Posts filed under Advice

Agents: Here's the REAL Purpose of Real Estate Photography :: Springfield, Illinois, Real Estate Photographer

Peter Drucker :: The purpose of your business is to create a customer :: Illinois Home Photography, Michael Gowin, Lincoln, IL

Peter Drucker :: The purpose of your business is to create a customer :: Illinois Home Photography, Michael Gowin, Lincoln, IL

As a real estate agent, you might think that the singular goal of real estate photography is to sell houses. That seems natural: buyers need to see the product as they enter the buying process.

And as long as buyers are still buying properties that are shown with average photographs, it's hard to make a case for spending good money on better photography.

But: while showing properties for sale is a purpose of real estate photography, it's not the only purpose. In fact, there's something significantly more important at stake for your business.

You want to think differently about your marketing photography.

In his 1954 book The Practice of Management, legendary management consultant Peter Drucker (pictured above) offered this insight:

There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer... Because it is its purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two—and only these two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.
— Peter Drucker

If that's the case (and I think Drucker is right on this point), then whatever helps you stand out in your market helps you create customers. Couldn't the way you showcase your listings with photography help you differentiate your business?

Instead of thinking about pictures for listings, then, think about the impact those images have on your brand and the way both buyers and sellers perceive your business.

Scott Hargis, a well-known architectural and interior photographer based in San Francisco, recently put it this way:

The point is to be forward thinking. My best real estate clients, the ones who listed the multimillion dollar houses all the time, would do the exact same thing even when they had a $150,000 condo to sell. That crappy little condo got painted, staged, photographed, and marketed like it was a trophy listing. Why? Because my client could not afford to have ANYTHING with her name on it that didn’t look like a million bucks. Better yet, FIVE million bucks. She knew that she would be sitting on a couch in some living room next week, trying to land a bread-and-butter listing, and the sellers would want to know that they were not going to be treated like an afterthought. They would be doing their research, looking to see what this agent really did on her listings, and they would not be disappointed.

The REAL purpose of real estate photography isn't to sell houses. If you want to continue to stay in business, to serve customers the way you think they should be served, then you have to market your business to create more customers like the ones you want to serve.

The pictures you show in your listings are part of your marketing approach. As Scott Hargis mentioned, you have to be "forward thinking" so you continue (or start) to win the customers you want to win.

Here's how you can take that "forward thinking" attitude with your listing photography:

First, use beautiful photography to feature your clients' homes. Your listings will immediately stand out from the crowd, attracting more attention for your sellers (and making them feel special when they see their homes online).

Second, those attractive photos will move prospective buyers. Buyers will be intrigued by your listings and follow up because they'll want to know more.

Third, you'll be building your brand as new sellers see your listings and seek an agent who will go the extra mile for them.

And that's the real purpose of real estate photography.


Photograph of Peter Drucker via Wikimedia.

Posted on February 4, 2015 and filed under Advice.

What Does It Take to Make Good Property Photographs? :: Bloomington, Illinois, Real Estate Photographer

Interior real estate photograph :: Illinois Home Photography, Michael Gowin, Lincoln, IL

Interior real estate photograph :: Illinois Home Photography, Michael Gowin, Lincoln, IL

Maybe you've heard this (possibly apocryphal) story about Pablo Picasso:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

"It's you -- Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist."

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

"It's perfect!" she gushed. "You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?"

"Five thousand dollars," the artist replied.

"B-b-but, what?" the woman sputtered. "How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!"

To which Picasso responded, "Madame, it took me my entire life."

I recently shared a real estate-related posts on the steps to prepare a home for listing photos.


Because I'd like you to think differently about property photography.

If you look through a few listings in your area, you may notice that many of the photographs are average--at best. They typically suffer from the same problems: unnatural color casts, odd compositions, bad lighting, cluttered rooms, walls that tilt up (or down or list to the side). You'll find plenty of examples here or here.

I think agents (as well as builders and developers) are missing a huge business opportunity by promoting their clients' properties with these kinds of images.

What if the photographs you posted in your listings looked like they could be presented in a magazine? As buyers and sellers browsed through listings, they'd notice the huge difference in your photographs. They'd associate that quality difference with your brand. Is it possible that you might win more listings, simply because you featured higher quality photography?

And think about referrals. The agents I've worked with have told me that their clients feel honored to have their homes professionally photographed. Is it possible these happier clients would be more likely to recommend you to their friends?

If you want to grow your business with better photography, you have two choices:

  • Learn to do it yourself
  • Hire a professional real estate photographer

If you're the DIY type, get a copy of Larry Lohrman's free real estate photography guide. This will introduce you to the basic principles of real estate photography: effective staging, lighting interiors, keeping the verticals vertical, eliminating distracting color casts, and more. It's not a how-to guide but it will give you the concepts and vocabulary to better understand what's involved with property photography.

From that point you could buy Larry's Photography for Real Estate ebook, John McBay's guide Image Editing for Real Estate Photography, or Scott Hargis' ebook Lighting Interiors. These are all available in the Photography for Real Estate store. Scott also has an outstanding video course on interior lighting as well.

Of course, all of this will probably require an investment in some equipment that you may not have. In the video below, you can take a look inside my gear bag and see what I use.

Does that sound like it's going to involve a lot of time, effort, learning, and money?

It does. It will.


Because photography is not about owning a "really nice camera" and some lights. It's knowing where to place the camera and the lights. Remember how long it took Picasso to make that drawing?

That's why the second option--hiring a professional--may be a better choice. They've got the gear, knowledge, and experience to do great work for you--today.

The PFRE Directory will help you find a photographer in your area who specializes in real estate. Or, if you're in central Illinois, I'm happy to help you.

Of all the things you could do to improve your marketing and build your brand, this may be the simplest and the quickest.

A version of this post first appeared at

Posted on January 30, 2015 and filed under Advice.

Photography tips to sell your house faster--and for more :: Peoria, Illinois, Real Estate Photographer

Twilight real estate photograph :: Michael Gowin, Illinois Home Photography, Lincoln, IL

Twilight real estate photograph :: Michael Gowin, Illinois Home Photography, Lincoln, IL

When my wife and I were shopping for a house in 1998, we called a friend who was a real estate agent and told her we were in the market. We gave her a price range and some ideas about the look and feel of a home we’d like. She then pulled some listings and drove us around town, showing us homes that fit our criteria.

It all seems so quaint now.

Today, nearly every buyer is going online to see homes on, Zillow, and Trulia before they ever contact an agent or visit a property.

How important are those listing photos? National real estate company Redfin has done extensive research on the role of photography in real estate listings: “With 92 percent of home buyers using the Internet as part of their home search, listing photos are a critical factor in the selling price of your home, how quickly it sells, and whether it sells at all.”

Want to make a bigger impact with your home’s listing and get more showings? Follow these three steps to better prepare it for the best photographs.

Living room interior photograph :: Michael Gowin, Illinois Home Photography, Bloomington, IL

Living room interior photograph :: Michael Gowin, Illinois Home Photography, Bloomington, IL

Step One: Clean It

This is pretty simple, really. A house that looks fresh and “move in ready” will attract more buyers. Vacuum and mop the floors, wash the windows, counters, tables, and other flat surfaces. Got kids with sticky fingers who’ve smudged painted walls? A little dish soap in warm water and a rag will have them (the walls, and maybe the kids, too) looking new in no time. Touching up the paint may be a good idea in more “lived in” rooms as well.

Don't forget the yard: keep it mowed and consider adding some new landscaping like bushes or brightly colored flowers. All of these factors enhance your home's curb appeal.

Dining room and kitchen interior photograph :: Michael Gowin, Illinois Home Photography, Peoria, IL

Dining room and kitchen interior photograph :: Michael Gowin, Illinois Home Photography, Peoria, IL

Step Two: Stage It

Time to clear the clutter. Your goal here is not to showcase all your prized personal possessions, so stow the Beanie Baby collection. When people see your home's photos, they need to envision the house with their stuff in it--not yours.

HGTV recommends de-personalizing your home by putting some of your belongings in storage: “The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.”

A friend with a good sense of interior design can be perfect for helping you stage your home. Otherwise, you may be able to find a professional stager in your area through organizations like the Real Estate Staging Association or the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.

Step Three: Shoot It

You’re selling a product worth tens of thousands--probably hundreds of thousands!--of dollars. Why would you market it with terrible pictures?

If you’ve seen enough real estate listings, though, you already know the sad truth: bad photos happen to good houses. In fact, there are web sites dedicated to lousy real estate photos. WARNING: do NOT click that link unless 1) you’ve got a couple hours to waste and 2) you’re not drinking something--because you’ll spew it once you start laughing at the photos and captions.

How can you get good, quality images that will have buyers knocking on your door (literally)? You have two options:

Do it yourself - And by “yourself,” I mean either you or your listing agent. Understand, though, that there’s more to making enticing real estate pictures pictures than just running through the house with a “nice camera.” The Photography for Real Estate (PFRE) site has a free photography guide for sellers and agents. Grab it and read it before you take a picture.

Hire a professional - If you’ve gone to the trouble to clean and stage your home, now is a great time to let a pro finish the job right and photograph it for you. Experienced real estate photographers can bring their knowledge and equipment to the job to make your home look like it belongs in a magazine. Find a photographer in your area through the PFRE Photographer Directory. If you're in central Illinois (Bloomington/Normal, Peoria, Springfield, Decatur, Lincoln), I'd be happy to talk with you about photographing your property.

A version of this post first appeared at

Posted on January 27, 2015 and filed under Advice.