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Architectural Photographer Vs. Real Estate Photographer

Many professional photographers choose to specialize in a particular field. Read on for more information about architectural photographers and real estate photographers, which are two of these specialized careers.

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Comparing Architectural Photographers to Real Estate Photographers

Architectural photographers and real estate photographers are both professionals who specialize in taking photos of buildings. However, there are some very important differences concerning the types of structures they photograph and the purposes behind the images. The following article will compare and contrast these photography jobs.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Architectural Photographer High School Diploma or equivalent $34,070 (for all photographers, 2016)* 3% (for all photographers)
Real Estate Photographer High School Diploma or equivalent $40,770 (2017)** 3% (for all photographers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and **Payscale.com

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Responsibilities of Architectural Photographers vs. Real Estate Photographers

Both architectural photographers and real estate photographers have extensive experience photographing the interiors and exteriors of buildings. Architectural photographers tend to focus on structures such as government buildings, museums, historic landmarks, and bridges, while real estate photographers usually shoot commercial and residential properties currently listed for sale. Many architectural and real estate photographers work as freelancers or on a contract basis, though some may find long-term employment or repeat work by building strong relationships with clients. While both architectural photographers and real estate photographers produce work that is often part of a larger marketing plan, there is generally a greater variety to the end uses of architectural photography, as real estate photos are primarily used to sell homes. Architectural photographers can also expect slightly more travel to shoot locations because their subjects tend to be more diverse; real estate photographers often concentrate their efforts to a specific geographic area by networking with local real estate agents.

Architectural Photographer

Architectural photographers specialize in taking photographs of architecture, of course, though they may have more experience in a particular area, including interior design, scale models, industrial spaces, aerial photos, or construction. Their clients may be corporations, hotels, retail shops, magazines or other publications, advertising or marketing professionals, product manufacturers, interior designers, or architectural firms. Architectural photographers need to be effective communicators, able to determine a client's needs and produce high quality photographs in response to those needs. Taking photos of buildings sometimes requires climbing stairs, carrying and setting up heavy photography and lighting equipment, maneuvering around construction equipment or debris, and standing for long periods of time, so architectural photographers should be in relatively good physical health. Although not required, photography courses may be beneficial, along with a strong portfolio to showcase skills.

Job responsibilities of an architectural photographer include:

  • Using a variety of techniques and equipment to produce high quality photographs
  • Communicating with clients on all aspects of the scope of a project, including its description, budget, and end use of photographs
  • Understanding licensing and copyright issues associated with a project
  • Marketing, networking, and advertising effectively to build a client base and generate leads for new business
  • Negotiating contracts to ensure adequate compensation to cover fees and expenses associated with a project

Real Estate Photographer

The job of a real estate photographer is to help real estate agents market homes and commercial buildings for sale. These professional photographers work closely with agents to compose a variety of interior and exterior shots for online listings, social media posts, and printed materials. Though no formal training is required to become a real estate photographer, many choose to pursue basic courses in photography in order to improve their skills and chances for employment; these courses are typically offered at many community colleges and vocational schools, and cover things like equipment and technique. Even though real estate photographers take pictures of homes, interpersonal skills are still important, as they must work closely with real estate professionals to ensure each project is completed satisfactorily.

Job responsibilities of a real estate photographer include:

  • Understanding of basic photography principles, especially how to use angles and natural light to compose quality photographs
  • Editing and digital image manipulation knowledge
  • Paying close attention to detail to ensure photos are clean, uncluttered, and free from visual distractions
  • Ensuring photographs are appropriately formatted and optimized for various uses, such as social media or newspaper classified ads
  • Performing typical administrative tasks like appointment scheduling, client communications, and maintaining an up-to-date portfolio

Related Careers

If a job as an architectural photographer sounds appealing to you, you may want to consider a career as an industrial designer, which is another commercial art job where you can create designs for everyday products like cars and toys. If you like the idea of becoming a real estate photographer, a career as a residential interior designer may also be a good fit, as both jobs require creative flair and an eye for detail.

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