Don't hire a professional photographer
Now wait a minute here. This is a blog post from a professional photographer and the title is when to not hire a professional? One would expect a photographer to always want to be hired. In my early years of photography, I was hungry and I would photograph “anything” that someone asked. Even if it was something I was not particularly good at. I had a good camera and business cards that said I was a professional (more on this in a later post). Looking back, there were plenty of jobs I should have turned down. Okay, how does this apply to Real Estate Photography?
The point of hiring a professional photographer is to have great images to show off in the MLS and generate interest that leads to a showing. Though we have a number of homes we photograph every year that generate an offer from an out of area buyer and even complete the purchase, all based on the photography, this is not the norm. There are statistics throughout the Real Estate industry that detail the advantages of professional photography in terms of a higher selling price and less time on market, but what if you are listing a home that is not very desirable to look at. Okay, let’s not waste words here. Some homes are just …… well….. ugly. Sorry to be so blunt but it is true for some homes. You know the homes I am meaning. The disabled car (or two) in the driveway. The broken down travel trailer on the side of the home. The front yard, if you can call it that, where there is an assortment of broken down bikes, kids toys, a couple of building projects in process and more bare dirt than grass. A couple of broken windows, missing screens, an old A/C unit hanging from one window and a tv antenna laid to rest on the moss covered roof. We won’t even go into detail on the backyard with three dogs and the old rusty swing set. The interior is in keeping with what you saw out front. You don’t need me to detail the challenges here. You have seen this yourself.
Don’t misunderstand my motivation here. There is no judgement intended here. Just an observation of the visual facts. The residents of these homes maybe are just following the lead they had growing up. Or maybe there is an issue with disability. They have a need to sell their home and a right for representation for it to be listed and help them move to the next chapter of their lives. The point here is that hiring a professional photographer for these homes is not a good choice for your marketing dollars. There is no question that if hired, we would provide you with sharp, high resolution images of the lack of street appeal. Your target purchaser is either the investor who will clean it up, remodel and flip it or someone who lives in a similar situation and this is not out of the norm for their expectation. Neither scenario needs high quality photography.
Yes, I am even advocating taking out your cell phone and taking a street frontal view, the backyard and various interiors. Some pointers here would be shoot a long shot of the home from the street, as much away from the cars as you can. What you don’t show is just as important as what you do show. Try to find medium range shots of the exterior that have the least amount of “stuff” in the picture. Pay close attention to the foreground. Your pictures will likely be taken with a wide angle lens. That is the default for most all cell phone cameras. With wide angle lenses, what is in the foreground will loom large in the final image so keep it clear of negative elements. Find what positive elements you can and shoot close to them. For example, let’s say there is a wood stove in the home. Don’t shoot across the living room and show all the furniture, clothes, newspapers and toys strewn about. Come in close and show the wood stove and pretty well only the wood stove. Maybe don’t show the whole kitchen in one shot but clear off a bit of counter around the sink and show the sink and the view out the window. You may have to bend down a bit so you are looking a bit up and out the window so you don’t see the neighbors or backyard. In the laundry area, again, don’t show the whole room full of laundry, coats and shoes. Shoot closer to the washer and dryer to communicate that there are laundry hook ups as that is what is most important. The same holds true for the bedrooms. Try to pick out the lesser of the evils and shoot closer images. We will have a post coming soon with some tips and tricks for using your cell phone to get workable images for these kinds of listings.
For these homes, take your own photographs and use those marketing dollars to attract an investor.