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Questions From A Realtor Photographer

Published: 28/05/2008
By: larry

Today I got a question from a Realtor (Todd on the east coast) I want to answer Todd in a post because I think Todd is not the only Realtor with these questions. Todd said:

"I am a photo enthusiast but also dyslexic and have no patience for instructions. Real estate has been my life for the past 34 years and I have attempted to keep in front of the rest in technology. But times are changing quick for the wild men like me. As a salesman do not want to be in Photoshop adjusting pictures etc in many different programs... As a salesperson I want to know: How do I take a picture of a small room and make it look inviting. What programs are made to make morons look like photography pros. I see in these blogs beautiful estates that any picture would be inviting. I want to see pictures in low income houses that look great."

First of all, yes the real estate and the photography world is changing at lightning speed these days. I know and work with a wide variety of Realtors and I only see one in about 500 that are technically up to shooting their own photos. And almost all of the ones that shoot their own photos don't do the quality of work that full time real estate photographers do. For this reason, I recommend that Realtors work with professional real estate photographers.For Realtors that want to shoot their own photos, I did a post recently on the Bare Essentials of doing real estate photography. This was aimed at both Realtors doing their own work and real estate photographers just getting started. So if you're not willing to do the bare essentials you are better off hiring a professional.I think Lightroom or Aperture, if you are a Mac user, is the closest thing there is to software that makes "morons look like pros". However, it's a mistake to expect to simplify real estate photography too much... there is no magic bullet.Finally, I would recommend my 10 essentials tutorial to Todd as a formula for making any room look inviting.

18 comments on “Questions From A Realtor Photographer”

  1. As a photographer and Realtor, I'd have to say that there is not a program out there that will magically turn your photos into gems. I was a photographer long before I became a Realtor. I've given lessons to a couple of agents here in Bend that have bought all of the fancy photo gear, yet have no idea how to use it. It's not the camera, It's not the programs, It truely is the photographer that produce quality real estate photographs.

  2. I agree with the post above. It is the photographer that makes the image, not the camera. Some folks need to realize that it isn't as easy as it looks, and there is skill involved. To be good at whatever you do, takes time, practice, and above all, some God given talent.

  3. If I read his letter correctly, he wants to know how to produce great photos without having to spend time in PhotoShop or other programs, probably doesn't want to invest money in decent gear or the time to learn how to use it, and wants his photos to look like the ones the pros on this blog produce. Or to paraphrase, "How can I make great photos without having to spend any of the time or money like you guys have?".

    To me, this is insulting and represents the condescending attitude many Realtors have toward RE photographers which we have all dealt with. He doesn't get it - it takes time, money and commitment to produce the photos that pros like Scott, Jeremy and others display. A Realtor who does see a solid correlation between quality photos, quality listings and successful sales would never ask such a question.

    My response may seem harsh but is honestly how I feel.

  4. I have to agree that knowledge, skill and experience has more to do with taking great photos than equipment and software. I truly appreciate how Larry takes the time and puts up with us agents who want to shoot our own inventory. Even with my skills and experience, I will be the first to admit when a shoot is too much for me given the budget for a particular listing. Mike, I too have read posts from photographers who do not full appreciate what the listing agent must go through to get a property sold. It’s important that agents and photographers respect each other for what they bring to the transaction.

  5. When ask this question, here is my standard reply.
    1) Go out and spend a $1000++ on good equipment
    2) Go out and spend a $1000+ on good software
    3) Buy a computer that can handle the software. ($1500+)
    4) Last, spend 8 hrs a day, 5 or 6 days a week for 2 plus years shooting only real estate.

    After that you will be on your way to shoot good real estate photos.

  6. As a Realtor and a Photographer myself, I think Todd's real question is how can he take his own pictures with a compact camera to make them looks much better than any other Realtors who also shoot their listing themselves without involve PS. I think that's possible. All he needs to know is which wide-angle compact camera to buy, know what time of the day is good time to shoot, how to control exposure compensation, which angle of the room to take, and etc, and I think the pictures would looks much better than most photos taken by Realtors.

  7. The things that sabrina suggests (which camera to buy, what time of day to shoot, etc.) will certainly improve the quality of a realtor's pictures, maybe a notch or two above what he (and most any other realtor) is doing now.

    However, those things will not dramatically improve his photos. They will not come close to the "beautiful estates" "in these blogs" or making "morons look like photography pros" as the original question asked.

  8. I think I understand what you're asking, but the answer is a little more complicated than just to do "A", "B" and "C". If it were easy, you wouldn't be paying for the awesome photographers who read and/or participate on this blog.
    Clearly you are investing in their expertise and skill and even if you buy an expensive camera, the technical skills they bring to the job makes the all the difference in the world.
    However, if you are choosing to take your own photos, a little forethought is required before you even hold the camera to your eye. Keep in mind proper lighting (there's a difference between adequate and proper lighting); staging the room for the best shot and of course the composition of the shot is critical.
    The bottom line is, the investment spent on a real estate photographer is far worth the trade off of frustration and poorly shot photos, not to mention future clients who will see professional photographs as opposed to a botched attempt.

  9. Here is another way to look at it. I have a photographer friend I've known and worked with for over 40 years. Bill is an internationally known portrait photographer who has been photographing for over 60 years. He was at a dinner party not long ago. Seated next to him was a brain surgeon who said, "Bill, I want to learn photography and in a few minutes will you tell me how you make your fantastic portraits?" Bill replied, "Yes if you will tell me how to do brain surgery in the next few minutes."

    Just as it takes years to become a good real estate person, it takes years to become a good photographer or a brain surgeon. Even if I wanted too, I would find it very difficult to sell real estate and be a photographer, my brain does not work that way. They are very different businesses.

  10. A lot of the "beautiful mansions" in my photostream are actually very modest homes.....which I made to appear beautiful and spacious.

    I think Sabrina's remarks are right on. Todd used some language that pushes our buttons, but what he's really looking for are some quick tips that will elevate him above the plain.

  11. First off, at least Todd asked the question, that's a good step. But I am reminded of what Chris Marquardt of the "Tips from the top floor Podcast" likes to tell people when they say "Wow, what great pictures! What kind of camera and software do you have?"

    He gently reminds them that if you sat down to a fabulous, gourmet meal, you wouldn't ask the host/ess, ..."Wow! What a great meal- what kind of cookware do you have?..."

    It's knowledge, learning and experience that enables the great gear and software to render beautiful pictures. (OK, the gear and software help, but a great photographer with a 20 year old camera may well outshoot and certainly outcompose a novice with a D3 or 1DS-MKIII.)

  12. Well, I say that if Todd finds his answer, I hope he will share it with the rest of us.

    Frankly, I'm tired of working 60 hour weeks, too. My Real Estate photography business keeps me very busy, and I'd like to reclaim my life. The way things are at present, half of my day is spent driving around and photographing houses. The other half of the day is spent editing, loading photos online and building tours. We're talking 12 hour days. So, I'd love to save time so that I can make it to the gym daily, walk my dogs regularly, read a book, clean my house, spend quality time with my husband, etc. So, if anyone knows of a miracle program or a camera that will help me capture amazing photos without spending a lot of time on location setting up loads of lighting or spending hours in Photoshop, then please share the details. I am willing to pay you for the information.

    However, I believe the time saving miracle program that Todd is searching for does not exist. Good photography is a result of combined skill, talent, knowledge and hard work. Compare it to weight loss. There is no miracle pill that will let you eat everything you want, sit on the sofa all day and still lose weight. In the end, we must deduce that photography is an art. No matter how we achieve the final result, a good result is always the product of skill, talent, knowledge and hard work.

  13. There are some advantages to the Point and Shoots if I recall. Namely flash synch speeds are close to 1600. So select a single focus point and tilt the camera in whatever position necessary to get the center meter spot on a window. Point/expose for the window by pressing half way down and now with the button half pressed, reframe the shot and the flash will do an incredible job filling the room with light. Of course its all about width and the best Point and Shoot, that I have scene On the Market has been about 20.5 mm. Shoot in Raw and process in ACDSee Photo Manager Pro using the Light EQ filter. No Matter what though, it still takes a good 2-3 hours (vtours included) no matter what your using. I wonder what percentage of photographers here include 360 deg. vtours. There may have a been a poll on that once. That would add a considerable hurdle to the DIY enthusiast.

  14. As the old saying goes, "to make money you have to spend some". Trying to squeeze every penny out of a comission is like a defendant who has himself as his attorney. Your a proffessional, act like one. Get yourself a pro.

  15. As a dyslexic myself, I too have to spend more time reading instructions. But if the passion is there you take the time. If the passion is not there, hire a professional to take your shots. Like other’s, I shook my head when I read that question.

  16. Possiby, a better analogy for a Realtor would be a homeowner forgoing the Realtor, and going it alone as a FSBO.

    In today's market, the FSBO has little chance of selling his property without the tools and skills offered by a Real Estate professional. Likewise, a Real Estate professional with limited photography skills will not be able to capture the property in a way that a skilled professional photographer can.

  17. "I am willing to pay you for the information." Are you ready to pay for an assistant? Sounds like you need one!

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