Digital Magic - The Virtues of Hiring a Professional Retoucher
Atlanta Real Estate Photography by Iran Watson
As an Atlanta Real Estate photographer and real estate agent in Marietta I have spent my fair share of time at the computer editing photos. Most of the time I get it right "in camera" and the image needs very little post processing. Other times either the challenge onsite is beyond what I am able to capture with a single frame, a mistake was made or there is simply no way to get what I want due to obstructions or other distracting elements. At this point, a decision has to be made. Do you settle for "good enough" or do seek out the means to achieve greatness? When it comes to real estate photography, specifically images that are created with the sole purpose of getting an audiences attention quickly, I rarely see an option.
Having created literally thousands of images for my real estate agent clients, as well as my own listings, I have encountered pretty much every scenario you can think of when it comes problem photos. Mixed lighting sources, dimly lit rooms with daylight blasting through the windows, distortion from having to shot from a less than idea angle, poor weather, the list goes on and on... but, for each of these issues, there is often a solution. It's not always a quick and easy fix, but the right talent and expertise will ultimately find a way to overcome these challenges. The result is often something so unique and unexpected, it almost seems like magic.
Recently I had a shoot where I was to photography a condo complex in Gatlinburg, TN for a good friend of the family. This complex sits high on a hill over looking the Gatlinburg strip. When it comes to views, there are few condo complexes that afford the views of this one. The problem for me as the photographer, however, was that it was near impossible to show this place in its entirety from anywhere on the ground in the immediate vicinity. In fact, I had to go to the top of another hotel almost a block away just to get a shot that showed the whole building. So after climbing to the top of this eight story building I thought my problem was solved. Well, I thought wrong. It did indeed have the view that I wanted, but all throughout the foreground overhead utility and power lines obstructed the view! Short of renting a helicopter, there was simply no other way to get the shot. I proceeded to take my photo and hoped that my Photoshop skills would once again save the day.
About an hour into editing (yes, an hour... on one photo...) I realized that I had bit off more than I could chew. I needed a pro and a talented one at that. Thankfully, my friends over in the Flickr Photography for Real Estate group answered my call. Within an hour, I had not one, but two, of the finest retouchers in the business on the case. Both of their results, while somewhat different in the extent of work, were nothing short of amazing. Below are before and after images that I think speak for themselves.
"After" image courtesy of Darren Sutherland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Needless to say, these examples are somewhat on the extreme side of what a professional retoucher would do in regards to real estate images and are priced accordingly. So does that mean the only time a retoucher is justified is when there is a serious issue? Of course not! Perhaps your main exterior photo lacks that snap that is needed to help the photo jump off the page at a prospective buyer... maybe you want that expensive print ad to get a potential buyers attention the second they lay eyes on it... or maybe, that perfect headshot just needs a different color blouse...
The point I hope I have driven home with this post is that a good retoucher can be an invaluable asset to both real estate agents and photographers alike. Even if you are somewhat proficient with photo editing software, the time and money these guys can save you can easily surpass their fees. I admit I'm stubbornly an avid DIYer, but there comes a time when calling in a real specialist is the best for all involved. I mean we all know that, right? We use that logic to sell our services all the time, both as agents and photographers. So the next time you are faced with that decision to either settle for "good enough" or do what it takes to make it great, shoot these guys an email.
*This blog post was originally published at iranwatsonphoto.com on August 14, 2011.