Q&A with photographer Katie Girtman
Katie Girtman has spent a lot of time behind a camera. She got her start at the Aspen Daily News, and then became the in-house photographer for The North Face. When the company asked her to move to California, she decided to put down roots in Colorado and start her own business, Studio Kiva. She continues to work across the state and farther afield. Besides real estate, she does weddings, events and adventure photography.
Summit County Home: How did you get into real estate photography?
Katie Girtman: I saw a need up here in Summit County for high-quality real estate photography at reasonable prices. I wanted to be challenged and wanted something new. I love doing weddings, but I didn’t want to do them all the time. I wanted some days off on weekends. I did 45 weddings one summer and was pretty burnt out. I’d thought about being a real estate agent before I became a photographer, so it was like killing two birds with one stone. I just felt like I wanted to come out there with a good product.
SCH: What makes shooting a house different from other subjects, such as people or events?
KG: With architecture, you have to sit there to really think about it — the weather, the light, the style. How it’s being styled is really important. You’re working with a structure. You’ve got challenges with light, whether it’s tungsten, fluorescent or natural.
I love going into the homes and shooting and styling. Sometimes I style the homes so there’s less clutter in some of the photos to make the room look bigger. The experience I got with some of the architecture guys helped me with that. A lot of the homes up here are real mountain homes, log homes. When I go into a house I really look at the colors. Color is a big deal for me.
SCH: Do you have any pro tips or tricks of the trade for budding photographers?
KG: This is definitely not for the amateur photographer. I do a lot of handmade things off of lighting and filters. You have to know a lot about lighting and colors to be able to do it well. I love checking out the houses. You get really good ideas. A lot of the rooms we shoot we end up adding color to give it a pop. We can play around a lot with the color. The views are also important. A lot of the homes sell because of the views. I do a lot of high-dynamic range photos.
I teach classes at Colorado Mountain College, and I may be teaching an architecture and real estate photography class, so people can learn there.
SCH: How do you shoot the exterior?
KG: We’re really prepared with snowshoes and snow boots. We bring ladders. There’s definitely a lot of equipment that goes with our shoots. I did one this morning in pretty deep snow. The other thing is, if we shoot the hot tub, I want to turn it on and have it bubbling. I put wine and cheese out. I want it to be inviting. How would I imagine someone living in this home? What would make it sell?
SCH: What has been your favorite house subject to shoot?
KG: Prince Bandar’s house up in Aspen. They had a gas station at the house! It was a shoot for NanaWall, the glass company. They had a huge swimming pool, Chihuly glass sculptures, views of Aspen highlands and Capitol Peak. That was challenging, but really cool. We waited all day long to get that perfect light.
SCH: What are you working on now?
KG: We’ve also been going in and shooting events — what the room looks like decorated, candles lit, tables set. That way a bride can envision what it will look like.
We do a lot of vacation rentals for a virtual tour. There are so many people that need good pictures to sell their homes. One client sold a house just from the photos. The buyers were international or out-of-state and bought the place off the website. Sometimes the agents complain and say, “Wow, the house doesn’t look as good as the photos,” but that’s my job.
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