Opulent home twilight photos on Snell Isle Brightwaters Boulevard

Twilight and evening photos on Snell Isle

Brightwaters Boulevard has become a regular destination for us. We’ve shot photos and videos here for agents from different brokerages and the homes we photographed varied in size and style. There were sprawling mansions, cute cottages, mediterranean estates and modern efficient homes. Twilights are some of our favorite shoots, and this time we had an opportunity to make twilight photos of this opulent home on Snell Isle’s famous Brightwaters boulevard. Before the sunset we even had a little time to do some evening interior and exterior shots. Take a look! Contact us for your own twilight photos, your sellers will love them and you’ll receive the attention of many buyers. I’ve now moved to Atlanta and service Atlanta, Marietta, Alpharetta and all Metro Area. Call me (727) 418-9016 to schedule!

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Real Estate Videos Don’t Sell Real Estate in Atlanta

They don’t, YOU do.  How would I know and why would I say this while being in business of producing real estate videos? Because before going into the photo/video business full time I was a Realtor in Tampa Bay for 5 years and I’ve used video from my first month in business.  To the very last day of me selling real estate full-time I’ve never had a huge and immediate boost in listings and sales because I utilized video.  What I did have was a gradual growth of clientele base who appreciated videos that I used in my marketing.

Real Estate Video St Petersburg Tampa FloridaI love photography and creating video content, so it was easy for me to choose and keep these tools in my marketing toolbox.  “Marketing” is the key word in the idea if using video, it’s not a sales tool.  Frankly when business becomes so very open and relational as it is today sales techniques diminish in their vitality.  They are still important but mostly refer to negotiating and closing skills. Marketing has become the lifestream of business.  The definition of marketing has become broader, fuller and more complex.

We choose marketing tools we like, feel comfortable with and believe will appeal to our clients.  We all know that producing a piece of marketing material is only a half of work done.  For it to be effective it has to be strategically placed. It works this way with video content too.  I’ve sometimes seen clients for whom I’ve produced photos and videos not really know how to showcase these gold nuggets to the world.

 

Here are a few tips from my personal experience on how video can boost your marketing campaign

 

1) Have a set schedule for your video production, by date and type

By creating a short video at least once a week you will soon have an impressive library of video content. But you have to be consistent and have a schedule.

 

2) Categorize your videos by:

– Informational (about real estate market in general)

People will come to you because you have real estate knowledge and skills to effectively sell or help buy a property. Informational video will help your clients understand your skills and level of knowledge quickly as well as figuring out if they’d even like to work with you. Sometimes we just don’t click with certain people, and that’s ok. You’d rather never have them come to you, than come and then leave. Your information videos will take care of that.

– Education (about specific neighborhoods in your area)

Education videos will help folks see that you know the area, and know details about neighborhoods, plus it adds value because you showcased the features and streets of the area they may be interested in. Eventually you will have a library of such videos and you can utilize them on individual neighborhoods pages on your website. How cool would it be to have a short video about a neighborhood and then list all available listing there right under the video?

– Home video tours

In your sphere of influence there will also be people looking to buy or sell. Producing quality video tours will capture attention of those looking to buy, because they just don’t see real estate videos all that often. Sellers will also notice because they will want one of their house done when they are ready to sell. Besides your sphere those looking at homes online always get excited when they see that little blue button with a camera on it. Motion video gets a lot more views than a slideshow.

– You can also do one on local activities and events, but keep those to a minimum, you are a Realtor, so stay with things relevant to your business.

 

3) Figure out how to distribute your videos and who your targeted recipients are.

 This topic deserves a separate blog post, look for it in the near future.

In conclusion

You probably don’t need video marketing if you don’t use internet to communicate with friends, family and clients.  Unless you buy TV ads most of your video marketing will be online.  But it’s not for everyone.  Either embrace it, use it, dedicate marketing dollar to it or stick with the tools you feel suit you best.  Remember, it’s all about quality.  Not production quality, thought it’ll help, but your content quality.  Step aside for a moment and take a look at your marketing pieces: email campaigns, Facebook feed, postcards, flyers, your website – does any of it deliver value?  Is any of it interesting, important, captivating? Is any of it telling a story?  Because if there’s no value or importance – we (your prospective clients) can at least enjoy a good story.

Twilight In Old Northeast St Petersburg

Old Northeast Twilight Shoot

Old Northeast neighborhood sprawls 30 block north of Downtown St Petersburg and is one of the largest residential neighborhoods in our city. There probably isn’t a style of home that you can’t find here. Tudor, Foursquare, Colonial, Craftsman, Federal and, of course, Soutern Bungalow are all present here in multitude of shapes and sizes. You will also find some Mid-Century Modern and even Neo-Modern style homes in Old Northeast.

This time I was doing a shoot of sort of a mix between mildly Tudor with Federal-inspired brick exterior. Day-time presented a challenge of many surrounding oak trees that cast heavy shadow, yet with sun shooting through the leaves. The contrast of brick layers with such light is not easy on your eye. As a real estate photographer I had to figure something out. The solution was to take twilight shots. Here are a few shots from this session.

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Staircases Are Big Deal In St Pete Homes

Stairs, Stairs, Stairs

living250In Atlanta, just like in Tampa Bay where I lived before moving here there are many two or three story homes. For those who want to own a large home few options exist other than building up. I enjoy taking photos and video of such properties as they often offer quite interesting picture compositions.

St Petersburg Home Staircase

Usually one of the main features of a large two-story home is its’ staircase. I’ve seen some that involved glass, beautiful rod-iron work, elegant all-wood staircases, some made of oak, some with cherry steps, curved, straight, round, multilevel, I’ve seen them all. Perhaps you could use some inspiration for your next home. Here I am sharing my photos of a few cool staircases with you. Enjoy!

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Tampa Bay Stairs Photos

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Money Shots – Part 1 – Living Rooms

Money Shots – Part 1 – Living Rooms

Living Room Snell Isle home

Let’s pause and think for a minute: at what rooms do you spend most times looking when searching for a home?  What room photos do you just scroll through and which ones you observe with extra interest?  I guess the answer will be – the photos of a room you will mostly spend your time in (not sleeping in!), a room in your future home that most visitors will see – your living room.

living room Snell ArcadeWhen browsing through listings you look for character, rooms size, windows placement, floors type and other features.  Sometimes you just like how the home feels based on the photos.  And when you are a buyer you don’t like surprises during your first showing, you want the room to look as close as possible to what you saw in the picture.  This means the size shown in the photo must (or should) reflect true scale of things.  Often this is hard to achieve because the mind of a seller and real estate agent wants to showcase the whole room in one shot.  This is possible with the use of an ultra-wide lens.  However, shooting a room at a focal length under 15mm will make the room look larger than it really is.

living room kitchen Brightwaters BlvdShooting with an ultra-wide lens is sometimes useful, especially in tightareas like small bathrooms. But with larger rooms most of the time it is not necessary.

Here’s why it’s better to shoot above 15mm:

– You will have better shot compositions

– You will have more “out-of-shot” spaces to hide extra flashes and thus have a better lit image

– Room size will look close to reality – no surprises for buyers

The interesting thing about human mind is that we can easily complete an image in our head if we only see a portion of a subject, so sometimes it’s ok to cut off a portion of a sofa or a large frame, especially if there are two of them side by side.  So, if I can’t show a whole room in one photo how do I showcase it to the buyer?  Take another shot from a different angle or corner of that room, make a connecting shot with the kitchen or dining room.

living room Snell IsleMost MLSs will allow up to 25 photos, so impress your potential buyers with money shots: living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens.  Trust me, most bedrooms have 4 walls and a bed in the middle, one picture of your bedroom is usually enough for marketing purposes. Small bathrooms or half baths?  Not really necessary to showcase at all.  Much rather find a few cool architectural features and add their photos to your marketing portfolio.

Photos of your living room are your money shots.  Make them stand out, spend time finding a good composition and work on your lighting – it will pay off.  And if you are busy selling and can’t take the photos yourself, you can always hire me, I’m available to shoot anywhere in Atlanta.  Check out my photography portfolio, video tours and pricing.

Shooting Photos And Video At Snell Arcade

Photo And Video Shoot At Snell Arcade

front Snell ArcadeOne of the exciting things of being a real estate photographer is that you often get to enter some very unique properties.  I’ve been in hundreds of homes, condominiums and townhouses in over 4 years of both my real estate and, now, photography career. I primarily focus on luxury real estate, that’s where I can fully apply my photo and video production techniques.  Many of such homes are new(er) construction, which I love to shoot, but sometimes I am invited to take pictures of a historical gem.

There’s a lot of history tied to Snell Arcade and I was excited when a Smith & Associate agent, Brian Sprague, invited me to shoot his new listing, unit #210.  I’ve once visited a penthouse on 7th floor and was very impressed by the updates, unique balconies and its’ open, yet sophisticated layout.  This new place was on the second floor and much larger, with two good-size bedrooms and two and a half baths.

You can Google about the history, of this early 1920’s building, the club that was here, Mr. Snell’s office at the very top (which is now a two-story loft) and people that worked here.  But today I simply wanted to share a few photos and a short video with you.

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HDR Photography For Real Estate – Good Or Bad?

Found on omahavideosolutions.com

Found on omahavideosolutions.com

HDR stands for high-dynamic-range imaging.  While the history of HDR can be tracked as far back as 1850’s when Gustave Le Grey manually cropped and combined parts of a photo with various exposures into one single image, wide-spread use in real estate photography didn’t come into play till late 1990’s when digital cameras and special software made it possible for quicker results.

A stunning HDR photo is hard to achieve.  It often requires between 5 and 20 shots of the same composition at different exposure settings and then using different techniques like tone-mapping or exposure fusion in Photomatix or other program.  Some cameras have built-in software and can deliver an HDR image by combining 3 or more shots which the camera automatically takes at different exposures.

Found of phoenixrealestatephotography.com

Found of phoenixrealestatephotography.com

When it comes to shooting interiors HDR is often used by those who have limited knowledge about lighting with multiple flash units.  An HDR image is usually taken without any flash.  HDR is quicker to shoot, and the results are often good. It’s a great option for beginners.  However, if you really want to create mood in your composition and make it look as natural as possible, using multiple off-camera flashes is much more beneficial.

Lack of flash in HDR results in vibrant yet quite flat images.  A photo will look “artistic” because it will look like a painting, over saturated and not natural.

No HDR here. Using 3 off-camera flashes.

No HDR here! Using 3 off-camera flashes.

Our eyes actually do see things closer to what an HDR image looks like, but the coverage area we naturally observe with our eyes is much larger than a 5×7 photo.  That’s why HDR images are much easier to take in in a form of a poster or billboard.  Cramming every properly exposed pixel into one small image will throw our brain off. Another issue I personally have with interior HDR photos is almost always the windows come out underexposed, which makes a photo look very unnatural.

no HDR - exterior photo St Petersburg house

No HDR here either. Correct exposure and slightly opened shadows in Photoshop to expose texture on the back of the chair. No need to kill shadows completely!

But there are times HDR can be useful.  I’d use it more for exterior shots when the front of the house has heavy shadows.  And also when you or your client do want that artistic/painting look for extra effect.  However, shooting in RAW format will allow you to capture an extra stop each way allowing you to bring out the shadows and turn down the highlights all without fiddling with HDR settings.  So, my suggestion to anyone wanting to produce great real estate photos – learn how to use multiple flashes and shoot in RAW.

Every property deserves a video tour

Every property deserves a video tour

bedroom2bSome less expensive or distressed homes may not require a professionally done video.  When selling these you can simply shoot a video tour on your phone or small camera and narrate as you film.  As long as you keep your hands steady, keep it short and give some valuable information to your potential buyers – you will be just fine.  You can use  your iPad or iPhone to quickly shoot, edit and upload your video to YouTube – it will take just under 15 minutes.

Some homes are worthy of a professionally done video.  There’s a misconception that such tours are only done for expensive high-end homes.  Not necessarily.  I have a Realtor friend and he decided to produce professional videos for every listing he gets over $100k.  The potential commission on a $150k sale is around $4,500 (or $9,000 if you work directly with both the seller and the buyer).  Many good agents will spend up to 20% of their income on marketing and advertising.  So, is it worth spending a few hundred dollars on professional photos and video tour? Here’s an example of a simple video tour I just finished. Trust me, it won’t break your marketing bank.

What is your vision and what is your plan?

Is-your-vision-planned-outDeciding how much money to set aside for marketing and advertising and what portion of it will be used for video and photography – is not always easy.  Realtors have to spend a lot of money every year: Realtors fees, MLS dues, Supra lockbox, desk fees, splits with a broker, office supplies, technology fees, franchise fees – these are often a must.  Video and photo often fall in the voluntary expense fund (if there’s any left) out of which you pay for enhanced listings on home search sites,  mail-outs, postcards, brochures, magazine ads, food for open houses and broker’s opens, personal website, IDX search plug in, membership in local networking clubs, and many more.

My advice would be to start with your vision and skill assessment.  Decide where you want to be in 5, 10 years, what you need to learn and then focus on getting there.  Some aspire to always work on their own, others want to build a team, some dream of becoming a broker, others desire to run a commercial real estate division.  Your plan and your vision will affect how you apply your marketing money.  How much of your budget should go to marketing will depend on what stage you are in.  Don’t spend your dollars on any marketing without having a vision and a plan to accomplish it.

You will have to adapt to the ever-changing world and learn new technology on the way to your dream.  Decide early on to only use technology that can substantially boost your business and give you advantages over competition without changing your vision and core values, and without putting a strain on your budget.

So, You Decided To Sell Your Home!

So, you decided to sell your home!

front47Now what?  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m a believer in the “why” question.  I literally will sit on an idea for weeks or even months before I can prove to myself that I have a legitimate “why” to execute it.  So let’s consider why you want to sell your home.  You may be downsizing, upsizing, relocating, have family issues, stopped making payments, are facing legal issues, or simply done with home ownership and want to rent.  None of these?  Then let me know, I love to know reasons!

Ok, you know why you need to sell.  The next question is deciding how you will go about it.  There are really only a couple options.  You either sell on your own as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO, or “fizzbow” – a name all local real estate agents will be jokingly calling you) or you hire a real estate agent.

I worked in the real estate industry for four years and was involved in over 100 transactions.  Let me give you a few tips from a “client” point of view as opposed to a “Realtor” one.

Deciding whether to sell on your own or with an agent will depend on several factors: how much you need to net, current market conditions, your level of sales expertise, and how much time you can afford to invest in the process.

Let’s start with the market

If it’s a seller’s market, not much is required to find a buyer.  Stick a sign in your yard, put it on Zillow, Trulia and for more exposure MLS.  You can list a home on MLS with a flat-fee limited service agency for a few hundred bucks.  Inventory is low and prices are climbing – these are indications of a seller’s market – you should get plenty of inquiries quickly if your price is reasonable.

Time

Getting inquiries is a good thing, but how do you turn them into legit buyers?  Who will be showing them your home?  If you are not working and readily available during the day, evenings and weekends you can handle your own showings.  Most buyers will be represented by an agent (to whom you should be prepared to pay 2.5 – 3% as a rule).  If the buyer is not represented, however, be careful.   Don’t show your house to strangers when you’re home alone.  Have a friend or family member there with you to avoid any unexpected circumstances.  Before you show your home to a potential buyer, ask lots of questions and request proof of funds (bank loan approval letter or account statement).  It’s totally fine to ask people why they are interested in your home, whether they are employed, and if they are pre-approved for a loan.

So, let’s say you’ve gotten plenty of interest, tons of showings, and finally – an offer! Now what?  At this point, it may be wise to hire a real estate attorney or ask a title company for assistance.  I suggest you use a title company to do your title search, title warranty, and help you with closing paperwork.  If you’ve bought several properties in the past you may have enough experience to feel confident working directly with the title company without a real estate agent’s assistance.

1-800-Agent?

Hiring a real estate agent can be very beneficial since its his or her job to represent your best interests in the transactions (not the buyer’s).  A good agent will take care of showings, pre-qualify buyers, market your home, and take care of all paperwork.  Moreover, a Realtor can tell you with accuracy what your home is worth, maximize the offer amount by creating increased interest via proper advertising, and handle negotiations.   How do you set your home apart from the competition?  How do you expose your listing to as many potential buyers as possible?  A good agent knows answers and delivers results.

Marketing on the Internet is a major portion of any marketing campaign.  Providing top quality marketing and web distribution/promotion of your property, together with correct pricing, will assure a faster sale for the highest dollar possible.  Whether on your own or with a help of an agent – you can do it!

Real Estate Video Misunderstood

Real Estate Video Misunderstood

Slideshow-is-not-video-real-estateFrankly, I have no idea how much longer we will experience the deceptive promise a of a real estate video tour when what you actually get is a slideshow. Including a Ken Burns effect, logo, and (cheesy) music is not exactly what you’d call video production. Most agents host their slideshows on YouTube; however, I believe YouTube has intentions of limiting the presence of the slideshow videos since it is primarily a full-motion hosting service. Yes, full-motion is key!

Quality Issues

In fact, a slideshow put together in a video format and then uploaded to YouTube loses quality because of compression. The photos in your video slideshow become low-resolution and often very pixilated. You can watch a video in 1080p but most people watch YouTube videos in 360p format – a far cry from your 20 megapixel resolution photos you stitched in a slideshow for which you probably paid some serious money. Compressed full-motion video that was shot professionally will still look good even at 360p. This low resolution is offered for faster streaming and only good for full-motion video. Nothing wrong with slideshows, but keep them in that format and avoid convert ing them to video.

They Said “Video”

Most agents have visited a seminar where a real estate social media guru (who has possibly never sold a house) lectured on the importance of using video in your marketing. And rightly so. There’s no question video is one of the fastest growing marketing tools for businesses. What the expert may fail to mention is HOW to use it. So, we take take our cue from others and try shortcuts, often outsourcing to vendors if its easy and cheap. If a virtual tour provider is offering you a video tour, inquire whether its real video/full-motion. Also, ask whether a videographer will shoot your listing or if the offer only includes uploading your virtual tour slideshow to YouTube. If the latter, don’t waste your money. Just do a slideshow yourself for free in 5 minutes. Consumers want to see a video, not the same pictures they just saw in the listing info, now in a form of a sloooow slideshow. Simply check your YouTube watching stats to see that your video views are stopped at about 5th second of your slideshow. The remaining 4 or 5 minutes? They are pointlessly occupying YouTube’s server somewhere on the other side of the world.

Come on, you can do it!

True-Home-Video-Tour-YouTubeWhatever you do, please don’t call a slideshow a video. It really makes some buyers annoyed because, frankly, you are wasting their time. Video sparks emotions and gives viewers a way to connect with the property and the neighborhood (if you include that in the video).

Why not make a video tour of your listing? Pull out your phone, hold it steady, and make a 1 minute video presentation of your listing – trust me, buyers love it. Even better, hire a professional to give you an edge over the competition.