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Basic Tips for Maintaining Speed, Efficiency, and Consistency

Published: 16/06/2020

 "Brandon, over the past few years, I've read that you shoot several homes per day. I've become increasingly busy and I think I have the capacity to do more and make more money. So I have a couple of quick questions for you. First, how much gear do you actually bring to a shoot? I'm assuming that you don't bring a lot of gear, as that would slow you down, correct? Second, what are your best pieces of advice for increasing and maintaining efficiency? Thank you."

Trevor, in Birmingham, UK

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Thanks Trevor, I'm always happy to hear from our friends in the UK! To answer your first question, yes, you're right; I don't use a lot of gear. Here's what I bring to a typical shoot: Camera with remote trigger; tripod with a geared head; and three Flashpoint (Godox) speedlights. That said, I do keep extra gear in the car, just in case. This includes: 

  • Backup camera body
  • An extra geared head (Manfrotto 410)
  • A white, collapsible reflector (helpful when shooting homes with dark walls and ceilings that don't give me bounce options for flashes)
  • A roll of cheap, white, transparent cloth that can be easily fastened to a wall or draped super bright windows (very helpful in vacant properties)
  • Gaffers tape
  • Door stops
  • iGUIDE camera

To answer your second question about maximizing efficiencies, after shooting around 1000 houses a year for the past several years, I've uncovered some hacks that work consistently (for me, anyway). First and foremost, is not to over-light the scene with flash. Whenever possible, I try to let the ambient light do most of the heavy lifting. I can confidently say that in about 70% of the houses that I shoot, I end up using only one flash. Please keep in mind though, that I live and work in a small town that has a lot of smaller, cookie-cutter, new builds. That said, even when I get into a bigger house, I will try to get away with using only one flash for as much as I can. So, if I'm shooting a kitchen that has a butler's pantry off to one side, I will take an ambient shot first, then a flash shot, and then walk into the pantry with my flash to take a third shot and blend the three frames in post. I learned this technique from the first Mike Kelley video tutorial and it's worked great for me. I would rather do that then have to unpack a second flash and put it in that pantry. I tend to use two flashes 20% of the time and three flashes 10% of the time but this is for much larger and/or more complicated spaces. Again, keep in mind that I shoot smaller homes, so if I were in a bigger city that gave me opportunities to shoot larger homes, those extra lights would come out more often.

I know that a lot of people in our community use a business model that requires shooting multiple houses a day. I really hope some of them will comment with their suggestions to maximize efficiency. To close out though, here are the top three techniques I use to maintain speed, efficiency, and consistency.

  • 1. Leverage ambient light as much as possible.
  • 2. Ask for the home to be vacant whenever possible. You would not believe how much time you save not having to make small talk with the homeowners! This took some time to get all my clients on-board but I’m really glad that I did.
  • 3. Hire and train a good team of editors. I can't speak for all shooters in our community but for me, I had no life when I was doing my own editing. I invested a lot of time teaching my editors my workflow and now I can barely tell the difference between their editing and mine. I don't even have to give them instruction anymore--they know exactly what I like and they simply get it done. If I can’t get the window pull I want from either my ambient or flash frames, I just take a third shot for the window pull and they know what to do with that extra frame. Same goes for lighting adjoining space in a larger home.

Anyway Trevor, I hope this has been helpful. I have no doubt others will chime in with their suggestions.

Brandon Cooper