Photography has, in some form or another, always served a powerful purpose in the real estate industry. But just like everything else in the internet age, this purpose has shifted substantially in the past few years.
Work smarter, not harder
Traditionally, pictures of homes, both inside and out, were used to successfully weed out the houses that that simply wouldn't work for a buyer for one reason or another. While this method was certainly helpful, it only helped the buyer knock off the homes that were most obviously the least favorite.
Fast forward to today, and photography is a critical tool for helping buyers focus on the exact home they're interested in – not the ones that won't work. This essentially helps buyers leapfrog ahead to the few homes worth checking out, which, to the realtor, could translate to less time on the market.
It's also important to note that consumers expect immediacy. Gone are the days when house hunters will spend an entire day driving around guessing which house could be right for them. Instead, many are using the internet to perform preliminary research, and when their first impression of a home is a poorly planned picture taken with a cellphone, it's all too easy for them to pass right over the listing.
It's here where Brian Stogner, owner and founder of Elemental PixTours, expects to see major changes in how photography is used in real estate.
"I do feel it's a new trend, and will grow as realtors watch other realtors' sales increase with the use of professional photography and video," said Stogner. "It helps the realtor work smarter, and not so much harder."
Don't skimp: professional means professional
Thanks to high-end digital photography suites with intuitive user experiences, Instagram and smartphones, there's a tendency among many to believe that their photos are, in fact, as good as professionals'.
However, this couldn't be further from the truth. Stogner's success can be attributed to his experience in the graphic arts industry, where for years he worked on page layout and color correction. Once he started applying these skills to real estate photography, he found that – alongside a seasoned home stager – he could make the photos "pop" without ever having to digitally alter the photo in any way.
"Don't fake the photos," Stogner warned. "No one wants to walk into a home that has a large hole in the wall that was airbrushed out in the photos."
Stogner added that as a professional, he shoots in HDR – not HD. This means a longer processing time for the images, but the outcome is far greater than what is established with a point and shoot. An expert will also know when to incorporate video into a listing and when to use photos only – it's this insight that can mean the difference between a house that sits and one that sells.
Other professional tips from an experienced real estate photographer? Avoid narrow shots, over and underexposure, reflections showing the person taking the picture and clutter or animals in the frame.
Internet Age means higher collaboration between realtor and photographer
It's clear that real estate photography itself has changed, but what about the relationship between the photographer and the realtor?
Considering studies have shown that 90 percent of buyers now shop online for homes, this partnership has become critical for getting a home off the market fast.
Undoubtedly, it is still the realtor's job to sell the home in a timely manner – they are the sales professionals. However, a realtor's job can be made remarkably easier when they know what the photographer requires for a successful shoot. This means establishing open communication between the two parties, and ensuring the home is ready to be shot at a given time.
"Small things, like having the lights and fans on, help the photographer do the job in a timely manner," Stogner explained. "But what can be overlooked is that some of the lights may be burnt out, or the fans just don't work. These things need to be addressed before the photographer arrives."
The realtor should also act as a liaison between the photographer and the seller. For example, if the homeowner plans to paint before listing the house, the realtor could see the best results by consulting with the photographer, who can then in turn warn the seller about any offensive colors that could deter potential buyers.
Moreover, a shoot will be much more productive if the photographer is alone in the house and can focus. As Stogner quipped, "there are a lot of things going on with cameras these days and a good photographer doesn't set his/her camera on Auto and point and click." This also requires regular communication between all parties, so the shoot can be scheduled at the most opportune time.
With a strong partnership, homes will sell – fast
Stogner has done about six shoots alongside Lodestone Real Estate realtors Marissa Boyle and Trent Corbin, and in one instance, the Corbin/Stogner team-up led to three full offers within 24 hours of listing the home. This, Stogner said, was the culmination of Corbin's real estate expertise, spot-on staging and the final photos from the shoot.
To hear Stogner sum it all up, such a success story is the product of a strong photographer/realtor partnership.
"A realtor needs to find a photographer they can build a relationship with, because it may take a couple of shoots to get the full feel of what the realtor is looking for in their photos," he concluded. "Marissa Boyle and Trent Corbin have been wonderful to work with, and I hope to continue to work with them. I am currently waiting for a remodel to be completed that is being listed by Marissa and staged by Barbi MacKinnon, and I'm sure this is a success story to come."
With a team like this, a success story is certainly on the way.