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Snappy Uses for Your Digital Camera/Users/adamp/Desktop/Oct_Mag_pics/technology

Barb Malz’s digital cameras are more than just technology tools used to snap photos of her listings and promote her business. In fact, they sometimes serve as an extension of her “right arm” for this sales associate with Keller Williams Realty of Citrus County in Inverness.

Unlike some real estate professionals who pull out their camera and use it to shoot a series of photos for a brochure or virtual tour, Malz reaches deep down into the amateur photographer within herself to come up with materials that go beyond the norm when it comes to real estate marketing.

Licensed since 1989, Malz uses a Canon Rebel and Canon G-3 to do the fieldwork, and then sits at her Sony Vaio desktop or Toshiba laptop and uses programs like Adobe Photoshop Elements and Microsoft Publisher to develop collateral materials.

With digital cameras getting more sophisticated (more megapixels, larger memory cards and such) and easier to use, even nontechies are able to follow Malz’s lead and come up with interesting ways to show off listings in today’s competitive selling environment.

Here are the top four ways that Malz uses her digital cameras and related software:

1. Create Presentations
Before Malz goes to a listing presentation, she can be found circling the prospective seller’s home taking photos from all angles. She uploads them to her laptop, and then lets customers approve them for future use in online and offline advertising. “I like to get them involved from the get-go,” says Malz, who knows that with more than 80 percent of homebuyers starting their home searches online, a good Web presentation is vital.

She also knows that those buyers are looking for photos—preferably those that display the home’s interior, exterior and surroundings.

“A photo is the first thing they see and it’s what gets their attention, so it needs to be great—not dull or average,” says Malz, who lives by the same philosophy when using Microsoft Publisher to create traditional fliers for every home she lists, focusing on the best features and using three to four home/property photos.

“I also take some of those fliers (from past sales) to listing appointments to show homeowners exactly how I’m going to market their homes,” says Malz. 

2.  Work Angles and Lighting
It’s not enough for Malz, who discusses best-shot angles and most-desirable lighting positions with her customers, to hit the shoot button once and feel that she’s done her job. “I always take photos of the outside of the home when the front is lit up,” says Malz. “Depending on the way the home sits, I may take that shot in the afternoon or in the morning to ensure the best possible presentation.”

Malz takes about five photos of every room, and usually 10 shots of the front, sides and back of the home. She varies the times of day to get the best possible light and to avoid shadows and other annoyances that can make a home look bad in print or online; she also tests out various angles to assure that she has plenty to pick from when it comes time to create the presentation.  

3.  Help Homes Show Well
Not every home is fodder for an Architectural Digest spread, so over the years Malz has learned to make the best of what she has to work with. A bedroom cluttered with children’s toys, for example, is a good candidate for a quick straightening to highlight the best aspects of the space without Elmo or Big Bird getting in the way.

For other areas, Malz envisions what a model home would look like and proceeds to tuck away unnecessary items on countertops, cabinets and floors to make the home look spacious and appealing. Only then does she start snapping photographs. “The less clutter, the better,” she adds.
4.  Maximize Equipment
Malz doesn’t use auxiliary flash lighting in the homes that she shoots, but she does put it into gear on the outside, where the equipment helps to tone down any bright lighting that may affect the photo. She uses a wide-angle lens to capture the entire home and the surrounding property, then switches to a zoom lens to zero in on specific features that show the home at its best.

“I use that lens to capture the prettiest aspect of the home,” says Malz. “So if someone has a [cute] railing and colorful flowers near the front door, I’ll zoom right in and take the shot.”

To real estate professionals who want to take their photography to the next level—on both the business and the personal side—Malz suggests enrolling in a digital photography course at a community college or other venue. “For just a few hours of your time and a small investment,” says Malz, “you can learn a lot of great information that will apply at your company, and in your life.” 

This column, designed to offer examples of how salespeople and brokers are using technology in their offices, won first place in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association. The column is for general information only. Opinions expressed here don’t necessarily reflect an endorsement of the views by Florida Realtor® magazine or the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).