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A multi talented and multi linguistic individual, Orlando is a jack of all trades. Having started working at the age of 9, he has grown into a full-time real estate marketer and photographer. He’s guided several media aspirants as a college tutor and is definitely an ‘Ace in its Place,’ as he likes to call it. So, who better to talk about the industry and handhold beginners with real estate photography and marketing tips than this talented professional who has seen it all? Read on to learn about his incredible journey, exceptional time-management skills, and learnings in real estate.

Orlando Mac

Real estate photography tips by ace photographer and marketer Orlando Mac

Read on to know Orlando's top tips for beginners and advice to agents and photographers alike while he takes us through his journey from graphic design to ace photographer and business owner.

1. For the people who don’t know you, who is Orlando? Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into real estate photography.

People would say I am a hard worker willing and able to learn anything. I started working at the age of 9, by 14 I had multiple jobs and already was a shift manager. Currently, I have 2 full-time jobs and at least 2 part-time jobs. All are profitable. I have worked in many industries, including music, sales, hospitality, manufacturing, logistics, construction, education, and as an entrepreneur, almost all at a management level, I take the best from each into my travels.
I started out in graphic design self-taught from version 2 of Photoshop in the ’90s and always used my creative design skills in my various management roles for marketing / training purposes. So when the auto sector collapsed, I went back to school to get accreditation for all the software I already had taught myself and a few more.
Since I had good working knowledge, the college made me a tutor straight away. This led to an offer to take over as an instructor at their main campus in Toronto once my course was complete. Not the easiest start as I was in class with the instructor they were looking to replace for 2 weeks so that the students could decide who they liked better. Trial by fire. After a year, I became their Head of Faculty for Digital Media Design, Marketing, and Photography across all their campuses, a position I held for 7 years. As I already had worked as a Marketer in the Real Estate field, I missed the sheer volume of work and the electric atmosphere that real estate brings. So I took on the role of Senior Marketer at one of the leading boutique realty firms in Toronto, which has 7 locations and serves almost 300 realtors daily.
That is how we got into real estate photography. First, with so many old agent headshots, I offered to shoot them on my time after work. Then when we lost the services of one of our good real estate photographers who serviced a good chunk of our realtors, the agents had trouble finding someone who could match the quality. So when they asked me if I knew anyone as good as the last guy, I jokingly said: “Yes, me, but I work here 9 to 5, so if you need photos on weekends, I am your guy.” Sure enough, the phone started ringing and led me to train a few photographers in my method (some of which never had photo’d before). Now we run a 250k property photo business of 5 and have added video, commercial-grade floor plans, 360’s, VR, and drones along the way.

“I believe in quality, efficiency, and productivity, as well as it sure helps to be great with people.”

I can usually be found at work, an event, party, or on vacation with a whole group around me, much to my wife’s chagrin. People fascinate me, so I talk, listen, and ask questions, as well as have a few interesting stories to tell.
The moral of the story is that anyone can be successful with hard work.

2. What’s a typical work week like?

Well, my day starts at midnight and ends editing for my clients at 7 AM (5 sets). I know agents like to be first to market, and I don’t play favorites with my clients over the realtors I serve at my brokerage (start brokerage work at 7 AM), first-come, first served. But I deliver before the rest of my competition and then wait for the later deliveries, so most of my clients at the brokerage are always finished and out of the office before others start. I finish at 2:30 PM at the brokerage and then put in some more hours for my own businesses, which also include event photography, portraits, and weddings, etc. Then I have some ‘me time’ with my wife, followed by dinner and down by 7 PM. Rinse and repeat all week. I schedule my own events and time with family, clients / friends along the way.

3. How do you prepare for a shoot?

Gear wise, we have everything check-listed and bags prepped the night before. If it is a wedding event, I usually start a week out testing equipment, cleaning, doing maintenance, and getting all my backup systems in place. It is a one-day EVER event, and I have had two NEW previously tested cards fail in the same dual-slot camera; it took 4 military-grade recovery software to correct. Since then, I have also run back-ups throughout events even though my previous standards were better than 85% of my colleagues. We also ask detailed questions in advance before booking to be ready for the day in real estate or any other type of photography / media. That way, we are level set before the shoot even starts.

Photographed by Orlando Mac

4. How do you edit your images? How important do you think is post-processing in the process? What do you think about outsourcing photo editing?

We are all about quality, so we edit 99% of our work in-house. That way, we have consistency from set to set. We also have an exact shooting method and hotwire some of our gear to do multiple brackets with flash in a very fast and efficient way. Post-processing wise we do multiple layers hand blended to get it just right; no crunchy HDR here. It sure helps that I was a graphic designer first before becoming a photographer, so I have a different analytical way of looking at a stack of photos and how to squeeze the best out of Lightroom and Photoshop. I have hotwired them with presets and actions to turn a set of 80 hand blended photos that usually take 3 hrs (to do well) into half that time.

I have no issue with outsourcing work, but you should only work with reputable sources. It can be hit or miss or a complete disaster if you don’t. The only work we outsource is to Styldod for some high-quality add-ons that we don’t have the time to process in a timely manner, and it took many trials and errors before we got to their team.

5. Do share a few secrets to your success?

First off, I believe in Aces in their Places. You don’t hire a car mechanic to perform brain surgery. You need a great realtor to sell your home (usually the vendor’s biggest asset) for as much money as possible. It isn’t rocket science. It is real estate science, and you need a pro.
Hire the best professional you can to do the work you need at the price you can afford. That works as well for realtors and their photo/media needs. You want to get your return on investment, hire a pro.
My clients come to me because I am a real estate insider. We know what schedules, CMA’s, WWAR’s, 801’s, disclosures, RECO, MPAC are, as well as what MLS standards are for listings. We only work with the realtors we want to, none of the ones that hum and haw about everything, because they fear their shadows (lack confidence) and the prices they set. We work with elite realtors who appreciate hiring quality because they are too busy to sweat the small stuff. They need a one-stop-shop that gets the job done quickly and efficiently.
It's as easy as 1 2 3

1. They book when and where; we confirm

2. They let our highly trained people in and relax while we capture the magic

3. Their Photos + Media Are Delivered Early

Now, this all sounds like I hate my competitors when the opposite is true, we compete at the top end of the Greater Toronto Area, and there are only 5 companies that can put out the quality we do. I am friendly with most of them, go out for drinks, network, and send them business. At my brokerage, I don’t care where the agents get their photos as long as they are good and don’t cause me more work to get out. The real estate market is so big that it takes many quality photo / media pros to service it, so I share often. As a photographer, don’t be afraid to make friends with others in the industry, especially in your area. Sure some will be great, and others not so much. Just like realtors / vendors, there are good ones and bad ones, but some might be able to provide services you can’t yet and will help you build your service offerings attracting even more and more clients.

Some tips for photographers out there to get referrals:

  • Make your media easy to use by realtors and most significantly by marketers who have to download, file, package, and load your media onto MLS systems as well as print and send out to other services. If they ever need to edit your work, you can kiss a great supply of referrals goodbye. Like water, realtors / marketers find the easiest way out.
  • If you are using Google Drive to deliver, stop. It is slow and awkward at the best of times; unlike Onedrive, Dropbox, and other services, they only create the download zip when you click download. Some have taken me an hour to download, waiting for it to complete if it doesn’t fail altogether. I never recommend anyone with Google drive delivery.
  • Make your file naming / ordering system easier. First, I reorder all our photos, usually with 1 to 2 exteriors, then as you would walk the place for a home - 1st floor, 2nd, 3rd, basement, etc. For condos, I go straight to the epic rooms first (living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, balcony, amenities), basement always, and remaining exteriors last, then area photos if you have them. Once re-ordered (Adobe Bridge) then I batch rename them. I used to have the full street address rather than a simple 3-digit number for file renaming but noticed depending on the street name length when creating thumbnail contact sheets, the numbers would disappear. So now I go with 3 letters, usually in the street name and number, for example, 321 Yonge Street = Yng_001. The reason for this is realtors like to choose the photos and order at times (contact sheets are usually required on the other end of your photos). This short file name also helps when people mess up addresses (for those that use address file names), as correcting that all around in a marketing department and for yourself always leads to trouble and headaches. If you just leave your camera file names, then shame on you.
  • I always copy and paste my addresses for folders from an email or text from the client to avoid errors and have a block to go back to later. I also copy and paste all realtor names. They get awfully upset if you get their name or full legal brokerage name wrong. It makes everyone look like an amateur, especially if the vendor sees it.
  • Also, printing even on calibrated machines is 10-15% darker than what you see on screen, as there is no light coming through the media and the media color will affect its brightness, so you should be editing with ETTR in mind. That 15% grey is going to be 30, depending on the media.
  • Be a friend to the marketer as usually at a large brokerage, they have the ear of hundreds and some even thousands of potential clients. So be like water to make it easy.
Photographed by Orlando Mac

6. What do you do in your free time? How do you hone your craft?

Since we rarely have free time, usually, we work on new services / offerings with paid shoots to hone our skills. We usually add on some extras we are trying out for our good clients, and they get the benefit of being first. They also usually have a strong marketing mix that gets the word out to others.
Since we have yet to advertise (I don’t even post to social media anymore), all our work comes from referrals, and we double our business every year. So, of course, that means doubling our team for next year to accommodate the demand. So plan and start training early.

I am also working on a prototype photo / video / 360 / VR / scanning system that would help other photographers / video / home inspectors / developers / filmmakers with a one-unit solution to capture everything in one to two simple scans of a room. High quality 8K Photos, 4K Videos, 1% error floor plans, and so much more. Why spend a fortune on 30 different pieces of gear and technologies when you can pay for one and reduce your time in a quarter, if not more? Full RAW support across the mediums, so you can tweak as you like, as well as service-based, where our team just delivers early for you across all the mediums, and you just hit the locations with your clients wherever you are with the benefit of wireless operation. Great for events with multiple camera set-ups as well.

Of course, for this type of market disruptor, we will need Styldod as a partner to offer their add-on services like 3D floor plans, Virtual Staging for photo, 360, VR, and Video. It can all be done with the dataset from the telemetry of the ToF and Lidar in our system to be as realistic as possible.

7. What is the biggest challenge you face in the industry?

The challenge we face in the industry is the cowboy realtor / low-cost listing options. They give everyone a bad name, especially the great realtors / brokerages I work with. They discount their prices and promise lots, then deliver poorly and unprofessionally. A property is your biggest asset dummy, and you get what you pay for. I tell all my realtors as it applies to them; everyone still reads a book by the cover, Your Photos Are Your Cover ™. It is what potential clients see first. So, their headshot, their property photos, their feature sheets say a lot about their brand and the services they offer. Even on those piddly leases that are more work than money, in the end, it is a reflection on them and the quality they would bring to a lucrative listing.
I appreciate that sometimes realtors have to use their mobile phones to capture some properties. That is why we also offer a training presentation that we do for brokerages, “The Smart Way To Cell,” where we walk them through how to do cell phone photos right, as well as “How to Supercharge Your Marketing with Video.” If you are a realtor and in the area, and haven’t seen them, then reach out to us at elitepropertiestoronto.com to set up a presentation for your brokerage.
At the end of the day, we all work in a critical industry that drives the economy, and we should all be looking to raise the bar.

Some photographers think with the advancement of cell phone technology, we will be replaced. It doesn’t look that way for me, as you need skilled operators and editors to create our magic. However, even if the technology got to that level, elite realtors would still want to stand out from the rest and will still need pros that can bring the wow to their listings.
Photographed by Orlando Mac

8. What are your thoughts on virtual staging, virtual tours, and other incumbent technologies in real estate?

I always saw the value in virtual staging from my marketer’s desk, although it was tough to convince some realtors since, as a professional, you don’t want to deceive potential buyers. We always make it a policy to clearly stamp our virtual staged photos with those exact words virtually staged; we also place right after the staged watermarked photos the exact empty room photos. That way, we are very transparent about the property. Trust is everything, and you build trust with repeated actions, and that is what we teach our realtors. Actual staging adds 10’s of thousands to the property’s value depending on the market it is being listed in. It is a worthwhile investment, but if the budget is not there, I always recommend virtually staging a vacant property. As well as doing a full occupied to vacant edit to restyle the room if you have tricky vendors. My top realtors do that especially selling tenanted homes or condos; it also helps with the legalities of showing a tenant’s own property and personal belongings.
As for 360 virtual tours, I was never a fan until Covid. Statistically, photo + video outsells Photo + 360 in the final selling price as per our market research. Why? Because you control the viewers’ attention, and when they are in a want-to-buy situation, they want and need to be romanced. A video with music just warms their heart and makes them dream of living there, whereas a 360 and their UI’s always lead you to a corner that you get stuck in with cracks and blemishes.
But then Covid came along, rules changed, and people still needed to buy and wanted to see inside to make a wise decision, so we added it to our arsenal as well as commercial-grade floor plans.

9. Advice for aspiring photographers / realtors?

Well, for photographers starting, I would say don’t give out freebies to build a portfolio. Not saying that you won’t, pick and choose those projects and make sure it will pay off for you. You shouldn’t devalue your service.
I had one realtor that I worked with that booked me and then canceled and said that he would get their other photographer to grab it, as it wasn’t a high-value property. It turns out he was getting freebies from an aspiring photographer for 2 years in the guise of coaching.

The work you do has value, and if you hone your skills as a hobbyist, you will soon have enough clients that want to pay for your work. Take the paid road, study, practice hard, and they will come to you through word of mouth. Keep learning and doing. You are the Ace.

For aspiring realtors, I know when they walk into my office whether they will succeed or fail.

If they spend more time in my office trying to work on their letterhead or brand when they are new to the business, then chances are they are going to fail.

Real estate is a people business. It is about networking and expanding your prospect list. There are no magic bullets. I have seen 100’s of realtors come from corporate marketing la la land and think they are going to make a new square wheel. I shine stars; I do not make them. You need to network, go out, meet people and build trusting bonds. That will lead you with my help to a tidal wave of listings and benefit marketing. Hard work, studying, learning, and practicing results in knowledge and success. Then, rinse and repeat. I am not special; I just work hard. Confidence comes with repeatedly hitting it out of the park and wowing people.

Leave it better than when you walked in, a wise person once said.

Photographed by Orlando Mac

10. How did you come across Styldod? Tell us more about your experience with us.

We tried multiple virtual staging services to see which one could provide the highest quality results and with quick turn-around times, as we appreciate. The realtors we work with need their photos and media delivered quickly and in a timely manner so that they can get to market ahead of the competition. To date, all our orders with Styldod have provided exceptional results and are a good match for our clientele, who appreciate quality and the added-on services Styldod offers. Our clients are happy and have been wowed with the results. We exclusively offer Styldod services as add-ons to our real estate media (photos + floor plans etc.) It is a good fit as we have limited time for our editors to turn around our own post-processing to get ahead of the others in our local area. Like us at Elite Properties, Styldod continually adds to its services and consistently maintains high quality standards. There is nothing that slows down our workflows than constant revisions as it lengthens the delivery and service. We continually deliver outstanding results to our clients, making our real estate service a no-fuss process; the same goes for Styldod. We’ve only ever had one request for a revision on their work, and it was the color of flowers on the table (based more on the realtors taste, not the Styldod work which they loved). Styldod matches us at Elite Properties for quality, ease of use, great final deliverables, and are a complete no-fuss service. We chose Styldod for its quality because it matches our own. There is no point in a high-quality product / service if you are going to hire a low-end service provider that will devalue your brand. Styldod is part of our cover and reflects on our brand with their exceptional work.

Hope Orlando’s advice and experience-led observations help you set up your photography career for success. We fully side with him on the importance of communication and networking skills to get ahead of the industry. Hard work truly has no substitute. We hope the photography tips shared by this talented real estate photographer & marketer gets you pumped enough to conquer the industry.

Click here to read our interview with the fantastic real estate photographer Scott Chandler. Want to try out Styldod? Click here for a free trial.

Styldod is a design-tech company that aims to simplify real estate marketing and help agents present homes in their most favorable light online by reimagining and automating the listing photography process. Having begun as a virtual staging company, today, Styldod has affordable and best-in-class products and services for every facet of real estate marketing and photography. Styldod’s suite of services include virtual staging, image enhancements, floor plans, virtual renovation, 3D renders, 360 degree virtual tours, and Matterport virtual staging, to name a few. We're trusted by over 10,000 realtors from all over the US and from companies like ReMax, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams. Know more about us at https://www.styldod.com.

Ann Alex

Ann is a thriller-loving Economics major who chose to follow her passion for writing and became a Content Writer at Styldod. A big Jeffrey Archer fan, Ann loves books, films, and everything else that gets her creative juices flowing.

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