Andrew McGibbon Photography's Work Methodology

One thing you want to ask any real estate photographer is how they work. What is their process? Do they use lighting? Do they have the right equipment? What makes their images pop? How long have they been doing it?

I’m going to show you how I work. You can compare this to real estate photographers you might be working with or considering working with.  (Though after reading this article I hope you will choose to work with me.)

A photograph is a piece of art. That’s right, my photograph of your client’s living room is my art. I take the same care with a real estate photo as I would with a photograph of an impressive theatrical venue, an event, a headshot or food. While the processes used to capture and post-process each of these types of images is very different from each other, the same care is taken to bring out the best in every photo I send out the door.

To me it is important to capture photos of a house that are as true as possible. There is nothing worse than taking a client to see a listing and then have the client say, “this looks nothing like the listing.” Yes, you want to get them in the door, but it does you no good to present pristine when that is not the case. I do not remove or manipulate anything factual in my photos (the location of an outlet, paint chipping on the outside of a house). Ethics rules in real estate are paramount, it is my obligation to help Realtors accomplish that by not changing the facts of a listing. I will swap out a blue sky with puffy clouds for a sky that was gray or not optimal (though I try to avoid shooting on those days altogether).

You want the house to be shown in its best light. To do that takes not only a skilled photographer, but one with the right equipment, technique and skills.

I have been photographing houses as a professional photographer for four years. Prior to this I had been a Realtor in northern New Jersey for six years and photographed many homes in that capacity.

In terms of equipment, I utilize a Nikon D600. It takes 24mb photos. That means that the photo has a denser concentration of pixels that make a photo look better and work better in a varying set of circumstances (on the web versus in print, for example).

The “glass” I use is a Nikkor 14-24mm lens.  This is a wide-angle lens that helps capture a wider view of the room. Not using a wide-angle lens can make a large room look smaller than it is. The right lens means that the client’s rooms won’t look small. A wider view also gives a potential buyer better situational awareness within the home so that they better understand the flow of its design. It is also better able to capture small rooms and tight spaces like bathrooms.

Many photographers simply take photographs using a technique called HDR, or high dynamic range. HDR is multiple photos taken at varied exposure levels that are combined by software. It utilizes the best tones from each image to make one photograph. Unfortunately, this does not give the photographer the greatest control over natural light and colors which can really make the photographs pop.

Full disclosure, I do use HDR for exterior photographs because you have less control over light. It blends the photographs with better balance between the bright spots and the shadows.

With interior photographs I use a technique referred to as flash-ambient, or flambient. This uses a photo that is taken in natural light, one that is taken using a flash and then one that is taken with the flash pointed toward the windows in the room. The photographs are then hand-blended or painted together to utilize the luminance of the natural light while capturing the room’s true color by using a flash. The photograph with the flash pointed at the window lets me better capture what is outside of the window.  In post-production I am then able to “paint away” the very bright area surrounding the window and “paint in” what you see outside the window. This stops photos where the window is blown out and all you see in the window is a bright white spot. Having said that, I don’t bring in the outside of every window. It depends on if there is something attractive to look at outside the window.

Below are three images, (L-R) a photo with no flash, a photo with flash and a “window pull” shot to bring in the outside view.

A photograph of the room with no flash. A photograph of the room with flash. A window pull from the room photograph
The room photographed with natural light. The room photographed with flash. Window Pulls photographed with flash towards the window.

 The three images are first put together as layers in Photoshop and then blended together. After a few more adjustments in Lightroom, here is the result:

The final images using flash ambient technique
The final photograph

One of my prior careers was as a theatrical stage manager. This gave me an eye for how to create “looks” that emphasis the best of a room and remove what doesn’t represent it well. 

I hope that this article has given you confidence to utilize my services. When it comes to real estate photography, I have the experience, the tools and the technique.