Episode #010 - Why are photos such a big deal in real estate? We’ll answer that question and more! In this episode we visit with Eli Jones. Eli leads a team of professional photographers who specialize in showcasing properties in the DFW area. Join us as we get to know Eli, learn some tricks of the trade, learn tips for how to prepare your home for a photography shoot, and discover why photography plays such a key role in real estate.
Eli’s Bio: Eli grew up in Alaska where he started learning photography on the ski slopes outside of Anchorage. When his family moved to the DFW area and his Mom started her own real estate business. That’s when Eli started photographing properties. So, what began as a side hobby has now turned into a full-fledged, cutting edge business employing four other photographers. As a team they serve realtors across the metroplex providing stunning shots which highlight the features of each unique property. Eli and his wife, Kasidee, run the business together.
Links from this episode:
Norman & Young Website: https://www.normanandyoung.com/
Maggie Walton Design: http://www.maggiewaltondesign.com/
Episode #010 REN Podcast Transcription (Eli Jones)
Jason: Hello everybody, Jason Reynolds here with the ‘Real Estate Now’ podcast and I am excited today because we have the one, the only Eli Young with ‘Norman and Young Photography’ and for the first time, we got Bryan in the back. So we are all going to team up here, visit with Eli and go from there. Eli does all the photos, his company does all the photos for any listing that we have. He helps make them look great, I could take photos with my phone but they do not look good. Eli, I know you started the company or you co-founded it with your brother. Can you explain that a little bit? (1:00)
Eli: It’s actually an interesting story, something that we get asked about a lot. I actually grew up in Anchorage, Alaska.
Eli: Got into cameras up there. I was really heavy in the freestyle scene, which is the jumps, rail and skis flip, that kind of stuff.
Bryan: And you’re still alive?
Eli: Yes, I am still alive fortunately. Part of the culture there is that if you didn’t have it on film, you didn’t do it. Got into that for that reason. I guess in about 2011, my family moved back down here, I was 16 at that time so I came with them. I left the skis there because there is no snow here but I still had the camera and that was about… I didn’t know anyone here and that was kind of what I had to do. I played with that and my mom became a part time real estate agent.
Jason: In Alaska? (1:42)
Eli: Down here actually to buy their personal house and it just happened that I was her with one time, and her broker asked her to take cell phone photos of the house. I had my camera so I was thinking, “all right, I got this”. I took some photos and spent way too much time editing them. Delivered them, and they were terrible. I would never deliver them to a client now but it kind of got the ball rolling and I guess I was by myself for about two-and-a-half years and then roped my brother Aaron. The company is ‘Norman & Young’ and Norman is my middle name and Young is his middle name, so that is where that came from. I roped him in and in then in the last 2 years, we have grown to 4 photographers and myself and him.
Jason: That is awesome. Are you based in Cleburne? Where are you based in?
Eli: I live in Cleburne and our office is in Cleburne.
Jason: Always been in an office out there or how does that work? (2:22)
Eli: Out of my house in Cleburne and then into an office, an official office there in Cleburne. We thought about moving to Fort Worth-Arlington but for where we shoot, it is very central in the Metroplex, jump on 67, go to Dallas and over to Granbury where we first started, we are still there for now.
Jason: Awesome, some things about you. Are you married? Do you have any kids?
Eli: No kids yet but I got married in August 2016 to Cassidy my wife who certainly puts up with a lot, running the business but we have a lot of fun doing it.
Jason: Is she involved in the business too?
Eli: She is kind of in the behind the scenes aspect, she handles some of our accounting stuff as well as our behind the scenes stuff that it takes to keep it running.
Jason: Okay, cool. Then, when you jumped in the business and you got everything started. How did it kind of evolve into what you… I am sure when you were first offering services it was just photos but now, I see you guys do videos. What do you do now? (3:15)
Eli: So it started with just photos of course and it has kind of grown lowly since then. We added videos, I think it was about a years and a half ago. Our videos really started to kind of change how they are now when we hired one of our guys Mark because he is a very skilled videographer.
Jason: Did he just jump on recently?
Eli: He jumped on I guess a little over a year ago.
Jason: Does it say new photographer on your website by chance?
Eli: We just got a new guy Trent, the fastest guy to learn everything so far. So we are really happy with that, he picked it up quite quickly so it’s been good.
Jason: That is awesome. Are you guys using the most up-to-date state-of-the-art kind of stuff? (4:00)
Eli: What we do is we all shoot with the same gear and one of the burdens if you will when we scaled, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t “Oh, I want Mark because his photo looks like this”. Training played a really making sure we are all on the same page, and of course, part of that is all having the same gear.
Jason: We just drove past my wife.
Eli: Was that her?
Jason: Yeah, she knows we are doing the podcast so she was waving. I am assuming you use DSLR? (4:26)
Eli: We do, they are all full frame DSLR cameras because we all use the same lenses. We use the 16-35, which kind of gives us the ability to zoom in when we want to bring a subject a little closer but it also gives us those nice wide shots. So, you can actually see the whole room.
Jason: In terms of video, do you guys use the same camera.
Eli: We don’t actually, I am sure you are familiar with DJI, the drone company. They make a stabilizer called Ronin. We shoot with a Sony A6300 on that Ronin, that is on the ground level portion of course. For the aerial portion, we shoot with the DJI drones.
Jason: Is that like a Gimbal?
Eli: It is, yes. It is just an electronic Gimbal.
Jason: Pretend to know what I am talking about.
Eli: There you go.
Jason: You use the DJI for all the aerial shots.
Eli: Yes, for all the aerial shots.
Jason: How has that turned out? When you are doing real estate photography and what you have seen over the period you have been in it, how have video changed the market? (5:16)
Eli: I think both on the photo and video side it has changed a lot since I started. Of course, I was able to get into it not having the best quality photos at the time because I was competing with cell phones so that made it easy. The internet and how it has changed has played a part in your business just as much has it has played a part in mine. Photos and videos have become really important because no longer does someone call an agent and ask them to see properties. For the most part, it is call an agent and ask him to see ‘that’ property because they are seeing it first online. That has played into my hands very well because our business now becomes fairly important in that aspect.
Jason: Another equipment I wanted to ask you guys about. I Saw you do 3D tours, that’s a totally different… (6:03)
Eli: Yes, that is our newest addition. I think we picked up that service about a year ago, maybe slightly more than a year ago and that is through a company. Everyone uses the same for that, it is Matterport. They really hit the ball out of the park in terms of 3D tours, they don’t have any competition that is anywhere near the quality, it is all through Matterport.
Jason: They have kind of monopolized it.
Eli: They have for now, and there is nothing even close. We looked because their cameras are really expensive there is nothing else, so there we are with those things.
Jason: Do you have to purchase the equipment or you rent it?
Eli: You purchase it from them, you pay a huge upfront fee, you have the camera and then, you continue to pay fees per model they produce as well as a monthly fee. So they have you pretty well nailed down.
Jason: I am assuming you get whatever the data is and then it uploads.
Eli: Exactly, we upload it to their servers and it does all the fancy processing and sends back to us the completed model.
Jason: Awesome, any other equipment you can think of that changed that you are using or that you see coming up in the future? (7:02)
Eli: Mirrorless cameras versus digital. They are still digital but they are kind of the newest in the terms of advancement of camera technology. We have not adopted them yet because some of the technology is still catching up for some of the important things that we use. I do see that being a change. Not necessarily, it is something that everyone will notice, just that they are a lot better at capturing what is called dynamic range, which is the ability of the spectrum of light it can capture in terms of exposure. So a mirrorless camera can get way more light into one photo and what that means is when you and I visit a house, we can see out the windows clearly and see the darkest shadows in the house clearly but a camera isn’t that advanced. The more you get, the better it looks for the eyes so we are anticipating a change sometime in the near future with those, but we will see when that technology gets to our area of expertise.
Jason: I have been there a couple of times when you team is taking photos that there was an iPad but also the cameras. What was happening there? (7:59)
Eli: We shoot everything tethered. Basically, the advantage for us is that one, we have a lot more control on the iPad in terms of the brackets we are capturing everything in that regard. We can also see the photos on a bigger screen, not on a tiny DSLR screen. That is that advantage there and also a big thing that will happen is that if you are touching a tripod, starting a shutter, you can vibrate the camera and it will misalign the layers. So that is another advantage there.
Jason: That makes sense. That is all I’ve got, Bryan you take it over.
Bryan: I’ve got a couple of questions.
Eli: Go for it.
Bryan: When you are walking up to a property or one of your employees is, and you want to showcase that as much as you can. What are the things you focus on? Whether that is the interior, or exterior. (8:38)
Eli: The thing we do, and we talk about this in the meeting every Thursday as a team. it gets really easy when you shoot 4 properties a day per employee to go on auto-pilot and stop paying attention to the house. The big thing we do is to always try and take a second, not just to just jump straight in. to kind of look at the house and see what we think is going to be the selling features or the features that we really need to capture. That helps us not get into the exact same things every time. Of course, we want to have repeatable results but we want to take the character of the house into account. We always stop and walk around and part of that is we turn on the light first and at that time is when we make an impression of what we are going to be shooting and it helps us figure out our game plan.
Bryan: Right on. With different types of properties, whether you are shooting a condo, single family residence. Does that change? (9:32)
Eli: Sure, especially when we are shooting ranch properties or anything with more acreage. We kind of have a number we go in with. If we are shooting 36 photos, typically we want 11 to be outside and the remainder interior. But, if it is a ranch, we would probably shoot more than 36 and also more maybe outside highlighting features like round pens or barns or whatever they may have on the property.
Bryan: Because if they are buying property with land…
Eli: They want to see the land not just the farmhouse.
Bryan: Last one, is there a particular time of day that you find to be the best for showcasing a house? (10:15)
Eli: Kind of like today. I know you won’t be able to pick this up on camera, but big puffy white clouds generally work the best. A lot of people think that midday, the light is the harshest and we don’t want to shoot then but it actually isn’t the case for real estate photography. We like to shoot between the hours of 10 and 4 and I really try to cluster all the shoots because the sun is nice overhead. So that we don’t get a shot of the front of the house with the sun right behind us and washing out the house and alternatively, we do the same thing at the back where the sun is overhead so we can get a shots of both. Because otherwise they’re probably gonna be really overexposed.
Bryan: Which is really important, one of the things I do on the Visions Team is to analyze potential properties for investors. There are a lot of properties that are cell phone pictures and they are not paying attention to the time of day.
Eli: It does make a difference
Bryan: You have photos that are either completely washed out or have heavy shadows. Photography is a huge aspect in that.
Eli: We have a lot of realtors that like to shoot at 6:30am and it comes across like I am lazy so I’ll do it at 6:30am and that was the last time they asked me to shoot at 6:30am because midday is best by far.
Bryan: That makes sense.
Jason: Anything else? I am trying to think if I had any more questions you were going to ask.
Bryan: I guess just like an observation; a property is going to perform a lot better on the market if it is showcased property through the right kind of photos and videos.
Eli: Our job more than anything is we just want to get people there. The house will take over at that point but with the heavy competition online, we just want to make sure it stands out for you to be able to get shown and get those people into the house.
Jason: Diving the little deeper into not doing dusk or dawn shots.
Jason: I know those can be extra features that you can add on in terms of night shots. Are there certain properties that that works for in terms of doing a night session? (12:18)
Eli: Sure, typically they are considered twilight photos in our industry and we recommend those when one or two things. One, the property has a ton of incredible landscape lighting, something you won’t be able to see in the day and if you showed the house in the day time, they might not know it is there. Also, big windows, if we can see any property especially when it is a more modern properties that have huge windows. Twilight shots are actually best because we will be able to see in those windows. In the day time, with the lighting difference between inside and outside, you can’t see that.
Jason: Do you see a lot of people doing that more or is it kind of a hit or miss?
Eli: It is kind of a hit or miss but we have noticed is we offer two twilight options. A real twilight, which is us showing up at sunset or sunrise and shooting the photos and then, a virtual twilight option, which a lot of people at first are like, what is that? What we do is take a daylight photo and edit it to look like a twilight. We drop in a twilight sky, brighten the windows up, make it look like it was taken at night and the purpose of that is when you are looking at listings on Zillow or realtor.com where your buyers are, everything kind of looks the same. By having one of those virtual twilights, which you kind of preference whether you like it or not, the data shows a really sensitive part. Listings always get more traffic, whether or not people love the quality of those photos or the way they look, they certainly get more traffic.
Jason: We are going to get controversial here.
Eli: Go for it.
Jason: One thing people always say and I want you to debunk this. We go and look at a house and someone says, “Oh, they made the photos for this room look bigger than it really is!” Can you debunk? When you are editing photos, do you enlarge the rooms to make them look better? (13:57)
Eli: The reason we shoot with the 16-35 lens that we do is that 16 is about the widest that you will get without starting to distort the room. So, that is one of the aspects that gives it the larger than life look. The other thing is that you can adjust the aspect of the photos in post productions. So, you can actually widen or enlarge it that way. We consider that to be misrepresentation so we don’t do that. If you look at our photos, the room looks the same as it is. We try to shoot the angle that is farthest back to show the most of the room but we are never going to stretch the photos in any way.
Jason: Right, part of it too is that when you look at photos online, they be more vibrant in some ways but that is because it is capturing such a wide range.
Eli: Exactly, in essence yeah. The shadows to a person’s eyes may come out differently than a camera and it’s not necessarily because we are trying to enhance those, is because when we are editing the photos, we don’t remember exactly what the house looks like. So, we try to give it the best representation of what it was like when we were there but it is really important to us that we don’t misrepresent anyone. We want to get as many showings as possible but getting people out there that are out there for a reason that is not actually real - that will waste everyone’s time. It’s a fine line in improving the look and saying, “Come and see this mansion that is 1,200 Sq. Ft.”
Jason: When you guys are taking photos of some of our listings, you guys are great at maybe moving some things that are in the way, you guys have the eyes for that but, do you guys have a partnership with anybody for home staging? (15:35)
Eli: Nothing official. I will shoot a name out there because we don’t have any ties with them. Maggie Walton does a very good job, makes our job easier and she does the Fort Worth area and I know the Granbury area.
Jason: Does she have a website?
Eli: She does, I think it’s Maggie Walton Design. We have no ties with her but we like shooting her houses because it makes our job a lot easier.
Jason: I am sure there are plenty of homes that we have gone to and depending on how they are on the inside, anything you do doesn’t matter. (16:09)
Eli: Yeah, there is only so much that you can do. What we do is that in our schedule, we block out an hour or so to shoot a home and in 10 minutes or so is what we would spend preparing it. Some companies just jump in and start shooting, the 10 minutes we spend makes all the difference in the world. We will move things, our protocol, which is trashcans, we will adjust the blinds, we clear clutter off counter tops when possible. But the more of course, that’s done ahead of time - especially when it is comes to a fully staged homes - makes a big difference in photos.
Jason: I want to jump back to the company ‘Norman & Young’. In terms of when we hire Norman & Young, we as a realtor company pay for that service. So the buyers or the sellers don’t incur this cost, we pay for it to be done but you started this company 3 or 4 years ago, what is your plan for the future for Norman & Young? (16:50)
Eli: Still evolving. Often, we have made plans whether it is to get into staging or other aspects of real estate like that. It is not our area of specialty, so we are really focus on growing the photo side of the business. Our core three services, which would be photos, videos, and 3D tours, still a lot of clients trying to get in the Metroplex, so we still have a really good future here.
Jason: Do you guys do anything out of the real estate realm? (17:39)
Eli: We don’t actually, thaw was one of the areas we milled about growing in but when that happens, we lose the focus on real estate that we need to have in order to be the best.
Jason: The professional.
Eli: Exactly, so we will rather just grow that side of the business than branch out into other services.
Jason: Okay, I think that makes sense.
Bryan: So, you don’t just do real estate photography, but that is what you specialize in.
Eli: That is all we do. Really, it is so much different than shooting portraits or anything like that. We get requests like that all the time, like “Hey, can you shoot my daughter’s wedding?” you don’t want me shooting your daughter’s wedding, I can tell you that. It is not going to end well.
Jason: Be like: “It would be great, but really I’m booked that day.”
Eli: Right, so real estate only.
Jason: Then in terms of your service area, I know you have gone all the way to Granbury for us, I has one listing in Gainesville but I think it was too far. What is your threshold for the areas you cover? (18:23)
Eli: We try to go anywhere you want, we will just give you the distance fee but without the distance fee, we service most of the Metroplex. We do Fort Worth, all the cities north of Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas, we do without a distance fee out to Granbury. We actually started out in Granbury, so a lot of our clients are out there. Really, anywhere in the Metroplex and surrounding cities.
Jason: Kind of jumping around here. When your mom moved out here, was it to Granbury?
Eli: Long story is my dad started the company in Alvarado. They didn’t want to live in Alvarado. So we went to Granbury, that was where we first moved and they live in Cleburne now.
Jason: Okay, got you. Does your dad still own the company?
Eli: He does, yeah. He is coming up here in a couple of miles, he is actually on the way.
Jason: What we got? What is it?
Eli: It is a steel company, they do everything from selling their own brand of skid steers all the way to steel buildings, barndominiums, that kind of thing.
Jason: Okay, so you got a family of entrepreneurs here.
Eli: I do, I am lucky to have that too because it has come in handy when I had questions of how things needed to be done.
Jason: I think that kind of wraps up this portion of the video. You guys know, Eli’s team has taken photos, I remember one listing we had, the lock was broken I think, was it you that took the photos? (19:38)
Eli: It has happened multiple times. I hate to say yes but it may very well have been.
Jason: They hopped the fence out back to try and get inside and it was like a 7 Ft. fence and it was maybe a 100 degrees out and the back lock didn’t work. You guys probably spent 45 minutes trying to get into this place!
Eli: We try to make it happen.
Jason: Clearly, I was expecting you to say, “You guys should figure this out and we will be back”
Eli: Tell our photographers not to wear tight pants so they can get where they need to, that is how we roll.
Jason: Got to be prepared with an extra pair of clothing. We are going to jump into a different session of this video, it will be a different video. I know that we are the ones that really connect you to your clients. Say there is anybody that needs real estate photography or videography in some real estate they own. How can they get in contact with you and your team and maybe enquire about that? (20:36)
Eli: The best way is through the website. We have a contact form there, we have our email and phone number, you can call or text. The website is www.normanandyoung.com
Jason: Perfect. We will put those links in the show notes, YouTube links, etc. for people who need them.
Eli: Alright, cool!
Jason: Thanks Eli!