Author: Tony Colangelo
Here's a very interesting question from Jenny, in Prince George, BC, who asks:
I am a new real estate photographer working in a small town where agents just seem to be getting used to the idea of pro photography instead of taking their own shots. Anyway, I know this is going to seem like a dumb question but, how do I know if I’m getting better? I think I am, but I honestly don’t know how to judge. I hope that makes sense."
Hi Jenny, it's nice to be chatting with a fellow British Columbian! Actually, your question isn’t a dumb one at all. I asked that same question of myself when I started out in real estate photography and I’d guess that many shooters in our field have done so as well. Before I get into some suggestions for getting better at gauging one's improvement, I want to point out the four-step process that virtually all people go through toward achieving competence in any new endeavor. These four steps are:
The reason that I mention this adult learning principle is that for many people, just being able to spot where you’re at, within these stages, helps to normalize our development and as such, it can help us to be more patient with ourselves.
That said, there are a number of things you can do to begin to see that you’re actually getting better. One of the best ways is to get a mentor. I was very fortunate to find someone locally who agreed to help me out. I bought him a coffee every few weeks, for the first 12-18 months of my photography career and we talked shop for about 60-90 minutes at each get-together. Each of those conversations seemed to open my eyes to a new "nugget" that I could use at my next shoot and if I was able to pull it off (or even somewhat pull it off), then I could clearly see that I was improving.
If finding a local, in-person mentor isn't feasible/desirable for you, another great resource to check out is the PFRE coaches roster. As you’ll see, each coach lists their areas of specialty, which should help you in your selection process. As you begin to learn new things within the coaching process, you’ll naturally have more knowledge that you can use to establish benchmarks to assess your own growth in very specific areas such as composition, lighting, and editing.
Finally, one of the very best things you can do to help you learn how to see your improvement is to participate regularly in the PFRE Flickr group. If you haven't already registered, then simply go to Flickr.com and in the "search" field, type: photography for real estate. Posting your photos there will typically get folks commenting on what they like about your images and where there might be room for improvement. It won't take long for themes to become evident, which you can then use as a yardstick by which to measure your improvement.
I’m confident others in our community will chime in with their own suggestions. In any case, please keep at it, Jenny!