the upcoming video.

The results from tools like their noise reduction module are simply outstanding and best in class, as it trumps my personal favorite program Aperture.

There are a few things I do not like about LR3 and one is it’s overall interface.  I tried to get used to it for editing my photos for a month and never found it as friendly and as streamlined as Apple’s Aperture 3.  I also prefer Aperture’s way of handling brushes to edit specific aspects of a photo.  This really isn’t that important for basic edits in real estate photography, but if you ever want to progress with it you might use it down the road.  Again, these are just my personal opinions.

Price- $299 as of 8/2/11 for the non student/teacher version.

Rating (for the average agent) – 4 out of 5 stars mainly due to the price

Aperture from Apple (Mac only) 

It’s really unfortunate that this program is only available to Mac users, but maybe that is why it works so well because it’s optimized for one platform.  I am not going to sugar coat it, I love Aperture.  The workflow IMO is much smoother than Lightroom 3, as you will see in the upcoming video.  Aperture makes it really easy to fly through all of your property edits with great results.  As I mentioned above, Lightroom does have an advantage in things like sharpening and noise reduction.  However, this shouldn’t be an issue if you are using a tripod like we recommended in our post about 3 Crucial Tips For Better Real Estate Photography.

The price point for what you get is absolutely amazing too.  Aperture has a similar feature set to Lightroom and does some things better than Adobe’s product, but does it at under a third of the cost.

Price- $79.99 as of 8/2/11

Rating (for the average agent) – 4.5 out of 5 stars – Would have been a 5 if Lightroom didn’t have superior results from their cloning, noise reduction and sharpening tools.

Picnik (Mac or PC) 

Picnik dives into a new realm of web based photo editors.  It comes in on freemium platform but the “free” part of the freemium is no good for real estate photography in my opinion.  It lacks several important tools for making edits on your homes like a recovery, curve and definition sliders as well as batch processing settings.  Picnik might be pretty good for family photos and really simple adjustments, but your computer probably came with better software. It is web based so if you are in a bind and need to make an edit on the road, it could come in handy.

I have heard good things about their paid version and I know it comes with “curve” controls, but I have not tried it out myself so I am not going to leave a score for that.

Price- Freemium as of 8/2/11

Rating (for the average agent) – 1.5 out of 5 stars (paid version is unrated as I have not used it)

Gimp (Mac or PC)  

Gimp is a totally free image editing system that is actually fairly powerful.  It can do a lot of the things that the big boys can do and might even be more than what an average agent would need.  Where the system falls down is in it’s ease of use.  You should already have a good understanding of image editing before you try and tackle this program.  Lightroom and Aperture shine because they give you direction by stacking your editing bricks in the order you should use them, with this app you are on your own.

The more I messed around with Gimp the more I liked it however, I still don’t think it is the right tool for the majority of agents out there.

Price- Free as of 8/2/11

Rating (for the average agent) – 3 out of 5 stars as it’s not for beginners.

About Stephen Pacinelli

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  1. Charles Hudson August 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Agree that Photoshop CS5 is gross overkill but Photoshop Elements is more than adequate, not such a bear to learn and much cheaper ($99). There is a learning curve but the basics are simple

  2. Tom Horn August 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    I am a real estate appraiser and sometimes it is necessary to do some basic editing of photos. I use Picnik and really like it. I have heard of Gimp but not used it. I think I will try it though. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love me some photoshop! I use it almost daily to handle all of my graphic needs.

    However I have debated adding aperture just to make things go quicker & smoother as I heard it can process things faster & simpler.

  4. Stephen Foster August 6, 2011 at 1:22 am - Reply

    Add Photomatix to Aperture and create excellent HDR images for your home photos. HDR rocks for real estate photos! I would go into detail but you will have to ask TSA to have me blog on this subject! 😉

  5. real estate August 6, 2011 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    very helpful article amazing :))

  6. […] a program to create backgrounds?  Steve Pacinelli at TechSavvyAgent.com wrote a great article on What Program Should I Choose To Edit Real Estate Photos.   These programs can be used to create your custom background images […]

  7. Paula H. August 10, 2011 at 3:03 am - Reply

    Great article…thank you so much for sharing. I will definitely look into buying Photoshop Lightroom 3.

  8. Realnet August 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    I definitely agree that CS5 is overkill for real estate agents, but Photoshop Elements is good, and a lot cheaper. I love Gimp, it is basically the same as Photoshop (only harder to learn). Picnik is awesome, and I think is perfect for real estate agents.

  9. Rob @ Atlanta Homes August 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    I use Photoshop for many years now but it’s definitely overkill for editing photos of homes.

  10. Andrew Mooers August 29, 2011 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Photoshop for stills. Sony Vegas for real video.

  11. Jeff October 20, 2011 at 4:41 am - Reply

    Steve, in your opinion is aperture worth the upgrade from iPhoto? I use a nikon d3100 with varying lenses and I find that by simply enhancing them in iPhoto goes a long way. In other words what does aperture do that iPhoto doesn’t?

  12. Sean March 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Photoshop is overkill for the average real estate agent shooting their own photos. However, since 90% of home buyers look on line first and select the homes they see based on the photos they see, real estate agents, especially in most markets are insane for shooting their own pictures. They don’t have the professional equipment or experience necessary to do the job correctly.

    Hire a professional photographer who will have the equipment, experience and software necessary to provide you the best pictures possible. These people WILL have photoshop CS5…which ISN’T overkill. It simply does things you can’t do with any other program. CS5 has amazing tools not found in Essentials like Content-Aware Fill, Puppet Warp and Photomerge. I use these three in post on almost every shoot I do.

    My workflow…Lightroom, CS5 and Photomatix Pro. I wouldn’t image editing a shoot, or presenting a collection of images to a client without them.

  13. Sarah December 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Nice post which Graphic designers and photographers all over the world use this application to do anything they want to any graphic or image. In which Most of the editing you will want to do on your homes will fall under the “basic” category. Thanks a lot for posting.

  14. BBG India February 28, 2013 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Wow great stuff here. the psd software fr windows is a awsome software for optimizing real estate photos.

  15. Valentin March 7, 2013 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    I’ll immediately snatch your rss feed as I can’t find your e-mail
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  16. Shannon April 15, 2014 at 5:28 am - Reply

    It’s a shame picnik is down now because that one was definitely one of my favorites for editing pictures! If anyone’s looking for a alternative to picnik there’s two programs I enjoy using Ribbit or PicMonkey.

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