Step Four When Shooting
When you're shooting, pay attention to the needs of the client and adjust your style accordingly. I am an architectural photographer. People say, oh you only photograph architecture for architects. Not true. Architectural photography encompasses many different styles: architectural photography, photography for interior designers, photography for real estate, photography for hotels and restaurants and commercial spaces. All these different people need different shots. So for an architectural client... my job is to record and document the space. In most cases, I say over 90%, photographs are the only way that the general public can see a project. It's my job to show them what's going on in their neighborhood. What's going on in their house. An architect's potential client can't just show up to a house and visit it. And say, "Hey can I come take a tour of your house? I might hire this guy." It's your job to communicate what they've done. You need to create an emotion and desire to be ther...
e. Architects, in many cases, want to be hired so they can create a place for someone to live. So your architect's clients' potential client, it's kind of a complicated phrase there, wants to see how that architect creates emotion in a space. So it's your job to document that. Whether that's embellishing the light. It's creating a sunlit morning feel. You have light streaming in big, giant windows. You want people to want to feel like they want to be there. That is what makes your architect client very happy. So we're trying to communicate the emotion of the space. We're trying to, again, sell the architect's work to their potential clients. You've gotta make them look good so that does involve embellishing some things. People say, "No, no, no, you've got to document as it is." But as you guys know, the camera sometimes can't do that on its own. So we have to come in and change lighting and add mood and change out light bulbs and change furniture around. So we've gotta make our architect client look good. But we can't go over the top. I'm not gonna light a residential architectural project the same way I light a hotel. For an interior design client, you want to pay attention to the furnishings, the details creating a mood and a story. I said earlier you're going to have stylists who may come move blankets around and try to tell the story of someone living there. In many cases, I will try to take a photo and have it look like I just put my camera there and someone was walking through the space and boom I captured a little slice of time in that interior designer's project. Often stylists, art directors, a lot of people on set. If you ever looked in Restoration Hardware or Ikea, those catalogs. Everyone knows what those are. If you look at the pictures, you can tell it looks like a scene out of daily life. That's really what I try to do with my interior design photography. And you need to consider editorial usage. A lot of times these interior design and architectural clients are trying to get their work into magazines. It's a little feather in their cap. So you have to ask them, "What magazine are you trying to get this in?" It could be Luxe. It could be Architectural Digest. It could be Dwell. It could be your local, little, interior design magazine. Subscribe to that magazine. Go online. Find out what the look is. And try to recreate that look. For example, Elle Decor has a completely different look, if you've ever picked it up, than Architectural Digest. So is very natural where as Architectural Digest is very lit. Something to be aware of so when the client says, "I want to put this in so and so magazine." You know what look you're going for. Gary, say it.
Oh boy, oh boy.
We'll get him to fix it.
I can take questions while we are waiting for them to change things because we do have some questions on this stuff that we've been talking about. So Lynn B says, "When Mike talks about sending out brochures or emails. Who exactly are you sending them to?"
So my marketing emails so to say... When I'm bored, I try to look for... clients that I want to work with. I always keep an eye out for projects that I'd love to photograph. Or styles that I'd love to photograph. And I will find their contact info and say, "Hey my name is Michael Kelley and I'm an architectural photographer. I'm here in L.A. and I would love to work with you." This is the condensed version. "But I'd love to work with you. Is there anyway we could meet? Or would you consider using me? Or can I send you anything?" And oftentimes they're open to it. If you approach them in the right way. So does that answer the question?
Yeah I think that's fantastic. Yeah just looking for contact information.
Finding it from
I think you should always push to a higher level. You should see architecture clients or interior clients that you know you want to work for. You love their work... And reach out to them. Always try to market yourself to one level higher than you're currently shooting at. That's how I climbed the ladder. All the time. I have no problem with, I'll thumb through a Dwell in the checkout lane and find a picture I like. And oh my God who did that? I've got to shoot that. Or I've got to shoot whoever the architect is. Not shoot them but take their pictures. (laughing) And I'll reach out to them and good things come from it. You know?
Let's see. Do you mind if we take a couple more questions here?
Fantastic! Let's see. Wolverine Fan and eight other people are wondering how you convince a realtor that they need to hire a professional instead of using their own photos?
I will get to that. I'll take a little minute here to talk about it though.
I had a lot of luck on my side. I'm young. I don't have a mortgage. I don't have a family. I do have a family. But I don't have a family I need to support to put food on the table daily. I'm okay with eating Ramen. My "fake" family would probably not be. So, when I was starting out, I would go to realtors and I'd say, "I will shoot for you for completely free. No strings attached. If you don't find the photos so much better, you do not have to use me." But every time I did it. The problem is getting them to listen. The realtors they're all over the place. They have a million people coming at them at all times of day. When you break in and you do a project for them and they see the difference, it's a no brainer. But sometimes, they can be very stubborn and it's a battle not worth fighting. Look at their marketing. Are they serious about marketing? What's their web presence like? Are they on social media? Do they understand marketing? Would they be willing to try a different method of photography? And when you figure out, who is serious about their marketing? Who is doing well in your market? You can target and get a better idea of who will respond.
Great. It's funny because you mentioned they're really busy. They have a lot of stuff going on. LT Lilly 16 and a couple of other people wanted to know, "As dumb as this might sound, if you're emailing someone who's getting a lot of emails, what do you put in the subject line to get them to even open the email?" (Mike laughs)
You have to... slant it a little bit. You know the websites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy and they thrive on these catchy titles. Write out five titles of five email subjects and pick the best one. I don't want to say make your emails clickbaity but you kind of have to do that. Don't be afraid to be like your listings are missing something. Okay. Anyone who's anyone is gonna click on that and say who is this guy. What am I missing. Come on. Talk to me. And then just boom short and sweet. I find that everyone opens all of their emails but they don't necessarily read them. In my experience, I get tons of email. I don't know about you guys. I see them all. I scroll through my iPhone. I don't reply to them all but I see them. Be short and sweet. Hey, two sentences. My name is so and so. I'm here. I want to work for you. This is my work. The end. Contact me. Done. No more. You don't need to go on this whole spiel about who you are. They're busy. Respect they're time. Be simple.
And maybe one more before we keep going. Marisol Mar-kez and eight other people, big topic, do you advise to set up a price per project or have an hourly rate when doing interior photography? And should you have packages for different amounts of photos and interior sizes, etc.?
I don't do packages. I do my price per photo and that's for real estate. For architecture and interiors I have a day rate and then I bill on top of that per photo they choose to license. So to get me on location it's gonna be between 15 hundred and five grand for the day. And then on top of that I will charge them a price depending on their use to license each photo. So I'm covering my costs. Realtors will never go for this. If this is a real estate question or just an interior everything. But I do per photo and I tried everything. I tried packages. I tried little combos. I tried discounts. When I was doing real estate the price is, I don't know. Throw out a number. 25 bucks a photo. And that way it's simple. How many pictures do you need? 30 photos. Okay 25 times 30. Decent chunk of change for a day of real estate shooting. And it's simple. They don't have to do the math in their head about packages or square footage or they never question your value. And that way if the house is bigger or the house is worth more, you're probably gonna shoot more. Get more value out of it. I find that a price per photo is really the way to go.
Actually, I do think there's one more just before we get into this. It's a really good one from Ky-an and five other people were wondering. "When you're first getting started," he said, "how do you find clients? Cold calls? Friends? Especially when starting out, I was thinking of shooting mine and friends' homes and businesses as practice and to put them on my website as samples of my work." Can you talk a little bit more about developing a portfolio right at the beginning?
I would say that I got my start through networking and then after that, to grow my business, I did some cold calling. I think the best thing to do is, everyone knows someone who is a realtor or a designer. Do you guys all know realtors? Right? You all know realtors? You could probably call them up and say, "Hey it's John. I've got this crazy idea. Let me help you out." And I think if there a cool dude, they'll be open to it. So I don't think there's anything wrong with going through your friend network and just by asking if you have a friend who knows a friend, who knows a friend. You could be three or four degrees apart. The power of someone who can vouch for you will go so far and it will get you into cool places. So my number one recommendation is go through your friend network. Find someone who is tangentially related to real estate, architecture, building. General contractors, they need photos. Everyone knows a builder. Everyone knows a general contractor. Someone built their house that they're living in. How is your relationship there. There's always stuff like that - a restaurant owner. So many different things that need architectural photography. You have to know by extension one of them through friends. Failing that, cold calling. It's nerve-wracking. Get out there. Make an awesome little flyer, a big flyer. Eight and-a-half by 11 at least. Hand it to them. Make it so good that even if they don't like you, they're not going to throw it out. Get in their mind. Maybe call them up with the phone. Get a business card. Follow up. Don't pester them, but pester them a little bit. And good things will happen.
Love that. Alright, I say let's keep going.
Cool. Where were we? Alright. For real estate. Good timing. They want fast. They want cheap. And they want good. It is the impossible. Realtors want it last night at 11. They want it for ten dollars. And they want it to be good because they're obviously marketing people's most expensive asset. It does blow my mind that some of them don't understand that and don't buy photography. But that's a rant for another time. It's seemingly impossible. You need to figure out a workflow that let's you do that. For me, I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with doing a run and gun retail-based real estate operation. I know guys making money had over fist. They shoot five houses a day and they grind at it. And they're making 200 thousand dollars a year shooting real estate. It's crazy. I personally could not do that. I like to take my time. I'm kind of a really chilled out guy. I like to come in. I like to walk around. Get a feel for it. Make some great photos. There two ways to do it. I definitely think finding a workflow that works for you is definitely going to be the number one way to do it. You can't really... What am I trying to say... You can't create the best photos of your life by run and gunning five houses a day. So you need to figure out where you want to be. Do you want to do real estate? Do you want to do quick, high-volume real estate? Do you want to do slow? When I shot real estate, I would try to take a whole day to do one house. And some of my clients were like that's crazy. But they'd see the work and they'd be like okay get the homeowner out. They'll be on vacation from this time to this time. Go in there. Have a ball. Take your whole day. And that's how I built my portfolio. If you're in a market where it's fast, cheap, and good. You need to figure out a workflow that works for you. And there's tons and tons of guys who are doing really cool stuff with one big flash and blending all kinds of photos together. Similar techniques to what I'm doing. They've adapted it to real estate in a method that takes them ten seconds per photo. Open things in Photoshop. Brush it out. Boom. Next. You have to be, just practice like anything. So, if you want to get started in real estate and then jump up to interiors and architectural photography, resist the urge to shoot very ultra wide angle photos. When you go out to 17 millimeters, you get the whole room. Realtors love that. "You make it look big." That's what they say. But what happens is you lose any sense of context, emotion, size, and feeling. So, when I shoot real estate, I try to approach it like it would be an interior design shoot. I want to make a picture that makes a potential buyer say, "Oh I'd love to be there right now. Look at the sun coming in. It's beautiful. I could have coffee out there in the afternoon." It takes some time but if that's where you're starting and you want to jump up to shooting the higher paying architecture and interior stuff, pay attention to that. And for commercial clients, this is like a restaurant, a hotel, a bowling alley, who knows, whatever. Any building that needs photography. I love to embellish my pictures. I light things up like crazy. I Photoshop things out left and right. My number one goal when I'm doing commercial photography is to get people in the door. I want foot traffic. I want people to look at those photos and go "Oh my God! I have got to go there! I have to go bowling there right now. It looks awesome!" You know, something like that. If it's a hotel, same thing. It's truth in advertising. People say, "Where are your ethics?" Well look at any kind of advertising photography. You want your client to be happy. What's going to make your client happy? Making them money. Getting people in the door. Look at McDonald's hamburgers. Look at what they look like versus the advertisement. Same exact thing. (laughter) Get people in the door.