Dive Into Digital Imaging

Brokers Can Make a Splash by Incorporating Digital Images Into Their Presentation Materials.

Remember when a camera and a roll of film were all that was needed to take photographs for use with property listings and presentation materials? Times have changed.

Today, digital cameras and scanners, coupled with computers, various software programs, and the Internet, are becoming the norm. But, rather than making the process more cumbersome, these technologies have facilitated and increased the ways that commercial real estate professionals can use properties visually.

“Having the ability to capture, create, distribute, and store digital images is critical to today's marketing of commercial investment real estate,” says Steve Cannariato, CCIM, managing broker at Hawkins & Cannariato in Boise, Idaho. “It is the rule, not the exception.”

Clearly, industry professionals are at various stages of knowledge, ability, and desire regarding digital images. Of those who have gone digital, some scan in images , some use digital cameras, and some use both. “I use both side by side,” says Todd Clarke, CCIM, an investment broker at Grubb & Ellis/Lewinger Hamilton in Albuquerque, N.M. “I like the convenience of the camera, but I need the scanner when I need logos or high-resolution images.”

Even inexperienced users can learn to capture, produce, and distribute professional materials, says Robin R. Dyche, CCIM, president of Dyche Real Estate in Albuquerque, who, like Cannariato and Clarke, has taught the CCIM Institute's one-day continuing education course, Image Is Everything: Creating Dynamic Client Presentations, created in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard. “They discover the ease of distributing their output by e-mail, Web sites, or hard copy,” Dyche says, which “gives [them] the experience and confidence to enter the world of digital technology.”

Industry professionals who have begun to implement this technology or have not yet started using digital images should consider these helpful basics on taking and using digital images.

Speeding Up Decisions The availability of digital images has increased the speed at which deals can take place.

Cynthia Shelton, CCIM, vice president of corporate accounts for Commercial Net Lease Realty in Orlando, Fla., recently received a call from a broker selling a retail property in Phoenix. “As we talked, I told him to just send me the package and I would get back to him after I reviewed it,” she says. She was able to review it faster than she anticipated. “He asked if I was online. I said yes.”

He e-mailed the package to Shelton immediately and walked her through it. “As I clicked on one of the attachments, I saw a site plan of the property,” Shelton says. “We discussed the access points and the position of the building. Next, I clicked on another attachment to find basic information on the lease and property. Finally, I clicked on a digital image of the property and it was a small video that had sound and showed the entire shopping center.”

Shelton says the digital presentation helped her realize she knew the area and owned the adjacent property. Though she didn't end up making an offer because of the tenant's credit, she was able to give an answer in less than five minutes. “He didn't have to mail or print anything, nor did he have to wait for a response from me,” Shelton says. “This was one of the best ways to get a quick response and give lots of information in one short click.”

Say Cheese Commercial real estate professionals who want to shoot digital images themselves have numerous options when it comes to choosing a digital camera (see “Digital Decisions,” CIRE , November/December 2000). They also have myriad ways to shape and use the property images that they take.

Some hints for taking digital property images are similar to those for using a traditional camera. “When in doubt, take a lot of images,” Clarke says. “Try to plan the picture around the best part of the day ... to get good contrast, and try to take a picture from an angle vs. dead on.

“A good time to shoot is when it has just rained: Rainbows and clean sidewalks go a long way,” he adds. “I also look for special events ... I have in the past taken pictures of all my listings when the balloons are in the air from the International Balloon Fiesta.”

However, some considerations for taking photos relate to digital cameras specifically. “When taking a digital photo, if you plan to print it, take the photo on the highest resolution,” Cannariato says. “If you plan to distribute it electronically, take it in the lowest resolution. If both, take two photos, one on high res and the other on low res.”

Photo resolution affects the number of photos that a camera can store (see chart). This number varies by camera and memory capabilities, but the higher the resolution used, the fewer number of images that can be stored in the camera itself.

Resolution/Storage Comparison

Sample photo quality/storage relationship using HP PhotoSmart 315xi digital camera



Photos per card



4 MB

8 MB

16 MB

32 MB


VGA (video card)






1,600 x 1,200 pixels, medium JPEG compression






1,600 x 1,200 pixels, low JPEG compression





Source: Hewlett-Packard

Digital Images in Action Commercial real estate professionals can use digital images in various types of information, including online property listings and presentation materials.

“I use mine for everything,” Clarke says. “I have pictures of every apartment in my database, pictures of clients, deals I have worked on ... or buildings to use as backgrounds for presentation materials.”

Clarke suggests scanning in or importing images at a high resolution and “use your [photo] software to make it a manageable image size for your intended export format — print, CD-ROM, Internet, etc. I often scan in at 300 dots per inch (or higher) TIFF format and save smaller JPGs for the Internet.”

However, Cannariato reminds users to keep file sizes small for images being e-mailed and don't send too many at once. “People who are downloading with a standard modem get real tired of long download times,” he notes.

Digital images have proved invaluable for marketing materials as well as online property searches, he says. “There is no commercial MLS in my market,” he says. “Agents used to send photocopied fliers on a monthly basis. Now we send PDF files of both our individual fliers and listing inventory summaries. Other firms now post their listings on their Web sites where I can search, download, and print [them] out.”

Clarke concurs: “For the past seven years, I have incorporated digital images into my database in the form of property photographs and aerial photos — over 5,000 of them that encompass the better part of a gigabyte.”

And users don't necessarily need to own a color printer for printed materials or presentation handouts, Cannariato says. “Here's a great tip for someone who doesn't have a color laser printer/copier in their office: You can just e-mail your PDF file to most print shops and they will make your color copies and deliver them to you.”

For computer-generated presentations, Clarke says he uses at least one digital image for every other slide, “If nothing else, to break up the monotony.”

Of course, these tips just scratch the surface. Those who have not yet tried digital imaging or not progressed as far as they would like to should consider seeking out opportunities to learn more or take classes as well as experiment on their own. Many Web sites offer information on digital imaging, including camera manufacturer sites such as and

“There is no reason not to have a digital camera,” according to Cannariato. “They are priced very affordably now. It takes so much more time to take a conventional photo, get the film developed, and then scan in the photo. Time is money in our business.”

Barbara Stevenson

Carol C. Honigberg, JD, is a partner in the real estate group at Reed, Smith, Hazel, & Thomas LLP in Falls Church, Va. Contact her at (703) 641-4220 or Steven M. Nolan, JD, is a member of the firm\'s environmental group. Contact him at (412) 288-4158 or


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