The Real DealJanuary 04, 2013Meet New York City’s top real estate listings photographers.
In recent years, a new niche industry has exploded within the real estate industry: listing photography. With the advent of digital photography and growing international interest in New York City real estate, more and more brokers have turned to professionals to shoot their listings rather than taking the photos themselves.
Photographer Michael Weinstein, who has shot real estate listings for 16 years, recalled being worried that digital photos would ruin his business. Instead, he said, they’ve benefitted him in ways he never could have foreseen: Now that digital images can easily be viewed on the web, buyers come from Russia and China to purchase homes in New York based solely on his photographs.
“Photography has become more important in terms of the international market,” Weinstein said. “I feel my work now has become more valuable than ever.”
Whether it’s a Park Avenue penthouse or a Downtown studio, brokers said, listing photographs can make — or break — a deal.
Most brokers “are visual people,” said Emily Beare, managing director and associate broker at the brokerage Core. “We’ll look at the pictures, then look at the floor plan and then look at the description. So the photography has to be enticing.”
Beare said she usually tries to get photographers Richard Caplan or Nico Arellano to shoot her higher-end listings, believing that their work helps generate sales.
Agents said they will pay a premium — often out of their own pockets — for the right photographer. Most city real estate brokerages maintain a list of approved photographers, and a marketing budget that agents can tap into when hiring from that list. But many brokers said they will often seek out their favorites, even if they’re not on the list or cost extra money.
Here’s a look at some of the most sought-after real estate photographers in New York.
Many top brokers said when they have a seven- or eight-figure listing, they seek out Evan Joseph.
Joseph, who is one of around 10 approved photographers at Douglas Elliman, did the photography for the CitySpire penthouse currently listed by Elliman’s Raphael De Niro for $100 million; in fact, Joseph said he does all of De Niro’s listings priced above $10 million. He also shot the photos for Elliman broker Dolly Lenz’s $95 million listing at the Sherry-Netherland, a $75 million duplex at Trump Place at 240 Riverside Boulevard and a $65 million mansion in Alpine, N.J., listed by Elliman’s Oren Alexander.
Joseph said he also frequently works with Carrie Chiang of the Corcoran Group, and recently shot her listing for Derek Jeter’s penthouse, which sold for $15.5 million in October.
“Evan is the best. He’s amazing,” said Camilla Papale, Elliman’s chief marketing officer. “The quality is so high.”
That’s important, she noted, because “the better the image, the better the space is represented.”
Joseph began shooting real estate listings during the Dot-com era of the 1990s, when he began taking photos for some early real estate websites. He quickly mastered the craft of interior photography for marketing purposes, he said.
When shooting a listing, he said, “I want people to feel like, ‘Wow, I have got to live there,’ not just, ‘Oh, that’s a nice space.’”
In recent years, though, Joseph has expanded into lifestyle photography for artsy magazines. He has also co-authored the photography books “New York City at Night” and “New York Then and Now.”
Listings now comprise about a quarter of Joseph’s overall business, and he has a business partner, Travis Dubreuil, who helps him maintain his crowded schedule.
He declined to discuss his pricing, but said he’s proud that so many leaders in the industry keep coming back to him.
“I work hard to cultivate these relationships,” he said.
Photographer Nico Arellano has earned a reputation among brokers for his unique photo-processing style: He shoots an inte rior space with a variety of exposures and then blends the different shades of light into the final image, giving it a warm and inviting feel. Most photographers merge images with a computer program, but Arellano said he prefers to do it manually, even though it takes much longer.
“The difference is enormous,” said Arellano, who is originally from Miami and has also worked in fashion photography. “The photos are so much more beautiful. You want to walk into the room and sit down.”
Arellano’s photos “can direct your eye to a certain point in the room,” Beare said. “He hits it every time.”
Arellano typically charges about $150 for the first photo, and then reduced amounts for each subsequent image. He charges less for bulk deals with firms like Halstead Property, Elliman and Core, he said, because he benefits from the consistent work a large brokerage can provide.
Once he’s on a firm’s list of approved photographers, it acts “like my agent, in a way,” he said. “If a company has 1,000 brokers and 25 photographers on the list, they’ll call regularly.”
Unlike the many independent real estate photographers in the city, John Porcheddu doesn’t have to worry about finding work.
As one of the go-to guys on staff at Gotham Photo Company, a leading New York City real estate photography provider, Porcheddu is guaranteed a steady flow of clients.
Gotham — which specializes in doing listing photos, headshots, video and floor plans for real estate brokers — was founded in 2005. Porcheddu is one of its most-requested photographers, according to Gotham president Vince Collura.
“Clients request their favorite photographers, and John gets a lot of calls,” Collura said. “Many of our guys have specialties that could make them a good fit for a particular [listing], but John does it all.”
Porcheddu, who started taking photos as a hobby in high school, said working for Gotham allows him to focus on shooting rather than logistics.
“Instead of spending half of my time on advertising and stuff, I can just go and take pictures,” he said.
Through Gotham, Porcheddu charges $175 for a six-photo standard shoot, while larger, time-consuming packages can run over $300.
When Town Residential broker Ginger Brokaw has an important listing, she said, she’s willing to wait for veteran photographer Michael Weinstein, one of several photographers on Town’s list of approved vendors.
“I would wait a week for Michael … especially if it was something unique or challenging,” Brokaw said. “I return to him time and time again.”
Weinstein was working in fashion about 16 years ago when he approached one of the marketing executives at Halstead about taking headshots of the firm’s brokers. The executive responded by asking if he’d ever shot properties.
“I said, ‘I never got paid for it, but I’ll certainly try,’” Weinstein recalled.
He discovered he had a knack for it, and his business took off. “I got busy really quickly,” he said.
Weinstein said he usually charges a flat rate, but sometimes negotiates prices with individual brokers, depending on the number of photos needed for a listing. He recently did the photos for a co-op at 828 Fifth Avenue listed for $72 million.
Dennis Cusack, director of sales at Town, said Weinstein’s photographs helped draw a huge buyer turnout for a listing at 225 West 95th Street.
“The first open house I think there were 45 people, and the second one was in the high 30s,” Cusack said. “Probably one of the most important things about the listing is the photography, and that’s why we go to Michael.”
Former Wall Street trader Richard Caplan became a professional photographer only five years ago, but has already shot over $2 billion worth of real estate, including a penthouse asking $48 million at 145 Hudson Street.
Caplan said he decided to move into photography so he could spend more time with his family. The career change made sense, he said, since “I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was seven years old.”
High-profile Elliman agent Fredrik Eklund said he’s worked with Caplan for years, and has even paid to fly Caplan to Sweden (where Eklund runs a brokerage) for real estate shoots.
“I’ve grown to trust him,” Eklund said. “I don’t even go to the shoots anymore.”
Eklund said Caplan instinctively shoots details within an apartment that convey a desirable way of life.
“We not only sell property, we sell a lifestyle,” Eklund said. “The photos need to be perfect.”
“Whether it’s a beautiful flight of stairs or an open floor plan, I’m looking for that sweet spot in the room,” said Caplan, who has an assistant and an editing team.
But he noted that there isn’t a lot of room for ego in real estate photography.
“As much as I like to see myself as an artist, I am here to help a salesperson,” he said. “The job is going to be what they want it to be.”