As both a Real Estate Agent and a Atlanta Real Estate Photographer, I know how important great images are in a marketplace in which 90% of Buyers are online. The internet has empowered Buyers and Sellers with so much information that some circles believe that the days of the "Full Service Real Estate Agent" are numbered. I, on the other hand, believe that the agents role in helping people buy and sell homes is simply evolving rather than diminishing all together. Regardless of our future, one area that every listing agent should address now is the quality of the media they use to market homes and attract buyers. This blog post will discuss some very important distinctions Listing Agents, For Sale By Owners, Investors and really anyone wanting to maximize the exposure of their property, should make when hiring a photographer.
"So where do we start?" I think this is a good time to mention that the most important qualification is not what brand of camera they use or how much it costs! As much as new technology has advanced what we are able to do in the medium of photography it has hardly eliminated the need for "Good Ol' Fashioned Know-How". The gear a photographer uses is really secondary to what they are able to accomplish with the equipment they have. There are some minimum standards but as long as the photographer is producing images that are up to your standards it really doesn't matter how much they paid for or how well their particular model camera reviewed. What is important is that you know enough to be able to communicate "the look" you are after and then be able to ask the right questions to discern if your prospective photog can deliver.
Here are some questions you might find valuable in your information gathering process:
Does your equipment allow you to capture a scene in the 16-24mm effective focal length range? Although the effective focal length will vary depending on the camera, make sure the photographer is equipped to shoot somewhere close to this range. In order to photograph the tight spaces that are often found in interiors you need a wide-angle lens. A word of caution however, going too wide can create visual distortion of straight lines and "squish" the middle of the image. This is even more pronounced on cheap wide angle lenses. Its important that the photographer not only have the ability to shoot ultra wide, but also know how to use it and when not too.
Do you do any digital editing or post processing to optimize the images? While this question is a little vague, it is important to know to what degree the the images will be processed, or "Retouched". Resizing and adjusting the sharpness of the photo are at minimum what should be done. Ideally each image should be addressed individually as the defects will vary from picture to picture. Every photo has the potential to be even better than what came right out of the camera. In some cases, dramatically better. Whether or not you choose to make it so is your call in who you choose to hire. Just know proficiency in this area of digital photography is a real game changer.
Do you use supplemental, on-site lighting? One of the most effective tools a real estate photographer uses also happens to be one of the hardest to master, supplemental lighting. A photographer using multiple external flashes (also called Strobes) and/or other continuous light sources is capable of capturing scenes in a manner that is just not achievable using only available light. Aspects like crystal clear window views, evenly lit adjacent rooms and consistent color casts are extremely difficult to capture without using additional lighting. Photographers that demonstrate a high level of skill in this area are considered by their clients and peers to be a rare and valuable asset to have around.
Do you "Stage" the scenes or do you capture them "As-Is"? Taking the time make adjustments on-site is a tedious and critical element to getting the best possible image. Whether it's offering full blown home staging or just minor decluttering, being able to stage a photo allows the image to reach new potential. Remember, ultra-wide, crystal clear views of a cluttered room will still looked cluttered, although potentially more so because now the clutter is in high def!
Do you include a website and/or virtual tour in addition to the photos? Some photographers incorporate a turn-key custom website and virtual tour link that displays your photos in a Hi-Def Photo gallery as well as Slideshow format. These sites can act as a virtual tour link for the MLS as well as double as a single property website containing all the important information about the property. If you are in need of a complete online marketing package, as opposed to just pictures, this is a great solution.
What other types of services do you offer? There is so much more to real estate photography than ultra wide-angle shots. Twilight and Dusk images, Pole Aerial Photography, Panoramas, Lifestyle images, Time-Lapse, Creative Light Painting... Some photography services can offer some or all of those in addition to just pictures.
Sometimes fast and cheap is all that is required. Other times a more comprehensive approach is needed and the property justifies calling in a true specialist. Remember, despite the relatively short lifespan listing photos have they play a crucial role in setting the Buyers early expectations about a property. A "good feeling about this one" perspective from a Buyer going into a showing is exactly the outlook you want them to have. As long as the property delivers once they arrive in person, you are one step closer to making a deal.