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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.

Video

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.

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.

Virtual Tours and How To Use Them Correctly

When I shoot real estate in Atlanta agents often request a virtual tour.  I always suggest doing a full-motion video tour instead but virtual tours are still popular and they are less expensive than video tours. A virtual tour is an online slideshow often provided with background music and some property info.

Here are 6 observations I made in regards to virtual tours and things you need to be aware of when using virtual tours:

1) Quality. If you use crappy photos, you will have crappy tours. The quality is often reduced even further because some brokerages use automated virtual tour providers who pull the photos from MLS where they’ve already been reduced in size and quality.
2) Number of photos. If you are using an automated tour, all your clients will see is a slideshow of photos they have already seen. Offer value to your clients, edit your tours separately and add more high-quality photos to it.

3) Music is cheesy. It take only a couple minutes to login to your tour and change the music, don’t go for preset cheesy tracks. Some providers will allow you to upload your own song.

4) Load time. I’ve only found a handful of VT providers where photos load quickly and with good resolution. Most of the tours will be turned off before they load by the potential buyer.

5) Your listings go to Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia and other outlets. Check at least these 3, make sure your virtual tour link shows up.  Your virtual tour will not upload to Realtor.com automatically. VT vendor has to be approved by PicturePath and Realtor.com and they have to upload manually. Some big vendors who might have a contract with your broker are able to upload them from MLS to Realtor.com immediately but remember, login to your tour and upload high-rez photos. If your broker has such agreement with a vendor and you decide to use your own, the broker’s vendor’s tour will have priority and will show up on Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia – you have to make sure you place your own link on MLS and then update it on Realtor.com.
6) You can plug it in (embed it) VT tour vendors provide with HTML code of the tour, so you can copy/paste it on your blog easily. A little harder with social media, though. You can post a link on Facebook, for example, but it will open a new window when you click on it. It won’t play directly on your Facebook wall, like YouTube videos do. Facebook doesn’t like when people leave their site, so I can bet you that your exposure will be limited. Much better to post a photo or a video. Fortunately you can convert a virtual tour into a video format and host it on YouTube or Vimeo, though quality of images will be reduced.

If you stay aware of these details about virtual tours – you will get the most out of them. If you need a virtual tour provider or a real estate photographer in Atlanta and Metro Area,  text/call me at (727) 418-9016 and I’ll be glad to work with you.

How To Take Perfect Kitchen Shots

st-petersburg-kitchen-photoMost real estate agents in Atlanta will admit that updated kitchens and baths significantly increase the “sellability” of a home. Not only will it sell quicker but also for more money. We spend a lot of time cooking, eating and bathing. And having these activities in a nice, updated setting is simply a pleasure. Not to say that moving into a new home without the worries and thoughts of investing in updates is a positive thing for most home buyers.

As a real estate photographer in Atlanta and Metro Area I could add that the first introduction to a potential home is done via photos or video tour that clients find on Realtor.com, Zillow or Trulia. So when you have a new listing, will you make sure to showcase the important spaces correctly?

Kitchens are often small and require focus and good composition to present it properly.

Here are a few tips on how to take good kitchen shots

straight-on-kitchen-real-estate-photography-tampa-bay1) I personally love straight on shots with high focal length. Meaning try to avoid using extremely wide angle lenses when shooting a kitchen. The bigger the focal length the more realistic the photo will look. Of course add a couple corner shots too.
2) Level your camera with the bottom of the top cabinets or slightly higher. Nobody cares to see what the cabinets look like underneath. Taking a shot from your belly hight might be appropriate for a living room but not for a kitchen.
st-pete-fl-kitchen-photography3) You are selling counter space, so remove most of the objects from the counters, even coffee makers and toasters. Trust me, the kitchen will look more spacious and easy for an eye to take in.
4) Got cabinet lights? Turn them on. Microwave light? Turn it on.
st-petersburg-real-estate-photo5) A small vase with flowers can work nicely, just make sure you don’t block anything important with it. You could also look in your fridge, find some fruit and place them in a bowl on your island or counter.

The rest is your technical skills with camera settings and lighting. It’s all in your hands from here on!  To get more ideas on how to take good kitchen photos visit my Kitchen Shots album on Flickr.

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.