Behind the camera: the art of property photography. - Unique Property Company

Behind the camera: the art of property photography.

You may have noticed when searching for a home that most estate agents’ photographs look the same. The photographer squeezes into a corner, turns on every light they can find, then uses a flash. In the middle of the day.

It’s a formula used across the country by almost every property photographer, resulting in distorted images, unnatural colouring and homes that look completely different in real life than in photos.

The only upside to the formula is that it’s cheap. High street agents are usually more cost-conscious than design-conscious, so they choose photographers based on how little they charge.

It’s how property photographers tempt agents away from their existing relationships. When offers like “10 photos and a floor plan for £99” come in, “we’ll take it” is a natural response. That’s about as deep as the interview or thought process goes: not exactly great value for sellers and landlords, but music to the ears of an estate agent’s accounts department.

Very simply, the best interiors photographers don’t specialise in estate agency photography. They’re not driven by knocking out as many images as they can in the shortest space of time, so if you’re selling a unique home, look for an agent who uses an architectural photographer to capture the true essence and value of your property.

There are many ways architectural photographers take a different approach from typical estate agency photos, so we thought we’d give you a snapshot of how our photos are taken to show you how much better things can be.

The ghostly flash

Flash photography is great for fashion shoots and studio work, because the environment is specifically created for the purpose.

But homes aren’t.

Nobody’s home – unique or otherwise – is set up as a photography studio, which makes using a flash less suitable and, for us, unwise.

Many of the unique homes we sell and rent are designed and furnished using rich colours and beautiful materials. Their intricate qualities are all-too-easily bleached or flattened when a flash goes off, and we’re looking to create more depth of tone, texture and character.

Our photographer replaces the flash by leaving the aperture on the camera lens open for longer. It’s a real skill to get it right, and our photos are all the better for it.

 

Lights out please

How often do you have all your lights on in the middle of the day? Probably never.

Turning all the lights on is basically the least-skilled way to take interior photos, which means it can be done cheaper. Unfortunately, it also leaves most property photography with a yellowy hue, spoiling all the love that went into choosing a room’s colour scheme and furnishings.

Natural light is the best foundation for interior photography, showing off all the rich texture of timber and exposed brickwork, the true tone of paint or wallpaper, and the reflective qualities of materials like glass and metal.

Angle and poise

Most of the photos we take emulate the angles that buyers are likely to see them from. It’s a powerful and proven part of marketing for them to feel instantly familiar with a space, as though they’d been there before. It gives people comfort and reassurance that the room they are standing in is just what they expected and hoped for.

Our photos are also taken head-on to windows, or following the line of walls to minimise distortion, which means we can get three walls into the shot instead of the usual two.

Cameras just aren’t as sophisticated as the human eye and they struggle when they’re crammed into a diagonal corner. You may have noticed how couches and tables often look weirdly stretched in so many estate agency photos – now you know why.

Of course, there’s also the strange penchant for pointing the camera towards the floor while standing on tiptoes – a staple of self-taken estate agency photography. Unbelievably, we still see this even on homes over a million pounds – what a lovely display of how much an estate agent cares about saving a few quid over getting the owner the best price!

Style and substance

Carex dispensers, Fairy liquid bottles, toothpaste tubes, remote controls and dangling cables – hop onto Rightmove or Zoopla and you’ll soon lose count of how many household products and mundane items find their way into property photos.

Are they seen as essential styling elements by the agents? Are they going entirely unnoticed? Or does the photographer simply not have time to stage each image when they need to hit their daily quota of shots?

Noticing the little things is what makes a big difference, and architectural interior photographers are trained in what to spot, what to keep and what to remove for a great photo.

It’s our view that your estate agent should as well.

Special secret skills

Pretty much every photograph taken from every camera and phone in the world is in 16:9 format. This works great on conventional homes, but once you hit double height spaces or particularly expansive ones, 16:9 often isn’t enough.

You can either take a portrait shot to emphasise the ceiling height, but you’ll only capture a fraction of the floorspace. Or you can take a landscape shot for a wider view, but the volume will get lost.

As we’ve said before, the camera is no match for the human eye, but a skilled architectural photographer has a nifty trick up their sleeve.

By taking two side-by-side photos of a room, they can stitch them together in Photoshop to capture almost as much as your eyes can take in, and elevating the photos of your home to the next level.

Last words

Typical estate agent photos are fine for conventional homes when buyers already know what they’re getting before they visit, or where there’s little of architectural interest.

But when it comes to selling unique homes, the conveyor-belt method of formulaic, quick and cheap photography is rarely up to the job.

To capture the true industrial nature of a warehouse apartment, the agricultural ambiance of a converted oast house or even the clean lines of a minimalist white interior, it’s architectural photographers who have the skills, passion and time to give you and your home the treatment you deserve.

If you have a unique property that you’re looking to sell or rent out, we’d love to show you how we can find you the perfect buyer or tenant, way beyond the typical high street audience.

Call us on 020 7917 9995 or drop us a line at [email protected] for a truly unique perspective.

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