How long have you been doing this and how did you get started?
I first started photographing real estate in 2001. After finishing school I spent 3 years in the IT industry, specifically in website development, and while I enjoyed the technical side I absolutely detested the 9-5 rat race and the prospect of spending my working life in front of a computer.
So I left IT, not really sure what I wanted to do or would end up doing, but I did also have a background in photography having spent 3 years shooting motorsport. At the back of my mind I knew I’d love to find a job in photography, but I was also incredibly aware that very few photographers are fortunate enough to make a solid, stable living off taking photos.
Out of nothing more than pure coincidence I stumbled across a classified ad looking for photographers in real estate (remember classified ads, before everything was on the internet!) and applied, not really expecting that someone with a background in photographing fast moving cars would really get a look in.
But low and behold I got a call, had an interview, and the rest is history so to speak!
For the first 3 years in real estate I shot virtual tours (360-degree images, where the client can spin around the room) where each finished image comprised 12 individual stills. In hindsight it was a lot of hard work to shoot each property, but it gave me an incredible appreciation for setting up and styling each shot – something that has become a corner stone of my photographic style.
After virtual tours fell out of style I transitioned into the pure form of real estate photography and have been shooting it ever since!
How many properties have you shot?
Since 2001 I believe I’ve visited and photographed over 10,000 properties (as both a virtual tour and a still photographer)! In any given year I’ll shoot somewhere between 700-900 properties.
I wish I knew the exact number, but since I started I’ve worked for three separate companies and I never thought to keep my own records prior to 2006, so I’m missing the first 5 years
To be honest it’s a staggering amount when you think about it, especially when you consider the very best real estate agents would look to list 60-80 properties a year!
Do you use HDR for your photos?
This is the single most common question I get asked, particularly in the last couple of years as HDR has become more and more well known.
In essence yes, I shoot a range of exposures for any one image and these are combined to produce the final result.
But it also depends on your definition of HDR. Most photographers these days consider the term HDR to mean the process of feeding a selection of images into a piece of software, and then the software producing a finished product.
In this regard then no, none of my images are automatically manipulated. Confused? Let me explain. When I shoot I take a ‘bracket’ of images, from underexposed to overexposed and all these individual shots are then worked on by one of my retouching team and hand manipulated, layer by layer, masking and editing the raw elements into the final result.
I want to thank every retoucher I’ve worked with over the years for taking some very average images some days and turning them into the very best results you can imagine. Without the talents of these guys and girls there is no way I could be where I am today!
Why don’t you use HDR software?
I continue to wait for the day when HDR has developed enough to be better able to handle real estate photos. As it stands though, as good as the software is, it just can’t deliver the results I expect.
The problem is both a combination of the complexity of most real estate photos and the sometimes simplicity of HDR software. Houses, and the light they offer, are complex. The differences between the heavy shadows and the super-bright highlights can be massive. The software in turn isn’t able to differentiate that well between these extremes, and instead applies blanket processes to achieve the end result.
More often than not when I’ve fed exposures into a piece of HDR software the end result just looks wrong – be it the colours, or the shadowing, or any one of a million unidentifiable things that we look at when we view a photo to determine if it’s a good photo or a bad photo.
What do you shoot with?
My preference is Canon and has been for much of my working career. Although when I started taking photographs of rally cars when I left school I shot with Nikon. Why did I change? I honestly don’t recall, and I wish I did because I do get asked that question a lot.
I don’t think there is much difference between Canon and Nikon; it just comes down to personal preference. I have photographers who work with me who shoot Canon and others who shoot Nikon, and quite often I’m hard pressed to tell the difference when I look at their shots.