A knock at my front door and in walks my property agent (aka realtor). I’m putting my apartment on the market (I outgrew it years ago but life always got in the way) so I’m utilising the services of an average, middle-tier property agency just outside London.
Having spoken to the agent previously, the conversation of my job came up and I informed him that I specialise in interior and real-estate photography. Now, for some reason unbeknown to me, agent ‘Mr X’ (as we’ll call him) chose not to pay for my photography services. He didn’t even make the suggestion that I take my own photos and pass them over to him.
No. He decided to stick firm to his company’s standard practice of bringing ‘Mr Y’ round to take the photos. You see, according to Mr X, Mr Y is “the guy in the office who knows how to work the camera”.
I had already witnessed the standard of photography from this estate agent and knew I’d end up handing them my own photos, but for once, I wanted to see “the guy who knows how to work a camera” in action. Not only that, but I wanted to see if these property agents really could justify cutting corners in not using a professional photographer.
Things got off to a bad start when I saw his Canon 1100d/Rebel T3 with its pop-up flash poised. No tripod, no off-camera flash, no wired/wireless trigger. I’ll admit, his investment in a Sigma 10-20mm lens did at least give him a fighting chance. Looking at his camera settings (auto all the way) with his ISO ramped up to its maximum 6400, I just stood back and watched.
Things hit another barrier when he asked me why the windows in a room always looked “really bright” in his photos. I began touching on the subject of external ambient light vs interior flash light and how his shutter speed only affected the sunlight blah, blah, blah, but Mr Y has no photography knowledge and this was clearly far beyond his grasp. Which is fair enough.
After reminding him not to point the camera downwards in order to avoid converging verticals, he called it a day after about 15 minutes. Next came the agonising wait to see the final photos.
Three days later and I received an email pointing me towards the online listing for my apartment. I’m not going to bad-mouth the agents as they deliver an outstanding personal service when it comes to selling property. However, I will say that their photos are poor. Awful in fact. Composition, noise, blurring, white balance, exposure – all wrong. Not even any retouching.
It frustrates me that these middle-tier property agents don’t invest more in the use of professional photographers to better showcase their clients’ homes. If it’s a budgetary issue (which I struggle to believe as I know the exactly how much I have to pay my agent to sell my home) then train Mr Y to master these skills himself. I’ve met numerous property agents who claim to be able to sell a home with a just a handful of iPhone images, which I don’t doubt, but have some pride in your brand image if nothing else. All the effort used to build and maintain their website, deliver a smooth and efficient client service, copywriting the listings, paying for an energy/insulation assessments, arranging viewing etc, only to ruin it all with this quality of photography. Why?
I then made a point of taking my own photos, spending the same amount of time as Mr Y did. I sent them over to the agent and they were online the same day.
Did my apartment sell? Yes. Did my photos help sell it any faster? Probably not.
Author – Oliver Pohlmann