If you’ve read my first article on real-estate and property photography then you’re ready for some advanced tips to help you work more efficiently with your clients and produce better-quality images.
1. Check The Weather
Let’s start with the obvious. Ideally you want to shoot your external property photos with clear blue sky or, at the very least, light cloud (like in the image above). This is for two reasons. Firstly, grey clouds hanging over a home doesn’t exactly portray an inviting picture of happiness – something you want potential vendors to feel when viewing the images. Secondly, a cloudy day will remove any warming sunlight and pleasing shadows. For internal shots, the weather is less important. In fact, on duller days you may find it easier to balance window exposure with room exposure. If you have no choice but to shoot on a dull day, you can always use Photoshop to replace the sky. But, this will always look slightly artificial due to the new sky not matching the shadows and lighting in the rest of the image.
2. Choose The Correct Time Of Day
The best external shots are those where the sun is illuminating the front of the property and taken early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower and the light is more diffused. While great in theory, this isn’t always possible, particularly if you are photographing three houses in one day. However, we all know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Armed with this knowledge, check the lie of the property on Google Maps to help you decide on an ideal time of day to take the shots. It makes photography a lot more difficult if the sun is visible behind the property, as this will leave the front of the house in shadow and you’ll be left shooting in to the sun, which will over-expose the sky. In this situation, you will have to bracket (HDR) your images to account for the extremes of exposure in the scene. I find it best to shoot when the sun is about 45 degrees to side of the front as this means I can also shoot the rear aspect of the property without having to shoot directly in to the sun.
When dealing with high-end properties, vendors and agents, it is always a balancing act between what timings suit the images and what suits the client. Sometimes you will have to compromise due to deadlines and the availability of the agent or vendor. I always ensure I stress the importance of good weather when booking the shoot – even if this means waiting a number of days for the weather to clear. If their request for a day/time points to less favourable conditions, I point this out to them so as to curb their disappointment at having to use a Photoshopped sky, for example.
3. Understand Your Clients’ Needs
Make sure you understand what your clients want – this includes both the home-owner and their agent (where applicable). When dealing with the agent, they should have already received a brief from the vendors on what you need to deliver in terms of coverage. If the home owners are present during the photoshoot, spend ten minutes speaking to them about which aspects they feel best showcase their home and any key areas they want photographed – i.e. identify the USPs. They may point out features of the property which aren’t immediately obvious to you, such as a summer house hidden away in the garden, or a converted attic which you may have missed.
Make sure you deliver more than the client requests. I charge in terms of photo packages – the more photos the client wants, the higher the cost. Therefore if they initially state they want my 15 photo package, I take 30 to present to them in an online gallery. More often that not, the client will want all the images. Not only does taking more photos give the client more choice, but it also gives me the opportunity to up-sell a higher photo package. Remember, your goal is to always deliver more than the client was expecting – both in terms of quality and quantity.
4. Learn Effective Post Processing
Taking the photos is only half the process. The editing and retouching is what will excel your images and warrant your rates. Different clients often want different looks to their photos so it’s your job to understand what they are looking for in the final images. American realtors tend to use an HDR look in a lot of shots. My London clients would reject any photos using this technique, unless used in a such a way as to not be noticeable (check out my tutorial on natural-looking HDR interior photography). When it comes to editing the images, I have a number of videos on our YouTube channel walking you through my retouching process using Adobe Lightroom. Here you will learn techniques such as shadow and highlight control, white balance correction, hue and saturation adjustment, effective room composition and much more. My advice on retouching is to always keep it subtle and natural looking.
5. Pick Your Resources Carefully
Having spent the last six or seven years honing my property photography technique it’s safe to say I have spent countless hours and days reading online resources on the subject. After all, we aren’t born with the knowledge, we have to learn it from somewhere! Throughout this time, I have come across some truly dreadful examples of real-estate photography from blogs and websites claiming to be an authority on the subject. Harsh shadows from the over-use of flash, garish HDR processing, converging verticals, poor colour correction, reflections of the photographer in mirrors and windows, it’s all out there! I’ll be the first to state I’m in no way an authority on property photography. I just hand out the best advice I’ve picked up and explain how I do things. If you are new to interior and real-estate photography, you too will be spending a vast amount of time reading through online tutorials and watching videos. Just make sure you don’t trust everything you read on the internet – well, apart from this of course!
Don’t forget to read my article on Common Mistakes With Interior Photography for more tips and advice.
Author – Oliver Pohlmann