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Houston Real Estate Photographer's First Video - Looking For Feedback

Published: 02/08/2011
By: larry

Jonathan Calvert and Daniel Chee of in Houston, TX have made their first video. They've been inspired by all the video discussions on PFRE and the great feedback that PFRE readers have given other photographers moving into the video arena and asked me to solicit your feedback on their first video.

While this has many style similarities to the recent video we featured by Heath Cowart the story line doesn't feel quite as "tight" as Heath's video. Also, the "young family" theme limits the connection this video can make to a narrow demographic. Definitely a well done for a first time video.

What does everyone think?

38 comments on “Houston Real Estate Photographer's First Video - Looking For Feedback”

  1. Don't think its their first video, it shows 300+ on their youtube page.

    The video is nicely done, I just find too much focus on the people, toys etc than on the actual house in the first 2 mins. Its only at the 2:14 mark that we actually get to see the house and that is really only for like 35 secs.

  2. Sorry, I don't get it. Isn't this about selling homes? Isn't that the end goal? Or is this more about making "art"? As a buyer (that is the target market, eh?), I would just be scratching my head. There is nothing here that I want to see, which is, oddly enough, the house!

    Why is everyone looking to push things to extreme limits just to be different? Aren't we losing the focus of what exactly these videos are hoping to accomplish? As a buyer, it would be nothing more than confusing - and I wouldn't even bother watching the rest of it. Buyers don't have time to waste to watch "stories" about making cereal! They're trying to find a house in an expedient manner using their computer. I hardly think they're looking for entertainment, and I don't think most potential buyers have a problem visualizing how they would make cereal in their new house.

    I also think there are federal fair housing laws that prohibit people from being in advertisements for housing, no?

  3. I have to agree with Chris and Jeremy - WAY too much focus on the people in the first two minutes... I would not have finished the first 2 minutes, let alone the whole video if I hadnt been watching this at the request of the blog (i.e. I was house shopping) I think shots like the cereal would be great add ins to show interaction, but probably better to do it pouring the milk in or something (cereal is lost in similar colors), but practically watching the kid take a whole bath and what seemed like a minute worth of them getting in the car, does nothing for me. I would rather have seen junior playing in the yard for the same amount of time than leaving.

    matt- lol.. I was just going to put in an offer on mom to see if they would split the lot up!

  4. I disagree completely. A big part of purchasing a home is being able to see yourself and your family using the house. It's just a house otherwise. This video ties a great deal of emotion into the property, making it a _HOME_ in the first two minutes. The last bit just gives a better overall view of the property.

    The target audience for this video is likely young families with kids or those expecting. To them, the house is about memories and raising kids. The wide open spaces, the inviting kitchen that is open to the main living area, the large tub perfect for bath time, the front porch and quiet road. All of those things are important to the potential buyers.

    I really can't believe so many of you missed this...

  5. Technically I think it looks great although that's the thing I'm least qualified to evaluate. I'm not as concerned that it focuses on a young family if that is who the most likely buyers are. I don't think the video is trying to tell a story as much as set a mood which I think is also a legitimate thing to do in a marketing context. Too many property videos are approached as documentaries, not marketing pieces. Where I do think this falls down is that there is way too much of the mood setting with the family and it's all upfront and ends up slowing down the pace and making it boring. The elevator music is also boring. Something livelier might have moved it along. In movie parlance, property videos are "trailers" or "previews." Movie previews are designed to tease and put fannies in the theater seats. Our goal is to tease qualified buyers across the threshold to look at the house in person.

  6. Very well done. From where I sit this is a lot better than some I've seen. The editing in most instances is cut quick enough to keep my interest. I actually saw more of the house in this video than in some of the previous videos. Some of the shots are too long - the bath scene, the family in bed. I think they should incorporate wider shots in with the vignettes of the family instead of leaving the wide shots until the end. The up and down pans near the end were giving me a roller coaster experience. Better balance and this video should set the standard for what a good video, that incorporates people, should look like - IMHO.
    Keep up the good work. I look forward to your next video.
    Best Regards,

  7. I thought it was great. A couple things really stood out to me though:

    1) The lifestyle vs property video footage could have been integrated better. The way it is the first half is lifestyle and the second half is property video which gave the entire video a somewhat disjointed feel. I think they did a really good job showing the features of the house with the lifestyle footage so the ending clips seemed unnecessary to me. We just needed more house during the lifestyle clips.

    2) I'd eliminate the bath footage. Completely. I would never have a naked kid or even a hint of naked kid in a video. Period.

    Overall I liked this video a lot. I hope this is how property videos are trending.

  8. The young family theme probably can't be used by a real estate agent because most real estate agents can't target age groups unless they are over 55 communities. Intentionally or not this video could be interpreted as age discrimination by a real estate board.
    Also, another thing I have recently noticed in video and slide shows is music that may or mY not be li en Ed properly. I.e. Music can be royalty free but not for any use. Most photographers have a hard time distinguishing between own use, clients own use and resLe of product to a customer for any use.
    Animo to just added a reseller category for several reasons but one of the most important was their license fees that they pay for those 1000 pl
    Us songs you can use for free with their product
    More to come Larry on this subject!

  9. The Video is ok. Need to get control of interior lighting so you eliminate the washout effect in the windows. Unless that is the desired effect.

  10. Basically I think Malia hit the nail on the head with her feedback. I was thinking exactly the same thing. I was impressed with the video and the effort to bring a more emotional/feeling type of aspect to marketing real estate. Traditional marketing has been so heavy with left-brain, logical, factual marketing... it's time the right-brain got in the mix. Many people make decisions on purchasing property based on feelings and emotions just as much as they do facts. I am also a licensed realtor and Suzanne and Jeremy bring up two points related to steering buyers as well as Fair Housing non-discrimination laws that are worth further investigation. When I was marketing apartments for rent, we had to be sure our marketing included people of all ages, genders, and colors. In a situation where you are showing the actual owners of the home in the video, I wonder how all that applies. I don't know the answer but have been pondering it. I also just wanted to say Hi on this forum, I am married to Heath Cowart and do video editing as well as some of the photo editing and I have been a reader here for a long time, but this is my first post. Thanks to everyone for the conversations, feedback and advice, it is invaluable.

  11. I think it's great, and I'd second Malia's comments. I really think that the people who don't understand this kind of marketing "still think they're in the business of selling real estate" --- to quote a colleague of mine. In rural America that may well be true....but in any major market, worldwide, it's about marketing & advertising....period. Those that "get it" are not only surviving, they're flourishing. Those who don't....well, one statistic I read said that 10,000 RE agents have left the business in the last year.

    @ Suzanne --- I disagree with you regarding photographers understanding RF music. No one understands licensing better than photographers! The RF music sites I've used are pretty clear in their language.

  12. Good idea for the video, however, I would spend more time showcasing the home than is spent with shots of the family.

  13. Yes, I do "get it." But I don't think it's effective. I would have turned it off after the first 15 seconds. It IS still about selling the house. Besides naked babies, there are also several potential fair housing issues. You can't imply a home is for families or families of a certain race. This video does both of those things, and probably even more if I chose to watch it again.

  14. Ok, if I may say so, this is getting a little ridiculous. Enough with the race issue. Heath's video has 32 comments (some from the same people who are bashing me) and not a single one refers to race (even though his entire video is all caucasian). In addition, every one of PlatinumHD's videos (that I have seen) shows one race. I am not dissing their videos at all. I really REALLY REALLY like them. Im just trying to understand why everyone is nit picking that topic on my video. The truth is, we are selling a single family residential home, not a multifamily. How do you show a single family so its not discrimination? Caucasian wife, african-american husband, asian baby, spanish baby. I guess that's what I was supposed to do.

    For the people who did "get it" - Ian, Jay, Ron, Malia, Jeff, Melinda, Scott, and Steve - thank you for your feedback. You have all pointed out some great issues that need to be addressed and will make sure to do so on future videos. I really respect you guys even before you commented on my video. So, to have your feedback - it is very uplifting. Pointers from the pro's.

    As an update on the effectiveness - the home is sold. The realtor (who absolutely loved it) said the sale was very much so in thanks to the video. He had people calling him from different states who wanted to come see it. In addition, he picked up 3 new listing from random people who saw the video and loved it. And guess what they all want done to market their guessed it....videos. We are in the process of shooting one right now.

    @Malia - I added those clips at the end as an afterthought. They were shot days before we even decided to make a lifestyle video. Different camera, different motion, different lighting etc. I only added them (against my will) because the agent was getting flack from fellow realtor's who didnt "get it". So, I settled and added them. I think the video would have been just as strong without it. I firmly believe you can sell a home without showing every little detail. Somewhere along the line, everyone has forgot about emotion.

    Who here has seen the Toyota Venza commercials? Its a huge campaign Toyota is running on every TV channel. How much do they show the car? Maybe 5 seconds worth. Check it out. There are a million other products sold that way. Ever seen a full page Rolex ad in a magazine? Why do they show a wide shot with a sleek guy, sweet suit, hot chick, nice car, etc. Wouldnt it be better to just show a close up of the watch? Nope. Because people want the lifestyle that guy has. Its much more than a watch.

  15. One last thing, I am not trying to be defensive or pissy. I honestly did want some feedback and really do appreciate what most of you have pointed out. I really do like constructive criticism - as long as it's on point. Saying things like "the family is for sale" is completely off topic and does not help me better my video at all.

    Once again, thanks everyone.

  16. I think the people saying “the family is for sale” are giving their valid point that the video almost comes across that way because of the amount of focus directly on the family......and that is constructive criticism.

    When you ask Larry to post your video....don't get all defensive when some comments are not to your liking. Everybody has a right to their opinion....especially when being directly asked.

  17. Jonathan,
    Fair housing issues may not important to you as the videographer, but they are - or should - to the Realtor. There is a whole list of do's and don'ts, and all it takes is an unintended implication in the advertising for it to become an issue. It doesn't become an issue until somebody sues - and then everybody loses. So, that criticism is perhaps "on point" afterall. Congratulations on the fact that the house sold, and the agent thinks your video helped. Perception is reality.

    Toughen up that skin a little bit. If you ask for criticism on a forum you will receive it - from the irrelevant to the highly relevant. You need to pick out what will help you, and ignore the rest.

  18. Appreciate the comments. Thanks. Best wishes to all. Im pretty sure the emotion attached to relationships is a universal one that transcends age or race or religion, especially those between a father/mother and child, or husband and wife. Our goal in creating this story was to show that in this house, a family can enjoy time with each other, and live and grow. It's how every potential homeowner views a home no matter their stage in life... a home is a place to house relationships, where people grow, and even a place where you struggle with each other. If they are not, then as you well know - not every house is for every one. A realtor could look at a dozen homes and not find the right one for a couple. Even with an elder generation they could potentially see this video and imagine their kids possibly visiting and seeing how it could be a warm place to bring their loved ones. I don't think it discounts their value by casting a younger family.

    Again, I appreciate your thoughts. I know Scott is a staple for many real estate photographers seeking encouragement, and you live up to it in every way with your post. Thanks for being an educator at heart when it comes to commentary, and thanks to everyone for your opinion.

  19. Hi Larry,
    Agreed. Unfortunately anyone could have the unintended perception for just about anything, and who's to argue?. Like you said, perception is reality, and reality is whatever you want in this country, which makes it great. In meshing the lifestyle theme with the typical real estate tour that has become so common there are growing pains, and I'm sure this piece of information will come handy. I loved the encouragement from those who enjoyed this video and hope it becomes a trend. Thanks for the input.

  20. Johnathan, I think your video is great, I would have posted earlier but I have been slammed with jobs today.
    If you do a video that is unremarkable then you attract no attention. When you make something that is remarkable you attract attention and remarks, good and bad.
    The challenge of pioneering new creative territory is that there is no one to show you how it is done or where you can go so you have to take some risk and do your best.
    There is no doubt that if you keep producing really creative work you will continue to take criticism from a few, support from others, and you will be very busy, as you already know.
    I am looking forward to seeing more of your work and thanks for allowing us to learn from your video.

  21. Hi Chris,
    I can see that this video is not for you, but I really appreciate that you watched and complimented that it was nicely done. To answer your first post about 300+ as a contradiction to the original notion that this is the first film: it is the first project that Jonathan and I have worked on to try and create something fresh. I own my own photography company(nothing to do with real estate), and he owns his, and we both agreed that in community, great things can be created (especially from different backgrounds). So we teamed up and had this concept and without much training or template we tried to do something interesting. The over emphasis on the family might have been my fault as I am more attracted to that aspect, where as I know that many of you have a different focus. I am sure eventually we'll find that balance. I hope that helps explain the 300 vs 1. I do understand the confusion.
    Thanks again,

  22. RON, Im sorry i missed your comment. I enjoyed reading it, and thank you. I hope others pursue their visions and push themselves another step ahead. Again to everyone- thanks.

  23. I like it. Kudos for trying something different and lifestyle based. According to the pricing on your website, the client invested $110 in this video? Is that right? If so, I think you deserve to get paid a lot more than that for a product like this.

  24. Hey Mike! No, Attractive Listing is the name of my real estate photography company. In that company I make short video tours for that price. This lifestyle video is something totally different. That is under our production company Ark Films teamed up with a well known photographer in Houston - Daniel Chee. If you look at my YouTube channel, I have been burning myself out shooting all of those $110 video tours. My goal is to move into larger, more creative projects (like the lifestyle video), and move away from the repetitive small money tours.

    Glad you brought that up! And thanks for the compliment.

  25. Nice job, the lighting is well managed and the theme plays well throughout the video, we know what we are seeing, we know what you are pitching (lifestyle pitch that is). Excellent use of multiple camera angles. My only critique is that the video runs a touch to long. In a 30 second sound bite society a nearly 3 minute video stretches the average viewers attention span. Two minutes running time would have given the same warm and fuzzy image and sensation whilst keeping the viewer engaged through out. Since this type of video often ends with some kind of product or service pitch, that two minute thresh hold is important to consider because you don't want to lose the viewer before you get to make that pitch.

  26. I'm shocked. I watched this video this morning and came back to see what people thought. Where did this entire race thing come from? So, video's need to show every ethnic group living in the house? WOW! Someone is reading something into this video that isn't in the video. In the video; there's no locations stated, nothing about the neighborhood, nothing I saw showing religious, or political items (I didn't slow motion the video to check but nothing obvious was shown), nothing to indicate if I'm watching people living in Connecticut, Compton, or Copenhagen.

    I didn't comment this morning because what I think had already been said. It is a good video that for me isn't effective in selling a house. Not because I don't understand the "lifestyle" video, I do. For me, it isn't effective because the kids running in the house means I better look for scuff marks on the floor and woodwork, and other child related maintenance issues. The cereal not getting all in the bowl shows a lack of detail by the owners (I'm guessing these are the current owners in the video). Again, means I will be looking extra careful at all minor maintenance issues. Lastly, the video is so specific in it's point of view it reduces the sales potential IMHO. If I'm a 30ish couple not planning on having kids, or a 50ish couple with kids long gone, I wouldn't have lasted with this video and I wouldn't go to see the house. This is the first video I can say that about. The video actually made me less interested in seeing the house because it is so different from my lifestyle.

    That said, I thought the editing and camera work were good.

  27. I'm not seeing the "lifestyle" angle to this video. I see a young family eating cold cereal, taking a bath and sitting on the porch. That's not lifestyle. That's life.

    I think the video is alright and a good first step considering how difficult it is to create compelling videos and the serious time and budget restraints with RE video in particular. The colors are nice, the music is nice, a few of the angles are nice. But the whole "lifestyle marketing pitch" angle is baloney. The Toyota commercial works because it's selling the fantasy lifestyle (youthful adventure) you can have if you buy the car. Same for the Rolex ads - the fantasy lifestyle pitch is the carrot that gets you to buy the watch.

    Your video says "buy this house and you too can get up and eat cold cereal and go about the routines of your day and then read your kid a book in bed..." Again - that's not a lifestyle. That's life. And it ain't exactly "the sizzle." Sure, everyday moments can be used as lifestyle but they need to be shot correctly, usually very close-in. All of your camera work is very distant from the live subjects and it doesn't work well.

    I think your next effort should incorporate more house and less live acting. Especially if you don't have a clear creative direction for the video. I think your shots of the home need to be better planned and executed with regards to camera movement, composition and lighting and there needs to be more of them. Any live action needs to show THE LIFESTYLE THAT YOU CAN ONLY HAVE IF YOU BUY THE HOME. Maybe the house is close to a great park where young families can play together? Maybe the house has a master suite with fireplace that allows the couple a romantic getaway in their own home? Maybe there's a porch and expansive front yard where the mother can sit and watch her kids play in their new safe, welcoming and pet-friendly neighborhood. Maybe there's a large backyard for having the awesomely interesting neighbors over for BBQs? Maybe the house is biking distance to shopping and entertainment? etc etc....

    Watch this home video - (shot on a $150 kodak waterproof camera) and just imagine if at the end of it a line of text appeared that said "Life...Brought to you by Pacific Pools and Spas."

  28. I must say I'm fascinating by the many varieties of real estate video I'm seeing lately. It's interesting to see all these different perspectives on what people think makes a successful real estate video! And definitely interesting conversation on this thread!

    In regards to using people in the videos, I have been told several times that the Fair Housing Law prohibits using people in advertising for housing. I am not familiar with the law, but just yesterday I was shooting an apartment complex and the manager actually asked paying tenants to leave the pool so I could shoot it. She was adamant that absolutely NO people could be used in advertising due to Federal Housing Laws. I wouldn't be so quick to judge the validity of this until you check into it specifically, as the Realtor is the person who will get in trouble, not the videographer. If it truly is a violation, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    As far as criticism goes, you kind of asked for it - good or bad! 🙁

    I would take it all with a grain of salt however. No disrespect to the people on this blog and in the forums, but videographers and photographers are the last people's opinions that really matter to me.

    Only 3 opinions count in my book:

    1) Realtors
    They will be 95-100% of your potential customers. If they "get it", if they understand the value of this type of "lifestyle" video and how it works, if they are willing to pay the cost for this type of video, YOU WIN.

    2) Buyers
    If this video prompts buyers to pick up the phone and inquire, step in the door of an open house, or better yet, write up an offer. YOU WIN.

    3) Sellers
    If sellers see how you are marketing homes in a better and different manner than the competition and you get more listings because of doing this type of video, YOU WIN.

    Those are the ONLY opinions that matter, and it's those opinions that will put you in business or keep you out of business. Since this video sold this home, if the agent got new listings because of this video, I would say it's a success. If ten other Realtors do the same, I would say it's a huge, unqualified success!

    People criticize my walk through style, people criticize the length of my videos, people are quick to make all kinds of judgments about what is effective and what is not. Everyone seems to have an opinion - that's just the way it is!

    I was just checking my financials last night and realized, much to my surprise, that 5 of my best repeat clients have each paid me well over $10K just in the first 6 months of this year. I met one of those for lunch today and he wants to double his sales this year and wants to do it primarily with video, as he feels that his videos absolutely were the main component that propelled him to be the #1 REMAX agent in New England last year. We were strategizing different things we are going to do with video to make that happen. My phone rings all day long with appointments. I get new clients every single day, and I still work almost everyone I've worked with for the past 6 years. They keep coming back for more, so something is working!

    Those are the ONLY opinions that matter to me. If they don't like what I do, and if what I do doesn't work for them and their business, they don't use me and they don't pay me.

    Every market is different. You have to do what works for you and for your particular market. Although I love seeing what those guys are doing in Australia, that type of thing would NEVER fly in stodgy New England. Not in a million years….

  29. I love the production quality.

    I looked up the house on the Houston MLS and did not see this video on the listing. How was the video used? e&FOR_SALE=1

    Now two minor questions (maybe stupid, but who cares)???

    1) How do you get the chairs to rock in the video?

    2) How do you open the doors in the video?

    Thanks for sharing.

  30. Instead of just sitting around speculating, I looked it up. From:

    § 109.30 Fair housing policy and practices.

    (b) Use of human models. Human models in photographs, drawings, or other graphic techniques may not be used to indicate exclusiveness because of race, color, religion, sex,
    handicap, familial status, or national origin. If models are used in display advertising campaigns, the models should be clearly definable as reasonably representing majority and minority groups in the metropolitan area, both sexes, and, when appropriate, families with children. Models, if used, should portray persons in an equal social setting and indicate to the general public that the housing is open to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, and is not for the exclusive use of one such group.

    Now, I think this could reasonably fall under the "families with children" part. It's not reasonable to expect a mixed ethnicity family. Don't get me wrong, I know the exist (hell, I come from a mixed ethnicity family) but I don't interpret this as a mandatory measure. If you really wanted to be safe I suppose you could include a neighbor of a different race.

  31. Johnathan & Daniel,

    Well done. I really liked the images ... there may have been Cheerios being poured, but all I could see was the granite counter top. And the little boy may have been playing, but what I noticed most was the amount of light and rich oak flooring.

    I think that Fred Light nails what really counts ... and if it's really true that differentiation is a key to marketing success, well, I think you'll have plenty of business.

    Kudos on your choice of music, too. Whether it's the home speaking about the owners or vice versa ... it was easy to make an emotional connection. Home means a lot to us all. What's the saying? ... "It's not what you've done for me, but how you've made me feel."

    Nice work!


  32. Fred Light has a point, and well done to you guys for having the creativity and enthusiasm for tapping into this market. I'm sure with more practice, your videos will improve and I certainly wish you all the best in your new venture together. (the cereal pouring ws a tad sloppy tho:-) I’ve still got a lot to learn about film, thus appreciate anyone having the balls to put there's out there for feedback and inspiration.

    Great work Malia for looking that up. However, are the people in the video actually human models? They are certainly human but not models. To me, the video is shot of members of the family with their permission who live there, so cant one get around the law using that fact? I wouldnt worry... (but that's me)

  33. Just viewed this and it's a darling video, tells a cute story and is well done. My only criticism would be it might not appeal to a wide enough audience. A young family with kids would love this and probably be compelled to tour the property. The video is definitely directed at a very specific audience so if that was the intent it's a successful marketing piece.

  34. Jonathan and Daniel. I am a Realestate photo and video producer who has done over 8000 homes in the Houston, TX. Realestate market in the past 8 years. ( I happened to see this information exchange so I thought I would stick an opinion on the list of comments. I also saw Fred Light's excellent reply to you First of all the video is very creative but it is too fast paced. Most of all it doesn't conform to the HAR rules for MLS listing videos commonly called Virtual Tours. It is also too long and detailed for use as a personal video. To qualify for HAR posting, the video has to be about the property and has to promote the property and it cannot contain any realestate signage or reference to a real estate agent, HAR doesn't allow listing videos on Youtube format. Only approved agent personal videos can be on a Youtube private format. HAR willactually fine Realestate agents with non-compliant photos and videos. The product should never have any live persons, including the realtor in the production or the realtor's yard signs. There cannot be any copyrights or production references in the video including the website address of the tour producer. I know this sounds a little restrictive but it is what is expected of HAR photo and video producers. Posting of videos on the NAR (National Association of realtors) are far more lenient but it requires a posting be made by an agent or broker's MLS site with one of their photo and video partners. I am one of their partners aythorized to publish the NAR listing photos and tours. In summary.... Don't be discouraged. There is alot involved with the Realestate Video world that you can learn quickly. I would be happy to talk with you if you have any questions. You can reach me through or websites. Good Luck... You can do it. Check out some of the work on my website. These are High Def Videos ( 1080i ) actual productions on homes in the Houston Market.

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