Behind The Photo, Graham Murphy, New Zealandposted on 6 November 2018
Welcome to Behind The Photo, Graham Murphy, New Zealand
In the 3rd instalment of the blog series Behind The Photo, we’re pleased to introduce our readers to independent real estate photographer and Imagecloud user Graham Murphy. As the founder of Northen Exposure Photography situated in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, Graham has transitioned from over 14 years as an NZ Police officer and forensic photographer, to successfully servicing his client’s as an independent photographer in a market dominated by photography franchising.
“As digital marketing and cloud computing taps into the new media revolution, the traditional franchising model is looking outdated, off the pace and out of step for independently minded entrepreneurs.” For photographers looking for inspiration on becoming independent, Graham’s success is a reminder that breaking the shackles of franchising opens up a world of opportunity and financial reward.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST DEVELOP AN INTEREST IN PHOTOGRAPH?
I’ve always had an interest in photography for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I always had film cameras and I recall the feeling of anticipation from taking your film in to be developed and having to wait a week before you got to see the pictures. I was a police officer in New Zealand for 14 & 1/2 years and for about 11 of those years I was involved with forensic crime scene examination and forensic photography so I guess the first paid photo job I did would have been one that I did whilst employed by the police.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE VERY FIRST PAID JOB YOU DID IN PHOTOGRAPHY?
I can’t recall what the actual job was, there were so many of them and they weren’t always the sort of subject that you would want to commit to your long-term memory. After leaving the police in 2016 my first paid job as real estate photographer was a small 3 bedroom house, I recall the job as it was actually raining quite hard and the agent was desperate to get some images of the property to get her listing online. We shot around ten images, they weren’t great.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE GRAHAM JUST STARTING OUT?
I’ve been working as a real estate photographer now for three years and the first bit of advice I would give to myself when I was starting out would be don’t feel like you need to get involved with a franchise group in order to get started in the industry, back yourself and your skills and just go for it as an independent photographer.
HOW DIFFERENT IS THE EQUIPMENT YOU STARTED WITH COMPARED TO THE GEAR YOU USE NOW?
I got my first SLR camera around 1986, a Pentax P30. Later I had a Minolta that had a motor drive which seemed like a massive step up from the Pentax at the time. My first digital camera was a Fuji Finepix around the turn of the century, (that sounds so ancient). The first DSLR that I got my hands on was a Canon 400D, I still have it, my 16-year-old daughter uses it now. It can still take a great image, so long as you don’t go past ISO 200. During my time working as a forensic photographer in the NZ Police we used exclusively Canon gear and since leaving the police and working as an independent photographer I have stuck with Canon since that is what I was most familiar with.
I currently use a 5D MkIII and for real estate work my go-to lens is the Tamron 15-30 f2.8, which I find to be an absolutely stunning lens. My style for shooting interiors involves the use of artificial light and I have really taken to the Godox series of flashes. They are reasonably priced, reliable and produce really good light.
WHAT KINDS OF PHOTOGRAPHY DO YOU CURRENTLY OFFER YOU, CLIENTS?
Outside of real estate photography, I also do the occasional wedding but I’m particular about what jobs I’ll take on. I’ll only shoot weddings if they are relaxed events, I prefer older couples that might be on their second time around rather than newlywed younger couples as the second timers are generally much more relaxed and the jobs tend to be a bit more fun. I also do headshots for agents profile pictures and want to expand further on this in the future.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU? WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY MOTIVATED AND CREATIVE?
I’ve often found that the types of photography that I’ve been involved with can actually stifle your creativity. In the forensic photography world, the work is very technical and precise, the photographer is capturing visual evidence rather than creating art, totally flat boring light is the go here. With real estate photography, I also find that shooting interiors is quite technical work and also not so great for getting your creativity going. Every so often I just have to find a subject to work on for personal interest sake, something that’s not “work” but rather a bit of fun. My daughter is taking photography for her year 12 studies next year and I’m really looking forward to sharing her journey of discovery around Photography.
WHOSE WORK HAS INFLUENCED YOU MOST?
In real estate photography, I have definitely admired the work of Wayne Capili, he goes under the name Interface Visual so look him up on Facebook. For headshots, I really admire Peter Hurley for the clean corporate style and Dylan Patrick and Rafal Wegiel who have a really nice cinematic style.
AMONG YOUR WORKS, WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
In real estate photography, I find twilight shoots the most satisfying, but also the most stressful as you only have such a limited period to work in.
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF BEING AN INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHER FOR YOU?
When I first started out I made a huge mistake by getting involved in a franchise situation. It was nothing short of a disaster for me as they would skim 45% of my turnover. I could have lived with that if there was actually a tangible benefit in being involved with them but there really was nothing of any value for me in the relationship.
Since breaking the shackles of the franchise arrangement I’ve been able to re-establish myself successfully in the local market and I have good support from a number of the main agencies. One of the issues that hold’s back growth, however, is that far too many local agencies just don’t want to spend money on photography. A few of these agencies have their own drones but shoot the interior photos on their smartphones or a point and shoot camera. The aerial images look ok but when you get to the interior photos they are just awful.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE TODAY THAT IS DIFFERENT THAN WHEN YOU STARTED?
The challenge is to get these agencies to realise that they are cheapening their own brand by doing their own photography. Educating sellers of the importance of great photography would help so that they won’t accept those crappy iPhone photos.
Another major challenge is that these days anyone with a camera and a drone can put themselves forward as a photographer and many of these people seem to think that real estate photography is going to be easy money. Consequently, it seems like just about every other month there’s a new photographer in town trying to get some traction in the market. Usually, they don’t last long but they do end up costing you a few jobs before they drop off the scene again.
ARE THERE ANY LOCAL OR GEOGRAPHICAL CHALLENGES THAT YOU FACE WHICH MAY DIFFER FROM OTHER INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHERS ACROSS THE GLOBE?
There are a lot of coastal properties all around the Bay of Islands so when photographing these properties the conditions almost always need to be perfect, right tide, right weather, right sun etc. Consequently, it can often be a bit of a challenge to get all these factors to line up, if the weather is good but the tide is wrong then we don’t get to shoot. Travel can be a factor too often involving ferry rides and there are some properties that can only be reached by boat or helicopter.
You can find more of Graham’s work on Facebook :
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The first 2 instalments of the blog series Beyond The Photo can be found below:
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