Author: Tony Colangelo
Jeanette, in Salem OR, writes:
“I’m wondering what you think about the idea of including detail shots as part of the package of photos that I deliver to my clients. I love doing them. They allow me to use more of my own creativity and I find them quite challenging. Are there things I can do to get better at them?"
Thanks for the question Jeanette. It’s an interesting one because I’m seeing them more often in the PFRE world--whether it be within our community’s Flickr group or with my own coaching clients. And, yes, I think that in certain circumstances and with certain agents, they can be a valuable addition to the package of photos that we submit to our clients. So, let’s take a closer look (pun-intended!)
What Makes a Good RE Detail Shot?
To start us off, let's first discuss what not to do when taking detail shots in an RE context. Generally speaking, Jeanette, I think you should try to avoid taking shots of the “décor” within the house. Yes, you might be smitten with a beautiful piece of furniture or a really elaborate set of decorative cushions on the master bed but these things won’t be coming with the sale of the house and, as such, likely won’t add a lot of value to the agent’s listing.
Typically, I think a detail shot for RE ought to be focused on capturing physically permanent elements within the house (e.g., building materials, high-end kitchen/ensuite hardware, custom built-in shelving, distinctive architectural features, elaborate landscaping, etc.) For instance, let’s say that we walk into a DR and we see that, in behind a DR table on the other side of the room, is a 5ft. section of recessed wall with a demi-lune window. The current owners have decided to take advantage of this recessed section by placing a funky hutch that matches the table. In this situation, you might consider trying to capture a vignette that shows off such that recessed section of wall as a distinctive and functional architectural feature/element. Indeed, you might even get “artsy” with it! For instance, you can pull out a longer zoom lens (e.g., a 50mm f/1.8, a 70-200mm, f/2.8 or even a 24-105mm, f/4.0) and, standing back a ways, you can open your aperture quite a bit and zoom-in to try and blur out the DR table a bit, so as to make that recessed section of wall the star of the shot.
Value of Detail Shots in Your RE Photography
When done well, detail shots can add a great deal of value to our photography, to our clients and to our photography business. Here are some quick points to highlight how this might be so:
For our clients: Using detail shots, regularly, can distinguish a client’s brand insofar as they can communicate to their current and prospective clients that they are incorporating unique images as part of their marketing efforts, so as to generate more intrigue in the house and the value that the prospective home buyer will be getting for their purchase. Even if detail shots don’t end up in the actual MLS photos, they can serve to augment any corollary marketing materials that they might use to promote the house (e.g., glossy brochures handed out at their open houses). They can also augment our client’s website in the form of header/background images and/or to support advertising on social media.
For our photography: Looking for and “seeing” detail shots is a great (and fun!) way to stretch our creativity and imagination. I also think they can be useful in helping to get out of a rut, which can happen from time-to-time with many RE shooters, over the course of a career. On related note, in a recent article, I wrote on the value of diptychs and I have to say that pairing a couple of well-executed and thoughtfully arranged detail shots can create a great image that can convey a very powerful message about the house’s style and/or craftsmanship.
For our websites: Detail shots serve to break the pattern (monotony?) of always seeing the same “type” of shots (using the same aspect ratios), within our website galleries. As such, they can make our galleries much more interesting and thus, might contribute to a viewer staying on our site, longer.
For our business: While a small number of my coaching clients have shared with me that they actually charge extra for detail shots within their RE pricing structure, most of my clients tell me they take detail shots because they know that their run-and-gun competitors don’t/can’t shoot them and, thus, detail shots help to distinguish them in their respective marketplaces. Finally, Jeanette, if you have aspirations to shoot for designer clients, then shooting detail shots is a must-have within one’s “tool-kit”. Judiciously sprinkling a few detail shots into your website galleries/portfolio will go a long way to highlighting to these clients that you’ve got the chops to satisfy their requirements in this area.
I could go on and on about detail shots but, instead, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic, as well as any tips-and-tricks you use to capture them, so as to give Jeanette more to chew on!
Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.