Online Learning Is The Most Cost Effective Alternative For Real Estate Photography

January 12th, 2015

OnlineTrainingThis last week I’ve got a bunch of questions like Tawnya’s:

Hello! I just found your website and I was wondering if you might be able to recommend a classroom setting where they teach real estate photography in the Southern California… I am primarily an outdoor, family photo session photographer and want to get into real estate photography.

The short answer is no, I don’t know of ongoing classroom settings that teach real estate photography. The reason is real estate photography education is a niche market and the top real estate photographers in your local area are unlikely to want to help educate their competitors. Undoubtedly there is a handful, but the ones I’ve heard of, are not taught by professional real estate photographers.

The evolution of the PFRE blog has been driven by many of these related issues underlying the answer to this question:

  1. Education is the goal of PFRE Blog: The primary goal of this blog is to help educate real estate photographers. This goal grew out of my frustration in 2000 with the lack of resources available for learning real estate photography when I needed it.
  2. PFRE e-books: The first e-book I wrote, is a direct result of helping agents in my wife’s real estate office in Issaquah, WA market their listings. We’ve expanded the number real estate photography training e-books over the last several years so we now publish five.
  3. Workshops: Scott Hargis and I and others did one of the first real estate photography workshops in April of 2008 in Seattle. Seeing Scott’s lighting technique at this class lead me to convince Scott to write his e-book lighting interiors. Scott went on to do many workshops around the world for many years. Scott does a great workshop! Attend if you ever get a chance.
  4. Video Tutorials: Scott and Malia, also created Scott’s lighting video series which I believe replicates 90+% of Scott’s workshops. Sure, it doesn’t replace the social and networking part of the workshops. But if you just focus on the real estate photography education part, I claim that Scott’s Lighting Interiors e-book and video series together do a better job of teaching you Scott’s lighting technique for less money than it would cost to attend one of Scott’s workshops. Even if it was right where you live.
  5. Revolution in Education: Education in general is evolving rapidly towards online video learning. Khan Academy and MIT’s MOOC experiments are showing that online classes mixed with a regular teacher personal interaction is highly effective, inexpensive and scalable to large numbers.
  6. PFRE coaching network: This last summer we launched the PFRE coaching network which is a group of some of the very best real estate photographers worldwide that are willing to coach beginning real estate photographers. These coaches use Skype and Google Hangouts to tailor their coaching to students needs. Coaching provides that much needed, complementary personal contact to e-books and video tutorials

In summary, I’m a big advocate of the classroom style real estate photography and videography workshops that Scott, Malia and Oliver provide. They are the best choice if they are available. However, the fact is, in the future there is going to be more training done in this new online/personal style than there is in a personal face-to-face classroom setting. That’s just a fact of life driven by the cost and effectiveness of online/remote learning. Here at PFRE we are going to be evolving and expanding this video/coaching model of real estate photography education in the future.

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2 Responses to “Online Learning Is The Most Cost Effective Alternative For Real Estate Photography”

  • “…The top real estate photographers in your local area are unlikely to want to help educate their competitors.”

    This is very true, though for the life of me I don’t know why photographers are so guarded about letting out their “secrets”. If I were a good enough to photographer to actually TEACH someone else how to do it, why would I be threatened that they would become my competition? Don’t the best thrive on competition?

    But I digress. Back to Tawnya’s question: look through Larry’s photographer directory at the top of this forum. Find photographers who work in your area and just send out an e-mail asking if any are willing to teach you some basics to get you off to a good start. They’ll likely charge you for their time, but it will be worth it.

    While you’re waiting for a response from a local photographer, invest some money into either Scott’s book or his and Malia’s video series. Even if you have absolutely no experience using off-camera speedlights on manual setting, he’ll get you through it.

    Next, bookmark and keep an eye out for photography classes, especially lighting since it sounds like you’re looking for help in that department. You can either pay to watch any video in their library, or stream live classes for FREE. Can’t beat that. Another site that sometimes has free tutorials is

    Finally, bookmark websites of photographers you want to emulate. As you learn more and more about lighting interiors you’ll start to get a more critical eye and be able to figure out (more or less) where lights were placed to make those images. Some photographers will even share their behind-the-scenes stuff on their blogs.

  • There are courses available on and on Architectural and interiors photographer and loads of free tutorials on YouTube. You get what you pay for and some of the stuff on YouTube is very dodgy. Since you already have photography experience, it isn’t that hard to pick up interior photography. Exteriors aren’t very hard. Larry’s references above will definitely get you dialed in.

    For what not to do, look at most of the photos posted on Trulia, Zillow and for your area. Unless you are in one of the few locales where professional photography is the norm, you’re going to see loads of organic compost.

    Some of the simple tips are:
    Don’t take pictures of the current occupants stuff as the subject. The room/space is the subject.
    The buyer will get the master bed and bath, so don’t spend much (or any) time on the secondary bedrooms and bathrooms.
    Your images should be level and parallel with the floor/ground. Verticals should be vertical
    Bracket your shots whether you plan to use exposure fusion or are using flash. You may not catch flubs and a spare frame keeps you from having to go back.
    Get the flash(es) off of the camera
    Shoot from a tripod
    Try to hold back from going too wide. If you can see all four walls, you are too wide.
    Look to make your compositions into a highlight reel and not a documentary. If you are taking pictures of the water heater, you have lost focus.
    Measure twice and cut once. Or, work your composition a bit more and then shoot the image. Nothing is worse than weeding through 200 frames when you get back for 10 selects.
    If you are going for 1pt perspective, nail it. Otherwise, move enough off so it doesn’t look like a miss.
    Get some high end RE mags like Christies International, Distinctive Homes or Luxe (aka: real estate porn) and try to figure out how the images were shot. Also notice that each property is usually about 8-12 images.

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