Photography and Real Estate
Interview with Local Photographer, Greg Nation
What got you started in photography?
Well I’ve always been interested in photography. Some of my earliest memories were of me looking through my parent’s Time, Life and National Geographic magazines and being fascinated by the pictures. I knew at a very early age that I wanted to take pictures and I got my first camera when I was just eight years old. I’ve been taking pictures ever since. Of course everything was different back then. I had to buy film and flash bulbs and then pay for the film to get processed. Kids these days don’t know how good they have it. I’ve always been creative and artistic as well. I won my first art contest when I was still in kindergarten and I still have the trophy. I took art class every year that I could during my school years and I had some great instructors. They taught me so many things like perspective, composition and how to see the light. I loved using my creativity to create things so the plan was to become an architect and that meant going away to college.
Well life happens and I fell in love and decided to change my major and stay in St. Louis. I bought my first professional camera in 1985 and took my first photography class at UMSL. I absolutely loved the magic al experience of developing my own film in the darkroom. I also started realizing that I had a little bit of talent because my instructor kept using my photos as examples for the class. In 1986 I got married and for the next 23 years my wife and two kids were my inspiration. I literally took thousands of pictures of them. However in 2009 I suddenly found myself single again and with a lot of spare time on my hands. So in 2010 I decided to pursue my photography passion once again and I bought a Canon 5D Mark II and started getting paid on the side to do what I love.
Are there any special techniques you can share with us amateurs in regards to taking photos of real estate?
The number one tip I would tell realtors is to use a tripod. I use a tripod for probably 95% of my interior shots. I also set my camera on a 2 second timer so that I don’t have to worry about camera shake when I press the shutter release. I also always shoot in raw and then convert to jpegs when I finish editing an image.
What do you think is the best time of day for taking exterior/interior photos?
In photography it’s all about the light. For example, when you’re taking a picture of a house your camera really isn’t taking a picture of the house. What the camera is doing is taking a picture of how the light reflects off of the house. So to get a good picture you need good light and good light means soft light. The morning and the early evening are the best times to photograph exteriors because the light is indirect light.If it’s a cloudy or overcast day then anytime is fine. The bigger the light source the softer the light. You should always avoid shooting anything in harsh direct sunlight. I normally shoot interiors after exteriors if I’m doing a morning shoot and interiors first if I’m doing an evening shoot. If I were a realtor selling a luxury home then I would definitely want to have a nice twilight exterior shot to really showcase the house’s beauty.
Do you have a favorite camera/lens/flash?
Well I do love my Canon 5D Mark II and all of my Canon L-series lenses. I normally use my 16-35 2.8mm lens for most of my interior shots and use my 24-70 2.8mm for exterior ones. Sometimes I’ll use my 70-200 2.8 mm if the house has a long driveway or a large front yard. I rarely use a flash when I’m photographing a house.
Is there any more advice that you would like to share?
The number one basic rule in real estate photography is to try and keep the vertical lines vertical. Sometimes this isn’t possible depending on your angle but that should be the goal for most of your images. Yes, you want to use a wide-angle lens for interior photos but not one that distort things too much. I usually have my camera about four feet high when I’m doing interiors and I’ve found that this height helps. You should never use a fisheye lens in real estate photography. Most photography software like Photoshop and Lightroom can help you straighten some of the vertical lines during the editing process.
Do you think you’ll ever leave your current job to do photography full time?
I get asked that a lot, but I have a great job with a great company. I’ve been with them for over 30 years now and I really enjoy what I do. Besides, my hours allow me to do all the photography that I want. I’m off every weekend and I’m off every weekday by 2PM. I also get seven weeks of vacation so I can schedule shoots during that time if I need to. There really have been a lot of changes in the photography industry in the last ten years and things are still changing. The market is already over saturated with photographers and I think that trend is just going to continue. However, I think there will always be a demand for photographers that stand out from the rest of the crowd. I can retire in a few years so who knows what the future holds. I may have a booming senior photography business going or I may be living on a sailboat somewhere. One thing is for sure though, I’ll always be taking pictures.