We invited professional commercial real estate photographer Scott Mason of Scott Mason Photography to explain the benefits of having professional photos of your real estate property. When it comes to property photos, Scott is our go-to-guy, so we are excited to share his expertise on the topic with you.

Have you considered using professional photography for marketing your commercial real estate properties? The strong first impression made by outstanding professional photography is a highly valuable asset. It can be implemented across all your marketing materials, from brochures and online listings to email blasts and more.

Having worked with AQUILA for many years, I know that they highly recommend hiring a professional photographer to help you meet all your marketing and sales needs. This article will tell you why – and how – to hire professionals for your property photography. In many cases, if you’re only going to invest in one marketing initiative, this is the one to pursue.

This article will help you understand:

  • Four benefits of professional photography
  • Why to hire a professional vs. doing it yourself
  • What to look for in a professional photographer
  • Standard pricing for professional photography

An exterior photo of the Westech 360 building in Austin at twilight | Professional Property Photography by Scott Mason

 

4 Benefits of Professional Photography

1. Quality photography makes for a crucial first impression.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. This is especially true for visual marketing.

Before prospective tenants schedule a tour, they are likely to search for the property online. How do you want your prospects to react to your listing? Think about the last time you landed on an outdated web site or a listing with poor quality photos (or worse, no photos at all). What was your immediate impression? Did you move on to something better? (You might have forgotten about it already!)

For your property to be taken seriously and make a positive impression on potential buyers, up-to-date, high-quality photographs are crucial.

Aquila's Commercial real estate listing for Lakewood Centers I + II | Professional Property Photography by Scott Mason

2. Striking photography will impress and excite potential tenants.

Humans are visual animals. Whether you’re browsing the web for a new pair of shoes or searching office listings for commercial real estate, your enduring judgement in any decision-making process online is made in the photography. According to The Wall Street Journal, buyers spend 60% of their time on a property page looking at the listing’s photos.

In Austin, the market is saturated and the competition is fierce.

If you lack strong, positive images of your property, you could lose out big-time as potential tenants’ attentions are drawn to more attractive listings. Why lose out to competitors simply because they leverage the value of professional photography?

A photo of Aspen Lake II office property in north Austin, Texas | Professional Property Photography by Scott Mason

3. Professional photos will impress current tenants/clients.

If you’re a property manager, you are already showing your tenants and clients how much you appreciate their business by giving them your attention and care when they’re in need of help. You wouldn’t harm their image by letting old paint flake off the walls in their office, so why would you harm their image by showcasing unflattering, outdated images of their space?

Appearances are an essential part of the equation when representing tenants. Do your tenants a favor and show them not only that your management company is competent and responsible, but that you care about the appearance of their property as well.

4. Your property will get more views and shares.

If potential tenants/buyers are captivated by visually pleasing photos, they are much more likely to click on the listing due to visual interest. Photos with the right elements of composition create interest by leading the viewer’s eye around the image, resulting in more time examining. (This has been proven scientifically!)

 

Hiring a Professional Photographer vs. Doing it Yourself

You know real estate. Photographers know photography.

The skills that serious architectural (or real estate) photographers acquire can take years to master, and that’s a lot of time that busy real estate professionals simply don’t have.  Anyone can occasionally get lucky and capture a decent image with a cell phone, but “decent” and “occasionally” aren’t reliable enough.

Non-professionals don’t deal with the timing issues, skills and equipment professional photographers must master. Some of these include:

  • Planning exposure of all sides of buildings and interiors relative to time of day / angle of sun.
  • Camera positioning, exposure, depth, etc.
  • Interior lighting with and without flash to reduce glare and improve color. (Many interiors’ true colors can’t be revealed without flash.)
  • Processing of images: A single high-end photo could take an hour or more plus years of Photoshop experience to produce a high-quality architectural image.

A side-by-side image showing an interior with no flash used in its photography (left) and flash used properly, reducing glare (right)

The two images below are examples of how timing can impact an image. The image on the right is more attractive because it was taken at a time of day when colors tend to “pop” more. The image on the left could have worked out, but careful planning for sun’s angle would have needed to be implemented. Harsh shadows are another thing that professional photographers are used to working around, both through timing and in post-processing (photo editing).

a side-by-side comparison of an office building’s front exterior during daytime and twilight

Make an investment that makes sense.

We all spend money to make money. Marketing investments are an everyday necessity for almost any business, large or small. While it will take some time to sit down and calculate your ROI, you’ll be pleased when you crunch the numbers on your investment in photography. Many companies (AQUILA included) have seen an immediate response from improved photography quality.

Think of professional images as less of an add-on expense and more of a smart investment.

 

Things to Look for in a Professional Photographer

The barrier of entry for a top professional photographer is more than an expensive camera. You need to find a pro who not only owns the equipment and has mastered their craft, but is a good communicator and runs a qualified, insured business.

Each photography discipline (real estate, portrait, wedding, sports, etc.) has its own unique rules and skill sets, so it’s a good idea for a property owner to hire a photographer who specializes in real estate or architectural photography. Dedicated architectural specialists are familiar with:

  • The right angles and positions
  • How to make sure there is no glare or reflection on glass surfaces
  • Other “tricks of the trade” essential to make a property look its best

Simply put: You know how to sell a space, and the right photographer can expedite that sales process by bringing their own unique skills to the space. Find the one that works for you.

 

Tips for Choosing the Right Photographer

Pricing

The standard price for photos depends on the market you are in and the skill/experience level of photographer you are working with. In Austin, high-end commercial property photos can cost anywhere between $60 and $200+ per photo license.

Some properties may only need a handful of photos (exterior, lobby, common areas), while properties with big blocks of available space and many amenities may require more.

Pricing structures can vary by photographer too. Some photographers may charge a session fee (often called a “day rate”) in addition to their per-photo price, while other photographers will have one flat fee for a set amount of photos.

a photo showing a photographer standing in a commercial lobby with a flash on a stand, taking an exposure

“Real Estate” And “Architectural” Photographers

Generally speaking, most “real estate” photographers are dealing with high volume and will get the job done cheaper and quicker, but with a lower standard of image quality. “Architectural” photographers tend to have higher price points, but also spend more time perfecting the images and delivering higher quality (think of interior magazine photos).

Gathering Quotes / Budget

As with most things, it’s never a bad idea to get multiple bids. Balance your budget against the quality you require. Increasing your budget will often produce higher quality images – if you hire the right photographer.

Photo Copyrights

When hiring a new photographer, always ask beforehand about policies on image rights.

To cover your bases, request rights for both the property owners and the brokerage company to use in any format, and ask for a contract that lays the copyright terms out in plain language. This will save you from future potential headaches. If the photographer has restrictions on usage, work out a mutually acceptable agreement. Some photographers are more restrictive with their images than others.

If you come across existing images of a property that you’d like to use, contact the owner of the images and confirm the appropriate usage fees. Neglecting to do so can land you in legal trouble, so be careful when using work not commissioned by you or your company.

A detail photo of Aquila Commercial's lit sign on the wall of their office

 

The Bottom Line

With all this compelling evidence in favor of having professional photos taken for your property, it seems like a simple answer that can take your property to the next level. While investing in photography – or even just better photography – may be a process, AQUILA urges real estate professionals to consider taking our advice and making the investment.

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Scott Mason, guest author for AQUILA Commercial and professional photographer

Scott Mason

Scott Mason is a freelance photographer in Austin specializing in architectural and corporate event photography. He studied photography in Chicago and worked in the industry for several years before starting his own photography business in Austin in 2014.


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