While there are definite similarities in regards to methods and approach when photographing any sort of real estate, there are also important differences to keep in mind, especially when photographing commercial real estate and properties. In the residential real estate realm, they tend to use the images for a few weeks or maybe months until the space is sold, but in commercial real estate, these images are used to sell the business for perhaps years and years, and they might live on a website for just as long, offering the potential client or customer a visual representation of the space.
While that’s a huge responsibility for the photographer to capture that in a way that the business owner is proud of, that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be any more difficult. Like anything else, if you spend adequate time getting a feel for the space and the business and do your homework, you’ll naturally start to gravitate towards the best ways to represent them in photographs that’ll make both you and the business owner proud. Here are a few tips for commercial real estate photography that I’ve learned on a few recent commercial shoots:
1. Scout - Make sure to scout the space at least a few days prior to shooting, or if you’re unable to make it yourself due to location (there should be no other excuse really), have someone take simple shots from different corners into the space so you get a sense of the space and get an orientation of the space, which direction are the windows facing, when will the sun be where, are there obstructions to natural light, are there reflective surfaces (if so, check out my post How To Minimize Reflections In Interior Photography). If you can make it to scout the location yourself, which is preferable, shoot a few shots from different angles. Typically the corners of the room, even just on your phone, that you can take with you and marinate on for a few days. This time will give you a chance to formulate a mental shot list and idea of how to and what you’ll need to execute a successful shoot without the day-of stresses of getting all the shots you need and figuring it all out on the fly. This will also give you some time to play with ideas with the client, helping to build a rapport and a trust between you.
2. Communicate - Make sure to talk to the client at length about what they feel are the strengths of the space and what they like and what they'd like to convey. Ask as many questions as you can. This will help break into the emotional connection to the space and it will give you a good idea of what space to be in as you map out how to approach it. Unlike real estate, where the agent is not particularly intimately connected to the property, most times, when working commercial real estate spaces, you’re working with the owner or manager of the business, and, for the most part, they are extremely emotionally tied to their space - they know the quirks, the strengths, the weaknesses. Play off of that. If you listen closely enough, they’ll tell you EXACTLY what shots to get that will ensure their satisfaction with your work. And of course you’ll come up with several of your own ideas, and throw those in there. Sometimes it’s neat to see their reaction to a shot, a view, an angle that they themselves perhaps have never paid attention to.
3. Team Up - Encourage them to provide ideas and input as you move thru the space on shoot day. It will help make them feel like a pivotal part of the project, hopefully setting them up to be as emotionally attached to those images as they were when speaking about them in tip 2.
4. Mix It Up - As was also talked about in my post 7 Tips For Real Estate Photography, mix it up. Yes, wide shots and crazy angles for the sense of space, but don’t discount the extreme value of vignettes and tighter shots, within the 35-50mm range for a more intimate feel. These shots aren’t as intimidating, and instead instill a sense of feel, aura, and connectedness with the space. A person’s vision can’t relate to a wide angle shot, but they can definitely relate to a detail or a vignette or a section of the space that gives you an idea of the character of the space.
5. Logos & Branding. If the space has any sort of branding or logos, try to find a way to incorporate those into the images. Whether they be on screens or table mats or windows or pens, try to find at least a few shots where those logos are included. Not only can these sorts of shots help with branding, but they can also be used for other purposes by the business such as social media posts, headers, or physical postcards or prints for marketing materials. Business owners work hard to build their businesses and consequently, they’re very proud of the fruits of their labor. Branding shots are a great pat on the back that they are sure to appreciate.
So there it is. Don’t stress out about it, don’t fret, take it as a challenge, know that you’ll learn something, and, most importantly, have fun with it. If someone else was confident enough in your skills to hire you, then you’ve got those skills. Be confident. Go kill it!
Also, here are a few more entries that can also help you when shooting real estate and properties: