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Is There a Trend in Real Estate Photography Toward an Architectural Look?

May 3rd, 2017

Dave in California asks:

I have noticed a new trend in real estate photography. Some of the real estate photographers are now producing architectural images for real estate photography prices. They are not using a wide angle lens. Instead, they are taking images of furniture and features. They are not showing details or brightness. It is being called the natural look. I’m not saying it is wrong. Instead of selling the home they are selling the life style. Do you see this becoming the trend?

I’m skeptical. I think it is very difficult to make meaningful general statements or characterizations about worldwide or US-wide real estate photography style trends. If perhaps you were referring to just the PFRE contest or the PFRE Flickr group then perhaps yes but in general, I doubt it.

I think photographic style in local markets are driven by what the popular, influential agents want and like. Some like exaggerated HDR. Some like really wide shots and some even appreciate the more architectural look.

What do others think? Do you see the trend Dave is talking about?

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17 Responses to “Is There a Trend in Real Estate Photography Toward an Architectural Look?”

  • Like any discussion of this sort, I would think first you need to define the term “Architectural Photography” and just how it differs from other fields of photography both in style and in intent. Then we can begin to discuss how it is different from what we term “RE Photography.” I am not qualified to do so but I am sure other members here are.

  • I hear it all the time – agents (or maybe their clients?) are hating wide angle distortion. In this area at least. Brightness not so much – hard to argue against that for advertising thumbs.

    I bought a 24mm TS-E 7 months ago and haven’t taken it off my camera since – including several 800 sq ft homes. UFWA is silly.

  • Agents tend to take photos of the things in a home rather than making a composition that uses the furniture to give a room scale. Sometimes these poor habits are adopted by photographers or the photographer is getting poor direction from the agent. A good RE photographer needs to have a little voice in the back of their head that’s saying things such as “don’t take a picture of the dining room table. Make a picture of a dinning room with a table in it.” If the stager or interior decorator also would like photos, the little voice needs to say “Now you can make a dinning room photo for the designer.”

    I see the most images featuring furniture or “stuff” on listings with way too many photos attached. Selling a lifestyle takes a bunch of staging to create an inviting scene. That’s an extra expense that is unlikely to be made in my area. For upscale homes designed for entertaining, there will be more of a call for lifestyle galleries and there should be the budget to pull it off. To be successful, the whole home needs to be staged. Just setting the dinning room table and putting a bottle of wine and two glasses on an outside table between two lounge chairs is going to look too inconsistent if the rest of the home hasn’t been worked on.

  • I’m not seeing a trend like this in the Midwest U.S. market, nor did I see it in the Southwest a few years ago. However…

    I’m seeing some highly unprofessional real estate photography. Lazy work from photographers where they’re in and out in 1/2 an hour, photos delivered in an hour, charging $100 at best.

    That’s probably what you’re seeing, lol.

  • YES. I am getting requests for the “Architectural LooK”. Some of my clients want draw attention with awesome images… showing the actual “space” is a secondary concern.

  • The question had me laughing 🙂 I think it’s the opposite, if you’re not trying to do it architecturally, you’re probably doing it wrong.

  • I see more of the run and gun stuff around me. But the unfortunate thing is since there isn’t a lot of others shooting it’s viewed as ok. I’m trying to have a nice combination of both real estate and architectural with more of a leaning toward the real estate. I see a lot of three (and sometimes 4) walls, extreme wide angles, and, of course, skewed verticals. Not to mention there are the agents that shoot with their phones or point and shoot cameras. In my area, if agents would learn the value of photography, I could shoot 5 to 6 days a week and make it a full time gig.

  • When Matthew McConaughey falls into a swimming pool, I have no idea how that sells Lincolns, but the well paid ad execs of Hudson Rouge do. We’re here to sell houses and let’s not forget what we tell our clients. It’s the images that induce a prospect to delve further into the details of a particular property.

    I see myself as selling the sizzle, not the steak. I’m not sure I could clearly define the difference between architectural photography and RE, and I really don’t care. When I compose a shot, I look for what will make for the prettiest picture and induce a prospect to look further. All of the angles, lighting, composition, cropping, etc., everything is centered around that goal. Yes Virginia, sometimes that means the focus is furniture or decorating. Why do you suppose staging, or virtual staging is so important? Don’t we all hate empty houses?

    One of the best RE videos I’ve seen was done in Denver for a friend. It’s a minute and forty nine seconds long, had actors, and spends probably half the time showing the lifestyle and the neighborhood. The result was a bungalow selling for over $800,000! That’s marketing, and that’s why we’re here.

  • I’ve see somewhat of a trend in some architectural photography to photograph a room with all of the lights turned off and use whatever available light there is. I’ve even seen this “no light” concept featured in some magazines. Personally I think this style looks flat and lifeless. I even asked a noted architectural photographer if this “flat lighting” look was a trend he was seeing. He immediately took offense that I would refer to one of his photographs as a flat light look…..but there it was in all of its glory. That style of lighting makes it look as if someone who shot the photo doesn’t know how to use lights, house lights or supplemental lighting with continuous or strobe. ( No offense to HDR shooters!) Interior lighting in high end homes is so well designed now that there is sometimes no need for supplemental lighting. It’s been over a year now since I became aware of this “natural light” style and I haven’t seen a lot of growth in that style as I think it falls “flat” :-).
    Best Regards,
    Ron

  • While I’ve not specifically been asked for the “architectural look”, I can see where commercial television (HGTV, DIY, etc) impacts where people want “something like Joan & Chip” or “Property Brothers”. As both a real estate broker and professional photographer, the goal is to show the house for buyers. Taking wide angle photos (that make the room look larger than it is) and editing of photos (hiding stains, etc), that do not like the house or rooms when you take the buyers through the property….really pisses them off for having wasted their time. I do get many agents asking for a maximum fee of $100, but when I bid a house and add in my aerial view and video, the quality has to stand out, and $100 doesn’t do it. The goal of making the property look great for a buyer starts with the actual property (paint, cleaning, removing half of the furniture and fixtures), and agents need to be truthful and up front with clients.

  • I’ve been photographing for seven years now. I find that there is a time and place for various fields of view. Grasping where aesthetics trump the pragmatic elements of a space is something that needs to be cultivated. Delineating between real estate, architectural and interior design composition is an important factor in determining the appropriate approach. Ultimately, one needs to factor one’s artistic/ethical integrity, with that of the client’s satisfaction. I believe that client satisfaction trumps all. I will however, voice my opinion so that they move forward in an informed manner. I don’t want my clients to be caught off guard. Lastly, I think that pragmatism takes precedence over aesthetics. Field of view is the most powerful element at our disposal. As a photographer, we have to power to change an impression of a space, simply by omitting/including an element.

  • I got a client the other day because he thought my images looked more architectural than other photographers.

  • As @Mike Kojoori stated – it’s as much about what you don’t shoot as what you do. Use your best judgment to make a space look it’s best and you will be ok.

  • “He immediately took offense that I would refer to one of his photographs as a flat light look”

    Flat light in photography means lack of depth/detail/texture due to the quality of light in the scene. Flat light is not something you would necessarily associate with ambient light, and neither is it necessarily something that would disappear as soon as you turned the lights on.

  • If there isn’t, there should be.

  • @Matt Davis….I agree with your description of “flat light”. However, if there is no light other than ambient light then the scene is black or devoid of light. Yes, ambient light can take many forms including adding highlights, depth, detail and texture. Ambient light can also be flat….very flat. You have to see and know what the conditions are to determine weather the image portrays flat light. I apologize that I could not share the image in question. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!
    Best Regards, Ron

  • The problem with UWA is when the room is obviously distorted or when the buyer visits the property and is disappointed in the size of the room. I try to show every room as well as the relationships between the rooms. When that is done I look for a few unusual views that are probably more “architectural” but I don’t think of it that way. It’s just a little added touch and I guess it is Lifestyle. But the house is properly documented first.

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