Rob Jordan is relentless when it comes to improving himself and his skills.
One of six siblings, Jordan grew up in Omaha, Neb., and became interested in photography and architecture at a young age. He thumbed through pages of Architectural Digest and marveled at the images. Trained as a graphic designer, Jordan always maintained an interest in photography. His career began serendipitously when a client in Nebraska needed photographs of a home. Jordan saw an opportunity and persuaded the Realtor to let him shoot the property.
She liked his work, and the agent began hiring him to photograph other listings. It wasn’t long before word of mouth spread and Jordan spent more time photographing and less time with graphic design.
Fast-forward a couple of years to 2011, and Jordan was looking for a change of pace. He moved to San Francisco at the urging of his sister, who sings in the San Francisco Opera Chorus. Jordan lived with her for six months as he set up his photography enterprise. Since then, his business has progressed to include dozens of clients for whom he shoots scores of properties.
In this interview with SFIsHomes, Jordan talks about technology, techniques and the time his photographs made a client weep.
Q: How do photography techniques differ when shooting for a Realtor and shooting for an architect or stager?
A: For Realtors, I’ll shoot across a room diagonally, corner to corner to show the space. You want to give the viewer a sense that they are standing in the room, so the techniques are aimed at making the photo feel immersive. The focal point will change depending on the angle and features of the room. It’s important to show views through the windows, to highlight a fireplace or kitchen appliances. I try to produce photos that are evenly lit and realistically portray a space in its best light.
If I’m shooting for designers or stagers, I compose shots to highlight the furniture and decor. Designers and stagers artfully combine colors, shapes, textures and finishes to turn a room into a scene, to create a specific feeling. So instead of shooting wide-angle photos, I use close-ups to let viewers see the design elements coming together.
For architects, I want to show the lines and design of the house. So I use more centered, straight-on angles for photos, which can create a more iconic image. Ultimately, for each client, I want to provide compelling photography.
Q: Why did you want to move to the Bay Area?
A: I came out here not only for a change of pace, but to grow and search for more out of myself. One of the things I love about San Francisco and the Bay Area is that if you want to be here, you have to deliver value and hustle. You have to constantly challenge yourself. One thing I really respect about people around the bay is that people are chasing their dreams.
Q: What’s your favorite place in the Bay Area to photograph?
A: I do most of my work in Marin and Tiburon in particular. But I love the energy and bustle of San Francisco and the variety of building styles and neighborhoods. To get out of the city and go to Marin, it feels like a working vacation. One of my favorite places I shot was actually in Richmond of all places. It was a place where the owner/seller is an artist and a guy who built his own kitchen in custom metalwork and woodwork.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of the job?
A: One of my favorite photo shoots was a house in Richmond that the owner remodeled himself. He thought he’d be living there for a while, but then life changed his plans. The highlight of the house is the kitchen, which has a beautiful combination of materials and great design overall. The owner did the design and build himself as that was his profession. The craftsmanship is gorgeous and, of course, I wanted to give him my best effort in portraying his artistry. During the shoot, I showed him the kitchen photos on my camera’s view screen and he got very emotional. He had never seen his work photographed this way, and he was amazed somebody cared enough to do it right.
Experiences like that client in Richmond are my favorite part of the job, and I love getting to meet different people. There’s lots of Realtors, designers and others whom I have a mutually beneficial relationship with. I’m now friends with quite a few of my clients ,and we talk outside real estate. I appreciate how it goes outside the business aspect.
Q: What’s the most important technological innovation in your line of work?
A: Digital photography. No doubt. If it was still necessary to use film and develop in a dark room first, I don’t know if I’d want to be doing photography. Editing software like Photoshop is a big help, but the digital photography is the most crucial innovation. It allows us to see photographs immediately. I can show them to my clients to make sure they like what they see and select photos for final editing. The immediate feedback is so important.
Q: What would you do if not photography?
A: People have suggested stand-up comedy or acting. My family members have a variety of artistic skills, and that has helped shape me. My mom and sisters are singers and musicians, one brother is a writer, and my father was a newscaster and photographer. All of them have been very supportive of my goals, and I’m so grateful to them.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m trying to create my own imagery so I can do some gallery shows. I just returned from two months in Europe, where I visited nine countries. Besides immersing myself in different cultures, I went to broaden my work, to find beauty and celebrate it through photos. I mostly focused on depicting the architecture and charm of buildings and streets of Paris, London, Amsterdam, etc. I had some ideas about where I wanted to go, but there were several times I surprised myself by spending an hour photographing just a street corner, hidden alley or modest building. I guess you could say I’m looking to get out more to sharpen my creative vision and find new ways to contribute.
Rob J. Photos: (415) 340-1111, www.robjphotos.com