Choosing the right Interior and Architectural Photographer.

Choosing the right Interior and Architectural Photographer.

There is a huge variation in both price and quality when looking for an architectural photographer. I will try to clarify what you might expect from different types of photographer and the results achieved at various budget levels. I have mentioned some prices here which relate to my own personal experience.

My perspective here is not from that of the photographer, property developer or architect although I have spent most of my working life dealing with all three. My view is that of a retoucher who sometimes has to alter a shot to please both the photographer and their client.

Ideally you want fantastic images each time, but this is not always possible within smaller budgets. So….

What’s your budget?

Put simply, you more or less get what you pay for. Of course there is considerable variation in pricing, with a fair amount of competitiveness. I would like to suggest five categories of photography. Choose a category that suits your budget, but don’t expect a photographer from one category to compete in price with a photographer from another category.

Lets start from the ground up with the cheapest option.

Option 1: Send out the member of staff who has the most free time.

Price range £0-£5

For those who have little or no budget this is still a huge improvement on having no images. The best you can expect are images that will show the areas of a building you would like clients to see, but probably not with the best composition and exposure. The images will probably need some explanation such as “it looks even better in real life” or “there’s a really nice view out the window which you can’t see in the photo”. The images will probably be a good enough resolution for web and small print use.

Why budget £5? Well you don’t want seem tight fisted! I’m sure you can afford a cup of tea and a sandwich for the member of staff you’ve just put outside of their comfort zone!

Option 2: The keen amateur.

Price range, same as above for the same reasons.

You may be, or know someone, who is a keen amateur photographer. I have seen property developers use amateur photographers who are doing them a favour. So what do you get if you use an amateur photographer? You will probably get nicely composed images, with good exposures. They will show the property clearly (if you’re lucky) so people will have a good idea of what it looks like.

Maybe a better question is what don’t you get? An amateur is unlikely to have invested as much money in equipment. If they have spent a lot they are more likely to have an expensive camera better suited to portraits or PR shots. It is unlikely they will have any lights, having to make the best of natural light or flash. Also an amateur is used to looking for good subjects to shoot, whereas a professional doesn’t have this choice. They have to stick to a brief and make a good shot of what’s required.

An amateur may be happy to shoot for small amounts of money, just being happy that their images are being used for ads. I think this novelty would soon wear thin if they are expected to shoot regularly.

Option 3; Using a Non-Specialist Photographer.

Price Range can vary hugely depending on circumstances. I would suggest anything from £100-£300 per day.

You may end up using a photographer who doesn’t specialise in architectural and interior photography for several reasons. I’ve seen this happen when a PR shoot takes place. While the photographer’s there, they are asked to quickly take some additional shots of building exteriors. Another reason may be financial.

You could get some decent shots at a good price, but there are a few setbacks. Firstly if the photographer hasn’t been able to plan the shoot weather conditions may not be favourable or the angle of the sun may not be at its optimum. Secondly he probably won’t have the precise equipment needed. A good quality DSLR camera is fast to use and a great choice for a PR shoot. If used for an architectural shoot the resolution will probably be adequate, but there will be more lens distortion than you get from a medium or large format back. Even taking into consideration lens correction, which can be carried out post shooting, medium format will have a more natural feel.

A plus point, if you like a lot of choice you may get a larger volume of shots, but with less time taken to perfect each shot.

Option 4: A Specialist Interior or Achitectural Photographer.

Costs are likely to be a minimum of £400 for a full day up to about £750.

Someone who specialises in architectural and interior shoots is likely to be using a medium or large format back. The cost of buying and maintaining this is considerable and you can therefore expect this cost to be reflected in their rates. A photographer who does not take these costs into consideration will probably come to a point in their career when they will be unable to keep working with the same quality of equipment as they won’t be able to afford repairs or replacement costs.

A tilt shift lens is also a specialist requirement, which may not be found in any other photographers collection of lenses. This will allow the photographer to avoid converging verticals when taking exterior shots.

Lighting for interior shots can make a huge difference. If you would like a window view to be prominent for example, then flooding the interior with light will minimise the difference between interior and exterior light values and preventing the view from being overexposed.

Propping shots is a fairly standard idea that most interior photographers are prepared to do, but maybe at a small additional cost. This would include items in an interior shoot such as towels in the bathroom, books on a bedside table, food in the kitchen or ornaments. Communicating a feel or colour scheme to the photographer will help them in the choice of props they bring along. In general the idea is to give a show-house a more lived in feel.

An architectural photographer who is used to working on half finished sites may well have their own high vis jacket, hard hat and if in the UK a CSCS card allowing them to be on a building site legally.

Option 5: Specialist Photographer without time or budget restrictions.

Cost…  Lots!

If there’s no time limit this is the ideal solution, but more time will also mean more money. So if there’s not an imminent deadline for that important ad you may want to consider this as an option.

The photographer who falls into this bracket may well be the same photographer as in option 4, but what will they do given extra time? Here’s the additional things I’ve seen photographer’s do:

1. Visit the site before the main shoot. This will allow them to get an idea of what’s needed. Some test shots can be taken just to get an idea of different angles and views to run past you the client. The shots will tend to be quick snaps without the worry of catching good weather and adding final touches. I think this really is the best means of communicating visual ideas and seeing what works best.

2. Pick a day where the weather is at its best. This may involve a couple of visits, especially with the unpredictable weather in the UK.

3. Removing objects from an exterior shoot. If the best day for weather happens to be bin day then the photographer may have the time consuming job of moving a lot of bins out of shot. Another time consuming task is getting that ugly white van moved from in front of the key property. This usually involves knocking on doors to find the owner who is often grumpy and refuses to be of any help.

4. Grabbing the postman or any other random member of public who may be passing by. Having people in the image adds a different feel to a shot. A photographer should have a stack of model release forms for any unsuspecting member of the public to sign allowing the images to be legally used.

5. Spend ages getting those creases out of the sheets on the bedroom shots, lighting candles, LED displays on, a film showing on the home cinema screen or any number of additional final touches.

The fussiest photographer I worked for would also dampen down tarmac to give it a darker look and make sure the pile on a carpet all lay the same way to give an even tone. This may seem a bit over the top, but the images looked fantastic and I loved being part of the process of making such great shots.

Using Models.

This seems a relevant time to mention hire of models as this also falls into the category of bringing a shot to life. The cost of models can be as expensive as the cost of a photographer. If you are offered a cheap rate make sure you know what you are getting. Quite often model rates are governed by the license type. A cheap license will restrict your use, not allowing you to use the images for more than a year or outside the country for example. If you inadvertently buy the wrong license you can change it retrospectively, but may end up paying above the original cost.

Summary.

Free or very cheap images are hugely better than not having any images at all. I would not suggest you completely rule out this option.

At the cheaper end of keen amateur/less expensive professional you may get some images which will make your property look beautiful.

A good professional architectural or interior photographer will be able to convey the idea that you will have a fantastic lifestyle if you live in this property. This is a very powerful message and will make the property more desirable.

To illustrate this, imagine a shot of a patio outside a brand new house with garden furniture laid out on it. This may be a great image and would help in selling the property. Now put a glass of wine and an open book on the table and the idea that you can relax in the garden is conveyed. Then put a parent and children playing in the garden and you can imagine how happy your family could be living there.

Another key point here is that a photographer who turns up with a DSLR camera and flash can take a large volume of shots onsite at a cheap rate. A Photographer who turns up with a car load of lights, laptop and props will charge more and give you fewer shots of a higher quality. Knowing which you are paying for will help you to decide if you are being charged a fair rate.

I hope this gives an awareness of why daily photography rates can justifiably vary so much and what you can expect for you money.

In my next blog I will discuss what can be done if you have images you’re not happy with and seeing if there is potential for improvement post shooting.

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