• Matthew Anderson

5 Mistakes I Made Early in my Real Estate Photography Career

Although I currently consider myself an "Architecture Photographer", not many people know I started in what I would call "Fitness Photography" (photos for CrossFit gyms/coaches and personal trainers). As I switched my focus to real estate photography in the Kansas City market (late 2013), I saw a lot of low hanging fruit. Most of the real estate photos were terrible and only the higher-end, luxury homes were getting the photo TLC they properly deserved...but even some of those were shot terribly. I didn't (and still don't) want to just be "good" - I have an internal drive to be considered one of the best. So when it came to real estate photography, I wanted to be one of the best in Kansas City. What I didn't realize though, was I was spinning my wheels and placing so much effort and importance into aspects of my photography that in the long run...don't really matter that much. So here's a list of several mistakes and assumptions I made early on in my photography career. No. 1 - Thinking you have to see a perfectly clear view in every single window (I.E. The 'window pull')

Yes, I'm so glad I did a window pull so you can clearly see the neighbors house and cars parked outside :-/

I wasted SO much time on photos like this because I told myself, every. single. window. should have a clear view no matter what. But honestly, what does it do for the image? Not much. If anything, it might actually do a disservice to this shot. Now don't get me wrong, if there's a beautiful terrace or lake view on the other side of that glass - you better believe I'm doing a window pull. But c'mon...does every window need one? No, and most agents I've talked to about it, don't really care all that much anyway. No. 2 - Relying too heavily on flash / strobe lighting (aka not using it properly) This is tough for me to admit because I had tons of agents hire me for this exact reason. The same reason some agents hire photographers who do the ugly HDR edit, is the same reason some agents hired me for my overly "flashy" photos...they just liked the look (shoulder shrug). While yes, I still use flash and modifiers, I use it more strategically and sparingly in comparison to years past. The problem was, I wanted everything lit evenly and perfectly but it created an unrealistic and surreal look.

I don't think anyone would label this as a "bad" photo, but its overly lit with flash and the natural feel of the room seems completely gone

No. 3 - Not trusting enough in the power of a "RAW" image file This kind of goes along with number 2. I would waste SO much time physically lighting up every single shadow with a flash, that I never realized the full potential of RAW. There's a massive amount of information in these files (hence why they're so much bigger than a JPEG). While I was bouncing a light off a ceiling to light every part of a room and lighten shadows, I didn't understand I could do (nearly) the same thing moving a slider in camera raw! So instead of compositing 3 or more images together, I could have obtained a very similar photo with just one. Take this raw file for example...

This is from the same image file!!! Granted the bottom one still has some issues with the quality...but look at the information I was able to extract with some simple slider adjustments! Granted we as photographers could pick apart the bottom image on what's wrong with it still, but honestly...most agents wouldn't have an issue with it (probably). Here's the final image I actually delivered btw... And yes that's a dog on the couch. The agent and seller thought it would be cute to leave her there.

No. 4 - Focusing more on how I wanted a space to be shot (and not the real estate agent) This one got me in trouble sometimes and I'd assume I lost some repeat business because of this. I hate lens distortion and how stretched some objects look near the edges of an image when shooting really wide. So the "artist" in me said not to shoot any wider than 20mm (on a full frame) because the room will start to look goofy. Problem is, most agents want to show off the space and not necessarily the tiny details. So they're more-than-willing to put up with the effects of a wide angle lens as long as you get to see more of the space. I would respectfully and tactfully disagree and insist on shooting tighter to get a better quality image. I was dumb. (Not that I'm not dumb today...I just think I'm less dumb) Take this photo for example...

Not a bad image right? Little-to-no lens distortion and wide angle stretching. But you miss the scope and size of the room because its actually this big...

Now I'm sure some photographers would say I was justified in thinking that way, and some part of me still does. But at the end of the day, the agents are my clients. They're the ones writing the checks and handing over their credit card numbers. Long story short, I was just being stubborn. Which kind of leads me to number 5 No. 5 - At one point, I thought I knew all there was to know about shooting architecture and real estate! After shooting real estate in Kansas City for roughly two or three years, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Business was rocking and rolling, and my skills had improved since I started. BUT, my ego started to inflate as a side effect. I thought I hit a point where there was no reason to expand my knowledge, experiment with different techniques, or further my education in photography. I was SOOO wrong (as any seasoned pro photographer knows) Bottom line - there is always more to learn! If you ever feel like you know it all as a photographer, beware...this is a major sign that your business is about to take a hit or disappear altogether. Fortunately I wised up and set my ego aside. Granted I feel very confident currently in my skillset, but I know I'm going to know way more in a few years than I do right now. ~Matthew Anderson Elite Home Images

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