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Real Estate Photography For The Rich and Famous

Published: 25/10/2010
By: larry

Estella Sneider, a real estate photographer that serves the LA and Beverly Hills rich and famous occasionally sends me her tours to show what she is doing. It's always fun to see the mega-estates that Estella gets to shoot. Wow, what fun, I'm envious!

Estella says the market in these estates is slower than it used to be but they are still selling. Here are the homes she has shot in the last couple of weeks:

  1. listed at $18.9 M
  2. listed at $13.4 M
  3. listed at $4.15 M

Estella's work has really improved since she started sending me samples of her work a couple of years ago.

The feedback that I gave Estella on the property is that I think it would add to the elegance and smoothness of the tour to have only landscape mode images that fit the tour's viewing area. I find it visually distracts from the presentation of the when the flow of landscape images is interrupted when portrait mode images or even landscape mode images that don't fill the viewing area. I think she has enough strong landscape images in this tour that it wouldn't hurt to loose the portrait mode images and the narrow panorama landscape image (the one just before the image above) that doesn't fill the screen. What do you think? Am I being too quirky? Do you have any other feedback for Estalla? When you are presenting a $18 M property I think the tour should take your breath away!

12 comments on “Real Estate Photography For The Rich and Famous”

  1. I think she did a great job! The luxury houses here in LA can be quite a trip. And her photos have improved, IMHO: much less reliance on gimmicky HDR, lighting/use of light looks better, better tones in the highlights and shadows, and small things like that.

    I do agree, though, that it breaks up the flow of a slideshow when images aren't uniformly the same aspect ratio/orientation. As you noted, the panorama just doesn't have as much impact as it should have when used in that slideshow format.

    My suggestions? 1) Save the panoramas for some other venue (like a blog, brochure, etc.) but always crop to the same size for the slideshow. 2) Keep all of the photos in the same aspect ratio -- crop them if necessary. 3) Also, if she has great portrait images, I wouldn't say to lose them altogether -- I'd try putting two related portrait-oriented photos together as a diptych with a thin white line separating the two (and then cropping to the correct aspect for the slideshow, if necessary) to see if that looked interesting.

  2. Larry, I have to strongly disagree with you on this one. I understand why you dislike using vertically oriented images, however, some subjects, such as staircases, and small bathrooms, and detail shots, are best shown using verically oriented images. I think you are really limiting your marketing potential by eliminating this type of image. Cover shots for real estate advertising publications such as Homes and Land require vertically oriented images. They also help break up the monotony when displaying several images on one page, such as with feature sheets, and when using half-page or full page ads to market a property. With todays full screen slideshows, there is plenty of room to showcase these images in my opinion. Here is a propery I shot last week that contains several of these images, and I feel that the vertical shots in no way detract from the presentation.

  3. What I find that works really well is to put 2 vertical images next to each other. The key is finding two vertical images that compliment each other, often times a normal wide shot and then a detail shot

  4. I like Mason's and Stephanie's idea of side by side verticals. Also I would have like to see some exterior shots in more favorable weather conditions. Early morning sunrise would really give some of the exterior images more warmth. Other than that I'd almost give up my first born to shoot these type of properties and Estalla does stunning work.

    @Tony - thanks for sharing your work - breathtaking!

  5. The panorama is a strong image, that does get a bit lost on the page. I too like using verticals as dyptichs, but it takes a lot of fiddling around, I use them for my portfolio slideshows [ ] but don't think I'd be inclined to add the extra workload for individual property slideshows, though maybe I would if I was shooting $18m properties regularily.
    I was also a bit shocked by the fact that they were all shot on a wet grey day !?!
    I mostly shoot properties around the $1-2m range, and I'd never deliver grey day shots like those, and that's shooting in UK. My clients would be staight on the phone to say 'WTF?, get back there and do the job properly'. She's in California for petes sake. Shoot the internals that don't have a view, pack up and come back on a day that warrants shooting views and externals.
    Like you say Larry, a single property site for an $18m listing should knock your socks off.
    While I'm being critical ;-)...
    Lens correction please, it's PFRE 101 stuff to correct for barrel distortion, and there seem to be quite a few oddly repetative shots in the slideshows, like they haven't been properly edited.

  6. I don't think it is at all possible to sell the type of lifestyle that this home offers with photos that have grey, cloudy skies. It ruined the whole allure of the place for me.

  7. And another thing....
    Estella is charging a significant fee for her service, which includes the property microsite [available separately for $250] I think she's underdelivering there too.
    There are a lot of photos in these slideshows, fine but.. The user should be given the option to view the photo they want to, being able to skip foward or back isn't offering enough user control IMO. There should be an option to select from thumbnails [Slide Show Pro style] even if it's via a separate page.
    Also, the description page is pretty basic, it could offer much, much more in terms of description and local info.
    Lastly... I don't think it's good enough these days to provide a web site to clients that doesn't have any alt. cont. for no-flash browsers and mobile devices [doesn't even have the 'you need flash .. get it here' message].

  8. I think these photos as a whole are underlit and overflashed. There are some where the hard flash shadows, while indicating off camera/axis flash (+1), are still way too evident (not enough ambient exposure to soften them), and they still look like point and shoot images (flat and boring). I also agree with the other posters about the sky. That killed it for me too. I dont think those views would be too hard to cut in a sky, and at the very least, for what is being charged, return another day to take a shot of that view with better weather.

    While these are WAY better than alot of the dribble being sold in my area by people shooting every house they can for $60, I think the lifestyle and mood of the property was not done any justice with these. The property site also wasnt very "grab me" either. I think she should have just used the pfre tours for all that trouble/end result.

  9. I would have to agree with what most people have already stated. Vertical images are not only necessary, but often preferable in most architectural photography assigments. I do however agree, that the mixture of crops are annoying in a slideshow presentation. Panoramas are fine, just make sure that the vertical height matches that of other horizontal images in the presentation.

    Personally, I would not have shot this assignment on a day with such terrible weather (especially in L.A!) Because of this homes location, "big views" are a big part of the lofty price and that is really missing in my opinion. Also, flash (and photographer!) reflections in windows, are a no-no at this level.


  10. I'm fairly new to the real estate photography market and also work in the LA area. As usually it is all in the eyes of the beholder, in this case realtor. Also, LA is a big enough market that all sorts of styles seem to work.

    I know for websites different realtors like different things. Some like a splash page, others like traditional virtual tour type of setups, some just like slideshows, and some like video. Here's a sample of my video style virtual tour, (only a 3.9 million dollar house) some people don't like this because of load time, or lack of user interaction, others love it. I supply what the realtor asks for so if they want a more typical tour manager they get it. So, my thoughts are she delivered what they wanted.

    As far as shooting on a terrible day. You would think everyone wants to shoot on a great LA sunny day but I've shot on bad days. One was a place right on the ocean with a fantastic view. I offered to not shoot that day and do it another time at no cost but the realtor wanted to do it that day. You can't see the ocean in the photos and were right on the beach!! Not sure how it is in other places but here it isn't always up to the photographer. So again, my thoughts are she probably shot when told to shoot.

    As for the photos, I shoot differently. That said, people like all different styles and I see nothing wrong with these, some do seem a bit dark for my preferences but it really is up to the client. I do wish she would have done the panos a bit different so we could get the entire impact. Overall a good job.

  11. To the folks who don't shoot multi-million dollar listings here in LA. Some realtors want it to be shot today or this week and can't afford to wait for a sunny day. I personally would suggest a sunny day after a rain. But you can never predict rain- not even our weather people. Summertime views from the hills are always tricky. If you are shooting a view home in the hills, Skies can be blue, but there is normally LA smog most of the time hovering in the valley. This is very unattractive. If you keep postponing the shoot you will probably lose the job to someone else. If she got paid- good for her. If she charged a few grand to shoot the property good for her. Im in the film locations business and I shoot mostly here on the west side of Los Angeles, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, etc. And if I cancel on a cloudy day- sometime realtors get pissed. I agree with most of you. Estrella is not a hack, but there are hacks out here that get jobs that probably shoot special events or headshots. This is just the nature of this business. Lastly there are probably many more talented pros out there in other states that may have chosen a better day to shoot this home and probably could have done a better job. But In Hollywood, sometimes it's who you know not what you know. Estrella will keep getting work as long as she rubs elbows and plays nice with the right folks.

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