COLORS AND SHAPES OF DESTINY: A MASTER AND STUDENT REFLECT
The real estate photography of Greg Gardner offers much more than the chance to experience a master functioning at the height of his craft. If you look deep enough into Gardner’s elegant portfolio, you can also discern the history and the destiny of BoxBrownie.com.
Other than using our virtual staging services from time to time, Greg has no official association with BoxBrownie.com. Yet, without him we might not exist.
Until we caught up with him last week, not even Greg suspected the extent of his influence on the development of our organization. But our co-founder Brad Filliponi has never been in doubt.
“Greg is definitely 100% the reason I fell into real estate photography so I will be forever grateful to him for this.”
It has almost been two decades since Brad worked his first photography gigs as Greg’s student helper. During this time Brad was a photography student at TAFE (a vocational training college in Australia) and Greg was the leading property photographer on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
“I used to call up one of the teachers in the photography course and ask which one of their students was good?” Greg remembers. “Like, who should I use as an assistant?”
One day they sent him Brad.
“He was super eager,” Greg remembers. “He told me I didn’t have to pay him, all he wanted to do was come along to the jobs and help out any way he could. He did a few weddings with me, it wasn’t really his bag. But he was really interested in the real estate side of things from the start.”
Brad remembers these days fondly.
“I used to assist Greg in numerous weddings and commercial jobs for a few years during and after my TAFE training – I would mainly be holding reflectors on-site and cleaning lenses when they were changed.”
There were few real estate photographers at the time, so the first-hand experience with someone of Greg’s calibre and knowledge gave Brad a rare perspective on the industry as a whole.
Early on in the piece, Greg brought an important piece of information to Brad’s attention - that the business of real estate photography was about to boom.
“He told me years ago that real estate photography was a super niche market.
“Not a lot of real estate agents were using photographers. Most of them were doing it themselves, so you had to educate them on why they needed it.
“The reverse literally happens today, agents can barely sell a home without decent photos”
A Tale of Technology
In this current era of photography the industry has changed so much that two decades feels more like two lifetimes. Smartphones, drones, 3D virtual tours, CGI renders are today’s reality.
Back when Brad started working with Greg, and even after he graduated from TAFE, film was the medium of the day. The idea of taking a photo with a phone seemed as foreign as the idea of taking a phone out of the house and carrying it with you wherever you went.
Working with Greg, gave Brad an early glimpse of the future. What might have seemed like mundane assignments at the time, gave him first-hand experience with the technology that would revolutionize the industry.
For example, since Greg was one of the first in the area to seize the advantages of the DSLR in wedding photography, Brad received an early education in the importance of data preservation in the digital age.
“A huge part of my role was backing up DSLR memory cards in case they corrupted themselves between the photography job and getting back to the office to download them - you can’t go back and shoot a wedding the next day!”
“Back then, especially at the beginning, the onsite knowledge helped a lot as we were shooting property on film camera and there were no internet blogs on how to shoot real estate photography, etc.
“Soon after, digital evolved and we were shooting on this format.
“This made it much easier as you could view the image on the screen and adjust settings as required.”
“Not many real estate photographers can claim they started shooting property on film cameras,” Filliponi points out. “The industry has changed so much.”
In fact, it’s hard to imagine any industry that has changed as much over the past 20 years as real estate marketing in the digital age.
From Non-Existent Film To Non-Existent Furniture
There is irony in the fact that the man who introduced Brad Filliponi to digital technology on the job site, now goes to him for the exact same commodity in the form of virtual staging.
The virtual staging boom that BoxBrownie.com helped usher in in 2017 is still being felt on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
The market on that strip of Australian paradise is about as hot as one of their summers.
The speed at which places are selling, not to mention the prices they are going for, has raised the competitive standard amongst agents, and cashed-up agents are turning to virtual staging for that extra marketing edge.
“In Queensland the market has gone off its chops.” Gardner says. “ I’d say properties have increased 40 - 50%, maybe 100% in the past two years.
“Twenty-three or 25 years ago when I first started doing real estate photography on the Coast, very rarely would someone get a professional photographer, let alone actually stage their house,” Greg reflects. “It would only be one or two percent.”
“Now it would have to be well over 50% who actually stage their house properly.”
On MLS sites, nothing makes a listing pop like virtual staging. It is also proven to sell properties for more than their listing price.
“More and more agents are asking for it on the Sunshine Coast in particular.
“So the ones that don’t have to try to compete with the ones that do. And virtual staging is obviously the cheapest way to do this.”
“I’m also getting more and more that want to rip out furniture and put new stuff in.”
(See our Item Removal service for more on this feature.)
The Unmatched Aesthetics Of A Master
Yes, technology has brought plenty of bells and whistles to the selling of real estate over the past two decades. It’s also brought more than a few pretenders out of the woodwork.
As Brad points out:
“When I started barely anyone was doing real estate photography. Now it is a totally different story – every man and his dog’s sister is a real estate photographer.”
And an increasing number of them are shooting this photography with a smartphone.
Those who insist that technology and photo editing services like ours at BoxBrownie.com have rendered DSLR irrelevant in real estate photography need only take a look at Greg’s portfolio to see how far off they are.
No amount of technology can make up for talent.
When you see Greg’s real estate photos, it’s immediately evident how Brad arrived at one of BoxBrownie.com’s founding principles - “Presentation is the key to selling property.”
Greg’s images perform the rare feat of captivating the viewer to the extent that they become involved in the image.
His swimming pools make you want to go swimming, his gardens elicit the desire for a stroll. His sunsets, to use Camus’s fittingly elegant words, have a way of “making the heart relax”.
GARDNER ELEVATES PROPERTY PHOTOGRAPHY TO INTO AN ART FORM
The Colors and Shapes Of Excellence
Real Estate photography is an art form. No degree of superb technology will ever be able to compete with craft. And craft, at the level exhibited in Gardner’s work, is unteachable.
“I always think if you’re a photographer you’re a colors and shapes person. You just are. You can’t teach a person to be a colors and shapes guy.
“Obviously you can teach a person what color is, but you can’t teach them what it means. You can’t teach them how to understand color and you can’t teach them how to understand shapes.
“Brad was definitely a colors and shapes man. Definitely.
“Van Gogh I’m sure wasn’t taught how to be a great artist, he just was a great artist,” Greg says. Adding hastily, “I’m not comparing myself, or Brad, to Van Gogh.”
However, like Van Gogh, Greg’s work reveals that he also has a gift as a painter of atmosphere. Also in a perhaps less-flattering comparison to the Dutch master, Greg also considers himself highly un-business minded.
“Brad was always destined to make a business, you know, be a business owner, rather than just a skilled labourer. That’s all you are as a photographer, really. I’m only as good as my last job, whereas Brad has taken that to another level.”
“I don’t know how he’s done it, actually. Product control and quality control, I can’t imagine how he did it. To find the right guys and to find the right quality, it must have caused him a lot of heartache to get that right in the beginning. But he’s done it. .”
He had a pretty good teacher.
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