Sometime before next selling season — maybe during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, or maybe in that panicky search engine optimization/social media/viral marketing epiphany you’ll have in March or April of next year — you’re going to wish you had a nice photograph of something in your town.
This article is your reminder. It’s August and hopefully you’re out and about in your town and neighborhood showing houses or meeting with people. As long as you’re out there, bring a camera.
Maybe record a little video, too, if you’re ambitious. But definitely start taking some snapshots of the areas where you work.
Obviously, I’m not talking about specific houses — hopefully they’ll be off the market and sold. I’m talking about the things that make your neighborhoods and towns and cities unique and cool.
Things you might like to write about on your blog. Maybe not today, of course, but sometime in the next year.
You can always tell a last-ditch image-based real estate search engine optimization (SEO) plan. It involves tons of photos of the town … in late April or early March. In many places, perhaps late April and early March look stunning.
But in others (i.e. those that are further to the north), late April and early March is a great time to get pictures of trees with no leaves, damp and muddy lawns containing dribs and drabs of dirty snow ("snirt" for those of you in the know) and dead grass.
It’s hard to get excited about a neighborhood that looks like that. (For my friends in Wagga Wagga, Australia, or other places where right now might be the time of year when things look drab and gray, save this column and read it when the seasons align.)
Right now, however, you can probably take a few photographs of your towns and neighborhoods looking pretty good. Sunny days, green lawns, trees with leaves and people who are likely having fun make for better pictures.
Photos you take now are probably going to have a better chance of helping you put the best face on your neighborhoods and towns.
Having these resources on-hand now can make your winter season content-creation work go much easier. It also will allow you to get a couple months’ jump for any seasonally focused posts you might do.
For example, you can release your classic fireworks blog post a few months early, along with photos of the neighborhoods that have good views.
Here are a few tips to help get you started grabbing images that you can use throughout the next few months to help prepare you for next year’s selling season:
Carry a camera with you all the time. If it’s your iPhone, that’s fine — you just need stuff for your blog. It’s more important that you have a camera than that you have the best camera.
Start taking advantage of "golden hour," the first hour and last hour of sunlight. If you’re an early riser, take advantage of that and shoot pictures just after dawn. This early light will give you some great stuff to work with.
The last hour of sunlight may conflict with your dinner plans, so go out to eat someplace where you can take photos of the neighborhood.
If it’s rainy, go ahead and take some pictures of things in the rain. You might find a good use for those images.
Make a list of blog posts you might like to write over the winter for next season, and then go out and take supporting photographs.
When you download the pictures to your computer, change the file names from something like DSC101009.jpg to something descriptive like Best-Coffee-Shop-in-Ashley-ND.jpg.
If you don’t think you’re a "good photographer," do what all not-good photographers do: use a lot of filters and/or tricks. My favorite is the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. It makes a great mood-filled photo out of something mundane.
Shoot a wide variety of subjects. The only thing keeping them all together would be that they are in the towns and neighborhoods you work in.
If you really can’t think of anything to shoot, go to your favorite place in your neighborhood. Then take a picture of the most interesting thing you see, walk 10 steps, take another picture and so on.
Don’t have time to take pictures now? Find a high school kid you trust, hand the kid your camera. Offer him or her some money to go take pictures of cool stuff in the neighborhood. You’ll end up with some useless stuff, but you’ll likely get something good out of it, too.
Photographs are good for SEO — and for humans. You might as well get them when your area looks its best. If right now is that time, then go out and get the pictures.
If right now isn’t that time, then do it when the time is right. If you have multiple times of year to take great pictures (I live in Vermont and we have great photo opps in the summer, fall and winter) then take advantage of all of those times.