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16 Jun 2015
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Shooting Reflective surfaces: Make your work stand out, not shine

Faucet

As a stain glass artist, or granite floor specialist, your work is a reflection of your art.  Speaking of reflection, working with shiny materials (glass, granite, marble, treated concrete etc.), is not easy to photograph.  Especially with your regular point and shoot. With 15 million people on Houzz a month – 84% plan to decorate or redecorate their home, and 48% plan to remodel – A good portfolio will make you stand out from the rest.

I’ve interviewed some crafts people and my clients why they think their previous shots were shot so poorly (stain glass artists, counter and floor specialists). Photographers (pro or not) must understand the material that is being shot. They also need to know how to light the material properly: Does it need to be lit from behind (like stain glass)? Or does the reflection off the surface need to be reduced (marble, treated concrete)? Will wetting your material show off fine details (veins on granite)? Consider how you would like your work to be viewed by others. Do you want your face reflected on the surface, or would you want to show off the veins on that good cut of granite?

 

Below are 3 key things to consider when shooting reflective surfaces – if you so dare.

 

SHOOT WITH WHITE WALLS AROUND THE MATERIAL

In most situations, this may not be easy to do. White walls, however, are best so that colour and other obtrusive objects won’t appear in the material you’re shooting. Different reflections in the material can make your next client look at the pretty colours of your last client’s kitchen instead of your product. To resolve this issue, take the material out of the colourful room and place it in a room with white walls.  If the product is fixture, consider placing black or white boards around the reflective surface. This will help eliminate any colour to reflect of your product.  The fewer interruptions of colour and objects reflected on the surface of the material, the better.

 

DIFFUSE LIGHT

A built-in flash on your camera or iPhone just won’t cut it. Sorry. That light will bounce directly off your reflective surface and your client will see nothing but an orb. To rid the orb, rid the flash on your camera (if possible) and place it off to the side of the material. Most importantly, diffuse the light with a diffuser or cover it with something transparent like wax paper or parchment paper. By doing this, you break the light up from a harsh beam and light will disperse itself across the surface of the material. This will ‘soften’ the light, making shadows and reflective lines less jarring.

 

USE NATURAL LIGHT

Open the curtains pull up the blinds and the let the sunshine in. Images would look best if the sunlight doesn’t beam through the room. In fact, a cloudy day or shooting early morning would work best. Direct sunlight can make orbs (did I say that again?). What you’re looking for is diffused lighting. Again this light will spread across the material like butter. Something you want to capture in your shot.

To shoot shiny surfaces requires a bit of skill and ingenuity – and maybe a few years of practice. Your time is valuable, so why not use it wisely? Before you stoop and shoot – your shiny floor – consider calling a professional and get it right the first time around.


01 Jun 2015
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Curb Appeal. A Profitable Home Improvement

Landscapehouse

While many homeowners clean and upgrade the house from the interior when selling, many seem to forget the exterior of the home. This is the ‘face’ of the home and gives buyers their first impression. This critical area is often overlooked, but by paying attention to some details beyond your front porch can increase the value of the house anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000.

Here are a few things you can do to give your exterior of your home the attention it deserves:

HUG A TREE

For the tree huggers out there, your tree will be utmost thankful for the affection especially when it’s on your front lawn. According to an article written by Lindsay Purcell, Urban Forest Specialist at Perdue University, based on the assessment of the tree and in relation to the property site and location, a tree’s appraised value can start from $1000. And according to Landscape Ontario, trees also appreciate with time, and enhance property value from 5-20%. So think before you cut. Trees add value and are attractive accessories to any home. I hug my magnolia and birch tree whenever I can.

PLANT SOME SHRUBS AND FLOWERS

Like a pearl necklace around a woman’s neck, shrubs and flowers add beauty to any home. It also increases its value, especially in the front yard. And according to HomeGain’s 2012 National Home Improvement Survey, there is a 215% return on investment by landscaping alone. First impressions happen before entering the house – a welcoming home begins in the front yard.

DECK A YARD WITH A DECK

Any new couple’s dream home would have deck or patio to host friends and family. And as one of the most profitable home improvements, why not give that new couple a deck of their dreams? The average deck price is under $15,000 and increases your home’s resale value by $10,000.

REMEMBER THE K.I.S.S FACTOR: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID

Not everyone would appreciate a replica of Michaelangelo’s David on the front lawn, or a fountain of Britannica. And in some cases, a pool in the backyard could turn off some potential buyers especially ones with small children where safety is a concern. Some don’t care for the maintenance that is involved. An attractive landscape is also one that is easy to maintain.

A GOOD LANDSCAPE RESPECTS THE ENVIRONMENT

Many investors and homebuyers are not only interested by the home’s lovely lawn, but rather what’s accompanies it: a zoned irrigation system on automatic timers that water different areas according to each area’s need. Rather than jacking up your water bill by leaving out a sprinkler until midnight, an irrigation system cuts down your water usage, and water bill.

Quality landscaping can also reduce noise pollution into the home and lowers heating and cooling costs, says Landscape Ontario. Trees help us breath! One mature tree can provide enough oxygen for two people and absorb up to 42lbs of carbon dioxide a year. And before you consider cutting your 12 inch sugar maple, it removes 60 mg of cadmium, 140 mg of chromium, 820 mg of nickel and 5,200 mg of lead from the environment each growing season – not to mention can give you delicious maple syrup in March.

With summer nearly here, what better time to think about doing an upgrade to the great outdoors – of your home, that is. Working in your yard will certainly give you a good return on your investment and increase the value of your home by refining what sits on the outskirts of your house. And as real estate market sales peak from March to September, your house isn’t hiding behind 10 feet of that Toronto snow. So tidy up beyond your front porch and open the door to more buyers.


13 Apr 2015
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From Sale to Sold! 5 tips to make it in real estate

Real estate Agent Toronto GTA Real Estate

Stand up and stand out

It’s a tough market out there. And with nearly 60, 000 real estate agents in Ontario alone, and 67% of them serve the GTA, how do you stand out?

Consider defining a niche market. Know one area, the neighbourhood, and the profile of the people in one community. Specializing in a key area will make you different from the rest, buyers will trust you, and give you more selling power in the neighbourhood you know best.

 

Techno What?

Yes, technology. You know, computers, cell phones. Moreover, texting, email, virtual tours, professional photos. Most of your clients will be Generation Y (“Millennials” born between 1981-2001). And to keep up to their speed, you better know what will grab them.

Most of Gen Y buyers are first time buyers – and have high expectations. First time home owners want the luxury of purchasing homes that are move in ready – strongly influenced by many home improvement television programs such as Property Brothers and Love it or List it. These kids text before they talk, spend more time in front of a screen unlike any other generation before them. They shop online and like moving images – better known as virtual tours – and like crisp clean professionally photographed images. Because, you know, everyone has a smart phone.

So get with the program. Get a good real estate photographer and videographer and make your homes look good online as they do in person.

 

Have a presence online

Hire a professional to build your website. There’s nothing more disappointing than looking at beautiful houses on an ugly or not user friendly website. Keep it simple, clean and straightforward. Buyers are there to look at homes. They don’t need the distraction of decorated backgrounds or unwanted ads.

Blogging is a must! Sharing your thoughts on the market or your expertise in your neighbourhood will garner interest and build a relationship with potential clients. Show off what you know. Educating others won’t make them buy houses without an agent; it will only want them to trust one.

Social media is a must! Go on Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. Yes Instagram. With the majority of users are of Gen Y, and 68% are heavily skewed towards women (single women are the largest segment of home buyers next to couples), it’s worth posting on Instagram.

 

Be consistent

There are two main ways to be consistent: time management and persona.

Be honest and true to yourself. There’s nothing more distrustful than being a phony online or in person. Most people can sense dishonesty from a mile away. The best way to be consistent of who you are, is by being who you are.

Blog on a regular basis. Whether it’s one a week, once, a month, or once a day (which may be a little much), be sure to maintain that routine. People like routine and look forward to your next post. If it’s every Thursday you post, keep it that way. If it’s the first of every month, keep it up.

 

Build your Professional Team

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor did one person build it. Your main goal is to sell homes, not build websites, shoot houses or stage them. Leave that to your team of professionals. They are there to help you. Perhaps it may be a big investment from the start, but it will pay off.

In the long run, they will be your ‘go to’ people you trust. And when you trust them, you build your trusted brand. By using your team of service providers will ensure that your client is taken care of. What is the end result, you ask? Referrals and repeat customers. That’s the kind of brand you want.