How Not Photographing Real Estate For 2 Years Made Me a Better Real Estate Photographer

December 28th, 2014


This is a guest post by Mike Miriello.

I began my professional photography career photographing approximately 400 listings a year for 65 different agents. I voluntarily handed that contract off to another photographer just shy of 3 years later because I had a different photographic opportunity offered to me, and I couldn’t pass it up. The offer was to be the University Photographer for James Madison University. So what’s this got to do with getting better at real estate photography? Well, when I stepped away from photographing real estate full-time, I was still photographing boutique/luxury apartments and completed projects for builders for my business. I began to see things from a different perspective. The space was the same, but the client was different. The client didn’t want to show 2 or 3 corners of the room, they wanted an intimate perspective of what they physically created. They didn’t want one shot of each room, they wanted to see multiple shots of the same room from slightly different positions to show the details of their work and to give the viewer an understanding of how each room connected. Most importantly, they weren’t dictating their terms to me, they were asking me for my services to help show off their work – they trusted me to do what they were hiring me to do. I do not want to imply that all agents give their photographers a hard time, I’m saying that shooting for clients who have different incentives direct their photographers differently.

Over the 2 years I didn’t shoot real estate, and instead shot for the apartments industry and builders, I gained a significant amount of experience telling a story about a space in a much different fashion than I did shooting strictly for agents. Due to building a different kind of portfolio, I was able to gain the attention of a competing agency who wasn’t interested in hiring my business to photograph 400 listings a year, they were only interested in 15-20 listings each year, at a much higher rate, and those listings are only to be their premier properties. The most important lesson I took away from this experience was that marketable skills can be gained by photographing non-directly-related subject matter. Thanks for reading!

About Mike:
Mike Miriello is a photographer located in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He specializes in interior and architectural photography, wedding photojournalism, and corporate photojournalism. In addition to specializing in those areas, Mike also serves as the University Photographer at James Madison University. Mike can be found at

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13 Responses to “How Not Photographing Real Estate For 2 Years Made Me a Better Real Estate Photographer”

  • Thanks for sharing, Mike. I like the accompanying interior shot, too. Framing caught my eye. The shallower depth of field was just right to soften the glowing window and pop the table setting. Also enjoyed your solid portfolio, kudos for good, clean work!

  • Nice post, Mike. My only experience is with shooting vacation rentals, so my interior photography is focused similarly to what you’re describing. While my clients didn’t have a clue what they wanted specifically, they knew they wanted a certain feeling or a vibe since we’re selling an experience not a home. It’s a little more thoughtful process than just covering the four corners of a room. Sometimes I struggle to find those nuances and unique angles, but putting myself in the place of the guest helps me to pull in and see the details better. Thanks for sharing your experience and portfolio!

  • Hi Mike. A long time ago, I used to look forward to listening to your Real Estate Photography Podcast and wondered why it stopped suddenly. Now I know. It was very informative and I learned a lot from it – I’m sure many others would too. It’s no longer available on iTunes – any chance of resurrecting it, or even better starting it up again? It even got an honourable mention in the PFRE blog (

  • I could not agree with the writer more. After more than 30 years in advertising and commercial and photojournalistic photography, I have only been shooting real estate for the last few years. I don’t think I could do the work I do without having had to shoot from the hip with the existing light of photojournalism, the discipline and science of lighting from shooting table top product shots, the flattering lighting of fashion and the thing that holds them alltogether, the understanding that above all, we are telling a story as in photojournalism. We marshall our techniques, equipment and lighting behind telling the story we want to tell.

  • Ahhh this is soothing to read.

    I am currently in the exact same transition and it is so exciting. Stepping away from working with realtors, to more thoughtful compositions with builders and architects. The work there will be more rewarding creatively speaking and financially 😉

  • Thanks for the comments everyone, I’m glad my thoughts are well-received!

  • Good info, Mike! Slick website, too!

  • Excellent article and perspective Mike. Like your clients, my clients are looking to showcase a lifestyle and creating an attraction for the home or property in a storytelling fashion.
    Creativity trumps production every time! A Prosperous New year to all !

  • @Dave, I watched a number of his videos as well on youtube, small world. Nice to know there is a successful photographer basically in my backyard..

  • Mike is the reason I photograph property, or his podcast is. After bicycling across America I traveled the west coast and was in Forks Washington camped in the Hoh Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula. With no wifi or cell coverage, I would go into town where there was wifi and listen to itunes. I stumbled upon his podcast and downloaded all of them onto my laptop, returning to the camper to check them out. Over several weeks I would return to town and download the latest podcast, building up my library. At some point I decided ” I can do that too” and over the months started a new journey. Thanks Mike !

  • Jim, that’s music to my ears. I hope business is good and most importantly that you enjoy shooting. Happy new year 🙂

  • To Mike, Larry and all educators out there who from time to time feel their efforts don’t make a difference,it does. You may never know what difference it makes, or like Mike find out about it years later, but just know people are paying attention and using your information to better themselves. Thanks again Mike and Happy New Year !!

  • @Jim – Thanks for your feedback!

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