I opened my copy of the Bellingham Herald this morning (yes, we still get the newspaper delivered daily) and saw another of the homes I photographed on the front of the real estate insert.
Michelle Harrington, the listing agent at Windermere in Fairhaven, is a delightful go-getter who has been one of my clients for real estate photography for about a year.
Real estate photography is a service I added to my business late in 2013 when Kena Brashear, the realtor in my BNI networking group, asked me if I photographed homes. Kena knew me primarily as a portrait photographer — I photographed her family and her business portrait. I photographed a high-end country home for Kena, she loved how I approached the job and the final results, and we’ve been working together ever since. She connected me to Michelle, who referred me to several other agents in her office. Real estate, like many other businesses, really is built on personal connections.
Not every home I photograph is as lovely as the acreage for sale in Mission, BC on the cover of today’s real estate insert. I’ve photographed tiny one-bedroom condos, little fixers, as well as grand view homes in the best locations. The nice homes are definitely more fun to photograph, but I approach every home the same way.
I look for the ideal vantage point for each room to show off its best points. I pay close attention to the technical details, because like all architectural photography it’s a detail-oriented business. Two big things that amateurs miss is keeping the camera absolutely level (so walls all appear straight) and color balance. I use HDR (high dynamic range) techniques to balance exposure for inside and outside, blending multiple frames during post-production on my computer, to achieve a natural look. It’s easy to overdo HDR and end up with something garish.
Photographing homes has a bit of a meditative, almost zen-like, quality for me. It’s very unlike photographing family groups with small children and pets.
When I’m “in the zone” I see little things that are out of place (and fix them before pressing the shutter). I minimize the inevitable distortion introduced by the ultra-wide-angle lens required to take in an entire room at once. I evaluate and adjust camera height, which controls how much floor or ceiling is shown. I look for the stand-out features that will help attract buyers when they view the listing online. I check for missing or burned-out lights. Is the toilet seat down? Is the kitchen tidy? Do we really need to see the trashcan?
Customer service is critical in this business, too. I can usually schedule a real estate job on a day or two notice (occasionally even the same day) and deliver finished photos the next day. There’s a lot that goes into preparing a home to be photographed. Once the cleaning and de-cluttering is done the homeowner and agent are anxious to get photography done so the listing can go live.
Each real estate job takes about 4 hours, divided almost equally between location photography and post-production back in the office.
I have a gallery of homes I’ve photographed if you’re interested in seeing more examples. Most of these homes have sold and are now off the market.