Annie Walters is the owner and sole photographer of A. Marie Imagery/Sendsible Solutions. As a real estate photographer with a reputation for delivering outstanding photos, most of the area realtors are happy to put her talents to work. That’s fine by Annie, who is no stranger to the area.
Originally from the North Woods of Wisconsin, Annie called Middletown her home from the age of ten until her final year of high school. After completing her senior year in Kansas, she attended the University of Kansas. She experienced living in California for over a year and returned to Middletown as a married adult (1999)
Annie’s now raising her own daughter in the same location. In fact, she’s living only one mile from the place she called home as a girl. Even more interesting, Annie is living in the house she watched being built when she was younger. It just happens to have been built by the parents of her soon-to-be husband, Joe. The house will become even more a part of their family history as their wedding will be hosted there.
Annie has come a long way since her first camera as a young girl. Her passion for photography was already a given at that early age but it was shelved after a few short weeks when the camera (from People’s Pharmacy) broke. The interest was awakened again as a married adult taking photos of her daughter with a much higher quality camera.
Annie soon realized that her photography skills needing some fine tuning as she went through the typical novice mistakes. Heads were chopped off, balance was lacking and the scenes weren’t all that impressive. That had to change upon becoming a realtor when she made the decision to take the photos for her own listings and wanted to paint the best possible picture.
It became evident that real estate photography comes with its own set of challenges. Annie found her own image, and that of her equipment, reflected in various interior surfaces; mirrors, windows and even the glass fronts on hutches. A lot of time was spent photoshopping to improve the results. “I enjoyed the challenge for myself. I enjoy making my clients happy,” said Annie . With a decade of honing her photography skills behind her, she definitely succeeds in pleasing her clients. Her realty pictures grab attention and play a key role in marketing success.
The Greatest Hurdle to Overcome in The Real Estate Photography Business
The real estate market is the one aspect over which the entrepreneur has no control. When there’s a temporary slump or a long-term bubble, it’s hard to find a positive side. It’s not only difficult from the financial standpoint but stressful when there are no offers to deliver to the clients and no appointments for showings. Annie points out that it’s tough to justify hiring a real estate photographer when then the market is sitting idle and producing zilch.
Annie notes a personal hurdle, as well. “Personally I would say the largest hurdle is something that I still struggle with and that is just tempering my own expectations. I have incredibly high expectations for myself that are generally speaking higher than even what my client has for me and I can’t seem to let go and kind of bring myself down to what just the client expects.”
Staged Vs Non-Staged Photography
Staging makes an incredible difference, both in the quality of the photos and the time spent getting them in front of the buyers. Experience has taught her all about choosing the best angles and settings for interior and exterior photo shoots. She gives very precise instructions to the stagers to prepare in advance for a session.
What is the greatest difference between taking staged photos vs non-staged photos? According to Annie, non-staged photos are definitely less efficient as they take longer to shoot and edit. As an added drawback, the picture quality is also inferior. The interiors don’t look as spacious as they could and they don’t look ‘as bright and clean’ as the home searchers want them to be.
How does this translate in terms of real estate sales? Staging is a great tool for making an emotional connection with the viewers of the photos. When potential buyers can picture themselves living happily in the clean, bright, airy home, they don’t hesitate to make an appointment for an in-person viewing.
What is the photo selection process like? Annie takes up to 300 photos for each property and later scrutinizes each one for the thirty or so that stand out above the rest. She puts herself in the buyers’ shoes, while keeping in mind the stringent criteria for approval by MRIS. It all comes down to a trained eye.
“There’s four corners to most rooms and I would say at least one corner out of each room does not look as good as the other three corners, so I’m looking for that photo that is maybe not symmetrical, I do like symmetry in the photos, I like to have a corner and a middle, but I want the photo and I want the room to look large and bright and clean, like it is.” Staging makes it all so much easier.
It’s easier to take the ideal photos in a staged setting. It’s similar to creating the set of a theatrical stage. It’s done primarily for aesthetic purposes. It means the difference between neat and tidy vs messy and cluttered; dull and lackluster vs bright and shiny; a cramped space vs a comfortably open area.
Even in parts of the home where aesthetics don’t play a part, it’s extremely important to portray clean and spatial areas. Home buyers want to know about the layouts, dimensions and possible uses for the peripheral rooms. Is the laundry room just a closet with louver doors or is it a sizable work center with plenty of space for a folding table and shelves to sort out the folded items. Is the basement large enough to be used for entertaining?
Staging showcases the home in the best possible way and the photos prompt buyers to quickly take the next step – seeing the home in person. It’s the most honest advertising in the realty market because the photos are totally natural. What the viewers see in the pictures is what the home actually looked like at the time of the photo shoot. “There is no flash, there’s no external lighting, there’s no manipulating of anything, it’s the way the house is shot is the way that it is when I’m in that corner,” says Annie. In fact, the visual representation is so accurate that one home sold without the wife even stepping inside it.
Time Spent Shooting vs Editing the Photo
Annie spends about one-third of the project time shooting the photos; sometimes more. This is true, regardless of whether or not the home is staged. However, non-staged homes take much longer for both shooting and editing – though the proportion of time spent for each remains the same.
“I would say the average shoot takes me about an hour-and-a-half to two hours for your standard single-family house or a larger townhouse with three finished levels, its about an hour to two hours. It will take me on average four to five hours just to process and edit the pictures to where I feel that they best represent the property.”
The Peripheral Services of a Real Estate Photographer
Flyers are produced for some clients but they’re not the main focus for Annie. “I think a lot of people also have their own graphics people or an assistant that puts together their own flyers, so it’s really never been a service that has been so requested of me that I’ve had to build it in to my list of services.”
Virtual Tours are made available for the clients, along with the still shots for MRIS. The tours are extremely popular because they lend the feeling of actually being there and looking around the interior and/or exterior of the home. It’s as close as you can get to a walk through without scheduling an appointment.
An added benefit of the virtual tours is the ability to track visitor data. It quickly allows the client to determine how many views on any particular day, the site the visitors came from and more. It’s easy to measure the impact of social media posting, for instance.
” I can tell how many hits that tour has generated, when they were generated, where the hits came from, if it was an email, a large email that was sent out, I will be able to see the direct traffic, which means somebody actually typed in the virtual tour address and that’s how they got there. Again, you would be able to see where your money or time is being used the most effectively with that virtual tour.”
Musings from Annie
Some advice from Annie that can be put to good use personally and professionally? “I really don’t have a right to complain about something if I haven’t tried it and exhausted all the resources to fix it or figure it out. Even in my business, if I can’t figure out why a photo looks a certain way, I’m not just going to put it on a chopping block. I’m going to figure out why it doesn’t look that way before I just discard it, even if I have to.”
“If the white balance is suddenly off and I have to go Google how to fix that. I believe that to be the most successful that you can be. You have to be willing to exhaust all of those resources to make yourself successful. Then if it doesn’t happen, then you can lay down at night and say, “You know what? I did try everything and I just couldn’t get it. Hopefully that will bring you the peace that you need to feel okay with the fact that it didn’t work out your way, and I say that a lot to Olivia.”
Want To Reach Annie To Put Her Expertise To Work For You?
The best way is via email [Annie@AMarieImagery.com]. Annie is typically too busy taking phenomenal photos to take calls or check her voicemail. If you want to chance it, call 240-285-0069.
For samples of Annie’s work, simply go to the site [AMarieImagery.com].
Article Written with content provided by Frederick Advice Givers Podcast Episode #002 – interview with Frederick Advice Givers.