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Drew Callaghan, High-End Real Estate Photographer

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These photos by Drew Callaghan of a house in Villanova surely helped sell Will Smith on the idea of renting the home while he was in the area shooting the new M. Night film.

By Shannon Rooney

Once upon a time, the home-shopping process went something like this: Call a real estate agent and rely on them to scout properties you might be interested in buying. Enter the Internet. Now potential home buyers can fall down a k-hole of real estate porn by scouring sites like Trulia and Zillow and looking at endless photos of homes they might want to buy.

As a Philadelphia realtor in 2000, Drew Callaghan could tell residential photography was about to become a huge factor in sales. He trained himself with a fancy DSLR and shot properties he was selling. He found that by using the right lighting and lenses, he could take interiors from dingy and cramped (you know the type) to bright and inviting.

Photos by Drew Callaghan.

He learned how to stage appealing compositions and his work became well known at the same time online shoppers were beginning to wield a little more power in the real estate game. Online photo galleries could make or break a sale, which is why his services came to be so in demand that he swapped selling homes for shooting them full-time. "I walked away from a career as an agent to do something I enjoy," he says.

Photos by Drew Callaghan.

The properties Drew shoots these days are primarily in the $500k range in Center City, Cherry Hill and other leafy South Jersey hamlets. He charges $200 ($500 if the home is truly outsized) for each 2.5 to 3-hour shoot. The question of the bill is a sticky one: Is it fair to assume the real estate agent should pay for these services, or should the seller absorb the cost?

Photos by Drew Callaghan.

"The industry is still trying to figure it out," Callaghan says, "the new headache of professional photography." In the past year, he estimates about 10 percent of his clients have passed the cost to their sellers. In his opinion, this gives them a little more leverage—if they need to swap agents later, homeowners retain ownership of the images.

Photos by Drew Callaghan.

Callaghan's photos do a lot to generate interest in properties. "It's a big difference to a homeowner," he says. That difference is why the city's high-end agents (think Mike McCann and Joanne Davidow) work with him so frequently. There is the story about the condo he shot in 10 Rittenhouse for a direct-mail postcard an agent was sending to clients. A recipient bought the condo the day she received the card in the mail.

Photos by Drew Callaghan.

Still, "I have to pound the pavement," he says. The average age of a Philadelphia agent is 53. He's relied on younger agents who like using social media to prop up their listings in order to grow the business. Looking at these galleries of his work, though, it's easy to see why his photos attract more interest than the typical lamp-lit thumbnails of a den you'll find with other listings.

· Drew Callaghan Photography