This is a photography article without photos.
Imagine that. It's true, we live in a visual world these days so take yourself back to the days of professional journals when written words made the point!
Much of my adult life I have had a passion for photography. I started shooting with a simple 35mm camera in my early 20s before digitals hit it big. I still have a handful of treasured panoramic prints from that 35mm in my collection. It was a rudimentary camera at best, but it got the job done for a guy on a limited budget. Later, I upgraded to a pocket size digital, then a simple DSLR, and now the mid-range DSLR which has served me well for years.
Looking back at my small list of equipment, I can confidentially say that the photos I take today are better than photos I took in my early 20s with the 35mm. Now, if I stop there, you'll nod your head as you read this and say to yourself "sure you do Paul, cameras have come a long way in the last 15 years".
Your response would be partially right, yet partially wrong.
As a photographer and appreciator of America's National Parks, I have always loved the work of Ansel Adams. I once read about an exchange between Ansel and writer Ernest Hemingway. Whether there is full truth in this exchange, I can't verify, but it drives home a point.
Hemingway: "Mr. Adams, you take the most amazing photos. What kind of camera do you use?"
Adams (frowning): "You write the most amazing stories. What kind of typewriter do you use?"
Now, going back to the first paragraph of this article you may realize why I pointed out that your response may have been partially wrong. Equipment doesn't bring glory to a photographer's work, but a photographer can easily bring glory to a company's attempt to market their equipment.
Think about it.
If you have ever bought a DSLR camera for yourself, or for someone else as a gift, did you look at the sample photos on Nikon's or Canon's website and see it filled with sub-par photos of a family dog or an over-exposed sunset? Nope, what you saw were professional photos which were no doubt shot with the camera in question, but they weren't shots taken by someone who pressed a shutter release for the first time last week.
Now, I'll bring it home with real and personal story.
I was asked to speak at a luncheon for one of the main realtor associations in the Chicago area a couple of years ago. I spent 15-20 minutes providing an overview of the benefits of utilizing a professional photographer for listing photos. I showed slides of differences between my own photos and point-and-shoot photos done by agents, talked about statistics linking professional photos to lower days on the market and higher sales prices, and talked about why a professional is better suited to help market a home in today's electronic marketplace.
As a sort of prop, or space filler, I decided I would put my camera up on the tripod next to the presentation podium (this was probably a mistake). Well, at the completion of my talk something interesting happened. The camera became a target. Two agents came up to the front somewhat quickly and looked at the camera inquisitively before looking at me.
I knew where this was going.
The questions were much the same from both agents. One of them even had a pen and paper to write down notes! All the questions were centered around what kind of camera I had, what kind of lens I used, how much the camera and lens cost, and whether or not the camera and lens were the latest and greatest. With a gentle smile I answered their questions and handed them a business card while at the same time thinking I would never hear from either one of them.
Now, as a disclaimer, I can point to some experienced agents who can efficiently use a DSLR to market their listings. However, for each one of those I can name multiple agents who I called early on when I was building a client base and who hastily told me over the phone that they shoot their own listing photos with camera X (fill in the latest high-end DSLR here).
I hung up the phone wondering if it would ever occur to the agent that I called them because their listing photos needed a little improvement and they would benefit from someone with a good eye and experience. Perhaps that point didn't cross their mind.
Real estate photography is a measured balance of equipment and experience. I'm still shooting with my mid-range DSLR because I consistently turn around quality photos that help homes sell fast. Last week, I shot a modest 30+-year-old split level home that went under contract in 48 hours after three offers.
I didn't need a $4000 camera to make this happen, however, I didn't shoot it with my iPhone either. Never, by the way, shoot listing photos with a phone. No matter how cool Apple or Samsung makes you think your photos will look, don't use a phone to take listing photos. Leave it in your pocket.
If you are past this issue and have a DSLR camera and wide angle lens, then take the next step and stack up your work with a professional real estate photographer. Find comparable interior and exterior shots between your own photos and theirs. If you are hitting all the marks, keep shooting away. If you see some differences, though, you can humbly realize that experience in photography is ultimately what brings it home and provides consistently good photos.
I shoot better photos today not because I have a camera and lens that cost $2000 more than my first 35mm, but because I have more experience and a better photographic eye than I did back then.
I was able to narrow the gap in my learning curve after a decade or so of photographing various subjects, and I'm still learning today. But, ask yourself if your learning curve is worth the extra days on the market and lower sales price, all in the name of using your own camera. And if you have trouble parting with that camera, think of it this way…hire a professional, get great photos, sell fast, sell smarter, and sell at a higher price (plus get some referrals along the way).
The value in all of those things will more than offset whatever you spent on the camera. Plus your son or daughter will give you a mom/dad of the year award for the cool new camera for their next birthday! (*Wink* *wink* …you don't have to tell them it's not new.)
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by Paul Nicol