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.
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TwoSixPix philosophies, tips and tricks, and just a little peek into who I am behind the camera.