There’s plenty of future photographers out there…but one of the lesser spoken avenues of it is that of real estate photography. So here we go…
FN: Well firstly, why do real estate photos make houses look bigger online than they do in person? It’s so frustrating!!
Simon Dobson (SD): Haha – everyone hates me because of this! So basically when you use a wide-angle lense…how the distortion of the lense works is that the further an object is away – the smaller it is, and then the closer it is, the larger it looks- so when you put walls close to the lense – the far side of the room distorts and looks a lot further than it is. So that’s the little trick. We’ve all been victim to believing the shoebox is actually a spacious property – even me!
FN: So tell us a bit about what you do
SD: I run a real estate marketing business in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs – and generally the bulk of it is real estate photography. We work for agents so the vendor (the person who owns the property) of the property will choose their agency/agent, and then the agency gets us to do the photography and the shooting of the property.
FN: How did you get into the real estate side of photography?
SD: The big reason I landed in real estate photography was having a product and business (Open2view) behind me so I wasn’t just another freelance guy with a camera. I was a photography ‘hobbiest’ and I finally started doing photography full time when I saw an ad for a job in real estate. I knew that I wanted to do something in photography and it came to be that my way in was through real estate, but I love all aspects of photography – I do the odd wedding, events, portrait, maternity, new-born photography, couples – I love landscapes and doing long exposure photography also.
FN: Do you need formal study to become a photographer?
SD: I have no formal training myself really – I just did research hear and there about photography when I was doing it as a hobby and learnt the ins and the outs out it, and then I bought a more ‘serious’ SLR camera and learnt how to use all the settings. So I went on a few day courses (there’s lots of these kinds of courses you’ll be able to find around you) – and then the rest of it is just self training.
FN: Are there any programs you recommend someone who’s looking to get into photography should learn?
SD: Yeah – so these days, iPhones can take a great photo and that’s essentially a faster version of what Adobe LightRoom can do, but I think to really accelerate your learning and understand everything, I made sure I learnt about the aspects of shooting first and how to get the result I wanted in a camera. For me, that was very important. The graphic design and post production side of things – I learnt that later,
but basically YouTube is the photographer’s classroom for many things, be it how to use your camera or how to edit in Adobe LightRoom or Photoshop. There are so many talented photographers who are willing to share how they do things.
FN: For someone looking to get into real estate photography – where do they start?
SD: There are all kinds of avenues. If you have a real pull towards property and architecture style photography then generally people would be more than happy to give you work experience opportunities and share their knowledge – so just reach out to people.
FN: What do you love most about what you do?
SD: I love that every house is different and that every house is styled differently – some definitely better than others! I really enjoy getting different angles, different shots and different compositions of different rooms and properties.
FN: Is that hard when you have to shoot a place that doesn’t have the best styling?
SD: Yeah it happens more often than you think.
Sometimes people will think, “yeah this is fine” – but it looks like a bomb has hit it. Anyone can take a good photo of a good subject, but trying to take a good photo of a bad subject is really challenging. You also want to minimise the time you spend in Photoshop removing things from shots.
It can also be hard when what you see as a good shot – it’s not always what someone else will see as a good shot. So it’s about trying to compromise and communicate how best to capture that particular property.
FN: Is there anything you would have done differently if you had your time again?
SD: I think I would have invested money in better gear from the beginning – better lenses especially! Lenses are everything as far as image quality goes.
It’s worth investing more in your equipment. What I would expect to come out of the camera, sometimes wouldn’t – sometimes it was my skills that were to blame, but sometimes it was the limitations of the equipment I was shooting with.
And practice, practice, practice! Get to know your equipment inside and out – delve into every aspect of your camera and get to know the lenses, the flashes, etc.
Keen on real estate photography? Or perhaps you want to hear from a wedding photographer? We asked one nine questions.