Since the Coronavirus outbreak has caused most of our wedding bookings to be postponed, the last few months we have been focussing far more on the training sector of our business.
As a professional photographer, I feel it is so important to continue to develop and improve. Over the years I have personally invested a lot of time and money on my own self development and will always ensure I continue to improve my own skills. By nature, I am a creative person and therefore I find learning new techniques and experimenting a refreshing process. I will never settle, nor become complacent with my abilities and I encourage all my clients to do the same.
My approach to training is a little different than most other training providers within the photography industry; I don't rely on powerpoint style presentations or a rigid syllabus, but instead focus on practical methods and scenario based learning. Every client I teach has the opportunity to contribute or ask questions throughout and I find that most are more engaged this way. Although there are areas of theory that need to be discussed, my relaxed and informal methods work well; my clients must agree as many return for further courses or workshops and its great to see their own businesses grow.
Recently, we hosted two Property Masterclasses at a beautiful venue in Bedfordshire called Trainquility. Both courses lasted 2 days, had 6 attendees each and were a great success.
Trainquility, is a family run venue located in the village of Hatch In Sandy, Bedfordshire which as you can see, has been designed beautifully. The 5 bedroom home sits on a large plot of private land shared with the owners Michelle & Tony, their children and the family dog Murphy. Alongside the property photographed which houses the accommodation and open plan living area, there is also a separate building suitable for hosting business meetings or team building events aswell as extensive lawns to enjoy.
Trainquility was the perfect location for us to use as a base for our Property Masterclass. Just a short route off the A1, our clients could practice property photography on a large home, capture portfolio shots, experiment and learn new skills; it was a pleasure to host such a fantastic property training course in such an amazing location.
After a light breakfast and a coffee, we began the Property Masterclass with a group discussion about camera settings, different equipment that can be used and how as a professional photographer it is important to offer a quality product to our clients. With a mixture of experience and ability it was great to brainstorm as a group and have our attendees discuss scenarios and share tips with each other.
Estate Agency is one area of the market where photographers consistantly underestimate the skills required to be a success. Success is built on strong foundations and a good understanding of the industry you wish to be a part of which is why we chose to launch the Property Masterclass. I have been creating content for estate agents for over 10 years both as a Branch Manager and Marketing Director at one of the biggest agents in South East London and for the last 5 years as an independent photographer so I know the industry from both sides. Understanding what is required from the 'Estate Agent' point of view is critical to providing a product that is both fit for purpose and saleable.
So... Why is professional property photography important?
As a property photographer based in Kent, my aim is to work alongside Estate Agents, home owners or property developers to provide a complete marketing package. Professional photographs, an attention grabbing video and a floorplan are all fantastic selling tools that so many estate or letting agents either cut corner on or overlook completely.
When I deliver a whole package to my clients and it is uploaded to the likes of Rightmove, Zoopla or Air BnB, potential buyers or tenants are able to immediately envisage themselves in the home. Their attention is initially captured with the professional photos, their hearts by the video and the floorplan is a fantastic practical tool that allows them to calculate how the home could work for them. There are times of course that the home is not suitable, but by being open about what is on offer from the very beginning, an informed decision can be made without wasting anyones time. This is far more efficient for all parties involved, thus saving both time and money.
After our discussion, the group were then able to experiment with taking both photos and videos of the property. Practicing composition, creating natural transitions and using a wide range of equipment allowed them to expand their knowledge further. With extensive lawns, the location was an ideal opportunity to get some aerial shots and flight practice in so some attendees used drones to capture the Trainquility venue from above.
Alternatively, others who did not wish to fly drones practiced at height photography using a traditional mast method. Using a mast or pole system is a fantastic solution for locations that are unsuitable for drone flights such as highly congested areas as they eliminate a large amount of risk whilst still being able to create content to support a property listing or a roof survey.
Each individual practiced a range of shots using different techniques such as bracketing, off camera flash and the use of a gimbal. Some concepts were very unfamiliar with our attendees whereas others had more experience so it was great to have a mixture of abilities and see them support each other.
During the early afternoon, we took a short break for lunch which was a fantastic opportunity for the group to discuss their businesses and lives in general out in the Bedfordshire sunshine. On booking a place on the Property Masterclass, attendees were asked to pre-select a platter or design their own salad, sandwich or roll for their lunch.
As with all our courses, it's important for us that our guests feel comfortable; as big foodies ourselves, we wanted to ensure there was something suitable for everyone so each lunch was customisable and freshly prepared by Bethany. As you can see, everyone was well fed.
One of my priorities about running this photography training course was to ensure that each of the photographers understood what an Estate agent requires so that they can target them effectively. It was therefore fantastic that out of the 12 attendees (across 2 separate courses), we had two Estate agents who could also share their knowledge and give an insight from another perspective. Recent statistics show that the engagement on a property with professional photographs, a video and a floorplan if far higher than those without. Leading to quality viewings, many by those who have often already made a decision to make an offer, proves that the initial marketing investment is worthwhile for both the homeowner and estate agency.
As a group we were able to critique a selection of properties listed for sale across the country, discussed the noticeable errors made and the different steps we could take to ensure the first impression of a home was a positive one. Many estate agents are taking slapdash videos using a mobile phone, not uploading floorplans and the handful of photos they do display look uninviting. Rightmove statistics show that is these same agents who are having to reduce the asking price to 25% of their properties and on average have the house on the market for 4-7 months. Shocking results when you compare that to one of our clients, Open House Mid Kent, who is regularly selling houses within a week as a result of using our property photography service and taking pride in each and every listing.
With 5 comfy bedrooms, each with their own bathroom, ourselves and 4 attendees from each course were able to stay overnight (socially distanced of course) at Trainquility which allowed additional time to network together and experiment capturing photographs at night.
As a group we experimented with some vehicle photography, alongside external photos of the house and the beautiful Koi Carp pond whilst others chose to complete some drone flights in the darkness. Externally, the property is sensitively lit making it shine subtly in the Bedfordshire countryside, it really is a beautiful home away from home.
Each night we enjoyed a delicious takeaway, our favourite being from the Rasoi (the best Indian restaurant in Sandy) which was a lovely way to relax after such a busy day. Before long it was time to get some sleep, ready for day 2.
Although dewy early on, the weather was great for both courses and it was fantastic to enjoy a coffee outside before continuing the workshop. Being greeted by Murphy, who is the most relaxed dog I have ever met, was also a fantastic bonus to staying at Trainquility. Some attendees woke early to capture sunrise, practice drone flights or create 360 tours whilst the house was quiet. Having the flexibility of this property was fantastic and it allowed plenty of opportunities for everyone to gather fantastic content.
The majority of the second day was focussed around editing the content captured from the first. I demonstrated a selection of different techniques and programmes I use regularly for both photography and film, whilst the group were able to ask questions and get involved with making the decisions.
In regards to the video, we selected suitable music and began creating our timeline as a group. With having so many creative people in the room I was concerned that this may be difficult, however each person offered any criticism constructively and the team bounced ideas off of each other. By including a selection of lifestyle shots, incorporating drone footage and gentle transitions the video soon became a welcoming tour of a home that is both engaging and true to likeness, something that I focus on with each property I visit.
Many of the attendees had previously been overwhelmed by the editing process but It wasn't long before their confidence had grown and their new found knowledge was being put into action on their own photo and video content.
As the afternoon arrived, again we enjoyed another delicious lunch provided by Bethany followed by a selection of cakes and biscuits. Afterwards, some attendees chose to reshoot photos that they felt could be improved or had missed, whilst others captured some more external shots of the grounds.
Finally, we created floorplans using both Metropix and Magic Planner. An Apple iPad (+ iPencil) and a laser measure are the best tools for this and even a large house like Trainquility can be completed within minutes once you have the hang of it.
I always recommend practicing at home with these, as the programmes can differ slightly but it doesn't take long to grasp the skill. In terms of adding detail, houses for sale would usually just have the kitchen and bathroom fixtures plotted whereas an accommodation that was being let furnished such as Air BnB would have more detail like our example here.
By the end of the two day Property Masterclass, all attendees left with a quality set of photos, a video and a floorplan which they intend to use as examples on their own websites or as marketing material to approach new clients. Each photographer also has a collection of ideas of who to offer their services to and how to create a quality product but most importantly confidence that they can achieve fantastic property content themselves.
The two estate agents who attended both now have a greater understanding of what content to use when they market a property which will certainly help drive their businesses forward. Although neither intend to create all of their own property content immediately, they both aim to continue their photography training with the view to being able to achieve this in the future. Both have said they have a greater appreciation of the work that goes on behind the scenes and many ideas how they can continue to stand out from their competitors.
Thank you to everyone who attended. Both Bethany & I had a fantastic time meeting everyone and look forward to seeing your businesses grow in the coming months.
After our stay, we gifted the selection of photos, the video, 360 tour and floorplan to Michelle & Tony to use to help market Trainquility. Its a fantastic venue and we look forward to visiting again soon. Sleeping 10 (plus additional space for travel cots if needed), the venue makes a fantastic location for extended families to spend a long weekend together or as a venue for a workshop like ours. If you do visit, be sure to give Murphy a cuddle, he is the sweetest dog we have ever met.