As an architectural photographer in El Paso, I frequently get inquiries from local builders who would like me to capture photos of their projects. While most understand the details of what they are requesting, some are surprised by my quote because they are accustomed to getting prices for real estate photography instead of architectural photography. In general builders who need photos for their portfolio or to support the marketing of multiple properties need architectural photography instead of real estate photography.
Architecture Photography and Real Estate Photography are Very Different
It might seem simple – photos of homes and other buildings are all the same, right? Not really. When you take a closer look at it, there are some significant differences between the two photography specialties. Here are a few key differences:
The subject of a real estate photography project is simple – the property is the subject and nothing more. The property represented in the photographs is the actual property that is for sale. For architectural photography, however, the subject being photographed often represents other properties. It sounds complex, but it’s not. Consider the photo of an apartment complex demo unit at the right as an example – this photo is intended to act as a representative for all other units based off that model. For this reason, architectural photos must be carefully created to properly represent the concept of the subject rather than the actual subject.
The lifespan of photographs created for real estate is limited to the time the property is on the market. Once the property sells, the need for the photographs non longer exists. With architectural photography, the lifespan of the photos is indefinite. The variety of uses described below could cause architecture photographs to be used for an unlimited number of years. For this reason, architecture photos must be carefully created to maximize their life span. Objects that can cause a photo to appear old ahead of its time should be minimized.
In the photo to the right, the cars were intentionally blurred both to represent movement and to minimize their impact on the lifespan of the photo.
The usage of real estate photographs is limited to media that is used for marketing of the subject property. This can include the agent’s website, MLS, product flyers, etc. Generally speaking, photos used for real estate are smaller in size and of lower quality than photos used for architecture. Architectural photos are frequently used in formal media such as annual reports, portfolios, marketing materials such as magazines, and sales pitches. Architectural photos are usually the dominant component in layouts and therefore are usually larger and should be much more detailed and attention grabbing.
The photo at right was captured as a candidate for the cover of an annual report.
There are some areas where real estate photography overlaps architecture photography. High end real estate and multi-family real estate are two areas that may share characteristics of real estate and architectural photography simultaneously.
These seemingly simple differences add up to a huge difference in approach. The lifespan and usage differences especially dictate that photography for architecture is approached with greater attention to the quality of the finished project. Architectural photography is similar to commercial photography in that each shot is carefully composed and lit. It’s not uncommon to spend 30 minutes or more on one shot during an architectural session.
The limited life span and purpose of a real estate photo would not justify the cost of spending a significant amount of time on each image. It doesn’t make sense to spend the money required for architectural quality photos when the cost will be offset by a the sale of a single property. The added cost is justified when the photo will be used to support multiple transactions including property sales and leases as well as the acquisition of new business via a portfolio and marketing materials.
Know What You Need
If you’re a builder, architect, developer, or property manager, you likely need the added quality that comes with an architectural approach. If you’re a real estate agent marketing single properties that are not considered high end, the real estate approach will likely be best for you.
If you’re interested in my architectural photography services in the El Paso area, please use my contact form to request more details.
You can also view my architectural photography portfolio and read my blog entries related to my work as an architecture photographer.