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Real Estate Photography – Making It Better

DSC_0032At Blend Real Estate, we pride ourselves on what we like to call nearly exquisite real estate photography, the pride and joy of — me. Before I was a real estate broker/owner, I was in commercial real estate but equal to that was my involvement in the arts. My background is layered and complicated in the arts in the most fun way: art student, photography student, darkroom worker, photography museum docent for twenty-years. College lecturer on how to get your art into galleries. Art collector. Then the deepest vortex of them all, fine art photography gallery owner & curator in the 1990s and into the 2000s as a private photo dealer. The gallery was the most fun (Red Venus Gallery in Little Italy in San Diego), and it was another outlet for me to expand upon my love of photography.

As the real estate business grew, so did my photography expansion. In my Instagram account, part of my bio is “camera buyer.” That is putting it mildly.

To have my own brokerage AND high-end photography equipment for my brokerage’s listings is about as cool as it gets for me. That’s the background.

Bringing us back to the topic of real estate photos now, we tend to be extremely compulsive. Count on upwards of 200 photos taken of your home.

We (well, I) insist on complete privacy. No one can be in the home while I am working, so I am free to be absolutely quiet and move things around and make extreme mental notes as to where it all went – then put it back precisely.

The photos are taken with a Nikon D5000 SLR camera body, a Tamron 10-24mm ultra wide angle lens and occasionally a Nikor 50mm lens. The other equipment is a large boom flash, a light diffuser which is mandatory, tripod and other various goodies too geeky to explain.

The photos are edited in Google’s free photo software, Picasa. When the discussion comes around to “What’s your favorite real estate tool,” people expect me to say a phone or iPad or computer or …. just anything but Picasa. But Picasa my answer. My business is far less happy and perfect without it.

We ask homeowners to make the house as clean as possible. When we enter (and I may have one person helping me), the biggest obstacle is seeing things that buyers don’t need to see in the finished product. So here’s what we typically remove from the view shot:

  • Everything on every counter. Every single thing.
  • Kleenex and all paper products
  • Hand soap
  • Trash cans
  • Often all bath towels unless brand new
  • Shoes
  • Shoe mats
  • Anything on tables
  • Remotes
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Sofa decorations
  • Coffee table…everything goes
  • Knick-knacks
  • Books that aren’t already shelved. Shelves books will be fussed at in detail to make sure they’re perfect.
  • Pets – they tend to photo bomb every photo so they either are in every photo, or they’re with the homeowner on an outing. I have had it happen both ways.

Every single light in the house is turned on, including appliance lights.

Believe it or not, this all takes a lot of time and we don’t expect home owners to do any of this, as it’s unnatural. So we need about three hours to photograph a home that is upwards of 2,000 square feet. More house; more time. I always need at least three hours alone, even on a smaller place.

(Exception to the rules above: tenant-occupied properties. There, we only touch the trash and some small basics. We do NOT touch their belongings. The photo for this post was from a tenant-occupied listing.)

We will move everything humanly possible in a backyard, not limited to: basketball hoops if portable, toys, broken anything, trip hazards, trash, lawn items, mowers, — you get it.

The most amazing thing nature can gift me with in a photo shoot is sunlight. Streaks of sun in a window are a GIFT and I take it. Scheduled photo shoots around the best time of the day in the house is Question 1.

“When does the sun shine in your house best?” You’ll know the answer.

It’s hard to admit this, but I know how to make a house look better than it really looks in person. You’ll have to deal with that, buyers. My job is to make a property look amazing and I am going to spend hours compulsively working on this. If by some outside chance you’re a little disappointed when you get to the home because the photos were too good (you never know), then I am happy you came to tour the property.

I work for my sellers and believe me, they love my photos. If the photos generate interest, we’re halfway there. The language of the listing online is another artform that I shall save for another post, but they go hand-in-hand.

After a photo shoot, I will have notes for the sellers on little things I insist upon for this home during the listing. I will save those juicy little details for another post too, but they’re friendly and helpful and make a WORLD of difference in a buyer’s eyes. Some things are weird, but all are critical.

What can you do to help me on the day of photography? Besides keeping your house clean and as picked up as possible, just let me work in peace, so I can turn out a product that we’re both proud of.

No one loves real estate and photography more than me. I love it when my worlds collide. With very few exceptions, our listings sell in 6 – 13 days and I think the photography is why. Where’s my next assignment for real estate pictures in San Diego?



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