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What Do Real Estate Photographers Do When the Weather Is Bad?

Published: 31/01/2018
By: larry

DanSkyreplacementKimi in Minnesota asks:

I'm wondering how other photographers deal with weather related rescheduling. In Minnesota, weather is not always nice and sunny, nor is it always ideal for those perfect exterior shots that every agent wants. Recently, we have had several agents that cancel last minute because it's "too cloudy", and even had one agent send us an email that going forward they will not have any photos taken on cloudy days. Obviously, that creates havoc from a scheduling perspective, but this particular agent has been with us for 15 years and is a very heavy lister, so I feel some loyalty to accommodate her the best we can. How does everyone handle bad weather situations?

As Seattle real estate photographer Dan Achatz demonstrates in the video above, most cloudy weather days can be dealt with with just sky replacement.

Whether or not you do sky replacement, you need to be in control of your schedule, so think through what your policy is and put it in your terms of service:

  • Do whatever it takes to accommodate your good clients in getting a great external shot, even if it takes multiple trips because of weather. For view properties, it can be worth it to come back more than once to capture what makes a view property so valuable.
  • Client expectations on this will vary widely depending on your location. There's no "one fits all" solution.

Oh, and here is the PFRE sky library (contributed over the years by PFRE readers) if you need some sunny skies.

13 comments on “What Do Real Estate Photographers Do When the Weather Is Bad?”

  1. A sky replacement is an option although if it's hissing down rain or just too dang cold and snowy, there is nothing wrong with making photos of the interior. It can be even easier to get nice interior photos on a cloudy day since you aren't having to compete with bright window light. The only issue is for rooms that have a great view that you need to show off. I can work through exterior photos really fast and if I still have one or two interior images to make, it doesn't take much longer.

    I have one client that I often make exterior images for in advance of photographing the whole house due to renovations and repairs that need to be done inside. They can use those images to tease the property on their coming soon page. If the home sells prior to me photographing the rest of the house, I charge $40. Since I am making those images when I am already in the neighborhood, it's a very quick and easy thing to do. On the outside, I've invested 20 minutes total which means I'm making $120 hour.

    The trick is to make as many photos as you can each day. Get paid for those jobs up front and complete them as soon as the weather clears. You stay busy and the customer will get the images they need much faster.

  2. What to do when the Weather is bad...make the best of the situation. Sometimes, bad weather will help you produce better photos inside with the ambient light more on an even scale with outside. Yet the outside may be gloomy. Offer the option (at a price) to come back and re-take the exterior shots when the weather is better (if you have time) and/or tune up your PS skills to offer enhancements that will satisfy your clients wishes.

    That said, do not let a "heavy" lister, let alone a one day wonder push you around... if you plan on being succesful. Negotiate concerns, be it an offer for a return trip for $$$, or sky replacement. The fact is that most agents want their photos delivered yesterday, so to wait for "Sunny weather" could be several days and long after the patience of most agents, not to mention the havioc that your current schedule will endure trying to "fit" in a extra stop on your scheudle.

    For those that cancel last minute, your terms of service should be clear, understood......and agreed to. While it may hurt short time, like a band aid ripping off your skin, in the long term it is less stressful. If you are any good, they will come back.

    Bottom line, conduct yourself like a professional, not a servant.

  3. I reschedule if raining or wet.

    If dry I just make the best of the conditions both in image capture and when processing.

    I live and work in England so this is a daily problem to me!

    Thanks and regards


  4. Pictures of cloudy days in the Sunshine State??? Unthinkable! Now back to reality.

    Rule #1 - NEVER cancel an appointment due to weather. The way I explain it to the Realtor is that their client went to a lot of effort getting the home ready and arranging their schedule. I can at least take the interior and a few throw-away exteriors enabling them to get it listed. Not stated, if it is nasty weather there it is generally nasty throughout the local area and would have to cancel all shoots for that day which means 1) no pay for the day, and 2) rescheduling would re-coupe but at the same time displaces other shoots that could have been scheduled. The throw-aways...can attempt sky replacement to avoid a return but usually the lack of shadows, wet driveway, or complex treeline impacting replacement just doesn't cut it as it looks artificial. I usually just assume sky replacement won't be practical (but happy if it is) and plan a quick stop by when in the neighborhood on another shoot which is on my own schedule. An interior killer view might have to be coordinated, but usually only one room.

    Rule #2 - Planning. Look at the weather. Shoot the exterior first or last? It can improve or deteriorate while shooting the interior and may end up shooting first and pleasantly surprise with the improvement and shooting again last, or you simply like the shadows with the sun movement. This time of year it is not critical other than hoping morning fog will lift, but hot humid summers prefer shooting exterior last so not dripping wet as I walk in their house but clouds building for afternoon thunderstorms may strongly suggest shooting first.

  5. I help realtors understand I do not control the weather, so I can not schedule around it. They can ask for the date and time they would like and we go from there. I replace sky on almost all exterior images. If a specific home is better off in good weather, we make sure that is part of the schedule info and then we make decisions usually a day in advance of go or nogo. However, when realtors cancel because of weather, they pay a fee for cancellation. I am in my tenth year in this business and I have charged cancellation fees about 5 times. Not really an ongoing problem, and it usually is for a different reason (gravity, lethargy, apathy, etc).

  6. I agree with above posts. Cloudy weather = flat light therefore less shadows and better imagery. Try to shoot so that you eliminate the sky ie: focus more on the foreground.

    I've added pale blue to the sky on some exterior shots but it has to be done in such a way so that it doesn't look phony. Often it's better to leave it alone. If the agent doesn't care enough to reschedule the shoot then ignore it.

    We've had agents wait weeks for the weather to change or months for flowers to bloom before scheduling a shoot. Basically, what it boils down to is it's up to the agent to decide when they want to schedule a shoot.

  7. I give clients the option to reschedule, or I can have sky &/or grass replaced by my favorite retoucher (Shawn Clabough of Expert's Touch) at a cost of $20/image.
    Most clients have front elevation done at a minimum...

  8. Believe it or not, one can pull color out of skies in many circumstances making a dreary day passable. I offer sky replacements (for a fee) if we can't reschedule. I will also let the client know (if I have enough advance notice) that the conditions will not be ideal and we can either re-shoot the exterior at a later time.

    However, there's no substitute for the ambient light which comes from windows on a sunny day. Some clients could care less. Under extreme circumstances, I will come back and shoot the interior for just the window exposure and put that back into the older images. I'm willing to do a lot as long as the client as the budget.

    Although weather is an act of God, one gets brownie points for being flexible and accommodating.

  9. Happens a lot in reality. 99.999% of the time I just go ahead and do a digital sky replacement. The agent generally wants the images online as quickly as possible and this is the quickest method. If the vendor desperately wants the exterior done in sunny weather (and usually the only time I would do that is in the event of snow), I still usually shoot the interiors on the original appointment, simply because that is the longest part of the job. Relatively speaking, it is easier to schedule time to come back just to do an exterior as that is the quickest part of a property shoot. In reality though, it rarely happens.

  10. I always tell them to pray for cloudy days.

    They always look shocked and ask why. Here is my response...

    "Well...I can always put blue skies i to the photos for problem. But that harsh shadow that happens when the sun catches the roofline and puts half your lawn and half the face of the house in shadow...i can't take that OUT."

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