Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Combining Real Estate Photography And Tour Hosting

Posted by larrylohrman on June 6, 2007

I just ran across an article and audio interview over at Small Business Trends Radio on how Kelly Thomas the founder of has combined real estate photography with tour hosting as a business. There is a 50+ minute audio interview at the bottom of the page. I noticed this article because Kelly signed up for my real estate photographers directory today.

As Kelly describes in the interview apparently there are a number of folks around the country doing this same thing. After listening to the interview I’m not completely clear on the whole business model. I can totally understand how the tour hosting goes together with the real estate photography but I’m not completely clear on the motivation for creating another local real estate site. If it generates as much traffic as Kelly says, you could also make money from the advertising. In our market area there are so many great local broker sites like and that buyers don’t even use the national sites like very much. However, I know that situation is not the same all over.

I think it is hard to beat the combining a home tour with your home photography services. My favorite DIY tour is As Mark Reibman says, “…about 80% of clients are wowed by it.” For $9.95 you can’t go wrong.

6 Responses to “Combining Real Estate Photography And Tour Hosting”

  1. I ran into this page a few months ago….I think it’s worth reading/listening to again.
    The thing I question is how payment works. Kelly gets paid when the house sells, and I think the amount depends on the size of the house or the price or a combination of both?. My question is…is it just left to the realtors to let him know when the house is sold?
    I think I’d get many more clients if I offered that same type of payment plan, I just can’t quite figure it out?
    Kelly, if your around, would you lend a bit more information on that topic.


  2. The way he knows it’s sold is that it is standard for these kind of sites to get feeds from the local MLS. This way the price is updated automatically if it changes etc.

  3. From the webpage…”a $25,000 two bedroom mobile home on one acre may require 20 photos to advertise while a $600,000 five bedroom home on ten acres may require 130-160 photos to advertise properly.” Just couldn’t resist. What realtor would conceivably want to us 130-160 photos to advertise their property?

  4. In the state of Missouri, they will not allow you to obtain IDX feeds from the MLS unless you are a Real Estate Broker. Regular agents don’t even have this capability for their own personal websites, unless they are using the same website company that their brokers use, or they have to link to the broker’s “property search” page. I would imagine that the same would be the case in other states.

    By the way, we have a Real Estate Photographer in our area that uses Kelly’s Virtual Tour Machine system. And many agents like the idea of the website, but many others don’t want their traffic to go to the photographer’s website. They would rather capture the web traffic on their site or that of their broker, so that they can capture the lead. And some don’t care either way. I’ve found that by offering a web tour that can be posted to, the MLS and the agent’s website, agents are more than pleased.

    Also, check out the Virtual Tour Machine website at and then check out the pricing for their system at

  5. Cherie,
    Thanks for the insight on Kelly’s business model.. In the interview it seemed like he was marketing something but it wasn’t clear what. Your references help understand the whole picture.

  6. Wow, I just ran across this discussion about my business! I wish someone would have invited me! I didn’t know I was worthy of discussion. Hope I’m not too late to the party! So, here we go with some answers…

    1) … know when the house is sold…
    Oddly, I think you’ll find most agents honest about paying their bills. Some will be slow and others very fast, but that’s to be expected, I think, in nearly any business. Yes, Larry is correct, we do have a mechanism to check our prices and status of a listing. When a property “moves” from active to sold, an invoice is generated. We then print, fold, and stuff in a window envelope as a reminder to PAY-UP! 😉 If there is ever a problem, I know that brokers will step in and apply pressure or simply, take care of it. They don’t want the bad mark on their agency. I’ve had two problems, both from the same agency. It was a split listing between brokers/owners at teh same agency and the partnership broke up – one guy paid his 1/2, the other says it’s not his responsibility. Another agent who’s simply – wacko.

    2) What realtor would conceivably want 130-160 photos to advertise their property?
    One that’s worth a hoot. While a 14×70 trailer might be 20-30 images, it’s easy to generate one hundred images when shooting a large property… say 5 Bedroom/4 bath – 4000+ sq ft on 3 acres?
    61 still photos of just the interior! And if you are a pro photographer, you’ll know that we don’t show every photo that we take. Just the good ones! The idea is to show the entire property and I can’t stress enough how important that is. Creating an online preview of the property so that buyers will cull the listings they have no interest in viewing further. This saves everyone time. It’s been proven time and time again.

    3) … don’t want their traffic to go to the photographer’s website…
    Some might be so bold as to say that’s selfish because this is a service that helps all agents equally. (what’s the bigu deal, they all advertise in the same monthly print publication, why do they see the Internet as different?) I’d point out that we have the capability to also offer listings with little or no branding. You’ll not see that demonstrated from the front page. But try this,
    A simple subdomain redirect but each agent and agency has their own page that’s automatically built. We can even remove the SIHomeTours headers if required. (I’ve not done that for an agency, however.)

    4) …what we’re selling…
    I sponsored an exclusive seminar ( at a nice hotel in St. Louis. Didn’t get as many folks as I wanted to attend but we met, (i.e. nobody new) discussed our respective businesses in detail and everyone came away with LOTS of additional insight and knowledge. Everyone is doing better. I don’t know if I’ll put together another.

    re>exclusive… Since any high school kid with a wal-mart camera who’ll work for ten dollar bill is competition, I decided to “keep it amoung ourselves” (i.e. territory owners) so that our group of professional operators could talk openly & freely without fear of exposing secrets of their operation to competitors. Thus, you had to be a site owner in “our program” to attend. Gee, you’d not expect McDonald’s to train Wendy’s employees, would you? Can you go to B&N and buy McDonald’s current franchise training manual? No. (actually you CAN but it’ll cost something like a million dollars or more and it comes with the franchise and the store.)

    But today, we’ll still setup a custom site for you and provide a helping hand if you are ready to go pro. Yea, it’s not cheap, we’re taking time away from OUR BUSINESS to help you build yours. And we know what our time is worth. It’s not exactly the most profitable thing to do but it’s the right thing to do and even with all new photo equipment, you should have everything paid for in less than a year.

    We’ve made this more than a photographic service business. You’ll build a property of your own, an Internet property, a high traffic web site in demand by buyers and sellers, that you can sell, (i.e. cash out)

    5) … make money from the advertising…
    yea, and that’s sweet. I’ve not pushed in that area like I should but others have done very well. The advertising covers their monthly operations cost, entirely!

    6) DIY is fine and a great thing for many but the reality is that most agents can’t or won’t take a decent photo of a property. They are paid by brokers to sell, schmooze and network with buyers and sellers. Not to play with cameras and the Internet. And really, there _IS_ a difference between most DIY agents and a professional photographer. (and sellers know it once they see our images!)
    proof —$103
    I’ve collected a BUNCH of these.

    Comment in general – re> Business Model
    Historically, brokers have been very protective about the MLS data and most are to this day. Buyers however, WANT the data and don’t feel the need to ride around all day with an agent in a mini-van looking at property they don’t want to buy! This is 2007 and if you want something, you just google it and you get all the info you could ever want. Why should RE be any different? Well, the tide is turning. We provide the buyers a single source with nearly complete information about a property and help them to contact the listing agent!

    It’s a pleasure to type at you! Let’s do it again!

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