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What To Do about All the Agents That Want Photos Shot UFWA?

January 19th, 2017

Adam in Atlanta asks:

I’m getting killed in my area with an increasingly annoying problem. I tend to shoot properties towards what I call the ‘reasonable’ end of the wide-angle focal range. I use both 25mm and 17mm TSE’s, but the 17mm rarely makes it out of the case. I try to make the 24mm my workhorse, and I can make great compositions with it in nearly every situation. In the last 2-3 years in my area (Atlanta), the run-and-gun national companies have hired “photographers” that have widely utilized the ‘as wide as you can possibly shoot’ mentality, or, if you like, the ‘back up as far into the corner of the room, and try to show the entire home in one shot’ method. While I have done a decent job of educating Realtors about the negative side-effects of this method, I’m losing clients to it. In the last year I have lost at least 3 large teams that made up a significant portion of my income.

I came into this business after being a listing agent for several years, and the ultra wide-angle images can actually cost an agent buyers when they show up to see the property and are shocked by how small the property looks as compared to the listing images.

My dilemma is this: I would like to focus on more discerning clientele such as architects, interior designers, commercial builders, etc, but the real-estate clients are really a bread-and-butter business. If I neglect them, things may just get pretty lean. Do you have any advice for how to address the wide-angle myth with agents? I don’t want to abandon what I believe is a very effective method of marketing properties for them, but I also have to stay in business.

Yes, we’ve talked about this subject here on PFRE fairly recently.

Many real estate agents want shots ultra wide. As I say in the above post, I don’t think it is worth your time trying to educate clients as to what YOU think is the right way for interiors to be shot. Find out what each client likes and supply it. Just because you shoot wide for those clients that want UFWA doesn’t mean you have to do it for everyone and put UFWA shots in your portfolio. There seems to be this idea out there that there is only ONE right way to do everything. That is a myth!

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30 Responses to “What To Do about All the Agents That Want Photos Shot UFWA?”

  • If you are in this business to succeed, then I would suggest you give your PAYING clients what they want. Get off your high horse and provide the product that they ask for or find another line of work. All this talk about” educating Realtors” is presumptuous and condescending. I am not surprised that Adam has lost clients and likely to lose even more with that attitude.

    Bottom line, if I am shooting for a client, I follow their wishes. If I am shooting for myself, then that is a different story

  • I think that a huge problem with UFWA these days is that so many people are looking at the images on tiny little screens where they don’t display very well. Some agents like that going super wide makes the home look huge, but buyers often comment that when they view the home in person it’s much smaller than they thought and occasionally get angry that a master bedroom that looked perfect to hold their king size four-poster bed is barely big enough for a queen.

    You do have to provide what customer’s are willing to pay for to stay in business, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t guide them towards tighter compositions that will look better on a small screen. You need to establish a reputation with your customers as a visual marketing expert. Make some example images that you can keep on your phone to show the difference between UFWA and something more appropriate. If you use a tablet, have the same thing optimized for comparison on a tablet. I’m old so I prefer to look at images on my nice big monitors in the office and not on my phone.

  • I think a hybrid approach works well when you do get a very wide shot of large rooms, then move in and shoot tighter compositions of important details.

    The interesting part about their theory of making the spaces look big is the super wide angle tends to make all the stuff on the far wall away from the camera look ultra small. That’s what wide angles do. And of course in concert with that, things in the foreground like the arm of a couch are super over emphasized and exaggerated. So we have this situation where you’re in a room with a view, and to go ultra wide totally diminishes the view and makes a coffee table look gigantic. Or there is a gorgeous fireplace on that far wall and now you’ve diminished it by going ultra wide. You get the point that far wall is often what we’d like to accentuate. It’s ludicrous and I think this would be a great topic (with visual examples) to speak about in a brokerage meeting. I’m not volunteering by the way, haha.

  • Why would you not deliver to the client what they want? It’s the agent’s responsibility to market the property for the seller. I had more than one agent tell me that they need people to visit the home in order to sell it. If the rooms look spacious, more people will respond to the listing. The only purpose of listing pictures is to sell the house. When have you ever bought a burger that looked as good as the one they show on TV? They look nothing alike. If you don’t give the client what they want, they will continue to go to someone who will.

  • Not only do I like going to the far corner and shooting ultra wide, the customers pay for that. Let the agent do their jobs.

  • Jerry Miller, you are so right. It doesn’t matter what you want, it’s the client’s wishes that need to be addressed.
    Just that simple.

  • IME the real estate teams switched because of price.
    You mentioned losing three large teams to “run ‘n gun” photographers. High volume agents are very cost conscious and if they feel they are getting “good enough” for a better price they jump.

    While I agree that one should provide the best work that meets or exceeds the clients expectations, I suspect that is a factor in play here.
    Get a Rokinon/Samyang 14 and learn how to minimize its worst effects when composing. Then when you get a challenging view you can get the shot and make the client happy.

  • Don’t overlook the benefit of the UFWA – it can show flow of the space like no other. Agents wanting to relay layout and light are not wrong to ask for wide shots. Is it smart not to offer this when so many competitors do? And yes it is up to them to convey appropriate size information in their dialog. I prefer to trust my clients to know and do their jobs well. They value more our eye for restaging distracting elements in the room and insuring the composition is balanced and beautifully illuminated. If conscience is an issue, provide a few extra images in a tighter format. When we relax and go with the flow, it is a job that need not even feel like work.

  • If you want to continue losing clients, keep trying to “educate” customers.

    Bottom line, give them what they want or look for another way of making money. At the very least, you can take the ultra wide angle and include it in the package. That’s better than losing the client.

  • Agents change photographers for many reasons, some agents like to have more than one photographer to call and others just want to try someone else. Instead of assuming why they leave focus on other points like how are your windows? Do you tell a story with your images? Is your composition spot on? Are your colors balanced with straight lines? Are you delivering the money shots to market the property. Lastly my favorite: do you answer your phone 24/7. You must strive to be better than your competors especially the big box photography houses. Now for the hard part in growing your business. Market without bad mouthing your competition.

  • OK, note to Adam the reason you don’t like the UWA shots is that you have forgotten how to compose and you have stuck with the proportions 4×3 and 4×6.

    Throw those out. When a client asks you to shoot UAW shoot it. Then go back reformat the image to do away with the extra ceiling or floors. Apply the same composition rules to the wide shot that you do with the 24mm shot. You will find that 16×10 and 16×9 proportions work great and can be composed very well. I have written about this before and my agents receive it very well. They don’t even know why they like it, they just do.

    Think outside the box, the 4×3 box that is…. You will make money and many your clients happy.

  • Get a 16-35 Pro Lens. You know what to do. Problem solved!

  • My RE agents love making the rooms look as large as possible. That’s what get people to want to look at the home. Sometimes I do a multi-shot panorama of a large space like a Greatroom and show the space from wall to wall. They love it. If the RE agent gets any grief, I never hear it and they never ask me to change what I’m doing.

    BTW I love doing RE photography as I have a process that is efficient, saves me time in post, and gives the client what they want in a timely manner. I make a dollar per hour figure I’m happy with. I’ve done a few jobs for interior designers and they are so picky they drove me nuts. Their demands to fix/remove/change hues, etc. actually doubles or triples my processing time and they don’t want to pay more. So I don’t pursue any business with them.

  • I think Larry puts it best – there is no one right way to do almost anything.

    Personally I do use an ultra wide since I tend to shoot aiming more down than either level or up since most ceilings are very plain while flooring tends to be more interesting and are better as selling points as a very general rule. This means I have to correct in Photoshop to both correct for those curved lines from the ultra wide and leaning vertical lines and drooping horizontal ones. So I want as much visual real estate, so to speak, to allow me to loose a lot in making the corrections.

    And just because you have an ultra wide, if it is a zoom, you don’t have to use it at maximum image capture. Rather you do have the ability to zoom in and make the composition that you feel best represents the interior room features. And then you also can crop more in post. I find that you can always crop but if you crop in the camera you can’t then pull back later in post. With the high resolution of today’s cameras, cropping is no longer an issue for sharpness especially since most images are seen on 72 dpi monitors or tiny cell phone screens. But also, since you can zoom in on any photo on a cell phone with a couple fingers, if a viewer wants to see more detail, they can just zoom in.

    This is all from the point of view of the photographer. But as others here have pointed out, we are a business and as such we certainly can make expert suggestions to hopefully guide our clients but ultimately we need to give them what they want even if it goes against our personal grain. If I have a difference of opinion with a client, I don’t make a big deal out of it; I just shoot it their way and then mine and let them make the final decision of which they want to use. Hard enough to get clients in the first place, so not efficacious to loose any more than we have to.

  • Here is an example of two photos. The homeowner wanted us to come out again to get a narrower photo that showed the view. I also gave them every conceivable angle of the same room. Homeowners can be very particular. Since a home is such a big investment, they have every right to be. If the photos are important then so is my job.

    17mm to show the entire room – https://www.flickr.com/photos/43024179@N02/31417399704/in/album-72157677087855722/
    21 mm and stepped in to show the view – https://www.flickr.com/photos/43024179@N02/31533435994/in/album-72157677087855722/

  • Provide the best of both worlds. Consider downloading a 30-day free trial of DxO’s ViewPoint 3 software. It’s a perspective correction Mac/PC standalone and/or plugin for several popular editing programs. It does a remarkable job of shrinking UFWAs to realistic proportions, while still maintaining the original wide view points. Won’t address the fore/aft issues, but you probably have a multiple listing service that allows 25-35 photo uploads that could include multiple shots of problematic rooms. Works just as well on small houses as large. Less than US $100 with mostly free updates. Multiple languages. Thousands of camera/lens combination modules. Definitely worth a L@@K • https://www.dpreview.com/news/0788588543/dxo-viewpoint-3-adds-automatic-corrections

  • As with most things in life, communication is key.
    When working with a new agent I always try to explain how I shoot and why. Even showing them the images on the back of the camera to show the difference. Most have come to me because they’ve seen my work and already know what to expect.

    There are times where an ultra wide is useful, but for the most part (in my view) making rooms look larger than they really are borders on breaking the RMLS rules on false advertising with images.
    I use the Tokina 11mm-20mm f/2.8 lens, and almost always shoot at (or near) the 20mm end.

  • This has been hashed over for years. There are some in the “never shoot wider than 24mm” camp and others in “shoot whatever the agent pays me for” camp. I am in the latter camp. They pay, I shoot.

    That being said, I also shoot a lot of “detail shots” at 50mm and longer and my clients love them as well.

    ‘nouf said.

  • Steve mentions Viewpoint 3 wont alter fore/aft issues, but I beg to differ.
    It does even when shooting UFWA, in fact you can see it happened where it pulls the centre aspects of a pic forward.

    I had been using Viewpoint 1 for quite a while, but recently switched to PTLens until I upgraded to VP 3. If you shoot UWA then you have to have extra software like this, otherwise yes you will hear back that the agent was “grilled” over it ….as in a buyer saying “but in the photo, this room looks bigger…”

    Weirdly enough….even after all of this post, still find a smidgen of Camera Raws Aspect slider puts on a nice finishing touch. You really can’t use this Aspect slider as a main processing tool because it crunches the whole photo, not just the sides.
    I must be doing something not right, because I am yet to be able to replicate the results utilising PTLens / Viewpoint 3 in PS CC with their Adaptive Wide Angle filter.

  • Simple answer is if it’s costing you business that you want to have then shoot ultra wide, and also speak to clients in detail about how wide, how often, and whether they’re happy to leave certain creative decisions up to you or should you just shoot everything ultra wide regardless. Don’t stop trying to educate them, and when you do then be specific with the reasons UWA shots can look poor. It will sink in with most people over time. Keep searching out clients who value the images that you want to take and ditch the clients you’d rather not shoot for (in an ideal world) when you can afford to. Also, I think limiting yourself to two focal lengths is too restrictive.

  • @ Glenn

    “The only purpose of listing pictures is to sell the house”

    As an agent you should know that a primary reason for quality images is to win more listings and make it at least appear that your visual marketing is top notch.

  • So I’m curious, what are UFWA shots?

  • Ultra “copulation” Wide Angle.

  • So would it be fair to say that if you’re an artist, do it your way and consequences be damned, and if you’re in business, do it the way they want it done and put a roof over your head and food on the table?

  • I have to add one more comment. In reading the OP he uses a few code statements “annoying problem” and “I call the ‘reasonable’ end of the wide-angle focal range.”

    The problem here is the OP is trying to bend the market to his opinion of what the market should be. He knows what it is, the agents are telling him, but he does not like it. The market always defines itself and you play in it or not. There are rare occasions where as individuals we can raise the quality bar of the market and the market joins us. That is rare and happens only when you create a product and the market grows around it.

    When people talk about “educating the agents” you are not really “educating” them. You are telling them what you are selling and trying to convince them to buy it. They are telling you what they want. You are telling them they don’t want that because you don’t like to do that, not that you can’t. In the end that is not a formula for success in a commodity market. If you don’t believe this is a commodity market, well that’s another story.

    In DC yesterday there are a lot of people who are looking for jobs they just lost. They kept trying to tell the people what “they” wanted was what the people really wanted. The people then bought what they actually wanted with their votes. The agents will vote with their feet and walk away from you if you don’t listen to what they want. You can remain “annoyed” in your belief they are “unreasonable.” That of course is your choice to discuss with others of like mind. As for me, I give the people what they want. If they want a moose turd pie I’ll bake it and sell it and try to make it taste good. That’s why they hire me. I do my best to make the moose turd pie they want taste good.

  • @ Dave Williamson
    These things aren’t mutually exclusive. The best case to my mind is to create the images you want to create and attract the clients who are willing to pay for that.

    @Frank Gutowski
    I think the term “educating clients” is a valid way of describing how you can discuss the subject of composition with clients. I don’t think I’ve ever had a client try to convince me to take UWA shots, and if someone did then I would happily do so. It’s become a cliche that buyers don’t like images that make rooms look much bigger than they actually are, and I’ve spoken to many vendors about this over the last few years and don’t think I’ve heard a single one of them say that they like UWA images either. I honestly think agents expect these types of image because that’s what everyone assumes the market wants.

    When I look at property listings online I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of agents have no appreciation for, or appear to have no appreciation for, good quality images. However, I think this is all relative and depends on which particular market an agent is working in.

    In short, I see educating clients as a pretty important part of my job when it comes to RE clients.

  • Rule 1: The customer is always right.
    When the customer isn’t right, refer to Rule 1

  • Yep, you just have to find customers that share your views and love your style.

  • yes it’s important to be able to supply what your customer wants but that doesn’t mean you have to take a photo in a way that you don’t believe in agree with. there are many ways to show what the client wants without having to go UFWA.

    We as professional interior/architecture photographers must learn our craft and have the desire to learn it well as this site is SO GOOD for. there are rules and they are made to be broken but first learning them will only make us better and we have to learn them before knowing how to break them.

    Everyone’s work is valid to me even if they shoot ufwa but if your desire is to be able to shoot for more discerning clientele then standing by your principles is the best option as more people see and take note than you think of RE work. Discerning clientele are going to want unbelievably meticulous and well composed imagery that conveys their needs… and they may pass you up if they think you just do what everyone else is doing (i don’t do that since i realized i was meeting all kinds of people during RE jobs from the homeowners to the agents other clients etc) i want my best to shine every time no matter the budget or job… it’s my free marketing … word of mouth…

    we have to learn the craft well and be able to bend it within peramiters to satisfy our clients, and that’s where the separation from Amateurs to professionals is made… communicate well with your clients and yes educate them with respect to giving them insight into what goes into a great photo so they know a little about what it takes… just as i always chat my clients ear off to learn what their needs are and to educate myself into what they need and how it works in their end…

    but all in all if you stay true to quality, you will be successful and your type of clients will come calling… as well you will be advancing your career into the future giving you a confident and long career well within and outside of RE work…

  • Agree with most here. The clients pretty much demand ultra wide angle (sorry, don’t know what “UFWA” is), because they want to convey the structure and totality of a space. As others have stated, any realtor can shoot with a lesser angle. My reference is actually fine home and architecture magazines – which use wide angle images A LOT.

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