Outside the Frame: Lance Selgo of Unique Exposure Photography Dishes the Dirt on Shooting Real Estate

We at CandysDirt.com talk a lot about the importance of professional real estate photography, and we show a lot of lovelyphotographs every day.  Although we’ve been know to rock the boat when we show a home that is in less-than-stellar shape, we’re focused on showcasing Dallas homes, education, and selling real estate.

Recently the National Association of Realtors and Google collaborated on a report called Digital House Hunt that offers some impressive statistics that confirm what we’ve always thought: Professional photography is an essential part of the marketing package.

The report reveals that today’s home shopper is totally “plugged in” with 90 percent searching online and 89 percent using a mobile search engine. Google reports that real estate searches have grown 253 percent in four years.  So what are they seeing in those searches? Photographs of course. Those photographs are what make a potential buyer want to see the house. So we asked four of our Dallas real estate photographers to give us some of their insights.

The first photographer in our four-part series is Lance Selgo of Unique Exposure Photography. Check out what he has to say after the jump!

Lance SelgoCandysDirt.com: What is the biggest misconception sellers and Realtors have about hiring a professional photographer?

Lance Selgo:  Sellers and Realtors far too often think that because they are hiring a real estate photographer, they are also hiring a stager, interior designer, or decorator. Unfortunately that isn’t the case at all. I have the ability to capture angles of the home that will look pleasing, and I may pull a pillow off a sofa that’s right in front of me and sticking into the shot. I have absolutely no training, nor do I have the desire, to be a stager or designer. I simply do not know where things should be placed! When I arrive, I expect the home to be photo-ready so I can capture the angles that best suit what the stager did before me. A Realtor should not depend on a real estate photographer to perform staging duties as that is not what they are being paid to do, and, like me, they probably have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to that type of service.

CD: What is the most important shot and why?

Selgo: In my opinion it’s the first shot that is listed on the MLS. The majority of the time this is the front exterior photo. Some agents feature a great kitchen or even a pool as the first photo, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When buyers are looking at properties online, they are looking at a list of 10-20 that match their search criteria, and all they see is one thumbnail of each home. That thumbnail is the first shot that is listed on the MLS, so I think it’s the most important as that is the shot that is going to grab their attention and get them to dig deeper to see more.

CD: What is the least important shot and possibly the one to avoid at all costs?

Selgo: I think this depends on the property. Normally I don’t waste a photo on a laundry room, but a condo unit that has a washer/dryer when the neighboring ones do not might be of great importance compared to the average property. I keep noticing on MLS lately that photos are being wasted on hallways or stairs. Recently I shot a 3-story townhouse and the neighboring unit was for sale. The real estate photographer took a shot where the left half of the photo points down a hallway, and the right half points up carpeted stairs to the next floor. It offers no value whatsoever to the buyer, and instead is a wasted opportunity to feature something else in the property. For this reason, I would avoid that shot at all costs.

CD: How much alteration of a shot is acceptable? Greening the grass? Adding blue sky? Getting rid of cords? Are there quick fixes you can do if a client requests?  Where do you draw the line about representing a property?

Selgo: Alteration is a tough subject because the majority of people understand the term “Photoshop.” Quite a bit of alteration can be done to a photo, and some of it is quite easy! Speaking on behalf of my business only, and how I operate, I only alter the sky. Going back to “the most important shot” question, I think because the majority of agents utilize the front exterior photo as their first shot in the MLS, that shot should look great. In North Texas we expect blue skies and sunshine. The odds are high that even if it is cloudy out today, tomorrow it will most likely be sunny, so I have no issues with adjusting the sky. During the photo shoot it can be sunny with a blue sky out, but the front photo still results in a white sky because the sun is behind the property. I think buyers deserve to see the home how they expect it, with a blue sky instead of white, so I make that adjustment. I don’t green the grass because I know when the buyer goes to the property, they aren’t going to see green grass. Ethically it’s up to the agent and real estate photographer to decide what is an acceptable adjustment to a photo. If you want to see an example of too much alteration check out this link!

Unaltered sky

 

(Above: A white sky often means the sun is behind the property, but Lance Selgo of Unique Exposure Photography will add a little blue to the sky (below) to make the photo more attractive.)

 

Blue skies!

CD: What is the optimum height to shoot a room photo from? There seem to be lots of creative angles, wide angles, shots from the hip, literally,  these days. Are those helpful or a hindrance.?

Selgo: For the majority of shots, I shoot just above waist level. The #1 basic rule of real estate photography is that all vertical lines should be vertical. If you shoot too high you will be forced to point your camera down into the space, resulting in converging verticals and a poor photo. Some spaces like a kitchen require a higher shooting point because I personally don’t want to show the underside of the upper cabinets. In reference to wide angles, some real estate photographers are told to shoot as wide as possible. Shooting too wide can distort a space making it seem larger than it really is, and it also creates perspective inconsistencies between items in the space. Having 25 photos to showcase a home, I would rather shoot multiple angles of a space instead of resorting to inaccurate photos that potentially set the buyer up for disappointment when they come for a showing.

CD:  So we have 25 photos we can put on MLS. What if there are not 25 good shots? Do you shoot more angles of the same room? Add photos of the neighborhood?

Selgo: For small properties this can be difficult. Multiple angles of rooms is usually enough to get to 25. However photos of a nearby park or community center are also utilized if 25 of the property itself cannot be obtained.

CD:  Have you ever had to decline a shoot or walk away because a home was not ready?

Selgo: The decision to shoot a property is solely the responsibility of the agent. My clients understand that I shoot properties as-is. The majority of my clients utilize professional home stagers, so I generally do not run into situations where the property isn’t photo-ready. I have in the past taken photos of properties that were clearly not ready, but my client receives a kind reminder of my policies and that what they prepare for me to shoot, is how their end product will be delivered. With the majority of buyers starting their search online, I find most real estate agents understand the importance of great property photos, and they do a great job at having the home prepared before I arrive.

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