A young real estate photographer on his tips to stand out from the crowd


William Schaefer approaches real estate photography with a unique lens. The 23-year-old autodidact has set out to give potential buyers a real look at the homes they are interested in by deploying a few tips that make his work stand out.

Steve Girvin, a licensed real estate broker for Howard Hanna in Loudonville, said that regardless of whether Schaefer photographs a home worth $ 1 million or $ 100,000, he’s always thrilled with the end product.

“The videos he creates are superior and he’s worth his weight in gold,” Girvin said. “I am happy to have him in my marketing campaign.”

We spoke more with Schaefer about his work:

Question: How did you get started in photography?

A: I’ve been doing this for about six years, I started towards the end of high school. I developed this passion for communication through visual content. I started studying engineering and continued through college. But halfway through college I had a few opportunities to do a variety of photography, concerts, I guess, just with the school and with other organizations in the area. I knew engineering wasn’t quite the way for me. I knew I wanted to pursue something related to photography.

Question: What was your first real estate photoshoot?

A: A neighbor of mine knew of a real estate agent who needed drone photos of this listing here in Loudonville. I went to take drone photos for him at dusk. I knew right away that I would like to do something like this, so I continued to pursue it.

Question: How did you learn the trade?

A: I was mostly drone (shooting) and then I realized that I could do a lot more. I have learned myself with all the software you need to know for photography and videography. I ended up acquiring the equipment to be able to do real estate photography like a wide angle lens (and) a tripod. Then I was able to start offering interior photography.

Question: What equipment do you use?

A: The three main things I use are my handheld camera, it’s a mirrorless camera…. the tripod is super important (and)…. the last thing I use for video tours is a gimbal. It just stabilizes the camera when I walk with it. I am using Adobe Lightroom Classic to edit photos. For videos I use Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects.

Question: What are the challenges of real estate photography?

A: In real estate photography, it is important to keep all vertical vertical lines in a photo. If they are twisted or pointed outward and inward, it creates a subtle sense of vertigo in the viewer that people might not be able to put their finger on. The tripod was super important (to keep the lines straight).

Our eyes can only see the bright parts of a room and the dark parts of the room at the same time… but a camera cannot necessarily do this. I do what is called high dynamic range photography. You take these different exposures between three and five. Then you combine those photos into one photo and it creates that sense of depth that our eyes would normally see if we were at home ourselves.

Question: What sets your photos apart from the work of other photographers?

A: (Paraphrased from the interview) Unlike others, Schaefer edits animations in his videos and photos. One example is location calls to nearby locations. That’s when he takes drone footage over a property and animates the shot to include what’s near the house and how far away it is. Another animation he often uses is called a tax card overlay. Using similar drone images, Schaefer draws the property lines and square footage of the house.

Question: How much do you charge for your services?

A: My base rate for the normal tripod photos I take is $ 160, and it scales from there based on the square footage of the house. For my videos… they start at $ 250 and (are) to scale as well. What I’ve done so far is sort of pay-per-view pricing, so people pay individually for tripod photos, drone photos, or video. I find that people generally want more than one package. I have a feeling that creating combo packages for these will be just a way to encourage customers to want to try and diversify the type of content they put on a list.

Question: Are there other projects you are working on?

A: I’m working on a short film with someone I met earlier this year. He is a cynical millennial navigating a world he wishes he would never be brought into and he is frustrated with the system within society. It’s going to be a really interesting film that I think will resonate with a lot of people. I don’t want to say too much because we’re still in production, but it’s a really fun project to work on the video side of things that I haven’t done.

Question: What else should people know about your business?

A: I feel like everyone has their own way of seeing the world and no two people see the world the same because we’ve all had so many different experiences. What I wanted to do with this business was basically try to understand other people’s perspective. I feel like when we do that, when we really listen to other people and try to understand their point of view, you create that common ground that allows you to connect with other people.

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