To Art Or Not To Art
Some people would say that real estate photos live a very utilitarian life, usually quite short and with an almost depressing singularity of purpose. Get people to notice the house. Get people to see that it is a nice house. Give them an idea of what type of house it is, and finally play a role in having them see the house.
As a photographer and an artist first and foremost, I would like to think that these pictures also play a role in showing people a home, not just a structure, and showing it to them through their heart's eye. Not just conveying information but conveying a feeling that will hopefully be the one they feel when they think of the word "home".
As such, I firmly believe that a listing should include photos beyond just: "these are the rooms, this is the front of the house, this is the backyard, shed, pool, what have you".
I think that homes have a character, a personality, a spirit. This is most obvious in older homes: the brass door knob, smoothed by thousands of turns by hundreds of hands over the years! The skeleton key that opens all the old locks in a house. A room that just begs for a piano, or a painters easel - even if they are not pieces that are included with the sale of the property, they speak to the home's character and spirit.
Perhaps a statuette in the back yard, or an old, old tree. Maybe it's a unique piece of trim, a banister lovingly worn to a satin beauty by the people who leaned on it, in good times and in bad.
I think all these things are important, that they're special, that they're something that speaks to us on a level beyond utility and practicality. And I think it is never time wasted taking these pictures, as I don't think it is time or money wasted to include them among the listing photos.
Perhaps I am just a sap. Maybe I am the one who "doesn't get it". But I really think human beings respond to that aspect of making a decision about their greatest single expenditure. And I think it would be foolish to overlook that.
A Gem In North Oshawa and Welcoming a New Client! 2307 Bridle Road, Oshawa - Enjoy!
I had the pleasure of working with Errol Lewis from The Red Pin Brokerage on a property in North Oshawa, located at 2307 Bridle Road. The home is a really spacious, well laid-out house with plenty of room and amenities, and it really conveys the warmth of its owners. I believe that people infuse their homes with their spirit, and the owners here are such warm, wonderful people that I just know the house will be a great place for the family who chooses to make it their new home!
The North Oshawa location of this home is really a home-run from every perspective: it is close to the amenities of the city, schools, shopping (only minutes from down-town) yet it is literally a five minute drive from the country! What is really unique here is that despite this, the house is really easy to access with connections to the 401, the 407 and all majour arteries being conveniently close at hand! You really can have it both ways with this home!
The house itself is spacious, airy and bright and filled with all the modern conveniences, such as an upstairs laundry and multiple bathrooms, all tastefully finished - as is the large basement. The pride of ownership really shows here!
Privacy and Tranquility in the Northumberland Hills - 10869 County Road 9, Roseneath, Ontario - Cobourg Area Real Estate Photography
Best of both worlds in the Northumberland Hills?
You guys remember the line from the Batman movie? The one where The Joker says: "Where does he get all those wonderful toys?!"
Well, sometimes I feel like that when Kelly Welton of Coldwell Banker in Cobourg calls me for a shoot of one of her listings. They are always unique, always special in one or more ways and make me think: "I didn't even know that was possible here!"
This listing is no exception and that's why I wanted to share some of my excitement. The property is only 15 minutes North of Cobourg with all of its amenities and conveniences, literally surrounded by endless, protected forests with riding and hiking trails, and a hat's throw away from Rice Lake! Its situated on 12+ acres of beautiful land with interesting topography, allowing for complete privacy yet providing gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside from just about every window in the house.
And then there is the house! A wrap-around, covered porch surrounds the pretty, character filled building sitting on its own hill, like a castle of old, surrounded by mature trees ensuring complete privacy. Even in the barren, snow-less February we have been enjoying this year, you can not see the house from the road or the surrounding properties. Yet, in 15 minutes you're in Cobourg, with all the city stuff you may need! Unbelievable!
But we were supposed to talk about the house. At first glance you'd think this place was somewhat old timey, it certainly has that look - yet the inside greets you with huge vaulted ceilings, anchored by a beautiful, two sided stone fireplace that is the centre piece of the main floor. The entire back wall of the house is pretty much one giant bank of windows overlooking the vistas of the rolling hills and huge patio with a sitting area. During the day this place embodies the words "airy" and "bright".
The current owners have lent their excellent taste to decorating the place in a simple, elegant and tasteful, yet inviting and comfortable, fashion. They're wonderful people and that quality carries over to every detail of their house. It simply feels like home, like a place you want to spend time: from your morning coffee on a summer morning, to a cup of hot chocolate to wrap up a full day of winter adventures. Its one of those places you can immediately see yourself in, feeling at home and just enjoying all that it has to offer.
Once again, Kelly brings a unique gem to the market, that makes me wonder how does she do it?! Give her a call with any questions you may have.
I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed making them!
In the previous post in this series I talked to you briefly about Ultra Wide Angle Lenses and how they are a necessary tool in an architectural or real estate photographer's repertoire, but cautioned about the way these technical terms are used by some less than scrupulous photographers to advertise their services. They often use these terms to make it seem like they have something in their arsenal that others don't, or can't be bothered to use, and further more, like that item is not only necessary, but the very difference between bad photos and good ones.
This time around I would like to tackle my personal favorite: HDR.
HDR stands for "high dynamic range". What is that? Well, it's basically a way to show, in one photograph, more than the camera is capable of capturing in a single exposure.
Lets put it this way - cameras can only see a certain range of light and shadow at any given setting. If everything is evenly lit, all it takes is the right exposure and you have a perfectly competent image.
Problem is, interiors are almost never evenly lit. The sun, even when its behind clouds, is immensely powerful. Room lights are no match for what the sun pumps into a room through the windows, even on a cloudy day. The camera can capture the light levels from the windows - but then the rest of the room will be a black hole. Or, it can expose for the room, but the windows will be a nuclear bomb-like explosion of light, obliterating any kind of details in or around them.
Also, rooms are not usually very friendly to light - half walls, door ways, large furniture, dark paint, or simply the fact that one part of the room is further from the window than the other - all add more challenges for the camera to deal with.
Remember, the camera has a "dynamic range", and you can move that range left or right, but you can't make it bigger. Expose for the dark parts - the light parts will be what photographers aptly call "blown out". Do the opposite, and the shadows will swallow the room, every corner a horror film set of gloomy, inky darkness.
Contrary to popular belief, our eyes do the same thing - thankfully our brains compensate for that. Our brains "adjust the exposure", and interpret what the eye sees, often piecing together information from various openings of our pupils. This is seamless to us, our brains do this automatically and we don't even realize they are doing it. We just see the world around us in a way that makes sense to us - not how it is actually physically lit.
In essence, HDR is a way of getting a camera (or more often a computer back at the office) to do exactly what our brains do.
An HDR photo consists of several exposures (shots if you will) of the same exact scene, but each one with different settings: one that makes the dark areas look great, one that makes the medium areas look perfect and one that tackles those pesky highlights - the really bright parts of a scene.
After this is done, these images are fed into a computer which combines them, using some very complex algorithms, into one picture where everything is (theoretically) evenly lit. In theory, this produces a perfectly exposed picture without eye-gouging highlights or pit of despair shadows.
In theory, communism works really well, too.
Yet many photographers out there advertise that they use HDR as though it was a magic bullet, had no faults and anyone not using it is selling you short.
This is simply not true, for several reasons:
Now, I know I seem very negative towards HDR, and the fact is, I don't believe it to be the best way to produce a quality image. For decades - long before computers and digital imaging - photographers have taken wonderful architectural and interior images. They used lighting and knowledge of their craft. But, it is not HDR itself that bothers me the most. As with the previous post on this theme, it's the lack of honesty that bothers me. It is taking your clients for people of questionable knowledge, and of course, exploiting the fact that they are not, one and each, a photography expert. It's pulling wool over your client's eyes, a smoke and mirrors show. It's the attempt to razzle-dazzle your clients with terminology you hope they won't understand in order to make yourself look somehow more special. I can't stand that and I would never treat my clients this way because it is not how I would like to be treated.
And to wrap this up, here is the final bit of "dirt" on HDR: it is advertised as a magic bullet without which good interior photos could not be achieved, something special for which you should feel lucky you're not being charged extra. In fact, it's the quick and dirty way to do things. It allows just about anyone to "set and forget" their camera to fire off several frames at different exposures, and then a computer to mangle those images into the final product, quickly and with a minimum of effort or skill on the photographer's part (and trust me, it shows!). Yet it is sold as something special that you, the client should be impressed with.
And in the end, serious photographers with skill, talent and experience actually have a slang term for HDR: they call it
I know, its less than tasteful, but very descriptive. Steer clear of photographers who advertise their gear or their magical computer software instead of their skills and talent, customer service and dedication. The photographs should speak for themselves and the latter two items should be apparent from the first time you speak to the photographer you're considering.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
And how does that apply to real estate photography? As in any type of photography there are trends, and of course there are competitive individuals trying to convince potential clients why they should hire them and not the next guy. There are two items that particularly stand out: Ultra Wide Angle Lenses and HDR. HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is a subject that deserves its own post, and I will tackle it in a future instalment, but in the mean time lets have a look at the Ultra Wide Angle Lens.
What is an "Ultra Wide Angle Lens"? Well, its a fairly arbitrary designation for lenses with a very wide angle of view. There is no universal definition for what makes a lens "ultra", and even discussing what makes a lens "wide angle" is a discussion that gets into technical terms and subject matter that really should be of more concern for the photographer and not the people hiring a photographer. You simply shouldn't have to wonder "how?", that's what you're paying a photographer to do.
When you hire a plumber, you don't wonder what wrenches they own - you just need to know they're qualified, have a good reputation and will fix your plumbing. When you take your car to a mechanic, you trust that they will fix your car - what tools they own is irrelevant, you're paying for their expertise.
The same principle applies to photographers.
So how does this relate to "Ultra Wide Angle Lenses"? Well, in a couple of ways.
First of all, some would have you believe that the wider the lens, the better the photos. Your listing will magically look more spacious, and that one bedroom bachelor will appear like a penthouse loft, with enough room to play basketball indoors.
That's simply not true.
Using the widest lens available usually produces very distorted images. No one will be fooled into thinking the subjects are larger than they actually are, but they may very well be put off by the unrealistic proportions, the distorted shapes and uneven lighting. Just think, how many living rooms have you seen in listing photos that look like bowling alleys? The far wall appears like a tiny little square at the end of a long, distorted tunnel? Yup, that's an Ultra Wide Angle Lens, used improperly.
How often do you see a kitchen with a fridge that appears to be 10 feet wide, while the sink at the far end of the space looks like its not big enough to be a cat's water dish? Again, an Ultra Wide Angle Lens, used improperly.
How about that football-shaped clock on the wall? You know its actually circular, but its so distorted it makes the whole room appear like its being viewed through a fun house mirror.
These are the common issues I see, very frequently, in real estate listing photos taken by supposed professionals.
Your client's are not stupid, they know when something doesn't look right. Furthermore, human beings are very visually stimulated creatures, even if we can't quite figure out what is wrong with a picture, we are still put off by an overwhelming sense that something isn't right.
Basically, yes - an architectural photographer will own one or several wide and ultra-wide angle lenses. There are situations where those tools are indispensable. There are photos that simply could not be made without the unique abilities of those tools.
But just as important as knowing that, is knowing when and how to use them properly. That's the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
A distorted, poorly composed photograph is a tomato in a fruit salad.
I firmly believe that a photographer is hired to produce an image that can be used by his or her client to accomplish a task - weather its a portrait or a set of real estate listing photos. The photographer will have a portfolio of their work, and based on that, a client can determine weather or not the photographer's work meets their needs, their standards. A photographer should be open to dialogue, should be able to readily propose a plan of how they intend to serve their client's needs and be ready to answer any questions the client may have. That's what a professional does. Saying "hire me, because I bought this super-duper expensive lens and use industry jargon no one understands in hopes of impressing you" is pretty laughable, its insulting to the client's intelligence and its border-line dishonest.
Beauty and Character: 56 Millstream Lane, Hampton, Ontario Real Estate Photography
Had the pleasure to photograph a beautiful 145 year old home in the hamlet of Hampton (Durham Region, North of Bowmanville/Oshawa).
First things first, it's always a pleasure to work for a consummate professional like Kelly Welton of Coldwell Banker in Cobourg, Ontario. Kelly is a real pro, but even more importantly a wonderful, caring human being.
The owner did an exceptional job with this home - she has exquisite taste and it shows in every detail. The house is fresh and bright, it's inviting and has all the modern amenities, yet its character and history is wonderfully preserved and showcased. Bravo.
Located on a gorgeous piece of land, bordered by a large pond, this property is nestled in a quiet corner of this already quaint, historic community. Have a look at some of the photos:
Almost the entire East edge of the property backs on this beautiful, historic pond (its called Millstream lane for a reason - it's not one of those new fangled, computer-generated subdivision street names - there was a stream, and a mill in this area many years ago). That's approximately 400 feet of this beautiful piece of nature providing you beauty and privacy!
This property is truly a hidden gem. I think anyone who walks in the front door and has one look at the close to one acre of beautiful property nestled between a quiet, tree lined lane and this gorgeous pond will immediately feel at home. This place is more than a house and it was a pleasure to photograph.
TwoSixPix philosophies, tips and tricks, and just a little peek into who I am behind the camera.