Real Estate

7 Montegal - Shoal Creek Real Estate Photography by Tommy Daspit

Doing a twilight exterior of a home this size brings some unusual challenges. I tested the absolute limits of the Camranger and my strobe's radio triggers!

There’s one home in the Birmingham area that stands head and shoulders above the rest in size, grandeur, and fame. It’s guitar shaped front yard, massive size, and hefty price tag have made it famous throughout the land. Built 20 years ago, this home in the super exclusive Shoal Creek neighborhood, is the largest in Alabama. It’s one of the largest in the entire country.

There are fifteen bedrooms in the main house, plus more above the horse stables and the guest house. It features a gym, theatre, pool room, a gazebo on the roof, several kitchens, several living rooms, several laundry rooms, a bar, and so so much more. In total, it cost the homeowner $30 million to construct.

Unfortunately though, because of its enormous size and price tag, it has sat on the market for quite some time (the previous photos didn’t help it much either). Now, a luxury auction company from Texas is set to auction the home to the highest bidder. They knew that they would need much higher quality images that what had been done before to entice the right bidders. I was thrilled when they contacted me to do just that. I knew that this home would be a challenge. The sheer size and number of photographic opportunities made it daunting. Lighting and selecting the best angles were key to showing off this home’s potential.

My assistant (and aerial drone photographer) Alan and I started shooting at 9 am. Other than a short lunch break, we worked non stop. The last of the gear wasn’t loaded into the car until 8:30 that evening. It was a long day, (my fitness tracker said I waked 5.9 miles, took 15,000+ steps, and climbed 22 flights of stairs), but I feel the end result was worth it. Hopefully my images will help sell this magnificent home once and for all!

The driveway alone was very impressive. I wanted to include some of the trees to give a sense of the distance and scale.

Doesn't get much grander for a staircase!

Looking from the main living room towards the entrance. All of the oil paintings, tapestries, and hand done carvings made this one a unique challenge.

One of several offices.

Most impressive home theatre I've ever seen by far.

See more of my architectural and interiors photography portfolio.

4330 Kings Mountain - Liberty Park Real Estate Photography by Tommy Daspit

 This is an example of an elevated twilight exterior. The home sits high on a hill. Normally you have two options in this situation. One, you can shoot close. To get most of the house in the image you have to shoot SUPER wide. Super wide results in super distorted images that look weird. Option two is to shoot down below. This can also lead to a distorted perspective that is unnatural and weird. My solution was to put the camera on an extension pole 18ft in the air. This allows me to get a better perspective while still maintaining the full quality of my Professional DSLR as opposed to a drone. It also allowed me to do a twilight exterior (finished image is 44 individual photos composited), something impossible with a drone.

This is an example of an elevated twilight exterior. The home sits high on a hill. Normally you have two options in this situation. One, you can shoot close. To get most of the house in the image you have to shoot SUPER wide. Super wide results in super distorted images that look weird. Option two is to shoot down below. This can also lead to a distorted perspective that is unnatural and weird. My solution was to put the camera on an extension pole 18ft in the air. This allows me to get a better perspective while still maintaining the full quality of my Professional DSLR as opposed to a drone. It also allowed me to do a twilight exterior (finished image is 44 individual photos composited), something impossible with a drone.

 One of the raw images used to create the final image above. You can kinda get a feel for the camera perspective.

One of the raw images used to create the final image above. You can kinda get a feel for the camera perspective.

Real estate is not my main business. I focus primarily on commercial architectural and interiors photography. I like being able to take my time, to craft the best possible images for the space and project. Commercial work also has a longer life span. The photos I create for builders, designers, architects, and businesses, can be used for years and in many applications. They help those clients grow their business. I feel that I am helping contribute to the success of many small businesses, much like my own.

Real estate on the other hand is all about selling one house, one time. Once a new homeowner moves in, the life of those images is effectively over. Sure, I use some in my portfolio. In some rare cases the real estate company, builder, or architect may license them for their promotion. For the most part though they fade off into the sunset rather quickly. For that reason many real estate photographers are concerned more about volume and speed. It’s more about how many homes can I photograph in a day rather than creating the best images possible. I will say that there are a few who really pride themselves in the quality they provide. Their work jumps out from the crowd and ultimately helps real estate agents and homeowners alike.

I like to think of myself as being in that category. When photographing a home for real estate speed is not my concern. Sure, I want to respect the homeowners time and I’m not able to spend as much time on each image as I would on a commercial shoot. Still, my main focus is creating images that I’m proud to put my name on.

This philosophy has resulted in the majority of my real estate photography business coming not from agents, but from homeowners. Often they are frustrated with the photos the agent has taken themselves or have had done by someone more interested in volume than quality. The homeowner has the most to gain and loose in the sale of the home. The ones who contact me to photograph home recognize that they will sell their home faster and for more money with better photos. They see the value in paying more to get photography that will grab the attention of potential buyers and separate their home in a sea listings. 

Such was the case of this home. It’s a magnificent property in the exclusive Liberty Park subdivision in Vestavia Hills. The homeowners found me online after looking at the portfolios of many photographers. They selected me because of the quality of my work, not my price. The housing market in Birmingham is red hot right now. Many homes are selling before they hit the market with multiple offers above asking price. If you’re looking for a home in the $200,000-$500,000 range in Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Helena, Pelham, Inverness, Hoover, Crestwood, and many other neighborhoods in the Birmingham area, you’d better move fast and have your pre approval ready. However, not many people are getting into bidding wars for homes north of $1,000,000. In that segment of the market you still have to sell the home. You still have to separate your listing from the competition. iPhone pictures may work for a 3br 2 bath split level in the hotter areas, but a 10,000 sqft, $1,800,000 dream home in Mountain Brook requires better.

This home, designed by Charles Michael Frusterio, gave me enough opportunities to last me several days. I could have gone on and on, but I didn’t think the homeowners wanted me to move in with them! So I limited myself to some of the highlights. Still, I started shooting at 2:00 in the afternoon and loaded the last bit of gear back in my car at 8:30 that night. Sure, that’s a lot of time for a real estate listing (there are some photographers who would have been in and out in under and hour), but I think the results speak for themselves! In the end, it’s work that I’m proud to show off, and I know will help the home sell faster and for more than similar homes in the same neighborhood with much lower quality photos. It will have been worth the time and money invested by the homeowner.

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I tried something a little different on this one. I wanted to add some human energy to the image. I asked Tami, the home owner to walk through the space a couple of times. I shot it with a slow shutter speed so she would be blurred. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Are you selling your home or listing one in the greater Birmingham, Alabama area (I will travel is certain circumstances) and want amazing photos? Give me a call or shoot me an email!

979 Cobble Creek - Birmingham AL Real Estate Photography by Tommy Daspit

A rather large amount of my real estate photography business does not come from agents. Instead, it comes from the homeowners themselves. Often they aren’t satisfied with the photos the agents take themselves or ones taken by a photographer that works more on volume (I take much longer to photograph a home than most real estate photographers). The homeowner recognizes the importance of great photos to attract potential buyers. The homeowner is the one with the greatest stake in selling the home. I’ve had more than one homeowner tell me that they could recognize my style. That they could tell which homes I’d photographed!

In the case of this beautiful home in Hoover the homeowners knew they wanted the house professionally photographed before they even hired an agent to list it. They found me online and we picked the perfect day and time for the sunlight to be just right. I could tell right away that this couple had taken a lot of pride in maintaining this home. No detail was left unattended to. They even went so far as to stage the kitchen, livingroom, and dining room to help the photos look even better. I will say that this was a first!

I love working with people who understand that it takes more than just a “nice camera” to get great images. They were patient with me as I lit each room and composed each shot. There were little details that take a little extra time for me but can make a big difference in the final image. For example, the homeowner told me how she was disappointed that the ferns by the front door had died. We’d just had a big cold snap and they didn’t make it. She lamented how brown and dead looking they were. So in the image of the front porch I used the magic of Photoshop to bring them back to life. It took me a few extra minutes at the computer but it was worth it. The photo looked much better and the client was thrilled! In fact here’s what they had to say:

Tommy:  The photos look FANTASTIC.....we absolutely love them. Nice touch up job on the ferns at the front door!  GREAT JOB!!” and “If these photos don't get us showings, I don't know what will.”

Take a look at the photos below and go here to get more information on this property, or contact the agent, Cindy Porter 205-755-7719.

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Rudulph Rents - Birmingham AL Real Estate Photographer by Tommy Daspit

I’ve photographed many homes for real estate agents and homeowners to help sell the property. This was the first time I’ve been hired to photograph a house for rent. Rudy Rudulph, owner of Rudulph Rents here in Birmingham gave me a call. Normally he photographs his listings himself. In this case the homeowner he was representing wanted it professionally photographed. It’s a very nice home and the photos needed to reflect that. So I was honored to be entrusted with that responsibility!

The truth of the matter is that whether you are selling a home or marketing it for rental, the photographs are what make people take notice. High quality images will make the listing stand out from the crowd. People flipping through listings on their phone or laptop make decisions about which one to look at deeper in milliseconds. A bad photo can give a bad feeling about the home even if it’s amazing in person. They may never give it that chance.
 

Earlier in the week I was photographing a home coming onto the market and talking to the homeowner (as I often do, I’m kind of an extrovert). They told me that they almost didn’t look at the home they ultimately purchased (the one they are now selling). The photos were awful. It was a real turn off and they really had no interest in the home. Fortunately for the seller, it was the only home then available in the area they wanted and in person it looked much better than the photos. They got a great deal on the home because it had been on the market so long that the price had been reduced. How many potential buyers never gave the house a chance because of the bad first impression the photos gave?

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The photos of the home, whether for sale or rent, are what make that first impression. My job it to make sure it’s a good one!

Learn more about this property here.

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view these photos as a video slideshow

2210 Wedgewood Rd - Vestavia Hills Real Estate Photography by Tommy Daspit

This was the first time I got to work with Jennifer Harris from Realty South here in Birmingham. We are both members of BNI (a business networking group) but different chapters. Her’s meets on Wednesday mornings and mine on Thursdays. One of the rules of BNI is that if you can’t make the meeting you need to get a substitute. Since I’m free on Wednesdays I often substitute at her group. As an aside, if you own a business or are a sales professional, you should join a BNI chapter. It has done wonders for my business.

Jennifer was listing the home of one of another member of her chapter, Bruce McMillan business coach. The home was beautiful but posed a special challenge. The entire back side of the home was floor to ceiling windows. The view was great and she wanted to show it off. The problem is when photographing that situation you run into something impossible for the camera to handle. If you get the exposure right for the inside the view out the windows goes pure white. Photographers call this being “blown out”. Get the exposure right to see the beautiful view and the inside will be really dark. The camera simply doesn’t have the ability to capture the full range of tones the way the human eye does. Sometimes this is a good thing. If the view outside the window isn’t very attractive then you might not want to draw attention to it. This was not the case here.

To deal with this dilemma many photographers turn to a technique called HDR. This stands for High Dynamic Range. Instead of one photos they typically take three. One is exposed for the outside, one for the inside, and one in-between. Then those three images are composted in Photoshop. If done right this technique can sometimes give good looking results. Often though, it produces weird and unnatural looking images. The colors can look garish and shadows that should be there aren’t. Overall it can make the viewer get the feeling that things were heavily Photoshopped or “filtered”

The technique I use is different. I take the time to light the interior so the exposure inside closely matches the outside. Sometimes this can be done with one light (a high powered flash unit) but often it requires two or more. Time and care must be taken to make sure the lights supplement the natural light. The image needs to represent the light that exists in the home. I will take this into account in deciding where to put the light and if I need to modify the light in anyway. This process takes longer. It’s harder to do than just shooting a three shot burst. For me though, I think the results speak for themselves. 

Take a look at the photos below and see what I mean. 

To learn more about this home see the full listing and contact Jennifer Harris at jeharris@realtysouth.com or 205-965-1129

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