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Taking Real Estate Interior Photos – What Is The Best Method?

Best Method for Real Estate Photos in Atlanta

Hello, Atlanta Realtor or any other professional who cares about Real Estate Photography. Before I go into details, I have to say that the described methods of taking real estate interior photos is a matter or preference and justified cost. I’ll show and explain why I prefer a multiple lights set up over single mount-on flash or HDR.

I’ll try to explain using this small simple bathroom. This is from today’s photo shoot, there’s no editing (just brought a little brightness up on HDR), straight out of the camera.

This is an HDR photo

(high-dynamic range), which is accomplished by taking several shots at different exposure settings and then blending them using software. It is not a bad shot. What HDR allows you to do is produce a single shot with everything in it exposed properly: the windows are not blown out and the shadows don’t go to extreme black. I’ve seen decent HDR shots when a photographer takes at least one shot with flash before compiling them. When no flash is used (like in this shot), lots or orange and yellow colors show up in the picture, which can somewhat be reduced in photoshop. But overall look is very flat.

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This is a shot taken with a mount-on flash.

The issues are obvious, heavy shadows, much brighter in the foreground, and some areas are not lit properly. It is possible to achieve a good shot with a mount-on flash, but the setting has to be just right. preferably no fans or other standing object in the front as they will cast shadows. The best way to take a shot with single flash, when possible, is by pointing it up or even backwards towards the wall instead of forward. That will give you a larger bounced ray of light and will soften the shadows. Another problem with this method is that it’s harder to accommodate much of ambient light, so the interiors end up with lots of flash light, and little natural light.

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In this shot I used three speedlights.

One in the shower, one bouncing off the wall near floor to lighten up the front of the cabinet and one more above my head, bouncing into the wall behind me. I had little time to play and adjust the lights, but you can see how much more definition there is in this photo. There’s also a doze of character, which potential buyers can easily identify with.

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In my view using a miltiple lights method for interior real estate photography will produce more interesting photos. They more often than not will take a little more time in the field (I often spend two hours shooting a 3,000 sq.ft home, where an HDR or single-flash shooter can be done in one hour). But there’s a little less time used for Photoshop manipulation. I personally enjoy spending more time behind the camera than in front of the computer screen.

I shoot real estate photos and video in Tampa Bay, and some times a little further. You can see samples of my work on Flickr.

Realtor Marketing Skills Are Overrated

Stop Marketing and Start Selling

stop-marketing-start-selling-real-estate-tampa-bay-st-petersburgI know, Atlanta Realtor, I may get some critique from you about this post. I recently read an article outlining important skills a Realtor must have in order to be a “good” agent.  They were all good skills but 7 out of 9 were types of marketing know-hows that would somehow prove that the real estate professional has deep knowledge, experience and works very hard for the seller.  Things like taking good pictures, creating high-quality brochures, writing a property description, help you prepare your house for a showing, etc.

I LOVE all these things, and that’s precisely why I don’t sell real estate any more.  I like being a marketer more than a sales person.  A Realtor is a sales person?  Of course!  Last time I checked it’s commission kind of work.  So, if I wanted to list my home for sale, what qualities would I seek in my listing agent?

Ok, here’s a short list:

1) A good listing agent is a great negotiator, a sales person of great skill
2) Knows transaction flow in and out
3) Knows contract, addenda and any deal related paperwork very well
4) Knows real estate news in his community
5) Knows inventory and pricing well
6) Well-connected with vendors and other agents
7) Great closer and problem-solver
8) Great communicator who keeps things under control
9) Delegates tasks

Marketing skills?  I’d put those at the end of the list.  Why?  Because marketing can and, in my opinion, should be outsourced or delegated.  You can control your marketing, you can be the face and voice of your marketing, you can be involved in it somewhat on your personal time (like blogging), but putting together brochures, editing videos, taking pictures, fixing websites – is time that should’ve been spent building relationships, finding business, working with your sphere of influence and with your leads.

Some may say: I can’t afford to pay someone else to do my marketing.  What you can’t afford is spending your time on it instead of focusing on generating business.  Trust me, I’ve made that mistake.  Even your most creative marketing efforts that will generate you leads are worthless if you are not working those leads.

Do you eat your lunch alone?  What are you doing with your 500+ friend list of Facebook?  Your 10 closest friends – do you know what’s going on in their family life?  Do you know 5 most successful people in your town and do you know if they have a Twitter account?  Do you follow?  Answer these questions before you spend two hours making a brochure or thinking about your marketing plan.

I hope you know WHY you got into real estate.  I hope you are taking your “why” seriously and your vocation as a full-time job.  There isn’t much room for you in real estate business these days if you are not.  In the last 10 years the way we do real estate evolved rapidly.  However, if you are new to this business or struggling to build it to a level of success – I have some thoughts to share with you. But that’s in my next post…

Buckhead Condo Views

Living In Buckhead

As a real estate photographer living OTP in Atlanta Metro I always enjoy a trip to Buckhead or Midtown to shoot another condo in some highrise. Photographing a condo is very different than shooting a house in the suburbs. There’s a lot more glass and reflective surfaces, so I have to pay close attention to how I position my lights. The rooms are smaller yet there are many cool details I should showcase in my photos. Great condo photos is what will make the listing agent stand out and create more interest in potential buyers. Here are a few shots from some recent condo photoshoots. Ready for your photos, video and drone pics? Contact me today!

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Why Saying You Are Better And Different Is Not a Wise Choice In Real Estate Marketing

Why Saying You Are Better Than Others Is Stupid. Especially If You Aren’t

better-than-you-realtor“Soaring above the rest”, “Why we are different from the rest”, “We answer our phones” – and so many other ways some of us advertise come across as passive aggressive, heck, sometimes plain aggressive.

A friend told me: I don’t want to be known for what I am against, but what I am for. Negative notes often speak to our ego. They reflect our immaturity. It’s one thing to address something wrong done by others, another to use a blanket statement to the rest of your competition. What will push you above the crowd is the respect of others, never just your own promotional efforts. The bullshit radar is so very sensitive right now among all generations. We spot arrogance, we see when someone lies and we don’t want to deal with them. Rolling that way online only magnifies things.

It will take someone 5 minutes to check on your real presence online, your work and your reviews. If there isn’t much to show then your statements of being “different” are foolish.

So how do you promote yourself correctly?

The simple answer is that you don’t just promote yourself. Today’s marketing is offering help and telling a story, providing service and education about product. It is not blasting mass emails to 1000 addresses you just bought and then try to immediately close, churn and burn style. Today it’s give, give, give, politely ask. Love them to sale. And I see more and more professionals in Altanta and Metro area doing just that.

Practically speaking

1) Like Gary Vaynerchuk says: become self-aware . What are your strengths? How can you use them in your business?
2) Decide how much of personal life you want to share with your audience. But share some.
3) Don’t just push your listings on your wall. Start thinking like your clients, what do they really want from you?
That’s right, they’ve already seen all new listings, maybe even those you yourself haven’t seen yet. What is your value to your client? Define it, package it, offer it.
4) Thank before you bank. Your past clientele is your best advertising tool. Take a selfie with your happy buyers or sellers. Help them move in. Ask for a positive review.
5) If you do something much better than others, don’t say so. Simply show it and offer it. “I love making property videos for all my new listings! Love to show to my community what’s new for sale in the neighborhood! Follow me on YouTube, new listings coming this week!” – Something like this is positive and offers value.

Tell Your Story – Reach Your Audience With Quality Media. Domain Homes

livingroom149I have worked with Domain Homes for a couple years now.  I could see passion in what they do and their enthusiasm for creating a brand name that is recognizable and carries a great reputation. My passion was to work with such passionate people. I wanted to come along and help them in this pursuit. Idea after idea, project after project, Domain Homes has grown into a reputable company in Tampa Bay whose brand is well recognised.

Quality Photography

design-center188For Domain Homes it was not a question wether they needed to present their homes with great photography. They wanted quality and consistency. Every model home was photographed and featured with a video tour.

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They wanted more. They honored owners of the lots they bought from, threw parties for them and presented gifts. When a kids baseball league found some of their equipment stolen Domain Homes stepped in and purchased new item for them. They also kept the story-line going with photos and video.

When I suggested we create a video presentation of their Enclave Model in the style of House Hunters – they jumped on it without hesitation. The video is now on their YouTube channel and uploaded directly to their Facebook Page.

Results

back240For a small Tampa home builder they created a strong following on Facebook and you will find their daily posts on Twitter and regular videos on YouTube. The awareness of their brand is huge in Tampa Bay. People in St Pete know of them, Tampa Heights, Seminole and Safety Harbor – all heard about Domain Homes. Not an easy task when you are competing with national new home builder giants. Same goes for builders in Atlanta, Marietta, Alpharetta and other Metro Area towns.

Are You Packaging Your Services Right? Simple Tips For Real Estate Marketing and Branding In Atlanta

Cupcake Theory

cupcake-branding-marketing-real-estateA cupcake wrapper without a cupcake is of not much value. Yet, a cupcake without a cupcake wrapper is a nuisance. You can’t bake it without a wrapper and you’ll get messy when you eat it. You need a wrapper. A wrapper is a a type of packaging and packaging is a multibillion dollar industry. It is for a reason. And it’s not just for a practical reason. The looks, the appeal, the attraction are also invoked by smart packaging.

In a way, a realtor is a master of packaging, you, my great Atlanta Realtor keep things from burning, YOU help avoid sticky circumstances and deliver a pleasant experience.

If someone threw a cupcake in your lap, you wouldn’t enjoy it, you probably wouldn’t eat it either. Imagine buttercream icing soaking deeper into the fabric of your favorite suit! A wrapper is both convenience and quality presentation. Apple products come to mind. Ever unboxed one? Then you know what I mean.

Is Your Branding Consumable, Pleasant and Helpful?

Too often we forget about the wrapper, we focus so much on the cake. It’s understandable, it is what we want and it is what we want to share with others. But nobody wants messy business. The desired end result is a practically and esthetically pleasant experience.

Are you throwing all effort into the cake forgetting the wrapper? Are you keeping the desired end result in mind? Is your product or service presented in a consumable, easy and pleasant way? If not, it’s time to pause and reflect.

The meat (or in this analogy – the cake) of your work is the sales process. You love the real estate business and you love to help people buy or sell properties. What you need to see is that branding and personalized marketing is your packaging. But a great sales person is not always a great marketer. It’s normal when an agent struggles to independently create a nice branding portfolio. All those cheesy slogans on bus benches? Umm, yup! Creating a “You” brand takes time and creativity, demands searching deep within yourself, becoming self aware and going all in on your strengths. Many real estate companies offer help with marketing and branding, take advantage of it. Yet you will still need to implement a lot individually, and if that’s not your strong suit – hire a professional.

Marketing and Branding Must Be Useful

If there was one thing I’d want you to take away from this message, it wouldn’t be just a fact of you needing a presentation and looking good. I’d say it’s this: don’t just look pretty, be useful too.

Marketing and branding is not just story telling. It’s also doing something useful. Your stories shouldn’t just tell a good story about you and showcase your product or service – your stories must draw tears because of the positive action your marketing brings to the lives of others. Need help marketing your services/products in Atlanta, Marietta, Alpharetta, Roswell and other Metro Area? Give me a call (727) 418-9016

Advice To New Realtors – Where To Begin?

Practical advice to new real estate agents

living-room-snell-isle-tampabayHello, wonderful Atlanta Realtor! You passed your real estate exam. Congrats! So, did thousands of others this year, eager to join an army of a couple million Realtors in USA.

You already have a plan… or not. Or you just asked the person sitting next to you in class about reputable brokerages in town and now you put together a list of brokers you want to interview. Chances are you are in one of the following scenarios:

  1. Your job sucks and your friends say you are great with people and should sell real estate. You already quit your job, and after your 63-hour course and exam, which I’m sure you passed on your first (or second) try, you are ready to rake in those thousands of commissions dollars, like next week!
  2. Your kids left home for college and you’d like to take on a new adventure in life. Yes, the spouse works, but you just want to make a few extra bucks you can spend anyway you want.
  3. You worked at a real estate office as an assistant and now ready to venture out on your own.
  4. You have a friend already making tons of cash and he/she invited you to join forces and start a team. (no! run! I’ll explain later)
  5. Or a dozen other scenarios, but it doesn’t matter…

…What matters is your very next step. Your first activity as a licensee will be forever etched in your memory and I really hope one day you can look back and smile because you made a good decision.

Being your own boss is not easy but doable

You will have to join a broker and once you hang your license there, it’s up to you to make sales happen. There may be training and some help at a cost of your commission. Your broker may provide paperwork assistance and floor time. But training and floor time will not get you far. If you are in it to win it, get ready to hustle, cold call, solicit every relative and friend you have, reach folks on social media and knock on your farm’s doors. I did and disliked all of these, but if your skin is thick enough, there will eventually be result, it may take a few month and over a year before you get on your feet financially. It may be easier if you were in real estate related business like lending or insurance where you can prospect to your client database. Still, it will take time for them to trust you in your new field.

Buy leads

To make money as an independent agent you will need to have cash to invest before seeing any of it come back. In addition to “old school” prospecting, buying leads, zip codes on Zillow and Trulia and hosting other agents open houses will be your good options.

Are you a team player?

If you are not too keen on cold prospecting and spending thousands of dollars to generate quick business is not an option, you will have to consider other scenarios.

Joining a team is different than becoming a partner. Unless it’s with your spouse, business partnership should only be considered if you know the person well, duties and responsibilities are written in stone and possible exit scenario is well discussed and documented. Additionally it’s desirable if both partners are bringing a book of business to the table. As a new agent you simply will not have one. A new agent becoming a partner will often see failure within months.

Joining a successful team, on the other hand, is a great scenario. Find a few successful agents with a team in your market and pursue them. You may start as a buyer’s agent, team assistant or office manager. If the team rocks, so will you. Hustle hard, don’t mind low commission splits (you are learning after all) and build relationships with vendors and clients.

If you decide to go solo, be willing to pick up other agents “unwanted” business. Take tough clients, lower end buyers and offer to host open houses. Remember, your local community will bring you business, so volunteer for events and take part in non-profit activities.

Lunch Value

After five years in real estate I was surprised how few of the vendors wanted to build a relationship with me. We like to gage success with dollars. Ok, so what if I told you the highest ROI I’ve ever had was from a cup of coffee? Simply building a relationship with a prospective client on social media and then asking if I could buy her a coffee? Simple as that. Those clients are now most loyal. Many of them have become friends too. Stop thinking money and ROI, start thinking about building genuine relationships with people you want to do business with. My suggestion – in your first year never eat lunch alone. Who’s the most successful agent in your brokerage? Offer to buy him/her a burger and pick their brain! And if it’s coffee with a potential client – they already know why you are inviting them, so don’t say a word about business! They will ask you.

How To Win With Print

How to win with print

Print-marketing-tampa-bayWith the perpetual Internet (r)evolution, we’ve moved from print articles to blogs, from paper advertising to Google Ads and from magazine-featured spots to Facebook Pay-Per-Click.   However, when done well, print can bring a powerful message the Web can’t.  Gone are the days when mainstream buyer browsed classifieds in the paper for real estate deals.  Placing ads in local well-known publications in Altanta or Marietta will help you with your personal branding and name recognition, but probably won’t do much directly to sell your listing, or will it?

Today expensive print ads in glamour magazines are almost a requirement for high-end luxury real estate agents.  Thousands of dollars every month for one or two glossy pages.  Understandably, magazines are eye candy to behold while relaxing in your favorite chair.  But without proper call-to-action, “pretty” is all they will remain.  On a shelf.  On a coffee table or in your bathroom.  So, should you still use print ads?  Yes, but be smart.

So how do you do it right?

If you plan to continue investing in print ads, think about how you can maximize your return.  It’s not cheap, so do yourself a favor: stand out.   In fact, be stunning!  Standing out in amazing ways can actually be very simple.  Here are a few suggestions:

–          A good rule of thumb – don’t overdo it, stay simple and to the point.

–          Make your images pop but not so much as to appear fake.

–          Keep your wording concise and creative.  You can have a little fun, but don’t be silly.

–          Less is more, so keep your personal glamour to a minimum.  Remember, the ad is about your services and your clients’ homes, not so much about you.

–          Don’t show off your 17 designations, only a doctorate degree is worthy of presentation.

–          Hire a professional photographer to do your magazine shots.

–          You can’t go all out on print but cut production quality.

And Now A Few Big Points

1)      Showing off your social media in print. 

I’ve seen print ads with Facebook and Twitter buttons but no address next to them.  Think!  I can’t click on paper!  And if I find your YouTube channel and you have no videos there – you are disingenuous.  Sorry, that’s how clients think.  Give them a “why” (remember previous post?) to connect with you.  If you are open, list your personal Facebook address and say: “friend me on Facebook and see me share the best real estate deals downtown”.   Don’t just show your phone information, say “my real estate advice is free, call me any time”. And how about “Subscribe to my YouTube channel.  You will love my home videos!”

2)      QR-codes.  Yes or no? 

Meh…  Leave those to for an instance when you can’t have much wording or where the only thing you can fit in is a QR-code with just a few words.  Possibly on your window at eye level. Think like a consumer: where and why would you scan it?  For me it’s when I am on-the-go, in the street, in a hurry, holding a postcards near a restaurant, a perk on a window, a special deal, etc.

I’ve tried to love QR-codes, but they are just plain ugly.  Another important note – always explain what the client will see or get once they scan the code.  “Scan and see a list of all upcoming waterfront listings in Snell Isle”, “Scan and watch exclusive video walk-through inside this home”, “Scan to get 2 free martinis – no joke!” – and so on, be creative!

3)      Bleed-through is hot!  

I’ve seen some hideous frames and graphics around images in magazine ads that absolutely make no sense.  Editors allow you to do this because, well, because you pay.  But look at magazines’ covers and pages, what do you see?  Images often bleed-through (no framing) with words posted over the image.  The fonts are beautiful, often custom made.  Images are crisp and shot from perfect angles.  A lot of this is subtle but little things like that can create a million dollar look without big expensive.  Simply watch the style trends, or have custom templates created by a cutting-edge web design company.

4) Call to action.

Perhaps you are a successful agent and you have several luxury listings you’d like to show off in a slick local magazine.  You have beautiful images, but you can’t possibly give ALL the information about every home on one page.  (FYI, If you’re trying to do this your ads are ugly.)  So, lead them to your website where they can see more photos and learn more details.  Also consider the general appearance of your site.  Do you have dedicated pages for each property you listed?  How about buying a custom URL with something like www.oldnortheastbungalow.com and if that one is taken, you can use something simple like www.1234MapleStreet.com .  Then place that web address over the picture in bold font, and say “see more photos, description and video interview with the owner on this site”.  What interview, you say?  I know, it’s scary, but you can do it.  Record yourself interviewing the owner about why they bought this home and what they love about it.  Make a short 2 minute video and place it on your site.  Buyers love it! Oh, and that one homeowner browsing through the pages of a magazine, they just might like your creativity.  You never know where your next listing will come from.

What now?

So, you made it look good, you made it smart and creative and you have a great call-to-action layout.  Now who pays for your ad?  I’ve heard of agents who hardly pay for their print advertising because their vendors love to pick up the tab for them.   So you never know…

Otherwise, this is when you can partner with other service providers. Put their name on your ad and give them business that comes from your print advertising.  Be sure to follow the legal guidelines.

It’s going to be a while before (if ever) print advertising will go out of style in Atlanta or anywhere else.  Why? You can roll a huge glossy page and put in your pocket – something you can’t do with a tablet or laptop.  And a two-page magazine spreads can be impressive and hard to beat. Computers and mobile devices are making a huge footprint in our history, but paper and magazines still bring about feelings and emotions that our digital friends never will.  Print is here to stay, so make your print ads a powerful tool.

Geographical Area of Services

Where Do I Offer Real Estate Photography In Atlanta

Currently I service all areas of Atlanta and Metro Area. After 13 successful years in Florida my family and I moved to Atlanta, which has been our dream for a while. I also travel as far north as Canton, Milton, Alpharetta and even Chattanooga without additional trip charges. I’ll be happy to work on projects beyond Atlanta Metro, please request a quote. My services include Architectural Photography, Real Estate Photography, Twilight Photos, Real Estate Videos (Video Tours), Drone Photos and Video and Headshots.

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Why Have Professional Photos & Video For Non-Luxury Homes in Atlanta

Spend Your Marketing Dollars Smartly

Dining Area St Petersburg HomeI was just looking through listings online.  Majority of luxury real estate is featured with good photos and virtual tours.  Very few have home video tours.  The trend is picking up though, I get more and more orders for video alongside a photo-shoot.

To Go Pro Or Not, and Why

The sad part is that homes listed slightly below luxury level, say in the rage of 200k-450k almost never have a video tour.  Quite often even the photos are not professionally done.  There could be many reasons for that: the home is not showcase worthy, needs updating or the real estate agent doesn’t believe spending money on professional photography is required for a successful sale.  All are legitimate reasons (but if you are just being cheap – that’s not cool).

I believe, however, most agents should try and discuss with the owner bringing the home to a showcase state.  Often the sellers just don’t know how, they need some guidance.  Rarely will the sellers turn down an offer to help stage their home, or decline advice on quick updates.

Master Bath home in St PeteYes, sometimes good photos are good enough.  Even if you take them with your iPhone or Android, as long as you know a little bit about taking real estate picture, such photos will be ok for, say, a bank-owned property, or a home where staging or repairing is not feasible or in case of any other distressed or high-risk situation.  Though, good photos, videos and blogging can help you generate leads, but that’s a story for a different post.

Inventory is still low but, if you haven’t noticed, the sales have slowed down just a little in the past few month.  It’s normal, the market will fluctuate.  Yet, you have to remain steady and competitive with your marketing and avoid slacking when times are good!  You can’t afford to cut your marketing dollar just because.  Let me give 3 reasons why professional photos and videos matter during any time:

1) They make your SELLER look good.

Will neighbors Google your listing address to see how much it is? Do they want to see what it looks like inside? Yes and yes!

2) They will make YOU look good.

You have to think beyond one sale. Every listing is a door to a few more. Your listings online are like your business cards, they are also your reputation, what people can expect working with you. Will the potential clients check out your other listings? Will they want to know a little about your marketing plan? Yes and yes!

3) They will bring you BUYERS.

Because buyer not only shop with their wallet, they also shop with their heart, with their feelings. Buyers love to connect with their future home. What could be easier than helping them do it with photos full of character and a video that perhaps will make them smile and then click “Contact Listing Agent”?

Spending Smartly

I’ve filmed a few home video tours of homes that are not considered to be in the luxury or high-end category, yet they also deserved a well-made presentation.  The sellers and the listing agents were happy to have these extra marketing tools.  Smaller homes take less time for video and photos, bringing the cost of the shoot down too.  Providing the luxury level services when selling mid-end properties will pay off in the end.  Why?  Because such marketing services are affordable and sought after by your clients.  Spend your marketing dollars smartly.