Advice From America's 'Top Real Estate Photographer'

A quick flip through any glossy magazine will reaffirm the reliance that selling has on good pictures. Selling houses is no different than selling products. In fact, homeowners and Realtors are perhaps even more dependent on high-quality images to not only sell their homes, but to sell them at the best price.

This is why real estate photography has flourished into a powerful and lucrative little industry. While it's still lesser-known than fashion photography, real estate photography has seen a transition from a mere "commodity business" to an increasingly prestigious craft that has earned many photographers professional prestige and, well, big bucks.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, the Photography for Real Estate (PFRE) organization annually awards an outstanding photographer the honor of being the "Top Real Estate Photographer" of the year. For 2011, peers and the PFRE blog's readers recently voted to give Dave Rezendes of Honolulu that honor.

And it's not hard to see why. Rezendes' images highlight the uniqueness of a home and the beauty of its natural surroundings. His popular image of a home in Honolulu designed by architecture and design firm Long and Associates (left) was voted the winning image on PFRE by a large margin.

Not too shabby, considering that Rezendes has only been working as a dedicated real estate photographer for four years.

In an interview with AOL Real Estate, Rezendes admits that he stumbled upon the business "by chance," initially shooting photographs as a hobby. It was only after shooting his first property that Rezendes saw real estate photography as a promising career. He was right. It's proved rewarding in ways that stretched far beyond simply taking beautiful images.

"I love getting a phone call from a happy client letting me know that their property has sold much faster than expected," Rezendes says. "I like feeling like I can use my skills to contribute to their success."

Property Photographs: Do's and Don'ts

Whether you're an amateur real estate photographer, a Realtor, or a homeowner who wants to try shooting your own listing pictures, Rezendes has a few tips for getting the best photographs of a home (and to ensure that your photos don't end up like these train wrecks):

• Don't assume that wider is better. Sometimes a particular vignette or architectural detail will better convey the feeling of a house and give a stronger effect.

• When staging a photo, keep perspective in mind. It may be necessary to move furniture slightly to compensate for lens distortion and keep your photo looking realistic, especially in wider shots.

• Mind your verticals. Shooting at a downward or upward angle can skew the vertical lines of the photo, making them no longer parallel. Most photo editing software has the capability to correct this in post-processing.

• Keep an eye on your staging. A crooked pillow or messy bedskirt can take a minute to fix on location but hours to fix in post-processing.

• Avoid any clutter in your shots. Any exposed power cords, personal items, or even too much staging material can negatively affect the image. Keep your photos neat but not sterile.

• Avoid photographing exterior views in direct, midday sun. Try to cover that in the morning or early evening for the most complimentary natural light.

• Before you take a photo, double-check to see that neither you nor your equipment is visible in mirrors or window reflections.

On Going Pro

PFRE's Top Real Estate Photographer of 2011 also offers this advice for those who are looking to break into the trade:

• Be prepared to have your pricing ready for a potential client. It will be one of the first questions they ask when considering taking you on to shoot a property.

• Invest in some off-camera flash units to balance the light inside a space.

• A basic understanding of good photo-editing software can go a long way toward improving your final image.

• Understand and manage your client's expectations regarding the time that a shoot will take and how the photos should be used. Shooting for a web-based MLS gallery is different than shooting cover shots for a print-based magazine.