Rockin' the House

We have talked before about using small-flash lighting to improve your interior shots. The very first On Assignment was about using a single, off-camera flash to totally amp an interior shot. We also did an OA using three flashes to sculpt a large interior with light.

There was also a unit on interior photography in last summer's Lighting Boot Camp: Assignment | Results

But many of you are way past the Boot Camp stuff now. In fact, several Strobist readers are even doing high-end real estate photography as a primary or supplementary income source.

Take, for example, long-time reader Scott Hargis, whose shot is featured above. He was featured on the site Photography for Real Estate. In the article, he walks you through the small-flash lighting techniques he uses to get such nice stuff with just a few small flashes.

And nice stuff it is -- you can see more of Scott's recent stuff here.

All it takes is a look through your Sunday paper to see the steaming pile of utter crap that passes for typical real estate photography in most areas. I'd think there would be a market just about anywhere for a light-savvy, enterprising young off-camera flasher. (Maybe not if you are in Scott's neck of the woods in San Francisco. He's knocking the cover off of the ball.)

Not to say that there are not hurdles involved. There is a great discussion over on the Flickr threads about how best to educate clients that the good stuff is worth more than the steaming crap. All the usual suspects are showing up: Quality, perceived quality, money, psychology, "days on market," etc. Interesting read.

Last but not least, there is also a Real Estate Photography group on Flickr. Worth reading, whether you are doing this as a career or just wanting to improve your interior shots a bit. You can share advice with people about shooting interiors, whether for Real Estate purposes or not.

Are you using small flashes off-camera for real-estate photography? Post a link in the comments to show us your stuff.


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Anonymous Mad Jack Murphy said...

I'm UK based and RE photography is my primary source of income, great to see Scott and the Real Estate Photography group getting a mention here.

One of my recent shots ;-)

I'd strongly advise dropping into the duscussion board if anyone wants any advice on this line of work as it's an absolute goldmine of useful experience from some guys at the top of their game.

July 27, 2007 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost had one of these real estate photography jobs. A guy here in Kalamazoo MI was looking for help because he was getting to busy. I went for a very casual interview and met this fella who did this full time. We talked for a while and I got really excited about the job.(except for the driving long distances). I thought to myself that I could take some sweet shots with my strobist education.

I ended up not getting the job. I was so dissapointed because I knew that I could do some amazing shots with what I had learned from strobist. I crop and tone real estate photos all day at my job at the local newspaper and they SUCK!!!! Anyone could do better than a lot of these real estate photographs. Maybe that's why nobody can sell their house around here. That could be me getting my 1.1"x .57" photos in the paper every day. You would need a telescope to see my photos but it would have been nice.

July 27, 2007 12:27 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

I used to do R/E photography half a lifetime ago, it seems. I did static external shots for pulp ads and virtual tours later on.

There is a broad range of service there. There's the low end where I started (flat-rate pulp ads), where most clients opted for B&W images cause they could save a couple bucks right up to magazine quality like what Scott shoots. I wasn't in sales but you can't sell high-end to a majority of clients in that business.

It's easy to say that most of it is steaming crap - I'm not saying otherwise - but many many agents will only pay crap dollars.


July 27, 2007 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Smith said...

Damn it David, that's twice in as many days that you've posted a link on your blog just before I was going to post it on mine! Yesterday the Vanity Fair covers, now Scott's work :-)

By the way I didn't see a link to his Flickr stream...?

Scott's work really is quite special. I've been doing a small amount of real estate photography myself recently and at first I thought the secret weapon would be HDR exposure blending. But with one or two exceptions I've gone off HDR already. I much prefer the natural look that Scott produces. Good of you to highlight his work.

ps. Nice shot Jack Murphy :-)

July 27, 2007 1:59 PM  
Blogger David said...


You are not looking to work for someone else, turning out stuff a trained monkey can do. The idea is to work for yourself and aim at the high end of the local market.


Agreed. I would concentrate on hooking up with the most successful agent in town at the high end, charging a decent rate, and possibly not getting paid until the house sells (and everyone gets paid.)

The goal would be to move more expensive houses faster by having premium photography for people viewing houses on the web. The commish on a $1MM house for the listing agent is into five figures, so not having to pay until the house sells could be a nice incentive. And it backs up your position that houses with better pix will sell faster.

July 27, 2007 2:04 PM  
Blogger carlos said...

I thought Scott was somewhere on the left coast (San Fran?).

There's one rule when working with Real Estate agents..... get paid up front.

I partnered with a guy to produce a weekly RE mag and it went bust because he kept cutting deals contingent upon sale or some money now, more later, etc. and the agents, with very few exceptions, just left us out to dry.

The ones that we consistently counted on were the heavy hitters. They hired their own photographers because they didn't trust just anyone to do the shots (most of our images were supplied by the agent or taken with an instamatic by my partner - yeah, it was pre-digital, pre-strobist, pre-historic.....).

These are the guys that recognize a good photo will bring in serious buyers better than the inflated descriptions that all agents use to make a shack sound like a mansion. They don't buy the newsprint ads in the middle of the magazines, but opt for the covers - front and/or back. They produce their own slick, magazine-style, multi-page brochures (sometimes just for one property) and they pay up front.

That's your market if you're a strobist. Otherwise you're just shooting front elevations for pennies.

July 27, 2007 2:28 PM  
Blogger David said...

Carlos- Thanks for the catch. I transposed the area code on the Google search. And in your honor, no more comments in a separate window. Didn't know it was a problem.


July 27, 2007 3:17 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

David, Thanks for putting up the link to the discussion. I do have examples of a room with one light vs 3 on my stream if your interested, Larry used them in an article a couple of weeks ago and I don't mind. I just noticed that you asked for comparisons on the thread.

As always, you rock.


July 27, 2007 5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The townhouse I was renting was put on the market during the peak of the bubble. Having lived there, I'd have estimated its value at $150k. They put it on the market at $225k with a very poor quality image of the front of the unit *next* to it up on the sales page (the units looked very similar and with the poor image quality it was hard to tell they had the wrong one). They got their price. This might be part of the challenge to selling the better photo product - office managers / agents might figure they don't need it to sell in the current market. If/when the bubble bursts, it might become more valuable to them.

July 27, 2007 7:12 PM  

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