Taking Real Estate Photography to a Whole New Level

Rooftops in New York are dotted with HVAC units, surrounded by webs of electrical wires and decorated with mechanical appendages, which can sometimes “photobomb” the ideal listing shot. But one photographer is willing to go a little higher to get the perfect angle.

440 E 57th - Before she stepped on the ledge

Photo by Elizabeth Dooley

Elizabeth Dooley of VHT Studios in New York has been dubbed an “extreme real estate photographer” because she’s willing to climb out on ledges, rooftops, and fire escapes several stories high to get the shot. From the apartment lofts of Manhattan to the townhouses of Brooklyn, Dooley has ventured up rickety water towers to shoot a skyline view and across beams in a split-level home to make sure her photos highlight the best a property has to offer.

Photographer Elizabeth Dooley climbing a water tower for the perfect shot.

“It’s about finding every angle, view, and unexpected advantage on the property, especially in luxury real estate in Manhattan,” says Dooley. “In today’s digital world, a first impression seen on an iPad can make the difference between crickets at an open house and a bidding war.”

Dooley shoots about five properties a day, five days a week, traveling only with her Nikon D700, 12-24mm lens, tripod, and flash; she improvises the rest.

“A lot of my clients just think I’m insane because to get a shot, I’ll need to stand up high or out on a ledge,” she says. “I was a gymnast as a kid, and it’s second nature to me to go a little further. I go beyond what other photographers do.”440 E 57th-Elizabeth_Foot

She’s paid between $100 and $300 per shoot, which is a bit of a higher wage than most real estate photographers receive, simply because she works in the New York market.

Dooley has been studying photography since her high school years in Sioux City, Iowa. She moved to New York after college and worked briefly as a photo assistant before discovering her niche in real estate photography. With a natural inclination for interior design, real estate photography fulfills her interests in design, architecture, and history.


Photo by Elizabeth Dooley

“It’s like anthropology in a way,” she says.

Because every listing has its own challenge, hiring a professional photographer is how real estate practitioners are going to maximize resale value, Dooley says. She advises salespeople to have their listing “open house-ready” before she arrives. Some may bring in a stager, but they also have to be willing to let her make rearrangements and adjustments because staging for a walk-through is different than staging for the camera.


Photo by Elizabeth Dooley

Of course, not all listings require a high-climbing balancing act to attain a great shot. What is required is either an experienced photographer who knows how to shoot interiors, or a capable real estate pro who has invested in the appropriate gear and education for the job.

Want more photography tips? Check out REALTOR® Magazine’s latest Cameras & Video Product Guide, which explains how to hire a good photographer and outlines the exact gear you’ll need if you take on photography duties yourself.


Erica Christoffer

Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing writer and editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at echristoffer@realtors.org.

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  1. Ryan

    Can we see some of the shots she risks her life to get? That’s the only way to know if it’s worth it.