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In real estate photography, there are three ways to go about showcasing listings.

  • Hire a professional photographer to capture the images
  • Do it yourself
  • Skip that whole thing and list it without pictures

In this series, we’ll be talking mostly about doing it yourself.  However, in many cases, it would be advantageous to hire a photographer.  If you are so busy with other parts of your business that you don’t have time to do it right, get a pro.  If you don’t have the skills (and/or you aren’t willing to take the time to learn them), get a pro.  If you don’t want to dedicate the time to get it right, get a pro.  These aren’t meant to be mean… but to let you know that the pictures on a listing are one of, if not THE most important marketing tool you have.

There is no shame in hiring a pro… I have better than a decade in professional advertising photography behind me, and I have hired photographers to shoot some of my listings.  I did, however, go back and shoot more supporting images.  And that is a GREAT way to transition from hiring out the photography to handling it in-house.  Bring in a pro to shoot the major scenes, then shoot the details yourself.  It will save a little money, and not compromise the marketing of the listing.

This image shows a Canon EOS 350D digital sing...
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There are a few things that you need to know in order to get started in handling your own photography for your real estate listings.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be covering them in more detail, individually…

  • Cameras (you don’t NEED to have a big, expensive camera to shoot great pictures, but it doesn’t hurt)
  • Lighting (this is where the action is)
  • Aperture and Shutter speed combinations (the mechanics of taking pictures)
  • Composition (framing it up to make it work)
  • Tricky Details (those little things that catch us off-guard)

Photography isn’t hard, but it does require attention to detail.  The techniques are all pretty basic, but stacking things on top of each other is where things can get a little tricky… for example, combining flash and ambient lighting, or balancing inside and outside light.  And one of the greatest aspects of modern digital photography is the ability to see immediately the results… in time to correct the images BEFORE breaking down and going back to the office.

Nikon D700 camera
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I will try to get specific as often as I can, and the tips will be related to shooting real estate.  Of course, some of them might also jump over into your vacation shots and family pictures.

Stay tuned…

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We just got back from a week at Walt Disney World.  As a family, Disney is one of our favorite vacation destinations, each time delivering more than we expected.  And that isn’t easy…

Walt Disney World Resort
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The tough part of exceeding a customer or client’s expectations is that the next time their expectations will be higher… and they will be looking for you to exceed those higher expectations.  In effect, you raise your own bar higher and higher until it becomes VERY difficult to jump over your newly raised bar.

One might think that after more than 10 years for my wife and I, 2 cruises and at least half a dozen trips to WDW, they would have a hard time going above and beyond what we expect.

But they seem to be continually looking for new ways to surprise us.

Do you do that for your clients?  Do you look for new technologies and new presentations to wow your clients?  What about new ways to showcase your listings?

One this most recent trip, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Officially, since we were renting points from a Disney Vacation Club member, and so we were staying in the Villas.  As we drove up to the gate, they asked for ID (as they always do) and pulled out a pre-printed parking pass.  When my wife went into the lobby to finish the check-in process (which had been started online before we left on the trip… meaning most of the paperwork was already done), she was greeted at the door by name, and welcomed.  She was ushered to a comfortable chair and everything was ready for review.  In just a few minutes, we were unloading the van onto a cart to give to Bell Services.  Our room wasn’t ready yet (it was still only 10:30 in the morning), so Bell Services was going to store our luggage.  We hopped on a bus to the Magic Kingdom and began our day.

Wishes fireworks shows in the Magic Kingdom Wa...
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At the end of the day, with two tired little boys in tow, we arrived back at the resort.  We told Bell Services we were ready to have our luggage sent up.  The Bellman said he was right behind us… and he almost beat us to the room.  My wife’s fear that we would have to wait for the luggage before being able to put the boys in bed were gone.

That isn’t the most magical portion of the stay there… but it shows the attention to detail that Disney gives their guests.  There were “towel creatures” in the room, super-fun activities for the kids and immaculate appointments all around, as well.

Disney actually has classes that they offer to businesses about how to do business the “Disney Way”.  Many large companies pay HUGE amounts of money to learn how Disney treats people.

As a contrast, there is a retail store nearby that is closing soon.  The chain isn’t going away, but the location is.  It is LONG overdue.  Walking through the store, it is evident that the staff and management gave up long ago.  The merchandise isn’t orderly.  The floors are dirty.  The aisles are blocked with poorly placed display.

English: Lobby of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodg...
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When I go to that store (rarely), I have VERY low expectations, and I am still always disappointed.  At Disney, I have very HIGH expectations, and they always find a way to surpass them.

That doesn’t mean they are perfect… I think they need to hire me as a consultant to teach their PhotoPass Photographers some basic composition… but if they WERE perfect, there would be no room for growth.

Whether it is looking for better ways to showcase a client’s property, or looking for better solutions to help clients search for a new home, maybe WE need to grab a little Disney Magic to exceed our client’s expectations… every time.

 

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I seldom get political on this blog.  But this is important.

An unskippable anti-piracy film included on mo...
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Both Houses of Congress are looking at legislation aimed at curtailing online piracy… copyright violations.  This movement is largely backed by the photography community and the music and movie industries… as well as many professional sports leagues.

But all isn’t well.  The current legislation is VERY poorly written.  In fact, they are written so loosely as to allow the government to shut down a website because of a comment.  Not after any sort of warning… but instead of a warning.  A website owner’s income could be cut off without warning or proof, and then he would have to engage in a protracted legal battle to regain access to their own website.  And it wouldn’t have to be from content generated by the owner of the site.

But, I think that the largest part of the problem is that property (a website/domain) could be seized without due process.  Possibly even at the behest of a competitor… since a violation could be recorded because of something placed on the site by a commentor.

 

The goal is appropriate.  The method of trying to achieve the goal is SERIOUSLY flawed.  Call your Congressmen and Senators.

***UPDATE*** After writing and scheduling the post, but before publication, Congress dropped the legislation from consideration… for now.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that they won’t pick it up again when they think nobody is paying attention.  “We’ve got to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”  Nancy Pelosi, referring to ObamaCare…

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Another one of the ProBlogger tips was to mix in some new content types…

It wasn’t fancy…

But, what did you think… It took a total of about 3 minutes to shoot the video with the tablet, set it to upload and then grab the embed code from YouTube.  When I do these videos for real, I tend to have better lighting and to worry a little more about how I look.  But the point is that video has become VERY easy to do.  And while it is nice to have a full production, it isn’t always required.

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It has been time for this blog to be updated for a little while now.  Updates have been moved to the back burner as I launched my new blog (CoolCaroftheDay.com) and got that concept off the ground.  And while I still plan on freshening up a couple of my other blogs and sites (LaneBailey.com and GarageHomesUSA.com are both due), I thought this was a good place to start… and I might as well drag it out for a little while and bring all of you along with me.

I will be making the changes as I write the posts (not as they are published… I usually write posts a little ahead of time).

The first part included adding a newsletter/email subscription form.  Over at Problogger, it was their first step in revitalizing you blog for 2012.

I already had a MailChimp (affiliate link) account, so I didn’t spend any time doing that.  I spent about 15 minutes creating a list on MailChimp for this site, installing the MailChimp Plug-in for WordPress and getting all of the settings right.

 

Image representing MailChimp as depicted in Cr...
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At MailChimp:

 

  • After creating a MailChimp account, go to “Lists” on the menu at the top of the page.
  • Click the big red “Create List” button.
  • Don’t worry too much about the sign-up form… you aren’t really going to be using it, just make sure you have the info boxes on it that you want.
  • Mouse-over “Account” on the top menu.
  • Move down and click on “API Keys & Authorized Apps”
  • Push that blue button that says “Add A Key”

 

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...
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In another tab, open your WordPress blog…

 

  • Go to Plug-ins > Add New
  • Search “MailChimp”
  • Install the MailChimp plug-in.
  • Under settings, the first thing it will want is the API Key… copy/paste it from MailChimp.
  • Select the right mail list from the drop-down.
  • Edit the settings so that you have the text you want and the widget looks the way you want it to look.
  • Go to Appearance > Widgets to install the widget in the location you desire.
  • Open up your site in a new tab… adjust the widget and settings as needed.

Like I said, it only took about 15 minutes for me to do all of that.  It might take you a little longer, or you might be able to knock it out a little faster… I hadn’t done it for a while, and had to stumble around and take a few bad turns.

Good luck kicking off your email list… and while you are here, why don’t you sign up for mine.

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My pal Mike Mueller is a FaceBook Whiz.  He has been all over the new Timeline feature from FaceBook… even though most people don’t even have a clue what it is yet.

 

Whether you are a fan of it or not, the new Timeline is coming.  You might as well get used to it and use it to its best advantage.  Mike has a few tips on his blog, AreWeConnected.com, and I’m sure there will be more coming in the future as he delves deeper into its capabilities.

Mike has a lot of other great takes on the Social Media sphere… as well as a great portfolio of FaceBook Pages he has designed for clients.  He’s also a huge hockey fan and a great guy.

One of the things I whole-heartedly agree with agree with Mike about is the use (on non-use) of FaceBook Profiles as a sales tool.  FaceBook’s Terms of Service specifically address using profiles as a marketing tool.  In a word, don’t.  That is the reason that they offer FREE FaceBook Pages for businesses.  In surfing around through a few profiles, it didn’t take long for me to run across a few that were basically real estate agent billboards.

So, check out Mike’s post… check out the new Timeline Profile feature and dive into the future.

 

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