Real Estate Photography & Marketing Insights: An Interview with Aram Herrera of Airs Cloud Media
Home staging is both a science and an art. It aims to make very real emotional connections between prospective buyers and a property listed for sale.
And the success of any staging effort relies tremendously on the quality of the photography and videography of the property. Real estate photography, with it's technical requirements and expensive equipment, is certainly a science, but less commonly considered artistic.
I think that's a mistake in perception. And Aram Herrera, the owner of Airs Cloud Media in Santa Fe, is proof that inviting an artistic eye into the documentation of a home can dramatically increase the potential value of a property.
Not just content to merely document spaces, Aram seeks to also uncover hidden beauties that create emotional bonds. He is informed by the heightened aesthetic sensibilities Instagram has awakened in our broader culture, and he is of a generation that understands the power of social media at a profound level.
Aram was kind enough to discuss with me the role of marketing in today's real estate market, and he offers real insights into how sellers can find an agent who understands, and is committed to, harnessing our interconnected digital world to effectively market their home.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW
Aram Herrera brings a fresh perspective to real estate photography—focusing on internet appeal as a means of driving interest in a home among potential buyers. Photo: Debbie DeMarais
Debbie DeMarais (DD): Most buyers looking for a new home begin their search online now. So why do you think there so many listings that still have poorly lit, out-of-focus, and just plain bad photographs?
Aram Herrera (AH): Great question. My best guess is that the person taking the pictures is unaware that a properly composed photograph can convey many emotions that may actually inspire a prospective buyer to move on the listing. An image has the power to tell a story and to create a feeling. Anyone can just use their phone to point-and-shoot, but when you hire somebody who is taking pictures with purpose the outcome leaves a lasting impression.
DD: For a long time, I’ve watched real estate photographers follow a predictable pattern of turning on all the lights and standing in the corner of every room with a wide-angle lens.
But thankfully, you work differently, and I adore how you’ll focus on a key feature, a cook top or a doorway, or you’ll get down really low or up really high to find a different angle to get that perfect shot. Which is why I love working with you!
I understand the need to capture the details, however, when you are taking real estate photographs, share with me why you often step outside the box, and don’t just shoot from every corner of the room and call it a day, like many do?
AH: Another great question, Debbie! I think it's quite common for many to see real estate photography as just a means to an end. When we find ourselves in a line of work and only doing it as a means to an end we can grow overly comfortable, and the creative lens starts to close.
Many real estate photographers who have been doing it for a long time may find themselves getting comfortable and settling for the classic wide angle corner room shots because it captures the entirety of the room—it checks all the boxes, and lets them move on to the next room.
Now there’s nothing wrong with this, in fact I do believe it is important to show the entirety of a space, but for some reason there is something in my eye that compels me to capture the small details of a home as well. Not only can these detailed images highlight the ambience, architecture, and overall feel of a room but when you focus in on a singular subject and blur out the background you always create depth within an image. I was taught many years ago that depth is the most critical element in photography that leads to the audiences looking deeper...
A selection of images from a recent real estate listing that focus on details of the property which evoke a deeper sense of place and celebrate its unique beauty. Aram Herrara includes such details along with wider shots of rooms to capture the attention of home buyers looking at potential properties online. Staging: Debbie DeMarais, DeMarais HOME STAGING + DESIGN | Photos: Aram Herrara, Airs Cloud Media
DD: So let's talk about social media for a minute. How has social media, and real estate sites like Zillow and Redfin, changed the way sellers try to market their homes?
AH: There is no denying social media is here and it is here to stay. Humans are social creatures by nature, and the fact that we can all be documenting everything we do in our lives, and share that with the rest of the world, has definitely opened some doors when it comes to marketing a property.
My media business, Airs Cloud Media has reached over 40 million views collectively between all of the social media videos I have made in the past few years. It has allowed for so many opportunities and I truly believe when used with purpose social media can do wonders.
Not only does social media allow you to hone in on a certain demographic to market a listing, but through the re-sharing and re-distributing of certain content among different people it can reach exponentially more people. People see these videos and that leads them to interact with my website, which often results in them working directly with me. Social media can really work for any type of industry or business, which is why it can definitely be leveraged to sell a home.
Never before has this been possible, which is why it's so exciting to me. That's why I provide social media marketing services as a part of what I offer in addition to the photography and video services for real estate, businesses, and really any creative project a client wants expertly documented and presented.
An image has the power to tell a story and to create a feeling. Anyone can just use their phone to point-and-shoot, but when you hire somebody who is taking pictures with purpose the outcome leaves a lasting impression.
DD: Is it correct to assume the real estate photographer’s actual client is the realtor of the listing, or would it be the sellers?
AH: It depends simply on whether or not the realtor will offer professional photography as a part of their marketing for the client. Very rarely do I go directly through the sellers to market the home. It is almost always the realtor who pays for and leverages my service as a competitive edge for their clients. After all, it is mutually beneficial to both the sellers and the agent to market the home successfully. If someone in Santa Fe is working with a realtor who does not want to pay for professional photography they should contact me and I'll connect them with one who will.
DD: So then I have to ask—since realtors are driving the marketing of a listing, what can sellers do to better understand how good someone might be in marketing properties when choosing their realtor? What do you feel should be included in that marketing package?
AH: I would begin by asking any prospective agent about their marketing efforts. Do they provide professional photography and virtual tours? Do they distribute the listing to multiple channels on the Internet? Do they provide any video content for YouTube? Do they have a large following on social media, etc. I do believe it is in the best interest of real estate agents to provide these things for their clients as an additional value proposition.
In addition to conveying basic information about the spaces in a home, real estate photography can also aim to provide a sense of the feeling of the space. This helps potential buyers understand whether a property might be a good match for them, and allows them to be more strategic about choosing which properties to visit in person.
Details such as the patterned tile in this recently remodeled kitchen can get lost in wide-angle shots of an entire room, but are core defining features of a home that Aram tries to celebrate when hired to photograph a new listing. Kitchen Remodel: Debbie DeMarais, DeMarais HOME STAGING + DESIGN | Photos: Aram Herrara, Airs Cloud Media
DD: Yes, I've seen time and time again that listings which are well marketed get more attention quickly; which tends to lead to better offers and faster closings. And naturally, I feel part of that marketing success begins with how well the house is prepared for sale and styled by a professional home stager prior to the photographer showing up...
AH: Absolutely. Staging benefits the marketability of a property because staging is instrumental in conveying a sense of place and aiding potential buyers by providing inspiration for the possible decorating of a home. Creating an objectively beautiful scene with complementary colors, satisfying symmetry, and much much more is your art form, and it makes a big difference.
Also, as you mentioned a few minutes ago, with so many buyers looking online at the various properties available in any market the first things they'll see are the images of the home. We are very visual creatures so when a professional stager like you is able to go inside of a home and bring it to life by conveying an aesthetic version of the home's potential it can inspire prospective buyers in their decision to purchase the home.
DD: You mentioned virtual tours a moment ago...can you give a bit more detail about all these new tools for helping buyers experience a home online: virtual home tours, video, and the use of drones? Are there certain types of listings that might benefit from one option over another?
AH: As technology has evolved more options have become available when it comes to marketing a home. For example, when Covid started we had to adapt by investing in a very sophisticated 3D camera. This allowed us to capture virtual tours of homes where the buyer did not need to be present to walk through the entire property. This was perfect for a time when close social interaction was considered dangerous. I still offer this service because it is more convenient for prospective buyers to use a virtual tour prior to physically walking through a home; just to make sure that the layout even works for them. And, as you know, in the Santa Fe real estate market it is not even uncommon for buyers to purchase a home site unseen—this has remained true even after Covid concerns have lessened.
The virtual tour technology is very sophisticated. It can generate a floor plan with comprehensive measurements of a property. We can even automate the virtual walk-through and distribute it by copying and pasting a link everywhere on social media. This allows sellers to leverage their own networks by sharing the link with colleagues, friends, and family alike.
Drones are another extraordinary recent evolution in photography and videography. They are perfect for showcasing a home's proximity to the rest of the city, the sunset and sunrise views a property may have, and the overall scale of a property. I like to offer cinematic video options to my clients, including aerial footage.
With platforms like YouTube and Instagram regularly sharing video content with billions of people every single day it is now more important than ever to leverage video content. Telling the story of a property by using video, royalty free music, and a call to action to contact the selling agent is the cherry on top of a marketing package.
Example of video home tour from Airs Cloud Media. An occupied staging consultation was provided for this listing by DeMarais HOME STAGING + DESIGN.
A screenshot from a 3D home tour of the same house featured above. The circles on the floor indicate points at which you can virtually "stand" and look around the room. In addition to allowing manual control over moving through the rooms, the 3D home tour technology also lets internet users measure the spaces, see complete floor plans, and experience a pre-designed "walk-through" right from their browser. Experience the 3D tour of this Santa Fe home >
DD: Maybe let’s end with looking toward the future a bit…where do you see real estate marketing heading? Are we all just going to end up touring homes virtually in the metaverse?
AH: I believe the future of real estate marketing will involve more and more video content. The direction of all marketing has clearly shifted toward more and more video as the years have gone by, and that is a big reason I’ve included videos as a part of my business. As more people spend time on their phones their attention spans get shorter and shorter. Video is the medium which seems to be most captivating as of now.
As for virtual tours in the meta-verse it could be possible! I’ve still got a bit more research to do on the meta-verse, but from what I understand people are willing to spend real money on virtual homes so if we continue on this trajectory I believe it is likely we will be using virtual tours in that universe too.
Debbie DeMarais is the owner of DeMarais HOME STAGING + DESIGN in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which offers professional home staging for vacant, occupied, and model homes in addition to interior design, color consultation, and remodel project management services. CONTACT DEBBIE >
Aram Herrera is the owner of Airs Cloud Media, and an Associate Broker with JAM Real Estate Experts, a top-selling group with Keller Williams Realty in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Airs Cloud Media offers professional photography and videography to a variety of industries including real estate. CONTACT ARAM >