What To Expect From Your Real Estate Photographer: A Comprehensive Guide
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But in the world of real estate, good photographs can be the difference between someone taking interest in your property, and deciding to click on to the next one.
Stunning photos can make an impact through the screen, without anyone needing to be there in-person. They can entice potential buyers to show up at an open house, or book a private viewing. Taken at the right angles, high-quality photos can lead to a deal that might not have happened otherwise.
With the stakes this high, it’s costly not to invest in such an important aspect of promoting your property. In the guide that follows, we’ll help homeowners and agents understand what to expect when hiring a real estate photographer, and how they can make the most out of every session. Let’s get right to it.
Characteristics Of An Ideal Real Estate Photographer
Not all real estate photographers are the same. There are those that are just looking to make a quick buck, and are juggling it between a million other odd jobs. They don’t have the experience or the passion it takes to truly add value and produce photos that resonate with prospective buyers.
A professional photographer, on the other hand, knows what to look for when going from room-to-room. They plan out their every shot, down to the last detail. They have a proven track record of success, and are able to produce pictures that make anyone looking at them say “wow.”
Below, we highlight a number of characteristics that an ideal real estate photographer possesses, and what you should always be on the lookout for when deciding to hire one.
Like any business relationship that goes smoothly, effective communication is at the core. A good photographer is quick to respond, and never leaves you guessing about the status of your project. They get back to emails, texts, and phone calls when you need them to, and answer any questions that come up along the way.
In case of any emergencies, you want to make sure that you can reach them when the unexpected happens. Sometimes, things don’t go accordingly to plan, and you need to be able to reschedule a shoot, or shuffle meetings around. Having a photographer who is flexible and responsive makes all the difference in the world, and your life a thousand times easier.
Positive Client Experience
The fact is, you are your photographer’s primary client. Their job is to make sure you’re satisfied, and listen closely to your requests. If at any point in your initial talks with them you feel like your best interests aren’t being put first, it’s best to look elsewhere.
Without a positive client experience, you can’t guarantee the quality of the photographs that are ultimately taken. If you get the sense that your input won’t be taken seriously, run, don’t walk, to a photographer who will actually take your preferences into account.
There are plenty of photographers out there who care deeply about building meaningful relationships with their clients, and who will bend over backwards to deliver on their promises. There are a few key traits to be on the lookout for when identifying the cream of the crop, which we go over below.
Punctual - Your Photographer Shows Up On Time
Being on time is something we often take for granted when hiring someone to do a service. We assume that if we book them to arrive at a certain time, they’ll show up on the dot. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and any photographer that doesn’t respect your schedule is one that should be avoided like the plague.
With everything that goes into selling a home, there’s not a lot of time to waste. Between meetings with real estate agents, cleaning and moving preparation, and staging the property, every minute counts. If your photographer isn’t punctual, it could cause delays in being able to sell your home – something that is definitely not ideal.
The Real Estate Photographer is Dressed Appropriately
First impressions matter. They matter when buyers assess your home, and they matter when assessing your photographer. You want to work with someone who takes their job seriously enough to dress professionally.
Now, they don’t have to show up like they’re coming straight from a boardroom. But business casual attire at a minimum shows a level of respect for you, their client, and the project they are working on. Dressing appropriately – and with good hygiene – goes a long way.
The Photographer Is An Extension Of Your Brand
As a real estate agent, it’s important to protect your brand. Every interaction you have with clients, and every deal you engage in, has the potential to be put under a microscope. One sale that goes sideways can result in a negative review online, which can put a dent in your reputation.
In this sense, it’s best to think of a photographer as an extension of your personal brand. The photos they end up taking are what buyers will initially see when they search the properties you have for sale. Anything less than crisp, professional photos can reflect poorly on your work.
Also, when a photographer shows up on-site to a home you’re selling, and the homeowner happens to be there, you want to make sure the photographer you’ve hired makes a good impression. This is someone you’re choosing to work with as a partner, after all, and your client knows that. Anything they say or do is directly tied to your business. You want your photographer to be well-spoken, polite, and professional – every step of the way.
Typical Process Of Working With A Real Estate Photographer
To begin with, it’s a good idea to engage in a pre-shoot consultation with the photographer. This is a meeting for both of you to get to know each other, and to go over the goals for the shoot. You get to introduce them to the property, highlight many of the challenges you anticipate facing, and elaborate on how certain photographs can showcase the best aspects of the home.
In this initial conversation, you get to lay out expectations and get into the nitty-gritty of the property’s features. It’s important during this phase to communicate clearly and leave nothing to interpretation, so as to set the right tone for the rest of the project.
Scheduling and Preparation
Next, you schedule the actual session. This involves looking at both your calendars and deciding on the right time to book a photoshoot. It should ideally be a time when you’ve had enough time to get the home staged, and where the photographer has enough time to get the shots they need. It’s better to build in a bit of a buffer and not rush the process. Trying to squeeze too many shots into a short timeline can lead to less-than-stellar photos.
Keep in mind, the photographs can only be as good as the home is in real-life. It’s important to declutter and clean as much as possible beforehand. Hiring a professional cleaning service to make sure every inch is spotless will result in better quality photographs.
If you don’t have experience with staging and are at a loss for how to rearrange existing furniture to elevate the space, you should also consider hiring an interior design consultant. A fresh pair of eyes can help see things you don’t, and can put a finishing polish on the rooms. This professional staging can make the photographs pop, and look like something out of a magazine.
Professional Equipment and Techniques
Real estate photographers rely on high-quality cameras, like DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with top-notch lenses, drones and 360 cameras to capture every last detail. They use external flashes, softboxes, and diffusers to manage lighting, leading to a balanced and inviting look.
As they go from room-to-room, photographers strategically position themselves to highlight the best features. They stand on top of step ladders if needed, and make use of natural light to create a warm and appealing atmosphere.
By combining proven techniques with high-end equipment, they’re able to generate visually compelling photos that draw in potential buyers and showcase the charm of the property.
Simply put, it’s not a task that anyone with a smartphone camera can do – at least not well.
Timeframe and Duration
How long a photography session lasts depends on the size of the property. A one-bedroom apartment or condo can be photographed in a single thirty-minute session, whereas a standalone home or estate that has multiple rooms can take a lot longer.
When you factor in the exterior, and take into consideration any outdoor features like a pool, garden, or outdoor grilling area, getting all the photographs needed to do the property justice can take hours. It’s important not to speed through the process haphazardly, and instead book enough time to fit everything in.
Inform the homeowners well in advance about what to expect in terms of the photographer’s timing and schedule. It’s always better to overestimate than underestimate, so that they can plan accordingly and don’t return early to a photography session that’s still taking place.
Make sure they have a realistic timeline that they can use to plan their day around the session, so that they can run errands or take care of personal business while professional pictures of their home are being taken. They’ll be glad to have been given the heads up, and it will ultimately result in the photographer being able to better focus on the task at hand.
Lighting and Staging
No one likes looking at dark, dingy photos. Without correct lighting, your property can’t shine the way it needs to – no matter how much effort you’ve put into cleaning or staging.
That’s exactly why photographers spend so much time getting the lighting just right. They open blinds and windows to make use of the sun’s natural light when they can, creating well-lit, inviting spaces. On-camera flashes and LED studio lighting can also be deployed when necessary, to maximize visual appeal.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, how a room is arranged can make a huge difference. The way a homeowner originally had a room laid out may be the most comfortable for them, but doesn’t always make the best use of the space. Taking the time to experiment with different furniture arrangements can lead to better photographs in the end.
Composition is an underappreciated aspect of photography. Without finding the best angles to frame a property, many of its most appealing features can get lost. That’s why photographers spend a good deal of time composing their shots before pressing the shutter release button. Let’s say there’s a foyer with high ceilings and stunning windows – you want to make sure this perspective is captured appropriately, and comes across in every picture.
The curb appeal and overall aesthetic of a property can easily get washed away without proper composition. You want a photographer who knows how to distill the essence of a home into every single pixel, and will collaborate with the homeowners to capture its true character.
After all, the people who have lived in a home know its unique traits better than anyone, and any photographer worth their salt will talk with the property owners, working hard to uncover new angles they might not have seen originally.
Post-Production and Editing
The post-production phase is when the finishing touches are put on the photos. This includes editing, retouching, and any modifications that are made to the raw pictures to give them a facelift and make them look even better.
By using professional design software like Adobe Photoshop, photographers can enhance image quality and correct any imperfections. No matter how much time you’ve spent cleaning and staging, it’s always possible something fell through the cracks. There might be a smudge on a countertop, or some dust bunnies in the corner. Image software can clean this right up, and make it seem like it was never even there.
Typical turnaround time to receive your fully edited photos depends on how many other clients your photographer is dealing with, but it’s not unusual to get them back in as little as a few days to a week.
Image Delivery and Usage Rights
There are numerous different ways that you might receive your final images. This includes an online image gallery, where your photos have been uploaded to a sharing service, attached in an email, or physically printed out and delivered.
No matter how you receive them, it’s important to be clear with your photographer how you intend to use them. In all likelihood, you’ll want to place them on your property listing page, and possibly even share them on social media, in order to make a splash and generate interest in your property.
It’s crucial that you clearly lay out these usage rights with your photographer, and settle on a licensing agreement for the photos you’ve received, so that there is no dispute down the road about how you decided to publish the images on the web.
In this final stage of the process, it’s also a good idea to ask about any additional services your photographer offers. If you were happy with their work, and had a positive overall experience, you very well might want to work with them on other visual needs you have – for this property and any others you’re selling as well.
Things like virtual tours, video editing, and graphic design services might be some of the other areas where they can add immediate value. And since you’re already in a groove, having worked with them previously, you have a good idea about what to expect in terms of final delivery.
Communication and Feedback
If you were pleased with the work your photographer did – and even if you weren’t – it’s important to let them know how you feel. Either privately, in a direct conversation or email, or publicly, by leaving a review on their website or business page, you can let them know how you perceived the quality of their work. This can give them the encouragement they need to keep it up and continue delivering high-quality photographs to their clients.
As a real estate agent, it’s also a good idea to encourage the homeowners you’re working with to provide feedback and voice any concerns they have. Maybe they feel the photographer could have done a better job informing them of how long they would take, or didn’t put items in the house back in their original place. It’s never too late to give feedback and constructive criticism, so that the job can go even more smoothly in the future.
And let’s talk about a scenario that’s never fun, but that’s not at all uncommon either. Say you got your photographs back, and they just weren’t at the level you were expecting. Maybe the angles are off, or you don’t feel like it fully captures the beauty of the property. You can always discuss the potential for revisions or request additional shots if needed. If the photographer you’re working with truly cares about satisfying their customers, and building a long-term business relationship, they won’t hesitate to do what it takes to make sure you’re happy with the final product.
Conclusion - What To Expect From Your Real Estate Photographer
As you look to hire a professional photographer to shoot your property, we hope the information in this guide comes in handy. There are few things more important than visually appealing photographs to make a future buyer stop and take notice. Quality photos can be what ultimately pushes someone to take a closer look at a home, and fall in love with it enough to sign on the dotted line.
Throughout this guide, we’ve gone over what you should be on the lookout for before hiring someone to take on such a huge responsibility. You want to make sure you’re working with a photographer who takes their job seriously, and treats you with respect. That means arriving on time, listening to your concerns, and responding promptly. How they interact with you from the get-go is usually a good indicator of the kind of work they end up producing.
And no matter how solid you feel from your initial communications, always do your due diligence to make sure they have the track record to back up their claims. Look at reviews from other clients, analyze their portfolio, and establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’ll be able to deliver on what you’re asking for. Do they have the camera and lighting equipment it takes to produce high-quality photographs? Are they able to frame and compose the photos correctly? Do they have the proper post-production software to clean up and edit any mistakes? Can they deliver in the timeframe needed, and in the right format?
These are all important questions that should be answered before joining forces with a photographer and taking the next steps. At the end of the day, this is a business partnership that has ramifications on what you are able to accomplish with your property, and is an extension of your personal brand. A real estate photographer who does their job well reflects positively on the kind of people you choose to work with, and your ability to market your properties effectively.
As you set out to find the right photographer for your property needs, be proactive in your communication and set realistic expectations from day one. With the scope of the project clearly outlined and your goals identified, you can increase the likelihood that the photographs you receive put a smile on your face – and lead to the sale that you’ve been looking for.
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