I recently thought of writing an article about how to difuse confrontations in real estate photography while I was completing a real estate photo-shoot in a vacant property. I reflected on the fact that I fortunately hadn’t had to deal with nosy neighbors or aggressive members of the public in a long time. After completing the shoot and hopping back in the car, the neighbor of the property approached my vehicle and literally leaned into my car from the passenger side to ask me what I was doing at the property!
When the real estate agent attends the residential property shoot with you or you have security or other staff with you at a commercial shoot (i.e., shopping centre), you don’t need to stress too much about people interfering with your work. However, when you are shooting a property on your own, people can sometimes become suspicious or feel threatened by your presence.
In the past fifteen years, I’ve seen it all when it comes to neighbours and members of the public becoming concerned by your presence. I’ve had people come at me with baseball bats, angry drunks approach me thinking I’m an undercover police officer recording (public intoxication is illegal in Australia), through to the nosy neigbour peering through the fence (and car window) to see what I’m up to.
When photographing real estate, you have the most exposure to the public when shooting vacant land, capturing exterior shots, photographing commercial properties, and shooting a property on your own. The greatest amount of exposure you will experience is when capturing photos of ‘lifestyle amenities’ (i.e., cafes, shops, parks) in public spaces near the property. In public spaces, some people think they need to come and tell you about the laws of photographing in public, even if they have no idea what the laws are. In most cities and countries, it is perfectly legal to carry out photography in public spaces that include people, however you should check with your local laws regarding the rules around commercial photography in public spaces.
Read on to find out what to do when approached by curious or confrontational people and how to improve your safety at property photo-shoots when you don’t have the agent or homeowner with you.
Maintain a professional and approachable demeanour, and be courteous when interacting with clients, neighbors, or anyone who approaches you. If you’re aggressive, they may try to match your level of aggression, which will only escalate things further. If they approach you in an aggressive manner, don’t respond with the same level of intensity. Talk calmly, and they will be less likely to continue to raise their voice.
Explain what you’re doing and who you’re shooting the property for (i.e., the owner). If you drop the owner’s name, the neighbour will feel much better about you being there. Remember that you’re being paid to be there and have permission from the owner/agent. If somebody enters the property you are commission to photograph, they are the one trespassing, not you.
Engage in Open Communication
Although you obviously are not required to explain what you are doing or why, just being open with your communication can help de-escalate any confrontational situation that arises. Be prepared to explain your role and purpose as a real estate photographer. Answer questions and provide information about the process and how long you expect to be at the property.
When capturing commercial property or lifestyle amenities in public space, wearing a high-vis vest lets people know that you are there for a reason – to work. A high-vis vest is also great for enhancing safety when shooting commercial property as it makes it easy for other people (i.e. workers, the general public, and operators of vehicles and machinery) to see you easily.
If shooting within shopping centres, ask if someone from the centre management office can escort you around.
Note that in most countries you cannot simply walk into a shopping centre and start shooting, as it is private property. If you are not being hired to photograph the shopping centre or one of its tenancies, you will need permission from management, even if you are shooting ‘lifestyle’ photos for a nearby residential or commercial property. Click here to learn more about photographing commercial real estate safely.
Ensure that your shirt is branded with your company logo. Alot of new real estate photography companies do a great job of promoting their brand through their clothing.
Know the Property Details
Familiarize yourself with the property you’re photographing and who for. This includes knowing the listing details, the layout, and any unique features. Being knowledgeable can help build confidence and credibility with anyone you encounter.
Carry Identification and Business Cards
Have your identification and business cards readily available. This helps establish your legitimacy as a real estate photographer and provides contact information if someone has questions or concerns.
Coordinate with the Realtor or Agent
Maintain close communication with the real estate agent or homeowner. They can even inform neighbors and coordinate access to the property, reducing the likelihood of surprises or concerns.
Respect Neighbors’ Privacy
If neighbors express concerns, respect their privacy and property boundaries. Be mindful of not photographing their homes or revealing sensitive information.
Check Local Regulations Regarding Drones
Verify the local regulations and guidelines regarding real estate photography. Some countries have rules regarding how and where you can fly drones. Make sure you have the appropriate insurance and licenses required to operate your drone.
Travel with a Partner
If possible, bring an assistant or colleague with you to the shoot. Having a second person can deter potential confrontations and provide support.
Be Discreet and Considerate
Avoid disruptions and loud noises when setting up equipment. Being discreet and considerate can help maintain a positive relationship with neighbors during a residential shoot and customers during a commercial property shoot.
Use a Telephoto Lens
When capturing exterior shots, a telephoto lens can help you maintain a safe distance from the lifestyle amenities you are photographing meaning less people are likely to see you. Just don’t use a 1,000mm lens as this will stand out a bit too much!
Share your location and schedule with a friend or family member and establish a code word or signal that indicates you need assistance if you feel unsafe.
Carry a fully charged phone, a flashlight, and consider having pepper spray (if it is legal in your country) or other personal safety equipment as a precaution.
In case of a dangerous situation or perceived threat, don’t hesitate to call the authorities or the real estate agent for immediate assistance.
How to Difuse Confrontations in Real Estate Photography: Conclusion
Remember that building and maintaining positive relationships with clients, real estate agents, and neighbors is essential for a successful real estate photography business. Clear communication and professionalism go a long way in ensuring a safe and productive work environment and is key to difuse a confrontation in real estate photography shoots. If you have any stories you would like to share or tips for staying safe while shooting real estate, feel free to reach out to us via social media or email at email@example.com.
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