Home buying and selling activity started picking up a few months ago and is still going strong. But for me, it is also photography season.
I have an endless, inexhaustible need for photographs for blog posts and for advertising, and everything seems to look better in June. Some of the photographs I will take in the next two months will be sold next winter, and others will bring me clients.
If you want to learn one new thing this summer, focus on photography.
Old school still photography is not dead, and it has not been replaced by video. Still images are a must have for anyone using social media on the Internet because they are media.
Digital cameras keep getting better and less expensive, and there are more photo sharing sites, apps and social networks than ever. Smartphones have built-in cameras, and so do tablet computers and laptops. Most of us have at least one camera with us at all times.
There is gold in photographs, and they can be taken in seconds. Instead of using clip art, or stock photos, or pictures of myself on websites and blogs, I use original photographs that I can take just about anywhere. Those pictures end up on the Internet and serve as an introduction and help start conversations with strangers who become real estate clients, or friends, or both.
The photography strategy that has worked for me is simple, but goes way beyond taking pictures of my listings. I take pictures of St. Paul Minnesota and I post them on the Internet on websites, blogs, and social networks.
I use some for advertising and others to promote real estate or to promote my businesses and the idea of living in St. Paul. I take pictures of local landmarks, the river and the city parks. Pictures of what I see every day and of what some would call ordinary. I try not to take the same pictures everyone else takes, or I at least try to take them first.
Sometimes I have photography themes. Last summer my theme was related to some public art programs. The year before I concentrated on parks, and this year my theme is biking and light rail transit.
A theme could revolve around housing styles, or a neighborhood, historic buildings, churches or places to go and things to do. I did some work for city parks that involved photographing trees. Who knew that pictures of trees could bring so much website traffic? There are endless photographic possibilities all around us.
Taking pictures of what we see every day is a great way to promote a city and to show expertise, and it does generate real estate business.
Photography can establish credibility, just like the written or spoken word. Pictures of the ordinary are more rare than most people realize. Good pictures of what we see every day are even harder to find. It takes a few seconds to take a picture with a phone and upload it onto the Internet.
The cameras built into cell phones keep getting better. The one that I have now is better than the older digital cameras. Photography isn’t about using an expensive camera — it’s about capturing what we see, and sharing it with others. I have seen some amazing photographs taken with phones.
Video is not going to replace still photography, but both are important. Video has been the next big thing in real estate since at least 2003. Still photography has been the big thing on the Internet since 1995. Yet most Internet savvy agents don’t post any video, and few photographs.
It isn’t easy to get good video. I have a camera that shoots HD video, but most of what I photograph is not moving. It isn’t like a fire, or a tornado, and nothing bleeds, which makes my video pretty boring. I could turn the camera on myself and talk but I don’t think that’s very interesting either.
The first and only question most people ask about photography is, "What kind of camera should I buy?" That is the wrong question and there isn’t a right answer.
Most people who have a phone have a camera. Think about what you want to photograph and how you want it to look. It isn’t the camera that takes the good picture, just like it isn’t the keyboard that writes the great blog post. When purchasing a camera think in terms of a camera you can easily use so you don’t miss the pictures that you want.
Good pictures are not made they are found. Photography is really about learning to see the pictures and then learning how to capture them so we can share what we see. The human eye is far better than any camera or photo processing software which is why capturing what we see is always a challenge.
Start by taking pictures and take a lot of them. They are easy to delete if they don’t work out. Learn how to get them from your camera or your phone to your computer or to the Internet.
Take at least three pictures a day. Some are bound to come out, and you can learn from your mistakes. There is also a wealth of information in your camera manual and in "how to" videos on YouTube. The mechanics are fairly easy to master. I taught myself how to use the manual settings on a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera by watching videos and I taught myself how to process photos by reading books.
I will recommend some basic resources that I have used many times:
1. Digital Photography School. At digital-photography-school.com, you can find an answer to any question about digital photography, including information about cameras and camera reviews. Also sign up for their newsletter. It has ideas for what to photograph and how to photograph it.
2. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. A wonderful general photography resource with easy instructions on the best way to photograph people or landscapes or just about anything else. The book is now available on Kindle, and Kelby has also written a Digital photography 2, 3 and 4.
3. Flickr.com. Some of the greatest photography on the planet can be found on this site, and Flickr Explore is a collection of the best and most interesting photographs. Use it to find themes and to explore your own city or the world. Looking at great photography is a great way to learn photography.