How Do Photographers Tell If They’re Doing Good Work?
Photographers are artists by their very nature. As with any artist, photographers want to know if they’re producing good work.
After all, a photographer known for shooting stunning photos can quickly build a business, attract new clients, and command higher rates. There’s also a sense of pride in striving to perfect your work and develop your skill.
But how do photographers tell if they’re doing good work?
Review Your Photography Techniques
When you’re assessing your own skills to see where you excel and what areas need improvement, pay close attention to how you use common photography techniques, like the:
- Rule of thirds
- Focus and composition
- Depth of field and what subjects are given emphasis
The use of proper photography techniques comes with time, training, and practice. Proper techniques, when used together, elevate a photo from looking like it was shot by an amateur to one taken by a professional.
Understand Your Equipment…and How to Use It
You can pour thousands of dollars into buying expensive equipment and tools. Buying all the cutting-edge equipment in the world doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to improve your work. You still need to learn the proper way to make use of your camera, lenses, tripods, flash, and other equipment.
Did you know that how you hold your camera has an impact on the quality of a photo? Gripping the camera improperly can make you shake and make a photo look blurry or out of focus.
Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty, too. While you might be inclined to lean forward or backward when framing a shot, you’re better off repositioning your entire body — even if it means laying on the ground.
If you’re shooting in bad weather, prepare for the conditions beforehand. Bring clothes to keep yourself comfortable, warm, and dry. Shell out the cash for a lens hood or some microfiber cloths to keep your lens free and clear of raindrops or snowflakes.
As you practice honing your photography techniques, work on learning how your tools work. Play around with different lenses to get a feel for which ones excel over others in certain situations.
Remember: high-quality equipment alone doesn’t make for a better shot. Spend time learning how best to use what you’ve got.
Measure How Well Your Work is Received
It’s not always easy to accurately judge the quality of your own work. You might be too self-critical or overly enamored by what you consider to be your magnum opus.
That’s why you need to consider how others receive your work. Ultimately, they’re the ones who will decide whether or not to hire you based on your portfolio and samples.
One of the key metrics in analyzing the quality of your photography is evaluating its ability to earn currency. Currency can be anything from money to attention to likes on social media. If your photo accumulates currency (whatever it may be), that means your photo is making an impact and eliciting some sort of a response from an audience.
Some photos might be better evaluated in one context more than another. A photo you post on Instagram to garner likes and social feedback may not be the best photo to enter into a contest with industry peers.
That said, entering a contest or competition is another viable strategy for assessing the quality of your photography. Even if you lose, you might receive valuable feedback from those who are well-acquainted with judging professional photography. And if you win, well…being selected for first place in a photography contest says a lot about the quality of your work.
Once you feel like your work is of a high quality, feel free to submit it to stock agencies. Stock agencies want to buy the best work, so their acceptance of what you offer is a sign you’re on the right track.
Finally, some photographers offer to review their peers’ portfolios — generally for a fee. This is a great way to get feedback from someone whose work you admire and respect.
Continue to Hone Your Photography Skills
It’s all too easy to grow complacent with your skillset, even if you’re taking home prestigious awards and raking in the big bucks. No matter your skill as a photographer, continue to develop, learn, and experiment with new or better photography techniques, tools, and means of garnering feedback.
Photographers tend to carry what feels like a metric ton of gear. Whether we’re carrying equipment to shoot in bad weather or different pairs of shoes, we’re always prepared for a variety of situations and shots.
Our heavy packs often mean we leave a lot of gear behind at our offices and studios, however. While it’s always necessary to leave some of our equipment behind, there are two items photographers should always carry: a wide-angle lens and a zoom lens.
The Benefits of a Wide-Angle Lens
Wide-angle and ultra-wide angle lenses are an important piece of gear for landscape, architectural, real estate, and still-life photographers. They “add depth and drama” to a shot and can more easily add background context to a photo.
Wide-angle lenses offer a short focus distance, which allows a photographer to capture the subject of a photo without ignoring the background.
Using a wide-angle lens allows you to capture an entire shot (like a room or building). This is particularly useful in confined spaces, such as those you’d find when photographing real estate.
The edges of a photo can become distorted when shooting a wider shot. Though such distortion isn’t always desired, the effect on a shot’s edges can make for some interesting and exaggerated perspectives.
The Benefits of a Zoom Lens
Zoom lenses bring distant subjects closer. A zoom lens uses variable focal lengths that grant photographers the ability to transition from wide-angle to standard to telephoto focal lengths all in one lens.
It’s best to use a zoom lens for “action” shots of physical activities, like sports or wildlife photography. A zoom lens is also ideal for event photography where it’s important to focus on the subject of your photo, as at a wedding.
Why Photographers Need Both a Wide-Angle and Zoom Lens
With all the gear in your bag, why do I recommend photographers carry a wide-angle lens and a zoom lens?
Both types of lenses fulfill a specific purpose and can help you more effectively take a photo. Using a wide angle lens means you can capture an entire scene — a wide shot. But to truly capture a specific subject within that scene, you’ll be better served with a zoom lens.
Each lens treats the subject, foreground, and background differently, leading to a change in perspective. A wide-angle lens distorts the foreground and subject. A zoom lens brings the subject and background closer together.
Carrying Both Lenses is a Boon to Your Photography
A photographer will only be helped by having a wide-angle and a zoom lens available on shoots. Each lens is ideal for shooting a certain type of photo, so experiment, compare, and contrast during a shoot. Strive to get a feel for which lens you should use when, and up your photography game by having both lenses available to you whenever the need arises for one or the other.
Do Photographers Need College Degrees?
Novice photographers are often faced with two choices before embarking on a professional career path: attend school or learn as they go.
There’s no one right answer. Every photographer has a unique situation and set of goals. Some novices may not be able to afford college tuition, while others may simply learn better in a classroom.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to learn photography, but which one is right for you?
Formal Education for Photographers
Formal education is the path many take after high school, regardless of a student’s choice of major or career goals. It’s the typical “college experience” that helps prepare you for the working world.
As with other fields, would-be photographers must choose a school that offers a program that appeals to them. Schools offer a variety of photography majors and programs and often encourage (or require) specialization in a specific aspect of photography, such as digital or advertising photography.
Before pursuing formal education, however, would-be photographers must consider:
- The cost of obtaining a degree
- Time spent in classes
- Courses that don’t adapt as quickly to changes in the field
On the flip side, those that do attend college in pursuit of a photography degree can benefit from:
- Networking and connections
- A more well-rounded education, such as time dedicated to learning history, craft, and theory
- A professional certificate or college degree
Formal education helps open doors of opportunity for those that graduate a photography program. In this way, it may be easier for them to find a job or branch into another field, like teaching.
Self-Taught Education for Photographers
In contrast to a structured education, self-taught photographers are not bound by any one path or curriculum. Instead, they can pursue their passion for photography immediately after (and even before) high school graduation.
By following a self-directed regimen, photographers can focus on a particular specialization. They may also choose to attend a technical school aimed entirely at developing photography skills. From there, experience can be earned in real-world situations: on the job, either as an intern, employee, freelancer, or self-employed business owner.
Self-taught photographers miss out on:
- Earning a degree in photography
- A structured learning curriculum, such as courses in theory and history
- Access to experts and equipment found in a college setting
In contrast, self-taught photographers:
- Gain real-world experience
- Can begin their career immediately
- May adapt to the ever-changing landscape of photography
Self-taught photographers hone their skills through trial and error, with less guidance than those who attend school. For many, the ability to be in control of their own destiny is well-worth the trade-offs.
Choosing Formal Education or a Self-Guided Education
Between a formal education or self-guided education, which choice is best for a would-be photographer?
Either choice brings its fair share of pros and cons. What ultimately matters is choosing a path that complements your lifestyle, finances, and goals.
There are merits to being, or hiring, either type of photographer. Passion for photography and a desire to continually hone and improve your craft will take you far, no matter the path you choose to walk.
A real estate photographer’s job doesn’t end after snapping a few photos of a property. In fact, taking photos is only one aspect of our job.
After each shoot, a real estate photographer typically refines and edits photos in post-processing. During this editing stage, we make sure each photo works to attract a buyer’s attention and help sell homes faster and for more money.
But editing comes with a trade-off: our time. Quality editing can be time-consuming, which reduces a photographer’s ability to photograph more properties in a given day. So, should real estate photographers edit their own photos or outsource to a dedicated editing professional?
The Benefits of Editing Real Estate Photos
Why should real estate photographers edit their photos at all? After all, if you’re trying to entice people to visit or buy your home, shouldn’t it look as authentic as possible in the photos?
But even the best photos can be speckled with impurities and imperfections:
- The camera’s flash might be reflected in an object
- The sky through a window may be somber and unappealing
- The photo could benefit from color correction
Editing a photo makes a scene appear the best it can be, as if potential homebuyers were there in person themselves.
How Much Time Does a Photographer Spend in Post-Processing?
Time spent in the editing process varies from photographer to photographer and shoot to shoot. In general, I spend between two to three hours editing photos, which is also about the time it takes to shoot a property.
There are many techniques that can be employed to process a single shot in 10 to 20 minutes, but that technique then needs to be replicated for multiple shots.
That means, in total, almost an entire workday is devoted to a single shoot.
The Benefits of Outsourcing Real Estate Photo Editing
Some real estate photographers choose to outsource their photo editing.
Finding a reliable and trustworthy editor can free up a photographer’s time to shoot even more properties.
Because a photographer can take on more jobs by outsourcing the editing work, he or she is making more money and is free to offer more affordable prices to clients.
And photo quality isn’t sacrificed, either. In fact, it might even be increased. If a photographer hires the right editor, it’s likely someone with substantial knowledge of editing software and techniques. While photographers are naturally familiar with editing, a dedicated editor focuses primarily on that singular task — and excels at it.
An editor’s expertise, then, translates directly to the final shots, which are then handed to a client and used to sell their property.
To Self-Edit or Outsource: That is the Question
There’s no right answer for whether or not a photographer should edit their own photos or outsource to a professional. Instead, the best solution depends entirely on the photographer and his or her workload.
A photographer may choose to self-edit a small shoot or when time permits — or may simply choose to do so from pure preference. On the other hand, outsourcing the editing process can help a photographer grow his or her business, book a full schedule, or meet plenty of close deadlines.
Whatever the choice, what’s paramount to every photographer is handing clients a set of the best possible photos — photos that will help a property sell for the most money.
The Difference in Dimensions: 3D, 4D, and 5D
All of us are familiar with the various dimensions of objects and places we experience and interact with on a daily basis. One-dimensional objects, for example, are made up of one measurement, similar to a line that connects point A to point B. Objects are two-dimensional when they can be described with two measurements, such as height and width.
You’re likely familiar with the concept of 3D, or three-dimensional, objects. But what about the differences between 3D, 4D, and 5D? Let’s take a look at them!
What is 3D?
3D stands for three-dimensional and is used to describe objects that can be measured on three planes. In comparison to flat 2D, 3D uses a third dimension of “depth.” This creates the illusion that the figures viewers are looking at — such as a person modeling some new fashion or a home staged for sale — are authentic and right there, just like in real life.
Consider Avatar, a film heralded for its extensive use of 3D cinematography. Moviegoers were (obviously) not present on the fictional planet of Pandora, but the 3D objects on-screen created a compelling suspension of disbelief. Flower petals drifting through the air toward viewers often elicited a genuine reaction as arms across the theater shot up to attempting swiping or grabbing them.
What is 4D?
In film and cinematography, 4D enhances the suspension of disbelief by incorporating physical elements. This often includes physical sensations such as movement, lighting, and temperature.
4D helps to transport viewers further into the realm of the subject matter they’re consuming. Some amusement park rides make use of these elements to further entertain audience members.
Imagine our Avatar example once more. Your seat shifting and shaking during an on-screen flight or battle scene would constitute use of 4D. Similarly, a light mist covering you while a character walks through the jungle would also be an example of 4D in film.
What is 5D?
5D builds upon 3D and 4D by using more of your senses. 5D tantalizes your senses of smell, touch, and taste.
Imagine following a character along through a forest and actually smelling the scent of the earth or fresh-fallen rain. While a scene including fire plays out on-screen, heaters in the theater may give off warmth to mimic the feel of actually being there.
5D combines 3D and the added sensations of 4D. Together, 5D helps you witness the scene that transpires before your eyes (and other senses), lending credence to the belief that you’re actually present.
What About VR?
With the advent of virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, VR is making a bit of a comeback. But how does VR relate to 3D, 4D, and 5D?
Well, not all VR content is in 3D. While some images can certainly be experienced better through VR, the same exact shots can be seen through a 2D medium. These are often made up of 360 degrees of photos or video — or a panorama. It’s beautiful and immersive, but not entirely 3D.
The largest difference between 3D and virtual reality is interactivity. While there are varying degrees of just how interactive VR can get, it at least provides consumers control over the movement and direction of the camera. You may or may not be able to open a door, for instance, but you can certainly approach it — or choose to look at the ceiling above, for instance.
VR is not necessarily 3D, but it may make use of elements of 3D.
Which Dimension is the Best?
When photographing or filming, there’s no one clear answer to which dimension is the best to use. Each project is, of course, limited by budget and time constraints. On top of that, not all projects lend themselves to the added features of an extra dimension.
But understanding the differences between each dimension can benefit your work when the opportunity is available to you. Creating an immersive experience for your customers, clients, or consumers in general elicits stronger reactions and emotions — one of the biggest rewards of being a photographer, right?
As technology continues to improve, growing numbers of home sellers find themselves looking into the benefits of using virtual staging to help sell their home. But just what is virtual staging and how does it stack up against physically staging a home to sell?
As the name implies, virtual staging is done on the computer rather than in real life. This means that, unlike traditional staging, you don’t rent any furniture, decor, or accents. Instead, virtual staging digitally inserts all of those same items into photographs of empty rooms in the home. This, in turn, helps to attract potential buyers online to tour the home, where they can then use their imagination and consult the virtual staging photos in order to envision how each room would look with furniture inside.
Preparing for Virtual Staging
One of the most important steps when preparing to virtually stage a home is to professionally photograph the rooms that will be virtually furnished. It’s crucial that these images are high-resolution to ensure that the final listing product is perfected for online buyers.
Make sure to remove any unwanted items before capturing each room on camera – this will speed up the process of editing. Once the photos are primed and ready for staging, the virtual stager can add furniture and decor to compliment the overall style of the home. High-quality listing photos improve the final staged product by giving the stager the opportunity to work with an ideal canvas.
Benefits of Virtual Staging
Virtual staging has a number of benefits but the biggest is of course price. While staging a condo the old fashioned way costs an average of $2500 per month, virtual staging typically costs between $39 to $199 per room. What’s more is that this fee is a one time cost as you don’t have to pay for renting furniture. As the average home for sale in 2018 stays on market between 34 to 53 days, this means that virtual staging could save sellers several thousands of dollars.
Another pro of virtual staging is that gives sellers the opportunity to create a strong first impression with potential buyers. As Jen Williams, Redfin Market Manager says, this is important because “buyers will imprint on the first photos they see of a home and will develop their first positive feelings and attraction to a property at that time.”
Downfalls of Virtual Staging
The biggest drawback, of course, is the fact that because the home is only staged virtually when potential buyers show up they may be underwhelmed compared to the experience they had when they found the home online. While this may not be an issue for younger buyers, this could present problems with older audiences.
Being able to see the home fully furnished is also the main benefit of traditional staging. It allows prospective buyers to walk into a home and picture themselves living there without any of the guesswork of what kind of furniture they may need to purchase and where to place it. That work is done for them and, as a result, 33 percent of Realtors say that the home’s value actually increases an additional one to five percent when professionally staged, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
If you choose to stage your home virtually, remember to provide potential buyers with photos of the empty rooms as well as their virtually staged counterparts. This will help to show buyers that the home they’re thinking of touring not staged in person so that they are not confused when entering the home. Also be sure to not overdo the furniture and decor. Just because it isn’t real doesn’t mean you can’t go overboard.
Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to make sure your home looks ready to sell before it’s listed. First impressions are often a deciding factor for buyers and staging is a powerful tool to create a strong impression and sell your home quicker.
As a photographer, are you collecting sales tax?
Probably not, right?
In the state of Washington, digital photographs are treated the same as tangible, physical photographs — even if they’re transferred and sold electronically.
This means that each photograph taken for a client is subject to retail B&O and sales tax. Photographers are responsible for collecting and reporting such tax.
In contrast, the service you’re providing — actually taking the photos — is not subject to taxation. You only need to collect tax for each photo you provide.
To do so, you must determine the cost of each photo, and then collect tax based on each photo sent to a client or customer.
If, for example, a photoshoot costs $250 and you price each photo at $5, you would collect taxes for each $5 photo.
The cost of digital goods should be displayed as a separate line item on an invoice, with the next line showing the amount of sales tax being charged based on the cost of digital goods, i.e. not the actual photoshoot (which is deemed a service, not goods).
Consult a CPA or financial professional for help determining the percent of sales tax you should be collecting.