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Thread: Questions about getting into Real Estate/Commercial Architectural Photography

  1. #1
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    Questions about getting into Real Estate/Commercial Architectural Photography

    I've been thinking about getting into real estate photography as a side project to school (hopefully to fund a 5D MKII or MKIII purchase ). I'm very interested in producing magazine quality finishes with my photography and it's always the goal. I don't have much experience with architecture though.

    The gear I have to work with right now is:

    Canon 40D
    EF 70-200 f4L non-IS
    EF 50 f1.4

    I recognize the importance of a wide angle lens and tripods for this type of work so I have the follow gear slated for purchase:

    Wide angle lens: Canon 10-22 f3.5-4.5 (Wondering if anyone with experience in professional real estate photography could chime in.... would the 10-22 or 11-16 be better for most of the work? I saw the 11-16 lacked sufficient flare control but I'm not sure if this will be a big problem.)
    Tripod: Photo clam ball head PC40NS + Feisol CT3411T

    I have a few home owners who would be willing to help me build a portfolio to get me started.

    Do you guys have any tips/suggestions for the photography or the business? Comments/suggestions/tips about client interactions, methods of receiving payment, the market, and anything else business related is also appreciated

    Thanks bfc/p

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    subscribed.

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    You will get many varying opinions on this, but my advice has always been that if you are going to do something, do it right.

    Start off by coming up with a business name that you will operate under. License your business with the state, develop a brand, and build a website. Once you have all of these things taken care of, you can begin to market yourself as a professional service provider.

    You will legally be able to receive payments in any method you like and you won't have to worry about the IRS coming after you, wondering where all of your cash payments are coming from. (Assuming you pay your taxes, of course.)

    As far as equipment is concerned, I would recommend getting the highest-end wide angle that you can afford. The 17-40mm f/4.0 is fantastic, as is the 14mm f/2.8. Yes, these lenses are pricey (not so much with the 17-40), but they are worth their weight in gold when shooting architecture. Image quality and sharpness in particular are key when shooting and processing architecture. The less expensive lenses will not be as sharp and as color-true as their more expensive counterparts.

    Also, unlike a lot of other subject, resolution is your friend when it comes to architecture. It doesn't matter as much for weddings, photojournalism or fine art, but with it's key for architecture and product photography. You want to be able to get as much pixel detail out of your shots as possible, and having 18+ megapixels helps big time.

    The last thing I would HIGHLY recommend as far as equipment is concerned is a geared tripod head. The LAST thing you want for architecture is a ball head. They are damned near impossible to level. Once you shoot with a gear-head, you will never buy another kind of tripod head again. They are incredibly precise and amazingly easy to dial in your levels. You don't want to be loosening, adjusting, tightening, loosening, adjusting, tightening... 15 times before you can even take the shot. Trust me on this one and don't look back. (I recommend the Manfrotto 410 Junior Gear Head. It's about $220 from B&H and worth every penny. Just make sure your legs are up to the task, as it's a very heavy head. Add the weight of your body and lens and you need legs that support at least 20lbs.)

    When shooting and processing architecture, it's extremely important that you watch for color casts, mixed-lighting environments, and distracting visual elements within the scene. Staging the room before you shoot it is every bit as important, if not more important than you actual lighting and shooting techniques. Spend a bit of time studying successful architectural photographers and get a handle on how they stage rooms. A lot of staging involved cheating the angles so they look right through the viewfinder, even if it seems awkward in real life.

    There is no "do this and you'll be successful" in photography. It is all about how you interpret the scene that you are shooting and how you choose to represent it in photographic form. How you define your style and your images is how you will be viewed. Some people will like your work and your style, others won't. Don't be discouraged if it takes you a little while to build a client base. It doesn't happen overnight. My advice would be to start small. Reach out to local real-estate agencies and offer to shoot a couple of properties for them for free. Show them that your work is good-quality (assuming that it is), and then work out a per-property price to start shooting their properties for them.

    Half of the battle will be convincing realtors, builders, contractors, etc. that it is worth the money to have someone else shoot their properties for them. In this day and age, every Joe Schmoe with a 14 megapixel point and shoot or an iPhone 4 is a "professional". It's your job to show them that your work will blow that out of the water and help them sell properties. How you choose to prove this to them is up to you. (I can't give you all the secrets...)

    Anyway, best of luck, and keep us updated with how things are progressing. If I can do anything to help along the way, don't hesitate to PM me or post up in this thread and I'll try to get back to you. There a thousand and one nuances to shooting architecture, especially when it comes to composition, lighting and post-processing. I am not going to attempt to break every thing down, but if you have any specific questions, I am happy to help.
    Last edited by raceMpower95; 04-26-2011 at 10:24 PM.

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    ^ Photo section MVP right here.

    l

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    Thanks for the help so far, raceMpower. I'll certainly need help along the way. . It's now time to get to work on the legal stuff, gear purchases, and skillset/portfolio building.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SC David View Post
    ^ Photo section MVP right here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stealthyfish View Post
    Thanks for the help so far, raceMpower. I'll certainly need help along the way. . It's now time to get to work on the legal stuff, gear purchases, and skillset/portfolio building.
    It's no problem, I enjoy helping other people explore their passions, especially when they're trying to find a way to make some money with it!

    Let me know if there is anything else I can do.

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    raceMpower pretty much covered it! tilt shift is essential down the line, as is adequate lighting and post knowledge, but those come later. very good post above!

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    I believe in this case, a wide angle will be your main lens. I see that raceMpower recommended the 17-40....this is a great lens but it won't be wide enough on a crop sensor camera.

    If you're talking about the Tokina 11-16mm, then that is a great lens. I wouldn't worry about flare since you'll be concentrating more on interior shots. The 2.8 aperture is nice too if you need the speed for low light, but I assume you'll be shooting with a tripod anyways, so that shouldn't be a big factor.

    The 10-22mm is great too, and gives you more range on both ends.

    I'd also like to recommend the Sigma 8-16mm. I actually own this lens. I love it. Really wide. AND, the distortion is real minimal on the wide end. This doesn't give you a fisheye perspective.

    Just youtube Sigma 8-16mm review and check out the review by this guy with long hair in his living room. You'll be amazed by it.

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    I'm pretty sure Catseyeweb here does this. There is some special gear (360-view, etc.) that is popular now.

    From what I've heard, it is a tough, tough business, but most associated with photography seem to be.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by raceMpower95 View Post
    You will get many varying opinions on this, but my advice has always been that if you are going to do something, do it right.

    Start off by coming up with a business name that you will operate under. License your business with the state, develop a brand, and build a website. Once you have all of these things taken care of, you can begin to market yourself as a professional service provider.

    You will legally be able to receive payments in any method you like and you won't have to worry about the IRS coming after you, wondering where all of your cash payments are coming from. (Assuming you pay your taxes, of course.)

    As far as equipment is concerned, I would recommend getting the highest-end wide angle that you can afford. The 17-40mm f/4.0 is fantastic, as is the 14mm f/2.8. Yes, these lenses are pricey (not so much with the 17-40), but they are worth their weight in gold when shooting architecture. Image quality and sharpness in particular are key when shooting and processing architecture. The less expensive lenses will not be as sharp and as color-true as their more expensive counterparts.

    Also, unlike a lot of other subject, resolution is your friend when it comes to architecture. It doesn't matter as much for weddings, photojournalism or fine art, but with it's key for architecture and product photography. You want to be able to get as much pixel detail out of your shots as possible, and having 18+ megapixels helps big time.

    The last thing I would HIGHLY recommend as far as equipment is concerned is a geared tripod head. The LAST thing you want for architecture is a ball head. They are damned near impossible to level. Once you shoot with a gear-head, you will never buy another kind of tripod head again. They are incredibly precise and amazingly easy to dial in your levels. You don't want to be loosening, adjusting, tightening, loosening, adjusting, tightening... 15 times before you can even take the shot. Trust me on this one and don't look back. (I recommend the Manfrotto 410 Junior Gear Head. It's about $220 from B&H and worth every penny. Just make sure your legs are up to the task, as it's a very heavy head. Add the weight of your body and lens and you need legs that support at least 20lbs.)

    When shooting and processing architecture, it's extremely important that you watch for color casts, mixed-lighting environments, and distracting visual elements within the scene. Staging the room before you shoot it is every bit as important, if not more important than you actual lighting and shooting techniques. Spend a bit of time studying successful architectural photographers and get a handle on how they stage rooms. A lot of staging involved cheating the angles so they look right through the viewfinder, even if it seems awkward in real life.

    There is no "do this and you'll be successful" in photography. It is all about how you interpret the scene that you are shooting and how you choose to represent it in photographic form. How you define your style and your images is how you will be viewed. Some people will like your work and your style, others won't. Don't be discouraged if it takes you a little while to build a client base. It doesn't happen overnight. My advice would be to start small. Reach out to local real-estate agencies and offer to shoot a couple of properties for them for free. Show them that your work is good-quality (assuming that it is), and then work out a per-property price to start shooting their properties for them.

    Half of the battle will be convincing realtors, builders, contractors, etc. that it is worth the money to have someone else shoot their properties for them. In this day and age, every Joe Schmoe with a 14 megapixel point and shoot or an iPhone 4 is a "professional". It's your job to show them that your work will blow that out of the water and help them sell properties. How you choose to prove this to them is up to you. (I can't give you all the secrets...)

    Anyway, best of luck, and keep us updated with how things are progressing. If I can do anything to help along the way, don't hesitate to PM me or post up in this thread and I'll try to get back to you. There a thousand and one nuances to shooting architecture, especially when it comes to composition, lighting and post-processing. I am not going to attempt to break every thing down, but if you have any specific questions, I am happy to help.

    Great write up.


    Regarding the part in bold, do you consider that necessary for someone just getting started into architecture and landscapes? I recently bought a UWA with this in mind, I am very intrigued by it. But unlike the OP, I don't have any aspirations of getting paid for my photos. I'd prefer to buy something that will work for now, and then resell and buy something better later... older bogen/manfrotto combos sell for 125-175 on ebay all the time, and that is what I have been eyeing.

    Your thoughts?



    Also, tell Andrew whats up for me please.... I haven't seen him around in forever.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ///36M View Post
    Great write up.


    Regarding the part in bold, do you consider that necessary for someone just getting started into architecture and landscapes? I recently bought a UWA with this in mind, I am very intrigued by it. But unlike the OP, I don't have any aspirations of getting paid for my photos. I'd prefer to buy something that will work for now, and then resell and buy something better later... older bogen/manfrotto combos sell for 125-175 on ebay all the time, and that is what I have been eyeing.

    Your thoughts?



    Also, tell Andrew whats up for me please.... I haven't seen him around in forever.
    One of my best friends is a professional real estate photographer, and when I asked him about his thoughts on a geared head vs. a ball head, he basically told me this:

    - For him, a geared head is a must. His stuff is almost always HDR, and leveling the camera with a hot-shoe level for each angle was laborious and time consuming (neither good things when you're shooting anywhere from 5-25 houses a week), and he still often had to correct it a bit more in post to get it right on. Otherwise, he said he was fine with his ball head and a hot-shoe level to get pretty damn close and just correct to perfect in PP when he had the time to spare/just personal shooting.

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    The real estate market depends much on the visual representation of houses and apartments. Every realtor strives to show the property as effectively as possible in order to interest buyers. Taking such images can cause much headache when you only get into real estate photography.

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