Lemontree Photography is pushing the boundaries of how homes are marketed in London by offering virtual staging …

Carston Leishman calls himself an innovator. As such, he is trying to change how houses are sold by giving real estate agents and homeowners more visual options to market properties.

His photography company Lemontree offers virtual staging, property images and website design, as well as commercial and wedding photography.

“I saw a serious lack of professional images for real estate,” he said. “I wanted to set ourselves apart, especially in real estate and customer service, not just quality of work.

Leishman is also a technology guru — he worked in IT for a local insurance company before launching Lemontree.

But his family is highly involved in creative endeavours and the artistic pull drew him into photography. “When I discovered photography, I found a passion for it. My personality type is all in or nothing.”

Leishman spent three years learning everything he could about the business. In the process, he discovered an opportunity in real estate photography.

“There was not a provider in the city that was doing real estate as a serious business, providing quality photos for agents. I wanted to provide a product that would wow when people looked at the homes and give agents an edge. It was a target niche.”

Knowing someone in real estate gave him his first client in 2011. The client list quickly grew. “We started with one, then two, then five and now we have more than 150 clients just in real estate.”

Lemontree clients include several brokerages. In the business-to-business industry, Leishman is happy when he can assist their marketing. “If they trust us, I’ve done my job.”

Leishman invested his own money to establish a one-room studio and then secured government funding to hire. All his employees are Fanshawe College graduates. “It’s a way of giving back to the community,” he said. “And it speaks to our standards. We all love photography.”

Lemontree shoots about 10 homes daily. “In the last year we’ve had a new client almost every day. These are not one-time clients.” Every time an agent has a listing or needs marketing material, they call Lemontree.

Leishman’s goal is “to stay one step ahead.” That’s where his IT background comes in handy. He’s constantly looking for what is new in technology so Lemontree can offer new products, and stay within their resources.

He believes video is the way of the foreseeable future. “It will go through the roof next year. 360-degree video is the big player in almost every industry. It’s taking ’90s panoramic and now being completely immersed. One of the nicest things about video, most of the time what you’re getting is reality.

“I’m the innovator. As the CEO I have to be. My background is tech and I’m always looking for the next thing — is it viable, usable, can we train and manage it.”

At one time Leishman thought he would expand to other cities, but managing the growth locally keeps him completely busy now. “I love the trend. I love the company. I love the people who work here — we’re all so happy to do what we do. I can’t imagine doing this somewhere else.”

Virtual staging

“Traditional staging is expensive. When people can visualize what a home is capable of, staging works.”

As homebuyers search more online, photographs and virtual staging play a larger role.

The cost difference is appealing to home sellers and agents: virtual staging is about $250 for three scenes compared to a traditional full staging in the thousands of dollars. Straight photo service for agents starts at $100.

“It’s still pretty new,” Leishman said. “It’s the cutting edge of technology. We use the same software as video games and the 3D world. It’s cool. When a home is listed we work with the existing furniture and make it less cluttered, same as a traditional strategy.”

Currently, about five to 10 per cent of listings are using virtual staging. Lemontree has done 15 to 20 this year. “They are a lot of work. When you see the result, you say wow. It’s more realistic. In some cases, you have no idea it is virtually staged (except for the identifying stamp on the photo).”

Leishman said agents or owners can place a print of the virtual staging in the room to illustrate staged and unstaged versions. “So it’s almost better. You can visualize the potential of a home.”


Leishman is pushing the video component. “All over the world video is bigger than here for real estate.” The MLS system is different here.

“But video is huge for our clients. A video doesn’t sell a home but having video when the agent lists the home and talks about what they love about it, social media takes over. So the agent is marketing themselves as well as the home. People associate with people — that’s how it works. People, especially the younger ones, are so tired of having marketing shoved in their face. If you can relate on a personal level that is the future, especially with social media.”

Property websites

Leishman says the term virtual tour is confusing, evoking 1990s-style panoramic views. “So we say we offer property websites — a small website for each property. It can include photos, video, floor plans and 3D-generated walk-throughs.

“If you have a good product and a good marketing strategy, that’s what sells.”


Photography Inc.



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