Busy, Busy February

With February coming to a close I’m astonished as to how busy I’ve been.  A total of 16 real estate shoots and 5 hotel shoots.  Not too shabby.  Now it’s time to work on getting some marketing done to snag some of the Seniors.  This year I’m offering packages ranging from simple shoots to full blown Senior Extravaganzas with full hair and make-up to make it a real experience for the graduating Senior.  I’m also going to re-work my website and get some wedding pictures up there.  I’ve had a couple of dozen requests for pricing but haven’t been able to seal the deal because I don’t have any examples of wedding stuff up on my website.  It’s now become imperative.  So off to put on my marketing hat on in between all of the architecture work.

Here’s a couple of shots from the Embassy Suites Center City.  These were part of a shoot I did for Hotel Tonight last week.

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State of the Photography Profession (or Lack thereof)

In this post I’m going to try and not get on my soapbox,  but I had a very interesting situation happen the other day.  As many of you who follow my blog on a regular basis know I do a lot of shoots for a company called HotelTonight.  This story begins when one of the hotels that I had been assigned to shoot contacted me.  They inquired if there was a way that they could purchase the rights to the images I was shooting for HotelTonight.  I had to inform them that HotelTonight was my client and that I could not fulfill their request but I would gladly put together a quote for them.  I prepared a quote for them that included licensing for 20 images for web use and sent it off.  Now keep in mind that this is a MAJOR, Multi-billion dollar hotel chain that will remain anonymous.  The day for the HotelTonight shoot came.  I was greeted by the marketing manager and was introduced to the GM of the facility.  After the pleasantries we agreed to meet after I was done to discuss my proposal.  So I set about doing my job and got some great shots of the facility. (Froze my butt off getting the exterior shot)  As I was packing up the marketing manager mentioned that the GM was dealing with a VIP that was coming in and wouldn’t be able to meet with me directly but we could go ahead and discuss the proposal.  Great!  He told me that the proposal looked really good and he and the GM were very pleased and it was passed all the way to corporate.  WOW!  AWESOME!  Or so I thought.  He proceeded to inform that corporate had nixed the proposal and wanted him to find a college student who would be willing to do it for free.  FOR FREE!!!!  My heart sank.  He said that they really needed new images of the facility and that he was going to see if they could squeeze their general operations budget for some funds to be able to hire me but they couldn’t do it at the price I had quoted them.  I told him to let me know what kind of number they could come up with and I would come up with a proposal that would fit their budget.  At this point you’re probably wondering what kind of wild, extravagant number I came up with.  Mid 5 figures? Nope not even close.  It was a mere $3200 including licensing of the images.  

This kind of corporate mentality kills me.  A multi-billion dollar company and they want free pictures.  This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.  Putting no value on the very thing would draw people to your hotel and generate millions of dollars of income.  The more I thought about it the angrier I got.  These people are looking for some who would do an adequate job and be willing to give up their rights to the images so that the corporation could use them as they wanted and not worry about rights and licensing.  What BS!!!  Commercial photography should never be free.  If your company is going to use it for advertising and generating revenue, be prepared to pay.

A Picture is worth………

In this case a little more than a million dollars.  That’s what these two images generated for the homeowner. Last Wednesday I had been asked to shoot a house for a realtor I had done some work for in the past.  When I arrived at the house I was less than impressed by the exterior. It seemed a little smaller than the type of homes this realtor normally has me shoot.  The realtor arrived shortly after I did and we spoke a bit before going in.  Her words to me were “It doesn’t have much curb appeal but what ’til you see the interior.  I’ve had a really hard time getting people in the door.  They just don’t believe that it’s as beautiful as I say it is.”  Wow.  Was she right.  From the front it looks like a rather plain, two story home.  Talk about not judging a book by it’s cover.   Turns out this is a huge 5 bedroom, 3 and a half bath home.  The owners had moved out and the entire home was staged for showing.  Really, really nicely done.   did what I do and got some really nice shots of the house.  When I was done the realtor begged me to turn the images around as quickly as possible.  I told her that I had two jobs in front of hers but would do my best to get them to her by Friday.  She said that would be “Awesome”  Well by the time I got home I had a text message from her begging me to get her something by the following day.  Long story made tolerable, I sent these two images the next evening. ( I was in Atlantic City all day Thursday but that’s another post)  I delivered the remainder of the images Friday afternoon as promised.  By Saturday afternoon the property was under contract.  Turns out she didn’t even need the remaining shots.

This is a great example as to why realtors should invest in high quality photography.  On the market less than 2 weeks and sold for just 10% below asking price.  The real estate market has made some drastic changes over the past few years.  Where it used to be you would drive around and your realtor would show you houses. Now everything is done on line and you tell the realtor which houses you’d like to see.  I know when Kim and I were looking at houses last year, if the images didn’t draw us in we passed it up.  As a realtor you can’t under estimate how good images can shorten listing periods, increase prices and make your life a whole lot easier.

Special thanks to Sue Fitzgerald of Prudential Fox and Roach for allowing me the opportunity to provide her with the images.

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The Importance of Planning

As a photographer we know how important planning can be.  This is especially true when dealing with commercial clients and advertising.  When I talk about planning it’s not just planning the shot or the equipment or people you’ll need to make the shot happen for the client.  It’s about seeing the client’s vision even when they don’t have a clue as to what they really want.  In this day and age of the “Do it Yourself” approach, educating the client as to what is required for the shot and helping them with continuity of message has become part of our job as photographers.  That being said…….. About 4 months ago I had one of my real estate clients ask me to come in and do some portraits for a new advertising campaign for their team.  (This client was bringing me about 6-10 properties a month)  I told them not a problem and arranged to meet with them regarding what they were looking for and to help me get a handle on the direction they were going.  Well the first meeting was cancelled.  Then the second. And even the third was cancelled.  At this point I had grown frustrated and tried contacting the client by phone. One message.  Two messages.  Three messages over the course of two weeks were not returned.  So I resorted to email.  Finally a response.  But not from the client.  From his assistant.  Who was gracious enough to send a response along with a couple of samples of what they were looking for and to inform me that they had made arrangements with the members of the team to be at their office in 3 days time.  Now I know for realtors time is money but this had just gotten a little absurd.  I responded to the email saying that’s great but we haven’t even discussed what was necessary to capture what they were looking for or any number of other logistic and artistic questions.  No problem I was told.  They have a space where they want the images taken.  Just show up and it will be handled.  Needless to say I was very apprehensive.

THE DAY OF THE SHOOT                                                                                                    Upon my arrival I’m greeted by the client.  We briefly go over the examples of images his assistant had previously sent me.  The problem was that all of the images had different styles.  All were casual environmental portraits.  Some were highly stylized and others were just casual with no stylization to them.  I asked what exactly he was looking for and received a response of anything like these would be great.  By now alarm bells are going off in my head telling me that this client doesn’t really know what he wants and is hoping that I pull off something magical for him and his team.  OK.  PROBLEM #1:  Client doesn’t have a direction for this shoot.  PROBLEM #2:  The space.  Turns out the space they’ve decided would be good for this was a conference room.  This room had nothing in it except some folding chairs, a wipe board 3 beige walls and a wall of window.  Oh boy!  This was nothing like any of the images he had shown me.  Quick.  Quick.  Think of something.  I scrambled and came up with a way to shoot against the window and use what was showing through as a background.  PROBLEM #3:  They had scheduled an hour to shoot 6 people and try to get as many different looks with each as possible.  Wow.  The alarm bells in my head just got much much louder.

EPILOGUE                                                                                                                                  After completing the shoot and going over by an hour (due to realtors showing up late) I returned to my studio exhausted and even more apprehensive then I had been before.  Nothing we took looked like any of the examples he had shown me.  Still I went ahead and worked my magic with Photoshop and Portrait Pro and all of the other tricks I had and got some nice images.  I sent the proofs to the client and waited. And waited.  And waited.  I let a full two weeks go by before I contacted him.  His response was short and to the point.  “Loved the images.  They are really good.  Just not what I’m looking for.”  Like I didn’t see that coming.  So where is this rambling story leading to?  That was 3 months ago and while I have been super busy shooting real estate for other realtors, I have not heard from him or any member of his team since.  Lesson learned.  Don’t be afraid to take control of the situation.  It’s only through planning and preparation that you can meet your client’s expectations.  Even if they don’t know what those expectations are.

Oakbourne Mansion

A few posts ago I mentioned a beautiful, 19th century mansion in Westtown Township called Oakbourne.  This mansion was a private residence for one of the Drexels and then throughout the early part of the 20th century it was convalescent home for women.  The mansion and it’s grounds are now a park in Westtown Township, PA.  They have recently put forth a push to open the mansion for weddings and other events.  I’ve been working in conjunction with Rick and Bridget Brown to help get the website and brochures together.  My images are going to be prominently featured on both.  As soon as they have them together I’ll get you the link and images of the brochure.  It’s been a lot of fun as I’ve been left to my own devices in terms of getting the shots for them to use.  Here’s a couple of shots that they are going to use.  I think you’d agree that it’s a really great space.  Lot’s of warm wood tones and absolutely gorgeous wood work.

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Busy February (So Far)

Sorry it’s been awhile since my last post but things were just a little slow through the Holidays and first half of January.  Well most of January.  Since last week of January things on the real estate front have gotten very busy.  I’ve done 9 shoots in the past two weeks and have 3 more scheduled for this week.  Not that I’m complaining.  While on hiatus I did a lot of studying on different techniques for HDR and architecture.  I’ve since altered my workflow slightly by introducing Lightroom into the mix and also started shooting more bracketed sets.  I’m liking the results and I think that the images I’m getting are really pretty good.  I’m always looking to improve.  I’m always looking to give myself that edge on the competition (Not that I have any according to my girlfriend. LOL.)  I’ve also been brushing up on my portrait work and hoping to land a little bit more of that this year.  Keep your eyes on my website as I’m in the middle of revamping and redesigning that as well.

In the meantime here are some shots of a couple of properties I’ve done in the past couple of weeks.

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