Profile of a Summit Sotheby’s International Realty Photographer
One thing that sets Summit Sotheby’s International Realty apart from many other real estate agencies is its high-quality photography. From sprawling Park City landscapes to captivating interiors and soaring bird’s eye views made possible by drones, our photography truly goes above and beyond. Often times, sellers see their listing photos and experience a twang of seller’s remorse for the home they’re about to part with.
I sat down with Bruce Gardner, one of our two in-house photographers, to find out what it’s like to be a real estate photographer and what tips he has for producing the most striking images of homes.
Choose Park City: When did you first realize you wanted to be a photographer?
Bruce Gardner: I was an art history major in college and wanted to do something creative. I met somebody that was into it and they hired me as an assistant. This was close to 30 years ago when I was about 21 years old. It started with film and the dark room and since then it’s pretty much turned into an entirely different profession. Instead of a photographer, I’m more of a computer guy now.
Do you miss the dark room? Do you still use one?
I do. That was my specialty. I made a name for myself with black-and-white imagery and dark room tricks. Then it became obsolete almost overnight and I had to reinvent myself. That’s probably why I got into real estate photography, but I’ve always liked architecture. Summit Sotheby’s International Realty had an ad out and I applied for and got this job about three years ago.
I got rid of my dark room about 10 years. It got to the point where everything I could do in the dark room I could do in photoshop—so much faster and less toxic.
What do you love about your job here at Summit Sotheby’s International Realty?
I like that I’m shooting something that I don’t have to direct. When I shoot people, there’s this level of anxiety trying to go from a director to an image maker. I’d much rather take a shot of an inanimate object. You can create balance and composition without worrying about someone’s facial expression. That’s probably the greatest appeal—what you see is what you get and no direction.
What sets Summit Sotheby’s International Realty photography apart from that of other agencies?
The leadership of the company uses in-house photography to separate themselves from other brokerages working with Spotlight Tours, which uses newbies. They really look for top-of-the-line people. Kyle [Jenkins]* invented this style of photography—HDR windows without HDR software—so you don’t have that Tim Burton movie look. It’s a little more labor-intensive to pull off.
It’s a point of pride to know that you’re leading the industry. At other brokerages, it’s a lot less consistent. It’s kind of up to the agent to find the photographer and get the shoot done. Some of them are shooting with their cell phones or hiring people like Spotlight Tours.
*Another photographer with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty
Tell me about the most memorable home you’ve ever shot here in Park City.
There’s one in particular that I shot down in Orem on Geneva Road. There’s a couple up in The Colony—79 and 67 White Pine Canyon Road. I’ve shot up a few up at Wolf Creek Ranch that have been incredible, like a 24-million-dollar log cabin. It’s hard to pinpoint just one. That’s one of the coolest things about the job is you really do get some great subject matter more often than not.
What is your favorite room or feature of a home to shoot and why?
I usually like the kitchens and I like the exterior the most. Kitchens give you a lot of great lines to work with—not only are there walls and corners, but also an island and countertops. There’s more ways to geometrically line stuff up.
Do you have any tips for sellers and/or agents prepping a home for a shoot?
Get rid of any product—like Tide detergent or Palmolive soap. Anything that has a brand screaming off of it. And then anything that can remind you of something gross like bodily fluids. Get rid of the Kleenex and try not to show the toilet paper! Wash the windows.
Besides real estate, what are some of your favorite photographic subjects?
I still like shooting people—especially kids. Adults get squeamish in front of the camera. Kids have more of a real expression. And animals and pets. Nature and landscapes a little bit, and bugs—really macro stuff like a bug’s head.
Do you have any advice for aspiring real estate photographers?
I would say shoot what you love. Shoot what inspires you. Get into it and shoot a lot. It’s easy now. I probably spent a quarter million in film and processing becoming a photographer. Now all you have to do is go to Costco, buy a rig, and the world is yours. You can shoot and shoot and shoot for free—so just shoot a ton and develop your eye.
Thanks to Bruce Gardner, one of our many not-so-secret weapons at Summit Sotheby’s, I can provide better service and exposure to all of my listing clients, regardless of the value of their home.