Real Estate Experiment

I got a call from a fellow photographer who said he had met a real estate agent looking for a photographer and I should give her a call. I've never tried real estate photography, but willing to give it a try. So I called her - she was very insistent that I should have a  "professional" camera and lenses, and that the photography had to be done a certain way. She didn't want "point-and-shoot" photography. She said it was very important that the house be lit properly, that you could see out the windows (HDR, anyone?), that the rooms looked big and spacious…She sent me some photos from a high-end real-estate site to illustrate the point.

So, I thought - how hard could this be? She looked at my website, but said that since there were no real estate or architectural photos there, she couldn't judge. So, I offered to take some photos of my house to show her what I could do. So, I spent all day New Year's Day with this experiment. It was actually a lot of fun - I used my 5DMk3 and 16-35 mm lens and three off-camera flashes. Exposures were  bracketed, then I waited for twilight to do some exterior shots. Then, into Photoshop for HDR processing, straightening walls, etc.

I sent her the photos and waited for the assignments to roll in……In the meantime, I did a little research on-line to see what the going rate for real-estate photography is in the local area. Mostly, it looks like the range is about $150-$300 for normal sized homes, and up from there, especially in the Lake Tahoe area. There is one guy in town that charges a lot more and does really nice work. 

So here's the photos that I took: First, the front entry of our house:

The wide angle lens makes it look really huge. This is two exposures blended together in Photoshop, just so you can see outside through the windows. A couple of speed lights hidden behind the columns pointed at the ceiling. Here, I have a rather ugly shadow on the ceiling - learning point #1.

The wide angle lens makes it look really huge. This is two exposures blended together in Photoshop, just so you can see outside through the windows. A couple of speed lights hidden behind the columns pointed at the ceiling. Here, I have a rather ugly shadow on the ceiling - learning point #1.

This image is of the family room. This is a 5-exposure HDR, with three speed lights bouncing off the ceiling and at the front of the sofa.

This one I was pretty happy with. It did require some perspective corrections in post.

This one I was pretty happy with. It did require some perspective corrections in post.

The next one is the kitchen - here I had some problems with reflections and shadows. There is a speed light on the counter on the left which I didn't hide. This is a three-shot HDR.

This was my least favorite of the bunch - I definitely have some shadow problems here. I was trying to balance the ceiling lights, the under-cabinet lights, the outside light and fill in the holes with flashes.

This was my least favorite of the bunch - I definitely have some shadow problems here. I was trying to balance the ceiling lights, the under-cabinet lights, the outside light and fill in the holes with flashes.

Then the bedroom: This was funny - I originally shot five exposures, planning to also do an HDR in this room. I did not notice that during the sequence I shot, that all four cats chased each other through the room. There were cats in every exposure, in different places each time! Did not notice until I had put all the camera gear away and was working on the computer. So, I just went with the initial exposure I had done to set up, and masked in the windows with a different exposure that didn't have cats there….

The main problem here is shadows on the ceiling. The tutorial I watched had said to bounce flash off the ceiling, but it didn't account for ceiling fans. Have to figure out a better way to do this. There were two flashes bouncing off the ceiling here.

The main problem here is shadows on the ceiling. The tutorial I watched had said to bounce flash off the ceiling, but it didn't account for ceiling fans. Have to figure out a better way to do this. There were two flashes bouncing off the ceiling here.

And, finally, as the sun was going down, I parked my tripod across the road and took shots about every ten minutes as the sun was going down behind me, and as I was freezing my fingers off. There is a speed light behind each column on the front patio. I liked this one:

The sky really was more intense than it shows in the photo, so I guess I still didn't wait long enough (but I was cold..). All in all, pretty happy with the results.

The sky really was more intense than it shows in the photo, so I guess I still didn't wait long enough (but I was cold..). All in all, pretty happy with the results.

So, I send the agent the photos, and she really liked them. She was ready to hire me on the spot. She asked what I charge - I told her $150 for a house - I'm not very experienced and that is the bottom of the range locally. That's where things fell apart - she says "Well, I only pay $60 to $75 for a house so will you work for that?".  After all the grilling about equipment and how exactly she wanted it done, she wasn't willing to pay for it. I resisted the temptation to tell her "go find someone with in iPhone….", and tried to explain what all was involved.  

But she wouldn't budge, and I wouldn't budge, so this is the beginning and the end of my real estate photography career…..It was an interesting experiment and I learned quite a bit from it!