Welcome to the H5|Blog! It’s Monday and that means the start of a new week. Every Monday, we will be publishing an interview featuring a realtor, developer, or photographer that inspires us to do what we do. The people that we work with play a huge role in keeping our energy level high and our desire to go above and beyond at its peak. This week we sat down with Anton Brookes. Originally from England, Anton has been living in New York City for over a decade and has spent the past six years photographing properties for us. He is one of our favorite people to work with, so we sat down and asked him some questions about what gets him excited as a property photographer.
What inspires you to do what you do?
You know, I still get that rush of going into an apartment, whether it’s a studio with windows facing walls or it’s the top of 157 West 57th Street where you can see the whole of Manhattan. I still get that tingle. Everything is a challenge and it’s about how to approach it. Figuring out what’s the best thing to do to turn it into a thing of beauty. It’s not always easy because you can only shoot what’s in front of you. I mean, every single job is a new challenge, even if it’s just finding the right angle or it’s moving a ton of crap out of the way so you can actually shoot it properly. As a property photographer, you never know what you’re walking into. That’s the amazing thing about New York. Regardless of the building, perhaps it’s a five-floor walk-up, maybe it’s shabby in the entrance or hallways, but then you open the door and someone has just done an incredible job. I mean converting their place into a thing of magnificence. So you just never know what to expect, and I love that about what I do.
How long have you been a photographer? And how long have you been working with us?
I went to college many, many years ago and majored in graphic design and photography, and photography just sort of stayed with me. I did a lot of other things as well. But photography has always been a major part of my life–I used to have a little studio with real film and developing. Then I married a New Yorker, which is why I’m here. I’ve been in New York just over 12 years now and when I got here, I just thought, “You know what, I’m going to throw everything at this now. Photography is what I want to do.” My wife is a journalist and a producer and she’s heavily involved in fashion week. So, she sort of got me involved and I was doing that and other things. Shooting a lot of portraits. Shooting bars, museums, cinemas, and it’s a pretty simple to cross over and start shooting property. And I’ve been doing that with H5 for about six years now. (There’s a small gallery of Anton’s fashion photography featured at the end of this article.)
What’s your approach to photographing a piece of real estate?
I always look at it through the lens. You’re always dealing with a broker who’s familiar with the property and they sometimes have their own opinions on how they want it shot, but you can only really see it once you look through the lens. When you’re looking around, your eye can zoom in and focus on something in particular, missing a lot of the flaws. With a still photograph, the flaws will never disappear, so you have to see it through the lens. I can come in with fresh eyes, and actually look at it and say, “Oh, well we need to do it from this side or you know, we need this stuff moved out of the way.” Sometimes, people will just think “Oh, you know, I’m gonna walk in and click, click and walk out again.” But that’s not the way we do it at H5; the way we do it is to to try and get as perfect a representation of that property as we possibly can. So if that means shifting couches or moving tables around, if that’s what it takes, that’s what has to be done. I’m well past 3,000 apartments at this point, so it’s almost like muscle memory now. I know what to look for. Sometimes it’s a challenge because every once in a while, and it is rare, but every once in a while, a broker will say, let’s just shoot it and go. But I insist that we do it as best we can because I know if we don’t that it’s gonna be a crap photograph and that’s not what I want to produce. You have to have your own standards of quality outside of everything. They’re yours, you know, your own standards. And I never give in and drop my standards.
Do you ever think a person’s standards can be too high?
With real estate photography, never. You have to think about it like this, if you’re looking to buy something on the internet, could be anything, a handbag or whatever, and you just click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click–you don’t even give your brain a chance to look. But it’s that very first impression, that lead photograph of whatever it is that’s going to make you stop. For real estate that lead photo is going to make you go to that particular agents listing and look around. All because that first photograph, the lead photograph is dynamic enough to get you to click. As a broker, you pay for what you get and there are a lot of cheaper companies out there that are pushing out photographs that are simply terrible. The smart broker will know, you go to H5 because they always present, they always deliver, and it works, it just works.
How do you know for sure? I mean, you come, take some pictures, and move on, right?
No. Not at all. I’m privileged to work with a lot of the same brokers over and over which is always a pleasure. You get to know them and I’ve made some really nice friends. The other day this broker I’m friends with said to me that they had an overwhelming response to the photographs I shot of this one property. She told me two hundred people showed up to the open house and they had a bidding war. There were four people involved that wanted that property. You know,I take great pride in hearing stuff like that. It’s important to me to hear that. It tells me that what I’m doing is important and that I’m doing it in the right way.
Last question: what would you like to see change in the future regarding the real estate industry’s attitude towards photography?
The people selling real estate have to realize that in order to present a property the best they can they have to have undeniably superior photographs. It’s such a chase under such competition in this industry. You need something that’s going to stop people in their tracks, make them look, make them contact you, and make them come to the open house to see for themselves. I mean, that’s the challenge that brokers have. It’s not necessarily the property; it’s getting people into the property. There are so many properties around. The challenge is bringing people in, you know, it’s getting them through the door. This is what our photographs do. We bring people in.