Don’t worry, this isn’t an advertorial or some sort of tire-pumping exercise for my photographer.
But I talk a lot about the importance of professional photographs in real estate, and while my monthly “MLS Musings” blog posts highlight some of the laughable things we see on MLS, I want to show you something a bit more realistic, just to highlight, once again, how crucial A+ photos are in this market.
Two years ago, I used a new photographer to shoot a condo listing of mine, and the results were less than stellar.
Let’s compare the photos of the new photographer with those that I actually put on MLS, and all the while, don’t forget how many agents use their iPhone…
I believe in the true meaning of a “professional.”
In every sense of the word, in every field.
I remember when my grandmother died, and I insisted that my mother start going to her doctor regularly to test for dementia and Alzheimer’s. She went to her family doctor, explained that dementia ran in the family, and asked what she should do.
Her doctor of 25+ years simply looked at her and said, “You really need to get a good night’s sleep, every night, and watch your diet.” Then walked out, and moved on to the next patient.
Well, that was the end of that.
Within a month, I had my mother join our family clinic, which comes with a nominal annual fee, and while I know the Liberal government doesn’t want people who can afford to pay more, to have the option of paying more, well, we’re now getting more.
My mother immediately received cognitive/memory tests, early onset Alzheimer’s tests, as well as full physicals, like any 70-year-old should have. The standard of care is infinitely higher.
The old doctor’s office was just a factory. People in, people out. They were awful.
The new doctor’s office is exceptional. You receive a far better standard of care, from professionals, who leave no stone unturned, and produce the best results.
I go to a specialist for my back problems, and I’m blown away by his technique and the accompanying results, but also his level of knowledge. To be able to name every single muscle, tendon, ligament and bone in the body, and what they’re connected to, where the trigger points are, etc. It’s incredible.
I told him this last week, and he said rather humbly, “But everybody knows this. Every masseuse, or therapist.”
I told him that’s where he’s wrong. How many “licensed” RMT’s know all that he knows? Maybe 5%?
Look in any field, and see the results for yourselves.
And I mean any field. Who’d have thought that healthcare would be my example?
Auto mechanic, accountant, wealth manager, painter, dog-walker; no matter the industry, there are true professionals, who are the absolute best at what they do, and then there’s everybody else.
When it comes to real estate, I’d make the same argument.
And while I’m not talking about agents today, I do want to talk about one of the two most important services, that along with staging, come into play when listing a property for sale: photography.
Two years ago, I was approached by a new real estate photography company, that were promising big things.
They had a good name, a great site, and were booking clients.
I was very loyal to my regular photographer and his team, and I was always satisfied with their results.
But the new company were hounding me incessantly, and they had an innovative new software for their virtual tour that I wanted to see, so I figured I’d give them a shot.
Of course, I wasn’t stupid; I also booked my regular company, just in case these new guys didn’t pan out.
The results were astounding.
The photos from the new guys were decent, but they weren’t exceptional. And in this real estate market, I accept nothing less than exceptional.
I mentioned in the introduction that I often show you really brutal MLS photos in my regular “MLS Musings” feature, but that perhaps looking at A+ photos next to D- photos doesn’t really provide much insight. So what about looking at A+ photos next to B+ photos?
I think you all know what a crappy MLS photo looks like. Here’s one I just randomly pulled from MLS:
Sure, decent staging. But without a true professional photographer, this photo, assuming the Realtor with the iPhone gets a D-, would probably rank a C- at best.
So today, let’s try this comparison using my 2016 photos. We’ll look at at very similar, often side-by-side comparisons, of how two different “professional” photographers shot the same condo.
One note before I start – the photographer I’ve used for every shoot in 2017 and 2018 did not take the “exceptional” photos that I’m referencing below. As exceptional as these photos are, I’d be selling my regular photographer short if I didn’t differentiate, because his are even better. One of his colleagues did the 2016 shoot.
So without further adieu, let’s look at the B+ photos on the left, compared to the A+ photos on the right.
1) The Den
How do those look to you?
Similar? Almost identical?
That’s fine, they’re supposed to be. Keep in mind, I’m not looking for iPhone photos here. The photo on the left was taken by a professional, of a professionally-staged condo. But the photo on the right is better.
The photo on the right has better colour, more clarity, and if you look at the frosted-glass in front of the staircase, you’ll note there are no blurry, dark shadows, like in the photo on the right. Also note there’s no shadow on the hardwood flooring.
Here’s where you really start to see the difference.
First, look at the colour of the ceiling. Which one looks like the real thing? The one on the right, of course, which looks like the actual colour of an exposed concrete ceiling. The whole idea behind photography is you want to capture the “real thing,” but so often, the colours change behind the lens.
Second, look at the glass windows – they’re far more clear on the right. The eye, and the lens on the left, just couldn’t capture the way the windows actually looked.
Third, the photo on the left is showing the glass bannister, which I think is a mistake.
And lastly, I don’t like the angle of the first photo. It’s slightly crooked, and the photo on the right is perfectly straight, and at the right height as well.
3) Living Room
This is the set of photos that really starts to show the difference.
The colour and lighting on the left is just brutal.
The photo on the left captured the building outside the condo, and the sky, in a better light than the photo on the right. But that wasn’t the point! This is a feature shot of the entire main floor. The kitchen, dining, and living. The photo on the left makes the inside of the condo look like it’s taken at night!
It’s all about colour to me! Look at the red pillow on the terrace in the right photo, now look on the left. Say no more…
4) Living Room II
Look at the blue sky on the right, and look at the blurry, white windows on the left.
Look at the brown shades of the area-rug on the right, and look how they’re distorted to a purple-ish colour on the left.
The photo on the right, not to use a beer cliché, is simply “crisp.”
I also don’t like how the photo on the left shows a small portion of the dining table, in what is supposed to be a living room shot.
If there’s one mistake that most amateurs make in taking photos, it’s being crooked.
Look at the angle of the fridge on the left, and now compare it to the right. A good photographer knows where to stand, where to turn, how high to hold the camera, and at what angle.
All these photo sets show different flaws, but this one kitchen photo, taken from almost the identical spot, really shows how a “professional” photo can look bad, when up against a better one.
This is another photo taken at a very similar spot, although it’s important to point out that the black chair was removed for the second shoot.
Again, notice the angle at which the first photo is taken? And notice how the “straight-on” approach for the photo on the right works better? This is further demonstrated by the second level being cut off at an angle in the first photo.
7) Outdoor Space
If you really want to test a professional photographer, go outside.
Say what you want about the first six sets, but this one drives the point home without debate.
The angle, the colour, the clarity, and how about the blue sky in the second photo?
So there you have it, folks!
What a fun exercise! And this idea came to me randomly, since I had pretty much forgotten about these two sets of photos. But upon considering a blog about staging, I realized real estate photography was a topic I’ve never really covered on its own.
I don’t know what bothers me the most about bad photos, or to put a positive spin on it – impresses me the most about good photos: the colour, the clarity, the lighting, or the angles.
The angles drive me nuts. Photos #2, #4, #5, #6, and #7 are great examples of good and bad angles, and how they can dramatically change the look and feel of a photo.
Photo #7 is the best example of colour.
Photo #3 shows awful lighting.
And I think every photo shows good and bad clarity.
If any of you are amateur or professional photographers, I’d love to hear from you.