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How Can You Give Your Real Estate Photography Client Input Into The Shoot Process?

Published: 19/08/2015
By: larry

CustomerInputChris in New Zealand asks:

Are there any photographers that give real estate agents (Realtors) the option to select photos for processing from all the photos that have been shot at a property?

It is a process where the photographer uploads all the unprocessed photos to a website and the realtor choose a number of photos before the photographer processes them.

What are the pro's and con's of the this system?

My take on Chris's question is that even the picky client real estate photography clients are not going to want to review unprocessed photos. This seems like a tedious, inefficient process.

I think a much better way to get input from a client is to:

  1. Do a quick walk-through of the property before the shoot and discuss which angles you intend to shoot in each room. This will give them the opportunity to give input in guiding your shoot. So they can express what they think is important and what is not. If you take notes during this process you can agree up front how many photos you are going to deliver.
  2. And/or I can also imagine picky listing agents liking to look at the LCD screen on your camera or each image on a CamRanger display if you gave them the chance. But reviewing unprocessed photos seems like a last resort alternative. If the client wanted to review photos, I would have them review processed photos.

Does anyone use a review process like Chris is proposing?

13 comments on “How Can You Give Your Real Estate Photography Client Input Into The Shoot Process?”

  1. I think it's a scary idea. Raw files on great photos don't even look so good. Send them 20 or 25 of your very best and call it a day. You're the expert. You know what works. Service is different, bend over backwards whatever it takes and then some... But giving them input to creative process is almost like saying you don't know what you're doing.... Just an opinion....

  2. I have to agree with Dave.
    While I do have agents who point out the highlights of the listing, most have come to trust my judgement to the point where they know I need little direction before getting started. If they show up at all, it's usually to turn on lights and cut me a check.
    Like many in the Portland area, I charge by the square footage. For a small listing I'll send around 25 images, and as the size goes up so does my price and the amount of images I give them.
    One thing is always the same though. I give them everything. That is, everything I decide is up to my standards.
    Showing them the images before they are done seems unprofessional to me.

  3. I've been doing just that in various ways, ever since getting a custom selection system running on my website. It began when several clients asked about all the extra photos I was taking beyond the 25 I normally deliver. They wanted to get the extra photos and I wanted to get paid for them.

    The first version of photo selection allowed clients to choose which 25 they wanted from the 30+ I took. They were unprocessed photos because I uploaded them through my smartphone to my web server before leaving the shoot. This actually ended up scaring clients, they now started asking if that's what the photos were going to look like. Only a few clients understood that post processing is what brings photos to life. I found the clear term to use was "raw" to mean unprocessed, so I stuck with that.

    I no longer use unprocessed photos for selection, but occasionally use processed photos for clients that request choosing their photos. It is typically limited to 10-20 extra photos, each with a large "review image" overlay. The advantage is it keeps those clients satisfied by picking their own photos, which I get paid for, and they don't have to pay for the ones they don't choose. Those extra photos do take additional time to edit though.

    One of the positive things I learned is how varied the choice of photos can be between clients. Some omit nearly all the outdoor shots, others choose every angle of the master bedroom, and other interesting surprises.

    You can try a shared demo at this link:

  4. @Chris, talk with some wedding photographers. That's where it is a lot more common to allow the customer to make selections of the images they would like to have. Even there, the pictures presented have gone through the photographer's rough selection and editing process to eliminate obvious culls and to do some minor work on exposure, geometry and color. From the wedding photographers I have talked to and seen presentations from, it's a major PIA and chews up way too much time. Those that do allow the customer some choice have them come to the office for a set time period for the selections. That's to get them to make definite choices quickly so they don't procrastinate or waffle. It's about time spent on the job and getting each job completed as quickly as possible.

    Most of the mechanic's shops have a sign that gives their hourly rate, the rate if you want to watch and a much higher rate if you want to help. If you have a customer that wants to micro manage each job, it's going to take much more time and you should charge appropriately. You may get jobs where there is a designer or art director working along side of you if you are photographing very high-end properties and commercial facilities. It's not something to be afraid of or insulted by, it's a customer that is paying somebody else for the creative aspects of the job and you for the technical prowess to capture that vision. It's not common for standard RE work and an agent is more than likely going to slow things way down.

    It can be difficult for an outsider to see the potential in an image before it's been post processed. This is very true of images that have been made with a specific post processing technique in mind such as Exposure Fusion or multi-layer twilight photos. Always remember that the difference between an amateur and a pro is what percentage of good photos they come back with and which photos they display to the world, to over simply a bunch. As a pro, you want to only show the images that you are satisfied with. Showing an agent everything you have shot can be detrimental. Even the best bring back duds. If you aren't pushing yourself and failing a bunch, you can't learn. Digital is a super cheap way to make mistakes. I learned on film where it wasn't so cheap and lab time had to be booked up to a week in advance.

    The best thing to do is have the agent on hand when you arrive to photograph the home and do a walk through with them and make a shot list. An experienced agent is going to know what features are sought after in the area and at the price point of the home. Always ask them what they feel are the two or three biggest selling features of the home. Even if you think that you know, ask anyway to get them involved in the process. You will know what you have to nail to impress the agent. If they have already outlined or written the text for the description, get a copy. Too often I see features of a home described in the text and not backed up with photos (even when the agent shot the photos). Write down the shot list and verify before you pack up that you have everything imaged on the list.

    For work-a-day RE sessions, you want to establish yourself as the expert in the agent's eyes without appearing to be too full of yourself. For most work, you need to be closely managing your time on each job to make a profit as a bulk of the jobs are not going to pay large amounts of money. Spend extra time practicing if you have it available. Each new home can be a fresh set of challenges. If standard human practices run their course, the agents will take days to choose images and want them delivered in hours, which translates to: photo session on Monday, post images online Tues, agent send a list of selects Fri. at 4pm and needs them by 8pm that night to meet a mandatory deadline and you have 8 guests due at 7pm for dinner and drinks.

  5. Thankfully, I have only had one client that wants to micro-manage reviewing photos...but not to the extreme pre-selecting as it is LCD only. She is also the one that demands 3 walls and no matter how wide the lens, it is not wide enough. She actually commented on not showing both vanities in the master bath and had to educate her that had (and did ) use the mirrors to reflect the presence of the second vanity as there is not a lens designed to cover the 180 degrees, while mine covers 117 degrees and the one on her P&S at around 72 degrees. The only good thing when she looks at the LCD and sees the very rough shot, she know my work is not done when I leave the house, as it is only the beginning compared to what she receives. It is a relief when she is not there and I am independent, but mindful of her biases. The is also the one that took a "trip of a lifetime" to Ireland and when she got back asked me why all her pictures were pixelated. I looked at her camera and she had adjusted quality to the lowest (not termed that way on menu) for the maximum number of photos...and I had to give her the bad news.

    About the only time I 'volunteer' to show shots on an LCD is when I am explaining what I am doing to the home owner as I try to keep the topic on photography or anything BUT real estate since I am a Realtor and wanting to avoid questions they should be asking their Realtor. They see me outside with a pole, as I am setting up equipment for interior , will show (wow) them with some pole shots as they hadn't expected that perspective. Likewise, the reason I bounce light off walls or use umbrellas, etc., even doing a quick demo of a single direct flash with the stand 'as if' on camera and point out the harsh shadows.

  6. I won't shoot for those who want to pick, choose and micro manage unless it's at an hourly rate. Only ever had one or two that want this and never got much business from them.

    I do ask if there are any things prior to shooting they want emphasized. That's no problem. They understand more clicks more cost though. I review all the images after the shoot "In camera" to see if I missed anything. I tell them it's their last chance. The good news with this if they don't like a shot I just delete it there no post processing.

    As far as what the images look like in camera. The images displayed are always a best guess at a good jpeg derived from a raw image. I use Sony gear and always with DRO +- 5 set. That does not impact the RAW file at all but does display a good representation of a pushed highlight and shadow recovery but on small screen. If it does not look at least ok there you probably have to push it to far in PP. Most of the time these are amazing and the clients rave over them. If they saw the RAW they would puke.

    This brings me to the point about In Camera Previews. I'm sure Cannon and Nikon do have some kind of Dynamic Range Optimization or equivalent. I'm also sure that if you turn those on the RAW files are untouched. Most likely the image displayed will be of a higher quality than if you don't have that turned on. Sooo... even if you don't use that DRO turn it on anyway to see a preview of the possibilities after PP.

    The review time gives the seller some understanding why using a pro is a good idea and boosts the agent in their eyes. That's a good thing for you repeat business when you are showing the realtor has good judgment and is spending money to market their homes.

  7. I never tried it and would not. I too generally do a walk through with the client and time does not allow (client's time), we discuss the marketing features of the property, I make a list and make sure I have them covered. If I have problems with the state of the property that would result in poor looking subject matter (mold, algae in the pool, cracked stucco, rotting decks etc) I usually call my client on the cell phone if they are not with alongside me. I have found that since I use HDR that utilizes multiple exposures none of which represent what the finished photo will look like, I would never show RAW images any more than I ever showed clients negatives when I shot film.

    After a few shoots with clients, they generally have developed confidence in my capabilities to deliver what they want and would rather spend their time selling properties. They sure would not want to spend time pawing through all the RAW images I shoot; I shoot a lot.

    Sometimes I do find that I may not have included a shot a client had in mind in the finished images. But usually I have covered it and then just process and supply the image. I have find that rather than being a negative event, it gives even more confidence in my work from my clients knowing that I do shoot everything they might want and need.

    If a new client wants to micro manage, I just chalk it up to nerves about using a new provider and use it as an opportunity to educate the client. Some clients need stroking. And I don't blame them. Especially the ones that have been burned in the past. The nervousness quickly disappears once I send in the results.

    The short answer then is NO, don't send unprocessed images to clients. Instead as everyone above has said, just involve the client in pre-production discussions then deliver great shots.

  8. Wow, talk about turning a simple task into a nightmare. I'd have to charge double, or maybe triple to... wait, nevermind, I'm not going there.

    Anytime you introduce client input into those choices you waste needless hours doing busy-work that takes away from production. Ask yourself this: Can I bill out the time it takes? Will it result in more sales?

    In portraiture, that upsell time can result in more revenue, but I doubt that's the case in RE pics.

  9. I find the best way is to review as I go through the property for the clients who want to provide direction. That way, I only shoot and process the ones they want. My pricing is mostly by time, so it does not matter much to me if I pick the angle or they do. My method seems to work well, I do not usually have to process extra images and the client pays for all the time and images they use/get.

  10. I agree with Dave, Russell, kelvin, etc. We are being paid as "Professionals" to know - What - How - When - from what Angle - Up, Down, etc - to Professionally capture the property to assist our Client in "Selling a Property" An agent "doesn't have a clue" how to make the image "Click", hopefully we do.

    My clients praise us for our shot selection, we do a walk thru prior to the shoot and listen, that is the correct time for Client Input. Once the shooting starts, "Get The Heck Out of My Way", and don't interrupt my thought process. My Client knows that I will capture the "Essence" of the property.

    We all know that successful RE photographers create and deliver a certain "LOOK"... that sets us apart from the wannabes. They hire us to Deliver that "LOOK" for their property, they will never have a clue how to create that "Look". As usual, "My take it or leave it 2 cents Worth.

  11. Wow. Talk about timely. Just got back from a shoot as the Realtor walked me up to the door, warned me that the wife liked to micro-manage. Sure enough and she walked me around noting thing. After listening to her, I of course schmoozed her and converted the conversation to what she liked - like her pending trip to Venice. When I found that out, very easy to keep her out of my hair and let me shoot the house. First, I referred her to my web site so she could see the type of RE photography I do. When she got finished with that, handed her my iPad and let her view pictures of my Switzerland, Venice and Vienna trip, and a year later (last October) Barcellona, Monseratt, Madrid, Toledo, and daughter's wedding on the Canary Islands. That kept her occupied the entire time.

  12. I do this regularly, being as I charge per photo and it can be a little extra income when someone decides to have additional photos on top of the minimum package. It works for me because most of my clients only want between 4 and 10 images most of the time, so taking 1 to 6 extra is no big deal.

    I edit all photos and send the client a pdf contact sheet for them to choose.

  13. Timely, article! Going to try this out Monday on my next shoot. Have been doing everything by hand and really looking to save some processing time with this. Thanks for the tips and setups.

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