Ptortora asked a few great questions in the Episode 116 comments recently. I thought the question and answer would apply to a bunch out there, so I thought I'd throw it up on the blog. If you have any additional insight into this, please feel free to contribute.
Thank you for all of your tips and guidance with RE Photography. The time you take to enlighten others is deeply appreciated. Raising the camera for exterior shots does indeed make a huge difference IMO -- when you take these pics with the camera raised up on an extension pole, can you provide any guidance on minimizing perspective distortion, etc. Are you just guestimating the composition, angle, etc. or are you using some kind of monitor?
I'm one of the few people I know who uses the PAP setup without a monitor (there may be others out there, and feel free to speak up if you're one of 'em). I've seen so many ways of getting video-out to a small monitor/portable TV, some are really neat, but I honestly don't have a use for them. Whenever a client is hanging out while I'm shooting, they inevitably ask the question: 'So how do you see what you're taking a picture of?'. My standard response is 'Magic!'. But seriously, the longer you do it, the more the camera becomes an extension of yourself. That may seem vague, but you wind up getting the shot in the first few takes as opposed to the 20th. When I began working with the PAP setup, it would take me between 10-15 minutes to get the shot I wanted - I can comfortably get the shot within 2-3 minutes at this point, and it's really just because of practice. Budget the time you need at first, and you'll gradually grow into it.
For compositions, angles, and distortion - I generally try and move-back and zoom-in. Moving back, away from the house, will show more of the 'face' of the house. Another tip, which will come up on a future podcast, is that the greater distance between you and the house, the less height you need. After you've moved back, zoom-in. Using a wide-angle lens on the exterior shot can be a huge advantage if the client winds up wanting the environment in the photo, just make sure not to shoot @ 10mm/12mm, there's too much distortion there. Zoom-in @ 20mm, it's plenty wide and has much less distortion. After that, crop and straighten until you're happy. Feel free to use PTLens on exteriors as well to fix distortion. I remember one listing that was on a 35-foot hill and surrounded by trees in the middle of summer, meaning I had to shoot relatively close and aim-up - two things I never want to do. PTLens saved me on that one, that's for sure.
I hope that answers your questions. I'm glad you enjoy the podcast, I'll try and keep up the good work.