The Birth of a Real Estate Photographer


As a professional real estate, interior design, and architectural photographer, the path to get here is not very clear. To answer one of the most asked questions I've been asked, this Blog post is dedicated to my clients who have received the short version of the story.

"So how did you get started doing this?"

I clicked the buy now button and anxiously awaited for my used “like new” lens to arrive. As a 17-year-old senior soon to graduate high school, $400 was a ton of money. Little to my knowledge, this purchase would be the first domino in a series of life changing events. 

Which lens you ask? A Sigma 10-20mm F4 – 5.6 EX DC HSM. Compared to my 18-55mm IS kit lens, it was in another league. I had played with longer focal lengths in the past, but based on the shots I was most drawn to, this ultra wide angle glass was going to give me an entirely new perspective.

My package arrived the night before my first real estate project. I stayed up for hours getting used to the new perspective, and experimenting how to bounce my 430 EX II flash off the ceiling. I learned instantly that the camera had to be level to get nice looking shots… quite a task when using my high school photography teacher’s classic silver Bogen tripod with pistol grip ball head.

Fast forward eight hours.

I’m giving my name to the mustached guard at massive black security gates. The sign off the road read “Los Lagos” – I had only heard of the homes in here before. This is where NBA Stars, Eddie Murphy, prominent CEO's lived. The homes were opulent sprawling beasts. With every turn the estates grew wider, taller, and more grandiose.

I finally pulled up to the estate, greeted by the friendly face of Ryan Dressel, an uber-talented interior designer who was transitioning into the home staging business. Ryan and I were connected by my mother – they were close friends, and their relationship enabled me to make an easy pitch to him. It went something like:

“Do you think I could photograph some of your work for you to show off in your portfolio?"

And here we were, just one short week later. This was Ryan's first big home staging job, and my VERY first paid photography gig. I was overwhelmed walking through the immaculate grounds. The foliage was fresh and green from the California spring climate, and the home was equally gorgeous. Twenty foot white pillars drew us in as we entered through the solid wood front doors. A petite Asian woman briefly appeared as she was scurrying around the home, vacuuming every last nook and cranny she could find. After she gave me a brief tour, I was sent on my way.

Using my Canon Rebel XSi, I put together some impressive shots while futzing with the camera mounted 430 EX II speedlight. After about 4,000 square feet, 3 hours, and 1.5 acres, I was completely spent.

“When can you get the photos back to me?”
These words would become all too familiar.

“Tomorrow, no problem!”

My client wrote me a check on the spot and I hurried home to my laptop to edit the HUNDREDS of images I took. As a senior in high school taking 4 AP classes with a Calculus test the following day, I heavily underestimated the time commitment I had just taken on. But the precedent had been set, and I have worked on the same timeline ever since.

My 17” HP laptop was screaming in agony as I tried to process my 12 megapixel RAW files on the Adobe Camera Raw software. I was editing the photos one by one, painstakingly straightening each image, correcting white balance, removing distortion, and tweaking levels and saturation. If I recall correctly, it took over 4 hours to edit everything completely. It also took four emails to send all the finished attachments to Ryan.

“They look fabulous! Really great work, Chad!”

In that instant, a partnership was formed.
And I have been hooked ever since. I didn’t have a special degree or certification, I didn't have a mentor, and I had few resources... like most great things in life, this journey has been an ever-evolving, increasing complex accident. 

Have any questions or stories about starting your photography journey? Feel free to ask me below! Authored by Chad Davies, Owner and Photographer at Davies Imaging Group, LLC.