A Dramatic Colonial Living Room

The collaborative nature of being a real estate photographer can’t be understated. When a Realtor hires a photographer, many times they have a preconceived notion of what they want to see and how they expect the images to look. This can only be accomplished when the Realtor and the photographer work together.

In a prior career I was a theatrical stage manager. Nowhere is the art of collaboration greater than in the theatre. Being open to input, inspiration and the germinating of new ideas is critical in a theatrical collaboration just as it is critical in photographing a house to its full potential.

In theatre the goal of each team member is to manifest their creative ideas into fully fleshed out characters in a fully fleshed out production. Photographing a house requires bringing out that house’s character. The result is only enhanced when the photographer and Realtor work together.

To better understand what this collaboration looks like, we must first look at the structure of each relationship. Much as the homeowner is the Realtor’s client, the Realtor is the photographer’s client.

The Realtor must convey to their client what they recommend the client do to prepare their home for a photo shoot. To help the Realtor accomplish this I have created a pre-shoot checklist that Realtors can share with their clients. Sending this to them ahead of time will give them a better understanding of the things they should be thinking about in preparation for the shoot. I have also written a blog article about preparing a home for a photo shoot that offers some great suggestions for helping your client prepare.

On the day of the shoot, it is the Realtor who “stage manages” the shoot. They consult with the photographer to communicate their thoughts on things they want to see in the shoot, things they want to see avoided and how to show off the property’s best assets. I even recommend that the Realtor pay a visit to the home-owner’s home once they say the property is ready to photograph to ensure that it is so the shoot day will go smoothly. The less time we have to stand around and wait for the home-owner to move things or neaten things up, the faster the shoot will go and the faster you will have the photographs on the MLS.

Realtors must also manage their client’s expectations regarding what is left in a shot versus what is taken out. The client may not immediately understand why Aunt Gertrude’s picture should be removed from the mantle before the shoot or why religious iconography shouldn’t be present. This is where the Realtor shines in their ability to handle a client’s expectations and sometimes, their disappointments. The Realtor will help their client take all the clutter off the front of their refrigerator and set aside for later return to the fridge. They will also work with the photographer and the homeowner in determining what to remove from the kitchen counter when the time comes to shoot the kitchen.

One area where a Realtor can be vitally helpful to the photographer is to keep the homeowner, children and pets out of the shots. The lens that a real estate photographer uses is an extremely wide-angle one. Frequently a homeowner will have no idea that they are in the way of a shot. This also applies to situations where a photographer will be shooting through a window and the homeowner will be outside raking leaves in preparation for the outside photographs. In the meantime, he is impeding the interior photos by his presence in the window.

When it comes time to head outside, the Realtor will once again be the one to interface with the client. They will ask them to move cars from the driveway, hide garbage cans from view, move dead potted plants out of view, anything that needs to happen to make the property sparkle.

In the case of a Realtor I am working with for the first time, I will show them what I have shot at the end of the shoot to make sure I have gotten everything they wanted to capture and in a way that they wanted to capture it. Over time the Realtor and photographer become a well-oiled machine. The Realtor knows that when we go into a house, the first thing I want to do is make sure all the lights are on, the blinds are half-way up with slats angled slightly down. If there are ceiling fans, they should be turned off. When I shoot, I capture multiple photographs that are later painted together. If you have a moving ceiling fan you just get a blur.

Even after having worked with a Realtor for a period of time, I will still frequently ask a client to have a look at what I have shot for the previously stated reasons. I have had several instances over the course of my career where Realtors don’t feel it is necessary to show up for the photo shoot. This really does a disservice to their client. Their clients are paying for their eye and expertise at important moments like this. It reflects well on the Realtor if they are there.

You won’t get this kind of experience with the photography services where you think you are getting a “great deal.” They don’t charge very much (and they pay the photographer even less.) You get what you pay for, just like in any transaction. You don’t build up a relationship in that situation. You never know who your photographer will be or what the quality of their work will be like. Building that relationship with a trusted, professional photographer will show in the quality of your listing photographs.

The more a photographer and Realtor work as a team, the better the chances of catching photographs that will not only be gorgeous, but will also do their job, getting potential buyers in the door. When I work with Realtors, I want it to be a pleasant and hassle-free experience. I like to move as quickly as possible to get the Realtor and the homeowner on with the rest of their day with a minimum of disruption.