Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by Jose Barrios
This a quick tutorial on how to add a property or lot line to a drone photo. The process is quick and easy and a great way to increase your bottom line when photographing real estate or lots.
Keep in mind that this depends on the availability of public records, some rural areas might not be accessible online.
You must also inform your customers, preferably in writing, that the images you are giving them are not a legal survey and are meant just to show the parcel’s approximate boundaries. If they want them to be exact hire a land surveyor.
There are other ways of accomplishing this, but this is the method I use.
Take the photos
Try to get as high up as possible in order to frame the whole lot. Make sure to capture any landmarks such as roads and buildings.
Visual landmarks will make it easier for you to overlay the lot lines later.
I always take note of the street name I am parked on and use my car (it’s white and it stands out) as a visual reference.
If the lot is particularly large, you will have to resort to taking angled photos, since a straight up-down image might not be possible due to the 400 ft. AGL (Above Ground Level) max flight altitude for your drone.
Keep in mind that going above 400 ft. AGL in the U.S. is illegal.
Add value to your product by taking ground-level images of the street view to the lot. If the lot has special features such as a lake or other significant features, you might want to photograph those also.
Locate the lot lines
There are several online resources for accomplishing this, here is a list of the ones I use:
Local property appraiser’s website
A great resource source of property and lot maps is your county property tax appraiser. They usually have interactive maps you can search.
As an example here is the search page for Orange county Florida: https://www.ocpafl.org/searches/parcelsearch.aspx
Another great resource for lot lines is Zillow.com. If you go to Zillow and search for an address you will have the property details show up. Click on the map and select lot lines in the upper left corner.
Landgrid.com is a paid site, but their free option is all you need for your lot lines.
Save the lot lines
Take a screenshot or download a PDF, whichever option you use is OK. We need this file for the next step.
Superimpose the image
Take your edited aerial photo and import it into Photoshop or Illustrator (I use illustrator, but that is just my personal preference for drawing lines).
Import into a new layer on top of the photo your lot lines, set the opacity to about 50%, and scale your lot lines until they match the terrain.
If the photo is taken at an angle because the lot was too big to photograph from directly above, use tools like perspective warp in Photoshop to move the lot lines into place.
This is not an exact science. I usually end up looking for visual reference points such as roads, buildings, or other landmarks to get my lines in place.
Once I have things fairly lined up, I just draw over the lot lines I imported in a new layer, I draw them in red.
You now have a fairly accurate representation of the lot lines.
In a new layer, I will add names of roads, lakes, or any other major landmark that is on the screen. This helps give the person viewing your photo to get a sense of scale and orientation.
Export your image, you are now done.
Lot lines are a great way to generate extra income in your real estate photography business. Commercial real estate agents are great candidates for this product as it is something they use constantly when marketing a property.
I recommend that you try photographing and drawing lot lines around your own home to practice since you can see in my tutorial that this is not as straightforward as just taking a photo.
As always I hope this quick tutorial helps you grow your photography business.
“What can I say? I love taking photos of houses.”
Based in Orlando Florida, Jose is a real estate photographer specializing in vacation homes, working for realtors and property managers to make their properties look great. You can visit his site at JoseBarriosPhoto.com.