An Open Letter to Brides-to-Be

 

Dear Bride-to-Be,

I’m speaking to you as your photographer.  As a professional with multiple years of experience and dozens of weddings under my belt.  I will provide you with the best images possible because I am a Professional.   This will be the one part of your special day that you shouldn’t have to worry about.    But……..  Please do us both a favor and stop looking at Pinterest right now!  Though I think Pinterest is a great place for ideas and possibilities, please keep these thoughts in mind.

  1.  Those beautiful images you see take time to craft.  (Not to mention organize) So don’t think you’re going to get that gorgeous image with your dresses hanging from the beautifully backlit window and all of your bridesmaids in front of them in the two minutes you’ve graciously allowed in between getting your make-up and hair finished and needing to leave for the ceremony.
  2. Please, Please, PLEASE hire a coordinator or designate somebody not in the wedding party to be your timekeeper and people wrangler.  This can go a long way to help relieve some stress and anxiety on you.  Which ties into the next thought.
  3. Allow yourself plenty of time for your formals.  This is especially true if you have a large wedding party and/or family.  Also make sure you’ve allowed enough travel time if you are doing the formals away from the ceremony or reception venue.  Also make sure you’ve allowed some set-up time for your photographer.  Those images you see on Pinterest don’t just happen.  They take a little preparation.  This is the place where the coordinator/people wrangler will definitely come in handy.  If you don’t take the time for great images your images won’t be great.
  4. This is the “Big One”.  Take the time before the big day to communicate with me.  This can be a phone call, an email, or even a text,  This one, simple,  little thing can save both of us confusion, frustration and disappointment.  In this communication let me know if there are specific shots or types of shots you want or if there are specific locations we will be going to and who will be going there with us.  Give me a basic time line that we can discuss and maybe modify if need be.  I’ll be able to tell you if the amount of time you’ve allotted will be sufficient.  After all with my experience I can tell you if the 10 minutes you’ve allowed will be enough to shoot your bridal party of twenty and your entire extended family.  Let me know who the contact person is at the ceremony, the reception location and who the coordinator or helper for you will be.  The more information you can provide, the more prepared I will be and the better the images of your special day will be.
  5. Remember it’s YOUR big day.  And while the coordinator and venue have a schedule they would like to maintain, if you want to take an extra 10 minutes for pictures before the introductions at the reception, that is completely up to you.   Trust me none of your guests are going to mind or care.  But you will forever remember the fact that you didn’t get the one image you really wanted.
  6. I’ll consider this the second “Big One”.  If you’ve hired a “photographer” from Craigslist you can expect to get what you’ve paid for. The “photographer” you hired from Craigslist might be somebody who got an DSLR for Christmas, or a student or an Uncle Joe with a camera.  Part of the reason those images on Pinterest look so good is because the bride and groom have shelled out a descent amount of money for a professional.  Part of the process of being a wedding photographer is the post-production.  You don’t see this work but you see the results.  I spend hours and hours making your images look great.  In most instances it’s more time than I spent at your wedding day.  This is what really defines my style and why you to hiring me in the first place.  If you’ve hired that Craigslist photographer for $400 to cover a 12 hour day, don’t anticipate that your images are going to be stellar.  They just won’t be.  In the end you’ll be disappointed.  You’ll blame the photographer for this and that’s just not fair. Why is it your fault?  You have not provided the photographer the time or budget needed to properly finish the images. In wedding photography, like everything else, you get what you pay for.

So.  In the end the bottom line is;  A) Hire a professional photographer.   B) Be prepared to spend some money on them.  C) Be realistic about your timeline for the day.                         D) Communicate with your photographer.  E) Be realistic in your expectations of the product you wind up with based upon all of the factors listed above.   F) And most of all enjoy YOUR day!

 

Sincerely,

Your Photographer

 

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20 Seconds is All it Takes

While I find myself in the busiest season I’ve yet to face, I’ve managed to find the time to do a little research.  This research is regarding the value of professional photography for the real estate industry.  I’ve put this together to emphasize what bringing a professional photographer to the table can mean for a realtor.  More importantly how embracing the photographer as more of partner or asset can increase the profitability for any realtor.

First some facts.

According to the website RE Source 90% of buyers look on-line before they even contact a realtor.  In the same article they state that 88% of those people prefer professional images.  Having professional images of a property is becoming essential.  But less than 15% of all listings use professional photographs.  This according to the Wall Street Journal

WSJ_Graph_1

20 seconds                                                                                                           In a Wall Street Journal article from March of 2013 it is reported that 95% of home buyers looking on line spent 20 seconds looking at the “Hero” or main exterior photograph.  That’s out of a total of 56 seconds spent on all of the images.  According to Professor Michael Seller, Founder and Director of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University, “Without an eye-catching photo, the battle is lost before it begins.”  He goes on to say, “You have to grab peoples’s attention within 2 seconds.”  2 seconds!  It’s not a lot of time.  So ask yourself, “Are my images that I take with my iPhone compelling enough to grab people and have them continue looking at the listing?”

So out of the total amount of time looking at aWSJ_Graph_2 listing your potential buyer spends           60% of their time looking at the photos, 20% of their time looking at the property description and the remaining 20% on the realtor’s remarks. (These stats taken from the same WSJ article from March 2013)  So if we do a little math that means; 56 seconds on photos. 18.5 seconds on the property description and another 18.5 seconds on the realtor’s remarks.  Not a lot of time on those wonderful few paragraphs that you’ve slaved hours over is it?  Based on these statistics the best place for you to spend your marketing dollars is not in the hours spent trying to come with adjectives and superlatives to describe the property. It’s in the planning and preparation for the images.

I know.  At this point you’re asking what’s the bottom line?  Let’s break down the numbers. Redfin_Infographic-good-photos_21813According to on-line resource Redfin it could mean $934 to almost $19,000 more for your listing depending on the price range the property falls into.  Which means as a realtor more dollars in your pocket.  In addition listings with professional images garnered 61% more views.  How’s that for increasing the odds?  Additional research provided by Brick House Visuals and Los Angeles area MLS indicate that homes in that area sold on average  26 days faster when professional images were used.  Putting it all together,  that means you sell more houses for more money in the course of year. All by simply investing in professional images of the property.

 

The Cost                                                                                                                               But Jim it’s SOOOOOO expensive to hire a professional photographer.  Well let’s just call BS on that right here and now.  The national average for bringing in a professional photographer is $300 (Based on 2011 polling).  I know for a lot of realtors this comes out of your pocket initially and it can seem like a lot of money.  But let’s look at this in dollars and cents.  Based on the median price of a home in the U.S. the average commission is $6668.  So the $300 that your professional photographer cost you is a mere 4.5% of that and overall less than 0.1% of the value of the home.  That’s not a typo.  Less than one-tenth of a percent of the value of the home.  But if this allows you to sell 2,3,4 or more homes a year your overall income has increased.  Substantially.

There are additional benefits that go beyond the sale of the home.  The biggest of these is the perception potential future clients will have of you as being more professional and willing to take the additional steps to get their property sold.  As a realtor you drive home how important “curb appeal” is to the homeowner.  It’s your responsibility as the realtor for the “web appeal”.  You are the one responsible for the on-line presence of the property.  Remember that 2 seconds we spoke about earlier?  Now think about the property that you just took photos of with your iPhone competing against someone else who has taken the added step of hiring a professional photographer.  Still think your iPhone pictures cut it?

Well I have a DSLR                                                                                                             Great and you probably take some awesome vacation photos.  But just having a DSLR isn’t enough.  A professional photographer can make your life as a realtor considerably easier.  First off unless you’ve spent years photographing your own listings you’re not going to have shot anywhere near the number of homes a real estate/architectural photographer has.  Most real estate photographers have hundreds if not thousands of homes under their belt before you engage their services.  Secondly.  The photographer brings his/her artistic eye to the game.  Yes real estate and architectural photography is very technical but you have to have an eye for composition and lighting that only experience can bring.  Speaking of lighting that brings us to the third part.  The gear.  Most photographers have thousands and thousands of dollars invested in equipment and lighting.  Special lenses. Special lights.  The stands, gels, modifiers and other assorted items required for professional photography. (Personally I come to a shoot carrying about $10000 worth of cameras and equipment.  Some people I know have way more invested.) Not to mention the hundreds of hours working with that gear and learning it inside and out.  The final factor is the darkroom (now Photoshop) skills to make your property look like it was lifted right out of any architectural or lifestyle magazine.  Here again the photographer has spent hundreds of hours learning and perfecting those skills through training and repetition.  Now as a realtor with a DSLR can you bring all of this to bear on your photography?  Not to mention the time.  Probably not.  I know there is the rare exception but isn’t better to leave it to the professional who does this day in and day out?

The Downside                                                                                                                        Is there really a downside to all of this?  OK so you won’t have your images the minute you get back to the office.  In most cases you can have them in 24-48 hours.  72 hours at the extreme end of things.  So you might have to plan ahead a little.  Other than that you really can’t get a better bang for your marketing dollar that professional photography can bring you.  You get better quality images, faster sales, higher prices, the time to concentrate on selling the property and developing new leads and a better professional representation which leads to more and better listings.  All of this when you engage and partner with a professional photographer.  So what are you waiting for?

NEXT TIME:  Making it Happen (The Photo Shoot that is)

 

Feeling Humble

Today I had something quite unexpected happen.  I woke this morning to a notification from my Flickr account that I had a new follower.  And just any new follower.  It was a photographer whose work I really admire.  He’s mainly known for his avant garde style in the fashion world.  His name is Frank Doorhof.  Here’s a link to his Flickr account; https://www.flickr.com/photos/frankdoorhof and his web site; http://www.frankdoorhof.com.  I think you’ll be very impressed if you haven’t seen his work already.  It’s some pretty cool stuff.   Too continue on the same line of unexpected.  Last week I shot a house for a realtor last week.  The owner happened to be a relatively big name architect in the Philly area.  I was a little nervous as I knew my images would be compared to the photographer that his firm uses.  Here again a relatively big name.  His name is Tom Crane.  Here’s the link to his website; http://www.tomcranephotography.com  So you can understand the sense of validation I got when I saw an email from the homeowner after I delivered a copy of the images to him.  Here’s what he said.

Hi Jim:

Thank you so much for sharing your talent.  The photos of our house are terrific and clearly attest to your skill and the time you took to compose and light the images.

Best regards,

Peter

It’s always nice to have your hard work notice and appreciated.

7 Caryl Living Room 7 Caryl Front Door 7 Caryl Library

 

The DSLR Advantage for Real Estate

For a while now I’ve been on the hunt for some research data that backed up my contention that professionally photographed properties sold faster than those taken by a realtor or other non-professional photographer.  Well I finally found some.  And as more fuel to my hypothesis , it also indicates that the homes shot professionally sold for more money.  Now this article doesn’t get into what else is involved when a professional shoots a property.  This article contends that it’s the “DSLR Advantage”  and while I agree there is significantly more involved when a professional photographs a home.  Yes there is the camera.  But just because you own a DSLR doesn’t mean your images are automatically better.   What this article doesn’t say is that it’s not just the camera.  Lens choice, composition, and lighting all contribute to a better image.  Not to mention years of experience and hundreds if not thousands of houses shot by the photographer all contribute to better images.  Then there’s software and processing the images so they look as good as possible.  There is no way a realtor or assistant is going to spend as much time (OK any time) trying to make the images look as good as possible.  They have better things to do.  This is why as realtor it pays to hire a professional photographer to bring you better images.  Remember, better images don’t just make the property look good, they make you look good too.

I’d like to thank WideIPhoto for finding and initially posting this article.

 

Daily Real Estate News | Wednesday, December 04, 2013   REDFIN.COM

Professionally photographed homes tend to sell for more money and sell faster than homes listed with point-and-shoot cameras, according to a new study by the real estate brokerage Redfin.

The study found that homes priced between $200,000 and $1 million sold for an average of $3,400 to $11,200 more than their list prices when professionally photographed than homes with amateur photos. For homes priced between $400,000 and $499,999, the study found that homes professionally photographed sold for $11,200 more.

In an analysis of 22 markets, the Redfin study evaluated the sales success of homes shot professionally with a digital single-lens reflex camera versus homes shot with amateur, point-and-shoot cameras. The study evaluated homes priced between $200,000 and $1 million.

The study also found that homes that were professionally photographed also tended to sell faster. For instance, homes in the $400,000 range that were professionally photographed sold 21 days faster than those photographed with point-and-shoot cameras.

 Image

Source: Redfin

As The Wall Street Journal reports today, “listings with nicer photos gain anywhere between $934 and $116,076.” The graph clearly shows that you are likely to receive thousands more if you list your home using DSLR photography than if you used a simple point-n-shoot camera to take the photos yourself.

Since the price of a DSLR camera (anywhere from $500 to $5,000+) is generally out of the price range of your average hobbyist, let us assume that photos shot with DSLR cameras are shot by professionals. Since professional photos could net you thousands more on the sale of your home, it stands to reason that spending the $100 – $500 on professional photos is a worthy investment of your marketing dollars.

Given this obvious upside, it is shocking that only 15.4% of homes in our data set were marketed using professional photography. The majority of listings, 80.9%, were photographed using point-n-shoot photography, and still another 0.7% used just a camera phone. Let’s not mince words: If you are not using professional photography to market your home, you are not really marketing your home.

A few more interesting tidbits that came from our analyses:

Homes shot with a DSLR camera:

  • Receive an average of 61% more views than their peers across all price tiers.

  • Have a 47% higher asking price per square foot.

  • Have an increased likelihood of selling for homes priced above $300,000.

So, what does this all mean to someone selling their home?

Invest in nice listing photos. A professional-looking photo can dramatically increases the likelihood that a potential buyer will click through to view your listing and drives more buyers to tour your home. Ultimately, the more people interested in your house, the better your chance of receiving an attractive offer. A photo really can be worth a thousand dollars.

 

The Color Purple

Or is it?  In my last post I spoke a little about getting the colors correct when photographing architecture.  Color and more specifically color space can be a bit confusing and a bit daunting when trying to get things right.  As a photographer or artist I’m sure we’ve all experienced printing our final product only to find that the colors are, well, just not quite right.  Then going through and making corrections and reprinting and repeating until we either run out of paper or ink.  This is where color calibration and color space all come together. Let’s talk a bit about the different color spaces we deal with in today’s digital world.  As a photographer or artist in the modern world we must be aware of the different color spaces and their appropriate application.  For starters we have RGB, sRGB and CMYK.  Typically your monitor and printer work in the world of RGB (Usually Adobe RGB 1998.  But there is the slightly wider gamut Pro Photo RGB that a lot of photographers including myself like to work in.) sRGB is the gamut used on the web and is more limited than ProPhoto or RGB.  Some online printers use this as their colorspace of choice. (When using an online printing service it’s important to find out what color space they require your image to be in for accurate reproduction.)  It is very important that if you’re going to be displaying your images on the web that you use this color space.  Otherwise you are going to be very disappointed in the results.  Here’s a chart showing a comparison of the color spaces.

Image

 

You can see that ProPhoto gives us the widest gamut and CMYK (used for offset printing) gives us the smallest.  While the chart shows differences in the gamut, it can not show what happens say when you take an image that is in sRGB and try printing that on your RGB color space inkjet printer.   The system will, depending on your settings, try it’s best to match the colors that are outside the gamut and interpolate to the closest match it can find within the gamut of the device.  Other things happen though.  Saturation changes, distinct color shifts occur and contrast can be affected as well.  Making for a print that is nothing close to what we see on our monitor.  When working on delivering an image it is important that you either work in the that particular color space or do a comparison.  In Photoshop you can do this by going to View, then Proof Setup and selecting your destination color space.  Once you’ve done that you will see the shift that the delivery color space will cause.  You can set this up so that anything out of gamut will give you a warning directly on the image.  Meaning that the system will interpolate that color.  From there you can make the necessary corrections so that your image will render properly.  Or at least a version that you can live with.  Hope this helps a little.

A House. A Photographer. And Getting the Color Correct

In my last post I promised I would share some images from the shoot I did.  So here they are.  I’ve been trying some new techniques I’ve learned reading the Scott Hargis book and studying what Mike Kelley does.   I’m really liking the results.  Real estate photography is not as easy as most people think it is.  Dealing with wide dynamic range of dark interiors balanced against bright windows and sunshine is very tricky.  Making things look natural and not over lit by too much flash.  Getting the view out the window but not too much.  And most importantly capturing the essence of the space.  Along with all of this is the ability to render colors accurately.  I was the 3rd or 4th photographer to shoot this property.  While there the owner expressed to me her concern that none of the previous  photographers had reproduced the colors correctly.  They ranged from a soft peach in the entry to a deep almost brick red in dining room to a soft yellow in the kitchen.   Challenged accepted.  She later showed me brochure with some of the images from one of the other photographers.  Let’s just say they weren’t accurate and leave it at that.  I tried to explain to her that it might not be entirely the photographers fault.  That there are a lot of variables when printing an image and making sure that colors are rendered correctly.  All while trying not get too technical.  After this conversation I thought for a moment about what the client said.  That it was a problem with the photographer.  Not it was a problem with the printer or the photographer sent images in the wrong color space or the realtor had used the wrong version of the images.  No.  It was the photographer’s problem.  Perception is everything.

ImageImageImageImageph

What’s Wrong with Philly?

I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my photography.  I love the webinars and tutorials I find on-line.  I especially love Creative Live.  Their webinars are usually a two or three days with world renown photographers or Photoshop specialists.  These are absolutely awesome!  But to be honest I’d really like to attend a live seminar.  So with that in mind I went on-line to see if I could find anything coming to the Philadelphia area.  Know what I found?  Zip. Ziltch. Nada.  I could find plenty in NYC (of course).  I found a bunch in Washington DC, Atlanta and other big cities.  I even found a couple in Richmond, VA.  So it begs the question.  Why not Philly?  It’s not that I don’t like these other cities.  It’s not the cost of the seminars. (I believe that you can’t put a price on furthering ones career)  It’s the added cost of Hotels and meals for a couple of nights that often makes it hard to justify the cost.  Often times these factors more than double the cost of the seminar.  And while my business isn’t doing badly, these added costs push the price to a point where I just can’t justify the expenditure.  I know that there is a lot of photographers in the Philly area and it has a fairly active art community.  Is it just too close to NYC?  Is it seen by many as an outgrowth of NYC?  I do know that some commercial work is done by photogs from NYC.  Is it the misbelief that photographers in NYC are superior to those here in Philly?  So, what is wrong with Philly?