Squatting in corners…and other tricks of property photography

This morning I was taking some property photography for the lovely people at At Home in Edinburgh, which inspired me for today’s tips. I was thinking how odd I must look semi squatting in the corners of rooms, sweating through my clothes…it’s pretty hard work maintaining a wall squat in what is usually a warm room. It inspired me to make others look equally odd.

We all know high end property photography can be an expensive and time consuming business. This is not really cost effective for someone needing nice pictures for example a short term summer rental, so how do you get better pictures?

Light! There is nothing appealing about a dungeon. Here professional cameras with powerful flashes definitely have the upper hand, but there are are a few things you can do to make your rooms brighter without using flash. Yes you heard me right, turn off your flash. Front facing in built flash is horrible. Don’t use it! Instead take pictures at the time of day the room is at it’s brightest. Turn on all possible lights to help your camera (tablet/camera phone) and then trust the software. This generation of camera phones have an advantage over professional cameras as the software is designed to deal with a wider range of conditions.

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Clutter! Get rid of any and all clutter. Your cool beermat collection will not photograph well nor will the teddy bears. The more clutter in an image, the busier it is, detracting from the room and making it look smaller. The same is true for rubbish bins. People don’t want to see them. Then when you think it is ready take a test shot and see if anything jumps out at you, for example a furniture polish bottle with a red lid. If you notice it you can be sure it’s the first thing someone else will see. Take out anything that is too attention grabbing unless you want it to be a feature of the room.

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Get back! In answer to why I, and most photographers, will be in a corner when photographing property is that you want to be as far back as possible to capture as much of the room as you can. You also only really want 2 walls in your picture, 3 makes the space look smaller.

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Angles! Or more importantly straight lines, are another reason for the squatting in the corner. This is also where camera phones make your life easier. Where a professional lens (especially wide angle lenses) has a curve to it, which distorts lines, a camera phone or iPad fixes lens curvature this itself. With my camera I want the majority of lines to be straight, so I start from my starting perspective and squat down until my vertical and horizontal lines are straight. Make sure your vertical lines are straight. No one likes squint horizons or verticals unless it’s for a specific artistic compositional reason.

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Editing! This is a camera phone and tablet tip, use the editing software to brighten your images up if they need it. Don’t just think ‘they’ll do’. 5 more minutes and you can have pictures that represent your property much better. There are lots of options just don’t use obvious filters so your pictures end up looking like a teenager’s Instagram feed. No one will take it seriously.

Almost forgot! Take your pictures in landscape, not portrait, as that is how there are usually displayed on property websites.

Finally, sometimes it is easier just to hire a professional so you can avoid being featured on my favourite blog…Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos. It’s brilliant!

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What do you get when you hire a professional photographer?

Today is a different type of information day. I’m sending you to look at something that explains how photographers work. A great video from the talented Magnus Bogucki, a Swiss wedding photographer, who lays out in less than 3 minutes what exactly you are getting when you hire him. Obviously, other types of photography have different requirements…album design isn’t really called for in profile pictures (I’ll make you one if you want ;)). I would like to challenge is the impression that I often get that we, being photographers, are only working for you when we are actually taking the pictures. There is a lot more to it. I’m sure this will ring true with a lot of other people, especially in the creative industries.

What do you think? Was it what you expected? Was there anything that you found surprising?

Problem solving: How does a photographer serve up a solution?

As a commercial photographer each job presents it own challenges. I have always viewed myself more of a service provider that an artist. I look at what a client needs to get across to their target market and create images that serve that need. Here are 3 examples of the theory in practise.

Case study: Edgen Murray

Edgen Murray is an international steel manufacturer that supplies to the oil industry. They brought me in on a 2 fold project. The first part of the project was to take profile pictures of the management team that matched pictures that had been taken in their other locations in Australia and Singapore. The second was to shoot the various steel products they had on site and capture the size and scale of their new site at Newbridge.

In part one we shot the management team at the head offices in Edinburgh against a matching grey backdrop and lighting as close as I could get to the brand identity specified. Those images were then edited to match exactly the ones from the other regions to unify and clearly represent the company as a global player. The second part of the project involved photographing key products and the site in general. Here are some of the images and some kind words from the marketing manager.


“We have used Claire for taking corporate headshots of our senior management and have been very pleased with the service she has provided. Moreover, Claire has been great in assisting us with digital work we needed done urgently on other photography. She has been very helpful, professional in turning around projects quickly, and in general great to work with.”

– Valentina Mina, Marketing Services Manager

Case Study: ConnectED Profile Pictures

ConnectED is a networking group that meets every Tuesday. We wanted to help small business owners get professional profile pictures, so we arranged to have them taken at one of the weekly meetings at a discounted rate. The challenge was how to get images that captured everyones personalities. By making everyone feel comfortable and relaxed then adding a few tweaks with colour balance and saturation in the editing process I created individual portraits from the same lighting and equipment set up. Eddie had a few kind words to add…not like the dentist at all 😉

“If you’re a little self-conscious then getting your photo taken can be a bit like going to the dentist! Claire made it fun and easy and the result speaks for itself. Did I mention fantastic value for money?”

– Eddie Caldow, Printer Cartridges, Empty Cartridge Recycling, Printer Maintenance, Printer Engineer, Sustainability

Case Study: Rock Trust

The Rock Trust works in Edinburgh and the Lothians with young people between the ages of 16- 25 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Their role is to advise, educate and support young people. The project was to capture the different sides of the charity. The experience you people can expect at the centre and in the supported accommodation. The fundraising events businesses and individuals can get involved in, as well as the research and conferences that the charity organises and supports.

“Claire worked with us to create and implement a plan for our website and publicity images. She paid great attention to our work, the service users and our values and ensured that she not only met, but surpassed, our expectations. Claire has worked with the young people in their homes, staff team at our conferences and supporters at our events and she works well in every situation. We continue to work with Claire as not only has she produced beautiful images but she is also great to work with.”

– Kate Polson, Chief Executive at The Rock Trust

So if you have a photography problem let me know and I might be able to serve up a solution.

Simple imagery fundamentals when branding your business

Simple imagery fundamentals. What are the important things to think about when choosing images for your website, Facebook, Instagram etc?

Day 15 Colour wheel

First think about colour. You might have a warm colour pallet (colours yellow through to crimson) or a cool pallet (purple through to green). There is lots of information on choosing your colour scheme and using the psychology of colour to maximise your brand in your industry. This is one of many of you to look at if your are really interested “How to use the psychology of colour”.

How does this relate to your images? Is your brand bold bright or more muted? Your images should match or compliment your brand on your website and things like your banners at the top of Facebook or Twitter. They should continue to convey your brand to your prospective clients. If you use Instagram then think about choosing one filter as it does a similar thing, but there are a lot of other things to talk about on Instagram, so I’ll tackle it in a separate blog.

Second thing to think about is shape. Do you have large images that tex scrolls across, wide banners, square tiles, long drop down banner type images? The dimensions of your images are important as the rule of thirds (see previous post) is also a good guide, but as the dimensions change you have to visualise how that effects our composition. Here are the dimensions for Facebook to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, but this is equally true for blogs etc.

Day 15 dimensions

Okay I lied it’s not that simple…that’s why photographers ask you for money. It’s not just having a camera and taking nice pictures. However if your keen to have a go and are short of money thinking about colour and shape is a good place to start when branding your business.

Favourite images from my week

Sunday is going to be favourite picture day. A week in the life so to speak.

There are not too many this week as there has been more admin done than taking pictures but here are a few from my phone. I am very lucky working in Edinburgh as it is both tiny enough to walk to lots of places and it is also full of beautiful colours, lines, architecture and my favourite the constantly changing Scottish light.

This week I had fun with the Biggar High School prom…nothing like what I remember the leavers dance! I also finished a couple of edits; one for the Edinburgh Businesswomen’s Club committee and the other some family pictures that I did for my sister. A mixture of business and pleasure, because variety is the spice of life.

Starting with the young and glamorous at New Lanark World Heritage Site.

Then the inspirational ladies from the Edinburgh Businesswomen’s Club.

Finally, family fun!

So those were some of my favourite images from my week. It is always good to reflect on the positive…not the admin 😉

Simple photography, the lazy person’s guide

Let’s keep it simple for the weekend. You don’t have any time, you don’t think you’re creative, you’re not really interested in photography, but you need to take pictures for your business.

Here are 3 things, using 1 rule, you can do to to take better pictures without the need for time, creativity or enthusiasm (though try and have some fun with it!).

Here are 3 things and the rule of thirds.

  1. Don’t put a horizon in the middle of the picture. Put it on the upper or lower third.
  2. Off centre portraits, putting the person’s eye on the top left corner to create a stronger connection to the image as when looking at an image people spend the majority of the time in that corner (45%).
  3. Leave empty space in the image. Don’t feel the need to put you subject bang in the middle of the frame as big as possible (it’s boring). Put key details in the transects of the lines and don’t be frightened to leave some space. It leads to a more interesting picture.

So when taking pictures your first thought to make your photography better and more engaging should be the rule of thirds. Simple!

Imagery lessons for SMEs…using Tinder

Here is a giggle and a few things to think about on imagery for small and medium sized businesses.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about Tinder. For those who are not familiar it’s a dating app where you select people you are interested in based on 1 initial image, 5 additional pictures and a few words. If it sounds superficial, it is, but you would be amazed how much you can learn about yourself and others in 6 pictures.

Then when I sat down to write today’s blog on imagery lessons for SMEs it occurred to me that it is a perfect example of how to use imagery effectively. Looking at the difference between stock photography and images tailored for your target market, the importance of first impressions and how to tell a story that gets across your USP.

There is a caveat in this post that the pictures are not of professional quality but being used to illustrate a point 😉

So back to my friend…lets call him ‘Gary’ (not his real name). Gary is looking to get back into the dating game after a long time away and he wanted to get my impression of his Tinder profile, so we started with his main image, the picture everyone sees first. He had a really nice professional picture lifted straight from his LinkedIn profile…the stock photography of Tinder pictures if you will. A terrible choice in my opinion for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly it tells someone looking at it absolutely nothing about you.
  • Secondly it appeals to the pretty much anyone, which is fine if you are going for mass market, but of no use if you are looking for a specific type of client or in this case are a bit more discerning about your dating preferences.
  • Thirdly, Tinder is full of people you really don’t want to meet, so you should be using your images to filter out people who you will have nothing in common with to save yourself (and them) some time and effort.

In contrast this is my opening image on Tinder…

Tinder Main Image

…I have found this very effective in filtering out people I have nothing in common with. I think is says a few things: I’m interested in politics**, when dressing up I like to commit and come from left field…you will never find me in a ‘sexy nun’ outfit, I have a pretty dark sense of humour and am happy to laugh at myself. This immediately removes lots of people who would class me as a weirdo and have no interest in politics and attracts people who think I look like a laugh. From a business perspective it talks to my niche market!

Then if they click though, to learn more about me, they see…

Fitness is important and I'm pretty confident/have a high opinion of myself.

‘Fitness is important and I’m pretty confident/have a high opinion of myself.’

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‘I’m a keen photographer and traveller.’

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‘I can look presentable sometimes…’

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‘…but most of the time i don’t really care…would rather swim in a loch.’

In conclusion:

  • The importance of stock photography verses images tailored for your target market, really depends on how niche your product is and how much you want to stand out from your competition. The majority of SMEs I meet have very clever and interesting things to offer but that is often not communicated by their online presence. This seems like a lost opportunity to me.
  • First impressions are massively important, if people don’t like what they see you will get swiped left (rejected) and you’ll never see that prospective client again. Making your landing page engaging is key.
  • Telling a story though images is much easier and more engaging than text and as result gets across your USP much more effectively when done correctly.

I hope that made a few of you smile on a Friday. Any questions on photography for business or setting up online dating profiles ask below 😉

**I would usually keep political leanings off any of my business platforms, but in this case it makes a point and for anyone who’s interested I voted yes in the referendum because I believe in the positive, socialist message of the Yes campaign, not because I wanted separation. I love everyone, but don’t think the system is serving those that it should be. C x