How Do Real Estate Photographers Handle Bad Weather Days?

March 16th, 2015

BadWeatherHEV who is located in the North East asked the following question:

Has there ever been a discussion about what most photographers do on bad weather days? As in, if they charge to reschedule and what types of equipment to consider using during bad weather shoots. Agents sell houses all year long. Shouldn’t they expect their appointment time may be canceled if bad weather occurs?

Everyone’s answer to this will be to some extent influenced by where they live. I’ve shot real estate in the Northwest US for 15 years and I can’t remember ever canceling a shoot because of weather. However, with the weather you guys are having in the Northeast US this year I can see that you may have had to cancel some shoots because of snow this winter. Here are a few thoughts about canceling because of weather:

  1. My feeling is that if you can get to the property and it’s not dangerous to drive you should not cancel just because you think it’s too wet or the light may be bad. Your question sounds like the agent(s) think you should not cancel but you think there’s some reason to cancel.
  2. The only reason for a cancelation change would if the agent cancels. There should be no charge for a cancelation due to weather.
  3. If you do a shoot with snow on the ground and the property doesn’t sell by spring I would have some kind of arrangement to reshoot the exteriors in the spring. Maybe not for free, but for a reduced price. Perhaps schedule a day once in a while to go around and no nothing but reshoot exteriors.
  4. I did a post last summer about some rainy day shooting gear that Cal Mitchner in Charlotte, NC.

In summary, I think you should do everything possible to not cancel shoots because of weather, except risking life and limb, in which case the agent should agree that canceling the shoot is necessary.


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14 Responses to “How Do Real Estate Photographers Handle Bad Weather Days?”

  • I agree but I would call the agent and RECOMMEND that a shoot be cancelled (giving the reasons why, usually because the photos would be better once the weather clears up), and let them decide. If it’s not cancelled and they’re unhappy with the result, I’d then be justified in charging for a separate shoot.

  • I can’t stress the importance of shooting exteriors on a sunny, blue sky day. It’s well worth it to shoot a day earlier or later if weather necessitates, so long as your agents and their sellers can schedule it easily. Otherwise, shoot as well as the conditions allow.

    My agents understand the importance of a blue sky in that ever so critical 1st exterior shot.

  • Weather hasn’t been an issue here in the California desert, but access could be a problem as some properties are down dirt roads that could wash out if it ever rains again. Fires can be more of a concern.

    I will cancel or accept a cancellation with no charge if the weather looks to be dicey on the day of the shoot. If it’s a matter of returning another time to make photos of the exterior, I’ll do the interior work or as much as I can on the original date and return for the exterior image(s) as soon as conditions improve.

    I’m easy going when it comes to allowing cancellations since it happens exceptionally rarely for me, if the agent gives me a call. If I show up at a property and have to call the agent to find out where they are, I’ll charge full pop. My biggest pet peeve is agents that don’t value my time since I have always arrived for appointments 5-10 minutes early or right on the dot at the latest.

    If the area is snowed in and your appointments are cancelled for the day, it might be a great opportunity to just go out and shoot some winterscapes.

  • I live in Hawaii, we are blessed with great sunny weather most days of the year. We do have some cloudy, rainy days and views are heavily influenced by the VOG (Volcanic smog) from Kilauea volcano which can totally wipe out the horizon line separating the sky and the ocean.

    Due to the nature of the market here, agents will rarely want to shoot on a cloudy or voggy day and this is just part of doing business here. I give my clients the option to cancel the shoot up to an hour before our set appointment at no charge (weather conditions can change drastically over the span of an hour). I will in fact call the agent and suggest canceling if I see the the weather conditions aren’t acceptable and give them the final say.

    If I do leave for the shoot and arrive at the property only to have the agent send me back home, I may charge a small fee to cover my time and travel costs.

  • My biggest promise I make to agents is “I will get you a great outside front shot”. I’ll photograph the house, and if need be, I will come back and Reshoot the exterior front again. We just cleared (I hope) the worse time of the year for me here in East Tennessee, just over a week ago we had 2 – 4 inches of snow, today they’re telling us the high will be in the 70s. I can usally work LR and/or PS and make that front shot look really good, but if not, I go back. My agents appreciate my effort and endears me to there efforts. I can’t control the weather, so I do what I think I should do, help my agent sell her listing.

  • I think so much depends on the region you work in and your clients. I agree with those above that suggest a sunny day with blue in the skies for that listing main shot is very important. And I often will shoot the interiors even if it is raining here in Southern CA where in the winter, it seems that the only time it ever rains is when I have to do a shoot. On the other hand, that rain will make the brown ground green very quickly which is also better for exteriors than dead weeds and grasses especially with many areas restricting landscape watering. Even in the Desert, home of our fellow shooter above, where green swards of grass extend as far as the eye can see and water scapes are all over (yes my friends, even is the desert they have more water than many other non desert regions of California). So I will shoot the interiors anyway and after a discussion with my client as to whether I can come back when the weather clears. Sometimes they have been waiting for the owner to either clear out their personal possessions and declutter the house and need some exteriors for MLS and ads as well as a flyer so they may need the best you can do under the situation and then come back another day when the light is better. And to come back, if I go ahead and shoot, I do charge a nominal extra charge since it involves addition time and expenses and post processing as well. If I have to change day, I don’t charge unless it is a last minute cancellation and I am already at the location.

    I seldom have to strip in skies down here in the land of sun (mostly) but I have seen photographers up in the grey clouds and overcast from our friends up in the north west having to strip in blue skies into shots clearly taken under the soft light of overcast. That and a lot of post processing to beef up the impact of the house and grounds shot under dull light. I think that if your market exists in such light unfriendly and weather unfriendly regions, it pays to work out processing techniques to get the most out of what you do have to work with. Dull light does not necessarily mean dull final results. The shadows are softer, the contrast more even and modulated, less of that carpet burn out from when the sun shines into the rooms. And if its raining, you don’t need to hose down driveways and pathways to cover up cracks and stains, nature does it for you. And dramatic clouds can make for fabulous sky effects too. Sometimes empty blue skies are boring. I often have to lay in some clouds. All of this to try to keep my clients on track for their marketing and advertising dead lines.

  • Reminds me of a conversation I had with an agent. We were scheduled to shoot a property a few blocks from out house:

    Agent: Where are you, we had a 2:30 appointment.
    Me: I’m sorry, we are taking shelter in our basement, the tornado sirens are going off. I assumed you would be taking shelter also.
    Agent: awww – why
    Me: Shooting exterior photos during a tornado results in really bad pictures.
    Agent: Oh OK – let’s reschedule for tomorrow then.
    Me: OK we will work you in.

    Depending on the weather, we will shoot if it is safe to get to the property. However, the owner and the agent can call and reschedule if they wish, no charge. We also will automatically reschedule new outside photos for rain or snow. Those are done when we are in the neighborhood.

  • Here on the sunny west coast of FL, (most of the time) the weather is beautiful. but we have our rainy season which can be a huge problem. Most of my agents, only want to shoot on sunny days as they are trying to entice the northerners and Europeans to coming to this beautiful vacation destination.
    Here in the Sarasota /St Pete/Tampa area, we are the lightning capital of the world, and the weather changes drastically at any moment. Last year, I did an elevated shot (40 feet on my aluminum pole) of a home in Tampa. 5 minutes after bringing down the pole, and going back into the house, lighting struck the tree in front of the house. It was a sobering and attention getting experience. Now, I will not do an elevated image if it looks like rain.
    when I have to meet a client further than 40 miles, I keep in touch with them and have them give me a weather update, as the weather on the beach side (west of the interstate) can be clear, and raining on the east side of the interstate. if it is a bit overcast and my shoot is close, I will shoot the property (don’t have to compete with the glaring sun for interiors), and re shoot the exteriors when I can.
    So far, I have not had any “NO Shows”, just, cancelations because of the home is still being cleaned or some construction issues, or the agent hasn’t finalized signing the contract for the sale .

  • I’m amazed at this post and all the comments supporting rescheduling.

    Here in Vancouver BC it literally rains everyother day of the year. We could be in business only shooting on sunny days. And poping back out to just grab exteriors? maybe it’s just because we are one the most congested cities in the world but it’s just not viable for a reasonable rate.

    Out policy is no cancelations under 36hrs notice without a $50 fee. Anything under 2hrs is 50% the full price. A empty time slot is revenue lost forever. This is particularly apparent when you’re booked nearly a week in advance.

    As professionals our time is valuable but I see toour many r3 all estate photographer allowing ourselves to be under valued. Protect your time and business.

    Lastly we do reschedule for fog and snow. Those conditions suck and we can’t get a good enough result.

  • Concur with Patrick. In the uk we rarely re schedule on account of grey weather as the agencies suppliers will generally do photoshop on the skies. It is not the ideal solution visually, but logistically it would be simply impractical to re schedule for rain or a grey day, given the amount of jobs that need to be completed. Snow is a different matter. It depends then on how thick it is, but we generally ring the client/agent and give them the option. Most go ahead with the shoot as they regard the interiors (which are not affected by the weather) to be the primary area where we add value. Most agents are generally keen to have the pictures on the listings as soon as possible, despite the weather.

  • Hmmmm….methinks I see a trend here…In places where rain is not part of people’s daily lives, rescheduling becomes rare…That’s what makes it doable.

    Here in the northeast stormy weather is a part of life. I can either replace the sky, or work with it on cloudy days. Since high cloud-cover is part of our DNA, I sometimes try to make the most of a dramatic sky Alternately, if its at the end of the day, I’ll do a blue hour night shot which almost ALWAYS works, no matter what the weather. But canceling every time the weather doesn’t cooperate would completely decimate my bottom line. Going back to reshoot an exterior? Once that started, there would be no end to it. I hesitate to go there because it would open a can of worms.

    Exceptions are: major snow storms and ice storms, hazardous weather such as dangerous winds which make driving hazardous, pouring non-stop rain where flooding and getting stuck on the road due to flooding is likely. Many of our major roads flood regularly, so this does happen more than people in sunny climates would think. Safety first! Yes, NY can have a very stormy climate…

  • My policy is transparent and simple. Cancellations within 24 hours come with a $175 cancellation fee. The exception is cancellations due to weather. In L.A. where I work, rain and cloudy days are rarely an issue, although coastal areas in the summer are often overcast well into the latter part of the day or all day. Also, view properties may not always have optimal visibility due to haze of smog. If the client wishes to hold for a sunny or clearer day, I understand and accept that. If however, they wish for me to shoot it despite the weather, I will do what I can. If they require the exteriors reshot however, I charge a full supplementary return visit fee.

    Patrick, I think it’s a little different in B.C. because rain is pretty much normal weather up there for most of the winter season. Here, sun is the story for well over 330 a year. In fact, we’re in the midst of a historic drought. As such, clients images compete side by side with those shot mainly on bright sunny days and they want the same for themselves.

  • In Wisconsin, I think I’ve rescheduled once. The winters here can get pretty bad, but it’s not an issue for interiors. I have had to come back out on a couple occasions to do new exteriors but that’s it.

  • easy, PHOTO SHOP! 🙂

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