“I was coming up to the end of my first year in real estate photography and I was starting to get the hang of using off camera flashes before the Covid-19 virus shut everything down. I’m trying to get more of a handle on things; especially related to getting more efficient in my work. I was hoping you could share some things that I can do to increase my efficiency at a shoot.”
Thanks for writing in, Kelly. This is a topic that’s really important to me because my own photography business is built-on doing multiple shoots in a day, This has forced me to become really efficient at how I get through a house at a shoot. If I’m being honest, I would love to slow down a bit but I’ve worked my tail off to be the top shooter in my market and it’s something that I’m not quite ready to give up to my competitors. So, if you’re looking for some “efficiency hacks”, I’d like to get the ball rolling by offering a couple of ideas, and I’m sure others will offer lots more in the comments section below.
Minimize Your Gear
For me, probably the easiest thing that I did to become more efficient was to minimize my gear. I figured out what the absolute minimum amount of gear I needed for the work that allowed me to get the quality-level that I wanted for each photo was. So for me, all I have in my gear kit is my camera, a tripod, a couple of lenses--although I use my Nikon 14-30mm lens for 99% of all the scenarios I'll encounter for real estate (I don't want to take a bunch of time switching lens throughout each shoot) and finally, no more than 2-3 Speedlites.
Develop a Repeatable Process
The other thing that really maximizes my efficiency is not spending a bunch of time taking multi-shot brackets. For me, through much practice, I’ve been able to figure out a system where I take only one ambient shot and one flash shot for virtually each room that I shoot. This two-shot system allows me to cover about 90% of the shots that I take at any given shoot. For me to get to this level of efficiency though, I had to review a lot of shots on my camera's LCD screen in order to train my eye to know whether I had the right exposure levels in both my ambient and flash frames, that would allow me to blend the shots well, in post.
This leads me to my main point which is: The goal is to have an approach that is highly repeatable and scalable. If you’ve ever followed professional golf, you’ll know the name Jim Furyk. He has one of the oddest golf swings in the history of the sport--so much so, that if you were teaching golf to your young son or daughter, you’d never do so using Jim Furyk's golf swing. That said, Jim Furyk has had a great career and is going to end up in the Golf Hall of Fame at some point. He’s been successful because his golf swing, while loopy and not pretty to look at, is highly repeatable, and he’s used it to his advantage. The same is true in our profession as it relates to efficiency. Your approach and execution in each space has to be virtually the same with each shot. In fact, the more time you spend trying to figure out the mechanics of the shoot (e.g., trying to come up with a perfect lighting set-up in every single space), the less time you’ll have to devote to how you want to compose the shot, which is by far, the most important variable in coming up with a great shot.
Anyway, these are my top-2 pieces of advice, Kelly. I’m sure folks will be adding their own comments that will give you many more great ideas to think about and use in your work. Good luck!