How to photograph properties and get them released for selling as stock
Property is big business, always has been, always will be. We are in a never ending cycle of crashes and booms all over the world and people make money during both.
People are always on the lookout for property images for a multitude of reasons so you would do well to get involved. There are various ways and means to shooting property stock and some things you need to be aware of.
Note: Whilst I remember, you can go to the main ATP website to learn more about shooting properties here.
So, what properties to shoot and how?
In a word, all of them. Interiors, exteriors, details, locations, big, small, cute, ugly and radical.
Whilst in Spain I was a full time property photographer for a while and the funny thing is, when I was shooting I got asked so many times if I shot weddings or portraits I was able to build up a nice sideline which eventually allowed me to go full time with my business.
Any job you are doing can at any point, lead to more work which is another reason why shooting stock is so cool. People only see you and notice you when you are out and about with your camera.
I eventually started asking home owners for permission and a property release in exchange for a set of photos. Some said yes, some said no and some said I could use “some” of the images.
BIG NOTE: Make sure you get a property release. Even though you don’t always need one, get one anyway. One thing that happened to me was although the owner of a house I shot gave me full permission to sell the images as stock, I didn’t get an official property release because they weren’t asked for at the time by any agencies.
What I didn’t realise was that he sold the house a year or so later.
The new owner saw the image being used in various adverts which led to the stock agency contacting me. When I explained they said I didn’t need to remove the image but I still did so out of courtesy and respect. It was a good seller too. Get a property release.
So, it is worth approaching owners of any house (I am sure you know a few) and getting stuck in. Offer a DVD of images that they can use one day if they decide to sell or rent their property. If they don’t need any images of their house (many don’t), offer something else in return such as a portrait sitting.
Once you get a property to shoot, think about what it will be used for and how you want to portray it. Turn all the lights on for that homely look and make sure once again that nothing is shown with any logos, labels or branding.
Also, artwork. No paintings or artwork of any form can be present unless you or the owner are the actual “author” and can give a signed “property release” (this is for intellectual property). You can always remove the offending item for the shoot and replace it later or simply shoot anyway and remove in Photoshop later.
The latter is quite easy normally as most walls are a plain colour.
For the exterior, make the shots as aesthetically pleasing as you possibly can. Go on a sunny day and look for the best angle. If the light is not right, go back when it is.
If there are any special features in the garden such as an “out house”, conservatory, statue or swimming pool, try and incorporate them into the shot. Remember, the buyers are usually looking for stunning images that will promote some form of selling.
Take two shots of each scene, one portrait and one horizontal. You don’t know if the buyer is going to use it for a magazine cover or website. The image above is perfect for a magazine cover even though half the house is missing. It has enough space for text, there is a simplicity about it and the colours are bright. A horizontal image was taken at the same time to cover all bases.
Here’s another tip that could earn you some money!
When I was reccying a hotel in Ronda, Spain once for a wedding I was to be shooting there a few years ago, I asked the owner for permission to take some test shots and he agreed. The conversation then went on and he asked if he could have a set of images if he paid me and how much?
I explained about the stock that I shoot and he agreed to give me a release in exchange for a set of high resolution images. It made me work that bit harder and those images have been selling nicely for a few years now.
I think I overdid it with the polarizer filter so again, this is something I intend to pursue in more detail when I get time.
I explain more about this in the wedding photography section. Whenever you are reccying a wedding, or any job come to that, the chances are it is somewhere you have never been before. If you are serious about shooting stock, always take your camera, a few model and property releases and have stock photography on your mind.
Again, for more information about how to shoot properties, if you haven’t read up on it already, we have a large section on property photography at ATP here.
Note: This is how crazy this industry is. I just flipped over to Dreamstime as I am writing this to look for lifestyle images (next section) and saw that I sold an extra large copy of the hotel and pool shot above (spooky) and made $2.80 : )
Doesn’t sound a lot and don’t let that put you off. When these amounts appear regularly throughout the day, every day at all the stock sites, it can soon add up.
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