A Real Estate Photography Success Story

February 1st, 2012

Late last fall, the parents of one of my childhood friends with whom I grew up in a lovely neighborhood in Rutland, Vt., gave me a call about shooting their house. Like many homes on the market today, their's had been languishing with very few people  coming to take a look. Both the homeowners and the realtor thought it was priced right, but the homeowners, Dr. & Mrs. R., thought the realtor's photos were let's just say, not doing the house justice. 


Although built in 1959, the house has contemporary lines on the exterior and  a modern, open design on the interior. Years back, to add storage space for the small galley kitchen with a beautiful slate countertop, Dr. & Mrs. R. had added a spacious and now well stocked pantry. The casual ambiance of the open main floor that houses the kitchen, dining area and the "great room" is counterpoint to the formally appointed living room a few steps up from the main floor. 


Mrs. R. directed me to the realtor's website to check out the existing photos. I was not surprised at the lack of photographic quality, but I was at the lack of staging and the indecipherable shot of the kitchen and missing shot of the pantry. 


Prepping a home for a real estate shoot is similar to what one does for a magazine, an architect or a builder. Take the kitchen for example. For those of us who cook a lot or have a family, all of that "essential" stuff on the counters like coffee makers, knife holders, food processors, mail, the kid's artwork and schedules haphazardly placed on the fridge door…. we couldn't live comfortably without it all, but for a photo shoot, most has to be tucked away, clutter gone from the countertops, the dog's dishes removed from the floor. 


Over the phone, I talked with Mrs. R. about prepping, staging and styling on shoot day and how bringing in my lighting would create a pleasing effect in the photographs. We discussed what rooms to shoot, the schedule and my plan on how to get a good front facade shot and emphasis the architectural lines. She was thrilled about everything, but told me not to get too carried away with styling. 


Below are some of the shots from my shoot paired with what was originally shot for that room by the realtor. Did I want to do a bit more staging and styling especially in the pantry, like remove some of the contents and really neaten up all of the shelves? You bet, but for me a shoot is about what will do the best job for and fulfilling the needs of that particular client while being cost and time effective. It's not about my artistic vanity.


In the end, Dr. & Mrs. were very, very happy with the photographs and here's the best part – they sold the house! 


This is the realtor's solitary shot of the kitchen. That big white spot on the cabinet is the reflection from the flash sitting on top of the realtor's camera.



With the help of Dr. & Mrs. R., I "decluttered"the kitchen. Introducing off camera lighting provided even lighting without any "hot spots". I chose to take the shot from an angle that would highlight the now visible slate eat-in kitchen counter and accentuate the kitchen's length.



Here's my second shot that shows the open floor plan from the dining area to the kitchen. Note the open door leading to the pantry in the upper left side of the frame.



This is my photograph of the pantry. The realtor never took one of this space even though the lack of storage space in the kitchen was a big concern to him.



This is the realtor's shot of one of the bedrooms. The room looks pretty unappealing. 



Here's my photograph of the same bedroom. I moved the floor fan out and a small bureau into it's spot. I set up one light at camera left as my main light and another hidden from view to the left of the bureau as a fill light. Both were balanced with the ambient window light. I liked the airy and more expansive look of the sheers parted and the windows opened. 



Above is the realtor's first view of the formal living room.



In my first photograph of the formal living room, I set up three lights. One as the main light and two others to fill in the darker areas in the room. You can now see that the "white objects" on the back wall are actually elegant wall sconces. 



This is the realtor's second shot of the living room with light blasting through the windows. 



Here in my photograph you see a balance between the light coming through the sheers and the rest of the room. Although the vantage point of the realtor's shot and mine are similar, I felt that it was very important to show that the windows span the entire back wall.


In my next post, I'll share with you some photographs and behind the scenes info from one of my magazine assignments. 'Till then…

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