Should you shoot Atlanta real estate photos in the rain?

If someone had asked whether it was a good idea to shoot Atlanta real estate photos in the rain two years ago, the answer was simple, “What rain?”  According to the University of Georgia Griffin campus website, in 2011 we had just 20 rainy days in Atlanta from Jan 1 – Dec 5.   Compare that with Jan 1 – Dec 5, 2013, when we’ve had nearly 100 more days of rain, 118 total YTD, and the question deserves a little more consideration.  That is after all, rainy days for nearly a full 1/3 of the year.

For the record, I prefer, for the most part, photographing Atlanta real estate on bright, clear days with blue skies and birds singing.  Not just because I stay dry and my equipment stays safer, but because I can create better photos on sunny days.  The reality this year, however, has been that there are far more houses to photograph than there are sunny days.

Since there have been periods this year where it seemed like it rained (and probably did) every day for several weeks straight, the fact is that the show must go on, and houses must be listed, and bought, and sold.  An additional fact is that ugly days are when a professional photographer proves himself.  Here’s the before:

Before picture of Atlanta rainy real estate

This house sat high up on a hill, so to get a good view of the front exterior I first needed to elevate the camera considerably (which is another post altogether).  Suffice it to say that unless you’re driving around with a 10 ft pole in your car, and willing to balance $4k in camera gear over your head, we’re already +1 for the professional.  As you can tell from the wet driveway and gray sky, this was shot shortly after a good rain; or probably between a couple good rains.  This image is already miles ahead of many real estate photos, but let’s make it better, shall we?

A better crop of rainy day Atlanta real estate

Elevating the camera got us up where we could see the house, but there was so much else happening in the frame that it was tough to focus on the house itself.  This tighter crop gives us a good focus on the house, shows the landscaping, and shows a little bit of the front yard too.  Up until this point, though, we haven’t dealt with the rainy day.  Let’s get to the main course:

Can you believe this was shot on a rainy day?

Here’s the finished image.  A blue sky like we would see on a nicer day, grass that’s green – as it would be when it’s in season, and a little overall visual punch, that brings us closer to what we’d see on a nicer day.  Would it look better on an actual nicer day? Maybe.  Probably.  Is your seller willing to wait for a nicer day, when it’s raining a full third of the year?  Are you willing to wait?  Maybe.  Will buyers be looking at and buying other houses while you’re waiting?  Yes.  Is this rainy photo better than 90% of everything else that’s listed in Atlanta, wet or dry?  Yes.  Is it worth it to hire a professional to shoot Atlanta real estate photos in the rain?  Absolutely.

Edit:

Today is 12/10/2013, and we’re now at 121 rainy days for the year.  I’ll spare you the countdown, but it’s fair to say we’ll make it to a full 1/3 of the year as rainy days.  The next part is important:

It’s important to note a few things about photographing in the rain that I originally missed.  Photographing real estate listings on a rainy day is not for every client.  While the finished image is miles better than the original, and better than what most listings will have on any given day, there are some things that are just inherent to a rainy day photo, and if they’re objectionable, the appointment should be scheduled for a day with better conditions.

  • Concrete, stone, wood, and other porous surfaces will absorb rain water and appear either darker or shinier than they would when dry.  They’ll still appear that way in a real estate listing photo, and while it’s true that some of that could be adjusted in post-production, in most cases it requires such an extended amount of editing work that the editing expense exceeds either the agent’s marketing budget or the expense of booking another shoot on a nicer day.
  • Adding a blue sky is an accurate representation of a nicer day, only when on a nicer day there would be nothing visible but sky.  When there are important views in the distance – for instance mountains, a skyline, large and unsightly power lines, etc. – that are blocked by clouds/fog/rain haze when photographed, there’s no way to add them back in with a blue sky to create a true representation of the front of the property.  In this case, I think it’s best to not add the blue sky, and show the view as photographed.   If the view is desired, the only way to show it is to schedule the shoot on a nicer day or to schedule a return trip (add’l fee).