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When to Use Detail Shots in Real Estate Photography

June 12th, 2017

Kelly in Georgia says:

Can we have a discussion about “detail” photos on real estate shoots? I’ve tried taking some before, and they either end up looking more like design shots or they just look silly and I never end up sending them to my client. If people are taking detail shots, what kind of things are they photographing?

Do clients typically want those kinds of shots or do they lean more towards just the overall room shots for real estate listings? I kind of feel like detail shots might backfire in some cases and call attention to things that potential buyers might not like. I recently had a seller complain to my realtor client that I didn’t take any detail shots, specifically of the ceiling trim even though trim is clearly visible all over the house in the images, so it’s made me wonder if I need to work on this issue.

Yes, detail shots are important in some cases. I have some direct home buyer experience with the effect of detail shots for marketing.

While my wife and I were looking for the home we are now living in, I didn’t even want to go inside this home because it was painted pink on the exterior. However, my wife had taken the time to go through all the interior shots of the home where the listing agents had extensively photographed the details of the finish work (the composite above has 4 of their photos). The interior was done by a talented finish carpenter and it has magnificent molding and trim work. These detail shots enticed me to walk through the home and I was blown away by the interior of the home! We bought the home immediately and repainted the exterior. Not every home has details that need special presentation but some do.

Here are my suggested guidelines for detail shots:

  1. Real estate listing detail shots must be of physical details of the property that some buyers may like.
  2. Don’t bother with decorating or styling detail shots because typically the furniture and styling objects are not included with the property.
  3. Don’t worry about showing details that some buyers won’t like. By showing details of what’s there, you will attract buyers that will like what’s there. Part of the marketing job is to attract the right buyer.
  4. I think there’s a fairly small percentage of properties that have details that need special presentation (maybe 10%). The finish carpenter that did our home only did 4 homes in our 400 home neighborhood.
  5. Consult with the listing agent to get her opinion on what is worthy of special presentation.
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8 Responses to “When to Use Detail Shots in Real Estate Photography”

  • I offer design detail shots as an add-on to the base shoot fee. Not all of your RE clients will see the value in this, while others will have a specific need for detail shots in their marketing layouts. Using design details is a more sophisticated marketing aesthetic on the part of the agent and can be an unique part of their own brand. Detail shots rarely show up on the MLS but do get heavily used in brochure layouts, as backgrounds on websites and ad copy. Some clients want them and will put them work, some clients have absolutely no use for them. It best to just ask before you shoot. That’s exactly why this is an add-on service and a way to create additional revenue and explore a project more creatively. The clients that see the value will pay for it.

    As an example, I offer “10 Design Details Images”for an additional $150 on an RE project.

    The detail shots I usually look for are almost always about the building materials, shapes, color and textures. Woods, stone, carvings, landscaping various high-end finishes, reflections in glass or water or just nice interior design pieces and vignettes. Once i’ve finished the principle shoot, I pack all my gear: lights stands, tripods etc. So they are completely out of sight and won’t pop up in a background or reflection. This gives me the freedom to move around freely to look for cool angles that you wouldn’t necessarily ever look at for a real estate shoot. I use only natural light, 50mm-70mm at wide aperture (2.8 at least) for lots of bokeh. I often find myself lying on the floor shooting up, or resting the camera directly on the surface to get the “artsy” textural shots. To highlight the textures, shoot against the light and don’t worry so much about keeping your verticals right or saving the views. The images tend to be more abstract depending on how much space you give them. They are relatively easy to shoot, but do take additional time to shoot and process. I typically spend an extra 30 minutes wandering around to shoot 10-15 details.
    Images like this are often considered “bonus” shots that you might throw in for a interior design client which is typically paying a higher rate than RE. With that in mind, it’s worth shooting some for your own marketing to more upscale clients.

    That’s my take. I’m curious how others go about it.

  • I should add in context of the original question.

    Yes, work on your skills at shooting design details so it is an additional service you can offer when the need arises.

    However it’s the realtor’s job to let you know what they want. What they want is often driven by what their client has expressed to them and not always what the Realtor may think is valuable. So, going forward ask each client before the shoot if they would like a selection of design details shots. Point out a few potential options if you’ve noticed any. This is a time use your artist’s eye to see interesting things that your client may not have noticed while also highlighting your own creativity. If they go with it, either because they love images like that OR they know their client would appreciate it, then you can offer ‘x number of images for x amount’. You’ll make the realtor look great to the seller, yourself look great to the realtor AND you make more money for the additional work. Win/Win/Win

  • I adopt a very similar approach to Travis. Usually after I’ve got all the ‘regular’ views, I’ll stick a long lens on and revisit each room grabbing detail shots. Typical for me are light fittings, junctions between walls / floors /ceilings particularly if there are nice mouldings, door handles, curtain textures, cushion details, interesting stone / wood textures on worktops / floors etc. I agree that some of these items may not be sold with the house, but a) they might be if it’s a new development show home and b) a sexy close-up texture shot, maybe with some interesting natural light on it, can certainly contribute to a property’s sense of class / luxury / lifestyle and so will add to the overall impact of a set of images.

    Lens choice for this will be 24-70 or even 70-200, with a low f-stop to both give a nice shallow depth of field and also allow me to hand-hold for speed and flexibility. If the light levels are low, I’ll use my back-up stills / video camera – a Sony A7s – as it’s really good in low light so you can jack up the ISO for hand-holding with virtually no noise problems.

    As an aside, I’ll typically do the same on a video shoot. Not hand-held this time but after I’ve got all my ‘regular’ shots, I’ll whizz round with a long lens to get details. I’m a big fan of breaking up a film full of wide shots with some sexy close-ups.

  • I don’t charge ‘extra’ but see it as a opportunity to 1) appease my creative urge from the same old same old, and 2) stand out among clients as others don’t think to do it. That said, I don’t do close-up of textures, but unique features that stand out and represent lifestyle. Just like on the broader full room, I don’t do garages and utility rooms unless they really stand out, the same can be said for details. Examples – a wine rack built into the lower staircase wall, exceptional entries with supporting décor, lay on putting green with home in background, pool water features, fully stocked bar in rear of home theater, and even wildlife. You include those types of lifestyle shots and it reflects your creative vision that others, particularly the 20 minute run-n-gunner, doesn’t think of.

  • Easy answer I think. If you have time and the details are a selling/marketing point, then shoot them. Why not? If they are not wanted in the end, the client does not have to use them. But if over time the client would like to have them and you have not shot them, then they have no option about being able to show those details.

  • What about alcohol? LOL I had a request yesterday to show a closeup of a fully stocked bar. I’m not sure that comes with the house either, but who knows… maybe that’s the house warming gift. 🙂

  • @Kevin – If the bar is built in, the bar stays. Inventory doesn’t. It is like a fully stock walk-in pantry – the groceries don’t stay. Got my hopes up one day on a lock change/photo documentation shoot of a new foreclosure that the bank would trash out. The basement (rare in Florida) was a huge wine cellar with at least 100 bottles…but all the bottles were empty. When I returned to shoot the listing photos, obviously the wine cellar was shown but they had thrown out the empty bottles as the cellar had more serious issues like leaks.

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