Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

How To Find a Real Estate Photographer

Posted by larrylohrman on January 13, 2007

Several Realtors have asked me how to find a real estate photographer that works in their local area. These inquiries are what got me started compiling a real estate photographer directory but it is early in the process so the directory doesn’t cover all areas. So if you are a Realtor and you have realized you need the help of a real estate photographer how do you find one?

Here’s what I recently told Jim from the Charlottesville, Virginia area when he said:

“…I really enjoy your site – enough to know that I need to hire a professional photographer for a new listing I have; I have read your directory and have not found any photographers in the Charlottesville, Virginia area.”

First take a look at “10 Essentials of Real Estate Photography“. These guidelines will help you increase your awareness of what’s important for real estate photography. It is important for Realtors to understand what effective real estate photography looks like and why. You don’t have to be able to do it yourself but you need to know what it looks like. I also suggest that Realtors look at Architectural Digest to get a feel for what top-notch professional interior photography looks like. The hard thing to do when looking at Architectural Digest is to separate the topnotch photography from the stunning properties being photographed. Also be aware that many times AD images are selling a designer’s work instead of the property.

When you’ve got a feel for what good interior photography looks like browse through your local MLS and look at the photography. With a little practice you’ll be able to spot effective interior photography easily. When you see photography on a listing that catches your eye call the listing agent and ask who did their photography.

The fact that Realtors don’t immediately know where to find a real estate photographers indicate that RE photographers are not marketing Realtors as much as they should be. I think if you are a RE photographer you should be getting your name and website address in front of the top 1000 Realtors in your area at least 2 times a year and preferably 4 times a year. You should use both e-mail and direct mail (postcards). Don’t be bashful Realtors appreciate good marketing and will respond to it.

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30 Responses to “How To Find a Real Estate Photographer”

  1. Jim Duncan said

    I found one, actually two. It took some digging, but we’ll see what happens this week. The first one I contacted took about six hours to respond to email and voice mails, so I had to use the second photographer. While the second one does not seem to offer the same level of service, the commitment I made will be honored.

    So, hopefully I found two good ones.

  2. I’ve found, it’s the other way around šŸ™‚ A RE photographer can’t find a Realtor. Every office I go to to let them know I offer services, I get ‘we have a photographer on staff’ which leaves me thinking ‘Yeah, I’ve seen your work on the local MLS listings – which is why I’m here’

    Any advice from any agents on how to overcome the ‘photographer on staff’ (or, more like, the guy with the most expensive camera, or, my boss’s nephew) comment? Out where I live, there are about 5 main RE offices, and a handful of agents that serve this area. And every one of their listing photos are bad! And, we’re talking 450,000 to 800,000 + homes here.

    I’m guessing that since they’ve always been able to sell homes and make a living, and get repeat business, using these bad photos, what incentive is there to part with 75 or a 100 bucks out of their several thousand dollar commision to have the job done right…… Of course, then again, alot of those agent are to used to 2001-2005, when properties out here we’re often sold the day they came out on the market. Now, listings are hanging around for 200, 300 days or more.

    Also, what price point do agents generaly feel comfortable with if hiring someone to the photography? I know it probably varies in different parts of the country, but there is also probably a ‘pain threshold’ you don’t want to exceed as well.

    Thanks

  3. Jim Duncan said

    The first thing I did was search the local blogs for someone who was actively engaging the local real estate community. Googling for local real estate photographers yielded no productive results. My office does not have a photographer on staff, and when we do get the rare postcard from a photographer, it is dropped off in a “spam” kind of way – no effort is make to network, meet me, develop a relationship …

    Personally, I would love to have a photographer who was as hungry as I am with whom I could partner, but … no luck so far.

  4. A suggestion I made in a post earlier this year is worth repeating. That is the very best way for a RE photographer to get new business is to call the RE offices in your area and ask the broker when their meetings are and if you can come to talk to the Agents in that office before after or during the meeting (most real estate brokers hold a sales meeting once a week). Make a presentation to the agents on the importantance of good photography (feel free to use my “10 Essentials of Real Estate Photography”), pass out a flyer or postcard (with you name, website and phone number on it) shake some hands. It takes some time but I guarentee it will get results.

    Sure some offices have a photographer on staff but most don’t. Don’t let staff photographers discourage you. When you find an office has a staff photographer just don’t focus as much marketing on that office.

    Also, focus on top agents. They will appreaciate the importance of photography. Top agents are the ones that have the most listings and the most expensive listings. Also, once a year around this time newspapers run full page ads that recognize their top agents. Keep these ads, these folks are your customers. It is easy to find their office address, phone numbers and e-mail addresses on local RE websites.

  5. Thanks for the advice. I’ll have to give that a try – even though I’m not terribly comfortable in those settings…

    I was looking through a local paper, and a property being marketed by a local, high end broker, had this terrible pic. So I looked through thier other listings, mind you, million dollar plus listings, and they were all lousy! Exposure problems, vertical lines going everywhere except for vertical. So I call the broker. Explain briefly what I saw and how I could help her. Get the same, and very rude, response – we have a staff photographer and don’t need your help!

    OK, a) how come I can’t get a job where I get paid to screw everything up, and b) what’s up with these homeowners giving their agent 6% of a million dollar sales price – and the agent won’t even spend a hundred bucks to have their home properly photographed!

    So, I took some of their own listing photos, did what corrections I could in photoshop, and sent her a nice email with some before and after examples.

    Here are a couple sample photos from a 1.1 million dollar listing

  6. Karl,

    A)Don’t be discouraged. You have to be willing to get many NO’s and let them roll off. It’s that one or two YES’s that will start building your business. Look at it this way, you’ve now eliminated one office off your list. You are closing in on the offices that need your services.

    B)Sellers don’t always pay 6% commissions. Sellers are paying Realtors because the Realtors have sold the sellers on the idea that they can get the job done. Your job is to sell Realtors on what you can add to their business. There are plenty of Realtors in your area like Jim Duncan from VA.

    Hang in there.

  7. Real estate agents typically do not get paid 6% commission on a transaction. That 6% is split between the the selling agent and the buyer’s agent. For multi-million dollar properties, the commission is usually less.

    Karl – I am by no means a wildly successful real estate photographer but I have 2 critiques of your gallery page on your website:
    1) You need bigger, more colorful images and more of them. Be sure that EVERY image on your gallery page follows Larry’s 10 essentials of real estate photographs.
    2) Because your gallery photos are roughly the same size as standard MLS photos, one can easily mistake your link to “bad MLS photos” as the title of your gallery page! I would remove that sentence from your gallery page. It can be confusing if not read carefully.

  8. Thanks for the advice. Yes, I need more gallery images – I need more work! I’m trying to get friends and family to let me shoot their house for free – but everyone knows how hard it is to get a house with kids cleaned up enough for a photo shoot!

  9. Jim Duncan said

    Karl –

    Participate in your local blogs – there are plenty of real estate blogs in Phoenix – it has been described by some as the “epicenter of real estate blogging.” Start building relationships that way, and if you are good at what you do, my bet is that the business will come in time.

    –Jim

  10. Mark said

    Karl,

    You’ve got a great website except for one thing. You don’t have your contact information on your home page. Your email and phone number should be prominent. The form you have on the contact page is not helping your business. Do you really expect a realtor to take the time to fill out a form and then wait for you to get back to them?

  11. I have been thinking about how to get Realtors to actually use us as opposed to the “on staff” photographer or their little 4.1 MP Mustek..

    Attending their weekly meetings is indeed a great way to get your foot in the door, but a lot of them don’t want to be using up valuable time allocating a slot to us. So I have had an idea…

    What about developing ourselves a PowerPoint presentation that can be downloaded from your website? It can be the same presentation that you would present in person. Audio, video and plenty of example shots can be added.

    I recently gathered over 600 emails of local realtors in my area and did a single emailshot – the response was ok, but not astounding. Most of my replys are – “Why you?” , “What can you offer?”. This has prompted me to dedicate this weeks spare time to this PPT project.

    Perhaps a collaborated effort from us all might be worth-while? I do not mind dedicating web-space to a generic version for download and customization by RE Photographers.

    Any thoughts?

    Richard

  12. Yes, that might work. I am also trying ‘targeted’ marketing by going through the advertising sections in the papers, or local realtor’s websites, looking at thier listing photographs (they all need help!) I like the newpaper ads because usualy the top producers tend to spend the dollars to advertise (at least in the area where I live) What I also tried with that one broker was to take thier own photos and try to enhance them a bit and send the before and after. Probably not the most effective way, though…

    I don’t know, but to me, it seems that unless homeowners start demanding of their listing agent to provide actual professional services, most agents will continue to do thing the way they always have. Now, if there were hard stats on things like days on the market with bad photos vs. good photos, client satisfaction numbers, repeat business, etc… People want to see numbers, how taking this action affects my career and bottom line. I get the feeling that most agent (again, my area) don’t give a darn about things like profesionaly marketing, because homeowners don’t demand it and they’ve always made a living doing it their way without having to spend extra money….

    Mark – Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll add in the simple email address at the bottom of each page and phone #

  13. Karl & Richard,
    A couple of suggestions for marketing Realtors:

    I would use simple HTML e-mail AND postcards rather than a PPT presentation with the goal of getting them to look at a more details level of information. The reason for HTML e-mail is you will get fewer eye balls on a PPT presentation compared a simple well thought out, simple message that they don’t even have to click on. There are many downsides to using e-mail to get people to download things.

    The reason to use BOTH e-mail and postcards is many top Realtors are not e-mail oriented (believe it or not). Postcards are very effective for this personality type. Regular size laminated postcards (from http://www.expresscopy.com )are very professional looking and cost $40 a hundred before postage.

    A PPT or PDF presentation or HTML equivalent would be good for the next level of information once you get them to look at your website.

  14. Larry,

    I think I left a few details of my though process out of my initial post.. šŸ˜‰

    The idea was to do exactly as you say, another email shot (or mailshot) which would hopefully drive them to the site and the downloadable ppt, or playable Flash presentation. Emailing a PPT to them would not only annoy my bandwidth provider, but I am sure it would be caught by anti-spam and anti-virus software as a potential threat.

    As for postcards, I have been looking at http://www.overnightprints.com who I used to print my business cards. http://www.riroc.com/misc/cardsdone.jpg They cost just under $100 for 2000 with a coated finish, full color both sides etc. Their postcard rates are very good too, and if the quality of the business cards is anything to go by I think they will be well worth the investment.

    My wife also suggests popping into their bigger offices with a bag of donuts! Inspire them while they fill their bellies.

  15. Another related question. Where do most of you obtain your email mailing lists from? Do you simply scan through local papers, real estate bulletins etc? Or have you bought lists from the local MLS listing service? Also, do you use your normal email software or utilize a Bulk e-Mailer?

  16. Realtors names, e-mail addresses and office addresses are all available on local brokers websites. e.g. at http://www.johnlscott.com you can find contact information for all Realtors that work at John L Scott offices. To get all the Realtors in an area you have to know the sites of all the major offices. In our area besides http://www.johnlscott.com you need to go to http://www.windermere.com, http://www.coldwellbanker.com, http://www.remax.com, etc etc. Note, because there is a large turnover in the RE business you need to update you lists several times a year. Turnover for the top realtors is much smaller although they change offices allot.

  17. I’ve had good success with a printed postcard (I’ve used Vistaprint and Overnight Prints, Overnight Prints is MUCH better) that I take around personally and put in agent’s mailboxes. After they’ve received your second or third postcard you get some name recognition, and a bit of credibility as well. I always follow up with the office manager or sales manager the next day.

    Karl, forget about shooting friends/family’s homes — if they aren’t staged the pictures won’t show your skills well at all! Instead, go out on Sunday afternoon and hit some open houses. Tell the agent you’re looking to beef up your portfolio and would like to shoot their listing for free (or a steep discount) in exchange for the right to use the images in your marketing materials. A) you get access to a good-looking property, and B) the agent gets to try you out at no risk – you may get some repeat business when they have to go back to their point-n-shoot!

    All that said, I have to agree with Aaron’s comment – your web portfolio is confusingly labeled. I also think you have too many images, including some that aren’t quite up to snuff. I strongly encourage you to check out Strobist.com and learn to get that flash OFF the camera. Your images will be much better lit, particularly if you pick up a couple more units and incorporate more sophisticated lighting in your work.

    I should also point out that my own website is CRAP – homemade and poorly done, so I hereby vow to follow my own advice!!

  18. I’m new on the RE Photographer scene, and I am progressively developing my skill. Though, I must admit that I have a huge advantage in my area. I’ve been a Real Estate agent for the last 3 years, and I have loads of contacts in the field. There are only two main RE Photographers in our area, and my prices are very competitive…and I’m the only woman. Kudos for me b/c the larger majority of agents in the area are women, and they like me!

    Feel free to check out my website…it’s still a work in progress, but I’d love for someone to critique it for me. I’m just finishing up my portfolio, and YES, I know that I have a few mistakes in it. However, I did want to comment on how I got homes for my portfolio…I wanted some really great, well decorated homes, so I started calling around to some local builders that built custom homes. Some never gave me the time of day, but others were very helpful in letting me photograph their display homes for my portfolio. Hope that gives you some ideas, Karl.

    Also, with regard to e-mail marketing and getting a mailing list, there is a company that provides mailing lists (with e-mail) for a fee. I’ll have to find their name and get back to you. But, once you’ve compiled e-mail lists, you can utilize some mass e-mailing systems to send out your message…for instance, ConstantContact.com and SwiftPage.com are both very good and prices start at just $15/month. I am currently using SwiftPage.com to handle my e-mail campaigns. Both have a trial subscription available and provide online tutorials.

    Another tip…add online ordering to your website! Agents love it, believe me…I am one! You can include online payments too. Google Checkout is offering free online transaction processing throughout 2007, and once they begin charging fees, they are still cheaper than Paypal. This will give your clients a method to pay by Credit or Debit Card, and you won’t have to worry about invoicing them or waiting for them to pay you by check. Yet, you can still send them e-mail invoices or add coupon codes to give agents discounts…for instance new client introductory discounts, bulk rate discounts, etc.

    Again, I hope this information is helpful to some. This website has been a daily resource for me, and it has helped me to get my business up and off the ground. I hope to commence running very soon!

    Cherie Irwin

  19. Scott –

    I hadn’t thought about open houses to get some shots. Wonder if agents would object, or if they even have the ability to give permission? Will have to look into that…

    OK, the ‘MLS images’ page is going away.

    But, as far as lighting goes, this is a difficult subject. I’m being competitive in my base pricing – $75.00 for a shoot – and that really doesn’t allow for complicated lighting schemes. But you can still get great images between proper camera alignment, fill flash, and good post processing skills.

    Since I’m offering 3 levels of service (really 2) would it make sense to have example images in the Silver, Gold packages, and then sample for the top package? The reason for this thought is that you wouldn’t to show only high end HDR images and people think that’s what they get in a more basic package.

    I wonder for marketing if we can come up with a ‘Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Photographer’ campaign… After all, real estate agents are business people, shiney pics probably don’t mean squat if they don’t do something for them.

  20. Hi Karl,

    The agents are responsible for obtaining images for their own listings, so there won’t be any problems with permissions or objections – I did this and my offer was happily accepted by 5 of the 6 agents I approached. The trick, in my opinion, was to studiously avoid trying to sell them ANYTHING – I was very frank with them about what I was doing, and why (“I’m going to use the pictures to try and sell my services to other agents.”)

    As for portfolio pieces – ONLY THE A+ pictures. Period. Can you think of any company that advertises by showing you it’s lowest-end product?

  21. Mark said

    Karl,

    I thought about the top ten reasons thing to, but I just came up with a couple.

    ‘You need me to do your photography because it’s good for your marketing and your photos are crap.’

    ‘I can do it much better and …. I need the work.’

    How’s that for the top two reasons? šŸ™‚

    Also Karl, don’t think you’re going to get more business by going cheap. I tried that approach and I got more business when I raised my rates. Try to determine market value, work on your skills and get good at what you do and they will hire you not because you’re a bargain, but because you have such a great product/service. If you start off too low you will find it difficult to raise your rates. I got this advice from one of my early clients who told me to charge more when he saw my work. So I did. But I didn’t go overboard.

  22. My 2 cents…

    *Images: Your images do the talking. Agents don’t need another person explaining to them how competitive/fast-paced/visually oriented the industry is. All discussion of marketing to agents is moot if you are not displaying your best images on your website and print materials. They need to be big, bright and colorful. They should not look like brightened MLS pics. Minimum 550px wide. Each one must follow Larry’s 10 essentials.

    *Marketing approaches: Once you have great images to show off, I would listen to what Larry has already said. Many agents (successful ones in particular) have a violently negative reaction to e-mail solicitations so do a lot of print stuff as well. The successful agents probably have assistants checking and filtering their e-mail anyway. Don’t be cheap with your print marketing either. Give out big, bold, colorful postcards etc and do it often. Again, you are offering your services as a photographer so agents want to see more photos and less talk.

    *Pricing structure: I would hesitate to create a pricing structure based upon the “quality” of your images (ie: you only get HDR if you pay $300). No agent is going to pay you to do an “average” job so why even offer it? Instead, take your best shots on every job and price according to your creative time or what you deliver to them (multiple resolutions, DVD, slideshow etc). This way, they can upgrade if they like your work and you don’t have to do the shoot all over again.

  23. Well, playing off the advice of going to open house and trying to get a shoot, I also thought FSBO’s might also want to do a trade. So I went through the local Craiglist and another online FSBO site, sent out some emails to the homeowners, and got a reply back from one guy so far, and I’ll be shooting his home on Friday. On top of that, both he and his wife are RE agents, so who knows, if he likes my work….

  24. Aaron –
    what awesome images you have! and great advice! I started my pricing as a one price – 175.00, however many photos needed to shoot the home. Made the ‘HDR’ an option, priced per hour (I see some people do it per window) But, then looking at the local VT companies offering a complete VT and 12 still photos for 70 bucks, I thought who the heck is gonna pay 175 for some stills? But, after looking at your site, and others here, I would pay the extra money to get that kind of quality šŸ™‚ I mean, it’s that old adage: price vs cost.

  25. Karl – Do not give up. EVERY house needs photos, NOT every house is suitable for a VT. Regarding VT companies offering complete VTs for $70: Their emphasis is on the tour itself and a handful of unedited still photos. Those employed by national companies are on a strict time schedule. Those offices whose “gatekeepers” tell you they have someone on staff who does their photos .. well, move on, my friend….and take the high road. Some of the realtors in those very offices will soon be your clients.

    Even if offices have “someone on staff,” there are discerning realtors without the ability who need you. Let them know you’re there when they need you šŸ™‚

  26. Karl,

    FSBO= For Sale Best Offer? Whatever it means, good job on nailing the shoot. It’ll be hit or miss, the first freebie portfolio builder I shot never came back, never posted my pictures to MLS — and her shots were beyond terrible! I never understood why she did that, but I got MY half of the bargain and one of those images is still in my portfolio today.

    Another thing I do is to make a web gallery once per quarter and then send a “New Work by Scott Hargis Photography” email out to a list of agents I’ve built up slowly. I hate spam, so I didn’t buy a list, but instead harvested emails from agents/offices I’ve had some personal contact with, but one could certainly be more aggressive. That has gotten a really good response, and of course it’s cheaper than postcards, which I also do quarterly.

  27. FSBO – For Sale By Owner. Not as popular here in AZ now that it has turned back into a Buyers market, but still some out there. Hard to say, though, the level of detail these folks put into getting their homes ready to sell…

    I’m working on a postcard now. Finish it up once I’m confident I have some good Gallery images. I’ll mail it to most every agent serving this area (around 100) I know people hate/don’t respond to email spam (me included)very often.

    I also have done some websites for a couple of Realtors here, and have a couple more on the burner. Again, once I’m confident of my images and price structure, I’ll try to see if there is any interest there. I just don’t like to take advantage them, or put them on the spot.

  28. […] * This post partly inspired by this discussion. […]

  29. I am young real estate photographer only 7 monthes in the business but have caught on very fast. When I started my prices were very low but I have raised them because of my quality. Companies like circlepix charge 100-120 for a VT & some stills. I really don’t know what I should be charging, can someone give me an idea. My homepage has photos on it http://www.Finehomepix.com – I feel that if I don’t charge enough I’m not helping the market for photographers. My area is the Conejo Valley in Eastern Ventura county 45 minutes northwest of Downtown Los Angeles. Thank you, Steve Sieren

  30. Tony Ford said

    I am just starting out in this business, but I did get my first agent last week and have shot 7 houses. I am using a DVD mailer as a marketing tool. I have made a few changes since I uploaded this one to photodex (like removing almost all of the portrait oriented images. Thanks Larry!). Check it out and let me know what you think, both of the photography and the marketing tool.

    BTW I have two sales meetings scheduled this week and 2 more houses tomorrow. Is it realistic to think I can get up to 3-5 houses per weekday? There are over 150 real estate companies within a 35 mile radius of my home/studio.

    FYI North Georgia/SC is a big lake area so the reference to the lake/docks/ corps line at teh end of the presentation is for those listings.

    http://www.photodex.com/sharing/viewshow.html?fl=2804209&alb=0

    Thanks,

    Tony Ford
    Cove Point Media

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