Visuals matter now more than ever before. Because we are in a very visual market and a very visual world, it is well worth investing in photography, especially for real estate.
We touch on this topic and more in today's podcast with our guest, Charlotte Safavi, interior stylist, shelter magazine writer, and producer. Charlotte works with architects, builders, and designers to create magazine content with interiors.
Real estate is one application for this type of photography, specialised and crafted to create a sense of space that is less generic. It is of utmost importance to create a space that people want to belong to, to make them feel that they're having that experience while looking at the photographs.
As discussed in our previous post on how to value a property, we agreed that the feel of the place has a significant impact. When we look at a house, besides the space, the square footage, the number of bedrooms, and the zip code, we've got to think about how to present the area and what elements the space needs.
Contact us to get in touch with experts like Charlotte and others to help you in all aspects of your property requirements. You can also head over to our experts' directory at londonproperty.co.uk and don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter so that you can be kept abreast of our very interesting conversations that we have on a weekly basis with experts like Charlotte.
At London Property, we use our experience, expertise, and deep-rooted relationships to connect super-prime property owners and tenants with hand-picked experts. We also aim to inform and entertain Londoners through content across multiple platforms.
Interviewer - Farnaz Fazaipour | Property Investment & Ownership
London Property - home of super prime, where you can find informative educational and entertaining content, covering all aspects of property.
Hello, and welcome to London Property, the home of super prime. I'm your host Farnaz Fazaipour. And today we're in conversation with Charlotte Safavi, who's joining us from Virginia and United States. Welcome to the show, Charlotte.
Thank you very much Farnaz. It's an honour to be on the show.
So let's start by telling our listeners what you do and how you got here.
Right. So I'm a interior stylist. And the primary focus of my business is actually I work with the photographer, and we create magazine content with interiors. So our clients are architects and builders and designers. And my business is called Stylish Productions. And we have a holistic approach to photographing interior spaces. I also have some spin off private clients as well, where I go in to refresh their spaces.
So you've touched a little bit on the type of people who use your services, but can you just tell us a bit in a bit more detail? You know, who I mean? Obviously, it's useful to anybody wanting to sell, sell, sell interior, for whatever reason, but who are your kind of main types of clients that use your services.
The principal clients who use our services are designers, architects, and builders who do high end interiors. So we get hired to go in and assess the magazine read the quality of interiors, and spaces, and we photograph them. So our process is we get scabbing shots, we go in and prepare the spaces, we may remove items or add items and create a sense of luxurious lifestyle, and then we do the photographs. So that's basically what we do. And then we take that product and we submit it to magazines.
How did you actually get to the services, this is something that you started or is something that evolved into what you're doing, because how the world and the market evolved?
Right. So I've done a lot of different things in my life. But I am a magazine writer, and I became involved in styling through my writing. So at one point I was writing about an interior and it got picked up by a national magazine. And the person who'd made the introduction was the magazine stylist. So I ended up learning from her how to do the styling and became a person who looked for projects for magazines to photograph and publish. The industry has changed a lot, because the budgets that the magazines used to have to photograph interior spaces has gone away. So I found I sensed an opportunity to sort of create the content directly and then sell it because it's a lot cheaper than obviously, bringing in a whole team to photograph a given space, we were the team we would go in and we would set it up and photograph it professionally and submit it without being on staff. So that's kind of how our business evolved. I think that there are a lot of applications for the type of work that we do, including in real estate. When I look at most real estate photography is pretty horrendous actually. And the type of work we do is more boutique and specialised and crafted to create a sense of space that is less generic.
So on that subject, because obviously, it's become really important that you know, your online presence really has the maximum impact because so much starts online these days. And real estate is no different. So the old fashioned way versus the curated way that you work. So what did you think was / is wrong with the way that people actually market property and photograph property?
I think that and I just speak to my limited experience. But when you look at real estate photography, it's all taken with very wide angle lens, it's more to show the sort of the grandness of a space. Whereas actually, when you're scrolling on a screen, let's say on Instagram, the thing that's going to stop you is going to be more of an aspirational moment. It's going to be more of a lifestyle moment, it's going to be more of an image that sort of stops you I guess. And when we go into photograph of space we obviously have all the different lenses and my photographer is extremely talented. But when we look at the space, we try to break it down into components and moments as well as the bigger room shots. And I guess it's to do with just how you proper space, what you remove what you add. And that's really all about having the right eye. And I think that that's where my skill set comes in.
So to really get the maximum impact of what you're photographing, you need to create a space that people want to belong to, they want to be there. So you're you're trying to basically make people feel that they're having that experience when they're looking at your photographs.
Right, you want an image to feel approachable, welcoming, inviting, beautiful, aspirational. But it doesn't mean that you over style a space, I'm also very authentic to the spaces that I work with, we work in a lot of very different styles of home from extremely contemporary to more traditional. And I think my approach is always to walk into a space and look at it and just think, you know, how can we add to this? How can we refresh, updated, while being true to the, to the actual space and style of a home? A lot of the houses we work in, obviously have been designed by professional interior designers and world class architects. So we're already starting with a high level of quality. So it's just a question then of how do you how do you visualise that space? How do you create that space to be the one that people stop and look at. And I find that it's, it's because the spaces are inviting when you stop, it's not because they're big and grand.
And that's where you're saying the difference comes in, because people sometimes don't put enough effort into photographing something that could be, you know, cost millions to purchase. And they just kind of have the same approach towards one bedroom flat and the mansion. Whereas what you're saying is that a lot more thought actually has to go into the visuals in order to maximise the impact that you get from the viewer and the call to action.
Exactly. It's, it's it's curated. We have a high level of skills in that area of like I said, my photographer is extremely talented. He's not just a hack who goes in and just photographs it and puts it on the listing, you know, it's just not the way we work. We spend a whole day photographing, I don't know, a small apartment, for example, you know, it's very layered, we prepare it before we go in, we accessorise it, we add just the right fresh elements. And, you know, sort of curate what's in the apartment and take out the things that we think don't work and layer in a few things that will enhance it. Obviously, if there's a team involved, like a designer, we work with the designer. And it's really about making the photograph look gorgeous, if there's a piece of art that I think is beautiful into the taste of the homeowner, but it doesn't work for the photograph, that it wouldn't appeal to a wider audience, we might suggest removing it, for example. It's not personal, it's about creating a very gorgeous space that's very welcoming to a wide audience of people at that level.
So are you finding because I always think that, you know, things in America happen a little bit more in advance than they do in in Europe; And are you finding that with this new digital world that we live in accelerated in recent times, that people are actually adopting a more structured and a more invested approach to photographing their properties in the US? Or is it still something that is, you know, a luxury used by interior designers and architects and so on?
I think that it's still a little bit wild west, to be honest with you the value of visuals has gone through the roof in the last 10 years. In the last five years, in the last year now video is big. So visuals matter now more than they've ever mattered before. And I think that within the niche business that I've been working in and I kind of created my business, there was nobody who did what I did in the sense that we're a produced our shoot team. So I kind of came up with that concept because the magazine industry was changing, and they didn't have the budgets to, you know, go and photograph a space in the way that they used to. So I thought, Well, why not do what the magazines do because I was trained by them. But do it directly for the architects and designers. So that's just a sort of let you know how rapidly the industry is changing is that our business was very small and very nation created to meet a need that was beginning to happen, magazines, were beginning to, you know, go from 12 issues to 6 issues to 4 issues a year for these luxury national magazines in the States. And I kind of anticipated that change and decided that that so I think that even within my own industry of interior designers, and architects and builders, people are now beginning to realise the value of that. So they're always going to be visionary people who are the people who have hired us from let's say, five years ago, or four years ago or three years ago. But now it's kind of caught on and I think in the real estate market, there is a lot of room for improvement, to be honest with you. I mean, real estate listings in the States, they do hire professional stagers who might go in, if it's a new build, they'll take in furniture, and they have stagers who go in and you know, say, oh, let's remove all the photographs and add some pillows to plump it up and all that we do have that here. But what we do is we're we're more specific than that, like we would if we were to, if we would photograph an interior, let's say for a house that's going to be put on the market, those voters would look much different from the houses that most real estate companies would do, even in the States.
So what sort of costs are associated with this process?
I think from a budgetary point of view, like you said, when you're looking at selling properties that are millions of dollars, or whatever, you know, it's like, I think budget at the end of the day is something that is determined. For us it's project by project. So it would depend on how many days we think a space would take to photograph it would depend on travel, it would depend on you know, how much propping is needed. Usually, in the States, the return policies are fairly flexible with accessorising. So we often for our photoshoots, will purchase things and then return them. So it depends, I guess, where you're shopping and all that stuff. Some outlets are more flexible with that with that, and then we tag them in our photos, so that they get their exposure.
Right. So you, depending as you say, on the project, you either provide the accessories, or remove the accessories that are there. Or they're provided by by the person whose project it is.
Exactly like I said, we would work I mean, the budget would be we'd have to look at the images, we'd have to see the space, whether it's virtual tour, or whatever, we do travel for work all the time. But I think that we would put together a proposal as to what our costs would be, and they would be commensurate with, you know, industry costs for our level of business. So that's how we would work it. And then when we would photograph a space, I think the fresh elements do come into play. So we would do some floral, or we might do some unit fresh in the kitchen and things like that, just to create some lifestyle moments. That would be aspirational, whether it's a charcuterie board and a couple glasses of wine on a balcony or, you know, a big bowl of Keoni sitting on a table with coffee table books. It's it the speak dictates what direction we take. Obviously, if it's a very clean modern space, we would do very clean modern things. And again, it's all about you know, when you talk about talents required or skill sets. My background is extremely diverse. I have a degree from Oxford University, I worked as a banker for a while, as a film agent, became a writer because I like the flexibility and started writing about interiors and architecture because of my interests. And the styling came from that but my eye is what drives how we frame a photo, what elements go into it. And that's really something that can't be taught. I don't think it's just what your experiences growing up and what you've been exposed to, I think forms your eye.
And the thing is that you're coming from a magazine background noticing a change in the magazine background, which obviously means that in your market you have access to get some of these lines, presumably coverage and editorials?
Yes, yes. So a lot of people actually photograph with that. Because, you know, not 90% of what we shoot ends up in publications. Yeah.
Right. So now, thinking about the majority of our listeners that are going to be London based, working at the top end of the market, I suppose if they wanted your services, then it would make sense for you to come for developments, for people who've got continuous projects, and then you would be able to take something like this back for them, and just kind of provide a package whereby they can have that coverage and editorials in the US market.
It would really depend on the type of project that it is and the kind of editorials so let's say, if it's a hotel, you know, we've photographed hotels, for example, where we've gone in and, you know, shot, the main spaces as well as the rooms. That's a big job. So when you photograph a hotel, then you can reach out to the appropriate magazines afterwards. Yes. If it's a residential home that's designed by significant architects, somewhere in the countryside, you know, that's something that we could photograph as a project and then submit for publication.
So it's not like everything you photograph, there's a story that could could go into into some editorial coverage, and it needs to be specific, obviously, have specific interests.
Exactly. And generally speaking, publications aren't interested in houses that homeowners are selling, at least the interior design market isn't. But you know, there's a real estate section most newspapers and publications, so there are outlets that can definitely be explored.
And I mean, just asking this question, again, if we were to start at a price and end at a price, you know, what does that look like that, you know, somebody could do this, for from x up to y?
Well, it depends if it's a hotel, it's going to be a lot. But I would say
Let's say a one off project to you know, have a home of a good size home, that interior designers finished, and then they want you to help them showcase this work.
Right, not including travel costs, we would be at about 3000 per day, approximately.
Okay. And actually, when you think about it in percentage terms, you know, if you're selling a 10 million pound home, and you get the presentation right from day one, it's it's actually a very small percentage of what happened.
That's what I'm saying. I mean, it's, it's a, it's well worth investing in your photography. I stress that to everyone. Because we're in a very visual market, we're in a very visual world. So it's, it's kind of critical, I think, if you want to stand out, if you want people to stop, a lot of people use Instagram, for example. When you scroll through your Instagram feed, you only stop if something grabs your eye.
Yes, you've only got moments to ground people.
You literally have seconds. Yeah. Especially with the new generation. I mean, I think that part of looking at this is also that it's a newer generation is a different generation who are now reaching out for property, whether it's to buy it or rented in London or whatever, it's it's not. It's it's a younger generation. So you have to anticipate that, that what worked for, you know, our mothers doesn't work for the new mothers, you know, and that's, I think, very important to take that into consideration that you start and sort of refine your business to work with that upcoming market because that upcoming market is your future.
Very interesting. I mean, I think, you know, people just don't put enough emphasis on the importance of presentation. But, you know, as they say, pictures, say 1000 Words, and these days, nobody's reading 1000 words, you know, at best, they might be listening to 1000 words, and no one's reading 1000 words?
Absolutely. I don't even think people listen to 1000 anymore. You know, and I'm very holistic in my approach to everything. I think that's partly due to I studied human sciences at Oxford, where it was a very multidisciplinary course, which was very unusual for an English education. They're actually celebrating their 50th anniversary this year of the course and I will be coming to London for that. But I think that you have to look at every situation from multiple points. To view and when you look at something like a house that you're putting on the market for real estate, you have to think about not just the space, not just the square footage and the how many bedrooms and the zip code, but you've got to think about who you're marketing it to how you're marketing it, you have to think about how to present the space. What elements does the space need? How do you present this as a whole package that covers all these different angles, and have a long term sort of holistic view of it really, not just you know, wham, bam, thank you, Sam. Because that can work. And it might not work, you might get the price, you might not get the price, you know, but if you present it thinking for the the different angles that approach it properly, photograph it properly, present it properly, to the right audience, then you can probably exceed your dreams.
Well, thank you very much for sharing with us your experience in this space and this space that no doubt is going to become a lot more important in this side of the pond. And hopefully, our listeners will find this chat with you informative, and we'll be able to reach out to you and our experts directly. So thank you very much for for talking to us.
Thank you Farnaz always open to answering any questions anyone might have.
Thank you very much. So to get in touch with experts like Charlotte, and others to help you in all aspects of your property requirements, then head over to our experts directory at Londonproperty.co.uk. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter so that you can be kept abreast of our very interesting conversations that we have on a weekly basis with experts like Charlotte. Thank you.
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