Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Archive for the ‘BusinessProcess’ Category

Access to a Home For Shooting Photos

Posted by larrylohrman on September 27, 2007

Kris Steels was asking about the issue of getting access to homes for photographing and raise some questions that I’ve not discussed on the blog although I’ve discussed this issue with several folks via e-mail. So I thought it would be a good subject to bring up for folks just starting out in RE photography. Here is Kris’s question:

I’m not sure if you’ve already covered this on your blog; but when I searched the archives, I couldn’t find any similar topics.

How do other real estate photographers access the homes their shooting? I applied for membership with my local Realtor’s Association; but was denied a DisplayKey to access the electronic lock-boxes.

The $%&**(# Realtor’s Association may as well have thrown my camera into Lake Michigan. I’m angry and frustrated beyond words, as this is going to be a HUGE problem for me. My greatest selling point was the convenience for the Realtor to NOT have to return to the home to take the photos. Do you have any suggestions?

Here is my answer to Kris:

As you’ve probably found out to have lock-box access you need to have a RE license or some appraisers get keybox access if they have an appraisers license. All this is state and MLS regulated so rules vary from state to state and from MLS to MLS. There is no way around this requirement in WA and OR that I know of.

For the last 10 years I’ve been a licensed assistant for my wife… this has got me around the requirement. There are some RE photographers that do this, however, you have to find a brokerage to “hang” your license and typically this will be a monthly fee that the broker charges for liability insurance, desk space etc. Licensed agents also pay over $100/mo to MLS to be a member, and over $100/mo to the company that runs the Lock-box system (ours is Supra). So as you can see the cost to have lock-box access mounts up. If you are not doing photography full time you could find a successful agent or team of agents that need an assistant and be an assistant part time and photograph part time. Sometimes agents that have assistants pay for some or all of their assistant’s license expenses.

Another alternative is to convince agents to let you schedule directly with the home owner. I think this would be very workable however, some agents sell home sellers on the concept that the Realtor will “take care of all the details” so some may be hesitant to do this. Technically since you are a contractor that the Realtor is hiring they have responsibly for you in the sense of liability. In MLS it is against the rules to let a contractor in the home and leave.

Feel free to add suggestions for Kris or site your experiences in this area this is a problem that we all have to deal with.

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Posted in BusinessProcess | 19 Comments »

Do Slow Markets Increase Real Estate Photographer Business?

Posted by larrylohrman on September 26, 2007


The chart above (I know you can’t read it- follow the link to a readable version of this chart. “Market summary” of “King County”) shows how the inventory in King County, WA is now higher than it’s been at any time in the last 5 years by a significant amount. Based on recent news stories this is typical at least throughout the US and perhaps other countries. This means if you are a home seller these days there is more competition in the market than there as been in the last 5 years. So Realtors are having to market harder and smarter to get listings sold.

One way to market smarter is to make sure your listing stands out to buyers on the web with good photographs and tours. I was helping a Realtor friend put a tour link on her listing yesterday and she said, “… I haven’t had to do this for so long I forgot how do it”. Meaning it’s been a long time since she’s had to use virtual tours to get a listing sold. I think in the last few years many Realtors have thought that the market has been so hot that listings just sold themselves. Now days you have to do something extra.

This market situation has just become apparent in Washingon in the last few months and started to get media coverage in just the last month. I predict that increasing awareness of this slowing real estate market will help the real estate photography business since it’s becoming pretty clear that you can’t just put a property on the market and expect it to sell in a couple of weeks.

Anyone else seeing evidence that slow markets increase RE photographer business?

Posted in BusinessProcess, Marketing | 12 Comments »

The Demise of Professional Photographers?

Posted by larrylohrman on August 23, 2007


I ran across an article by Andrew Brown in The Guardian (newspaper in the UK) via John Knack’s blog, titled We all helped to speed the demise of professional photographers. It talks about the commodification of photography.

This brings to mind the complaints that I hear all the time from RE photographers that so many Realtors don’t want to spend the money to hire a professional because they think they can do just as good or good enough. Yet I see very few RE photographer websites or RE photographer marketing that demonstrate the difference between a good RE image and a bad one. I think examples like the one above from Vivian Toy’s article last February in the New York Times are needed to educate Realtors and others about what a good professional real estate image looks like.

Mike Martin sent me a good example below:

The large background image is one he took with his Canon SD430 perched on top of his 32 foot windsock pole and the small overlaid image is one a Realtor took. To me this is a striking example of what you pay a professional for. In his case the equipment that he uses is unique and worth his fee. In other cases it’s the lighting experience you bring to the table or just having a ultra-wide-angle lens. In many cases it’s just having a good eye for composition.

In any case, I think if you demonstrate and sell with examples the strengths you have, Realtors will see that photography is not a commodity.

Posted in BusinessProcess, Marketing Yourself | 11 Comments »

Alternatives for Professional Looking Delivery of Photos to Clients

Posted by larrylohrman on August 1, 2007


Recently I was talking to reader Jeff Cospolich about ways to setup an online delivery method for his real estate photography clients. As usual I was promoting my do-it-yourself method of getting space at a web hosting company and using website maintenance application like Dreamweaver or Lightroom to create galleries and e-mailing links to each client’s gallery to them.

Jeff pointed out that there are easier ways these days if you don’t want to get up-close and personal with HTML and FTP. There are at least a couple of websites that are aimed at providing photographers gallery space and a mechanism for delivering photos to clients.

One is www.pixoasis.com. This site allows you to upload galleries of photos and then e-mail links to the galleries to clients. The first 50MB are free and more storage space is charged. Functionally this does the job but it doesn’t allow you to have your own domain name and make the whole thing look professional. I just created a free account ant uploaded some photos to pixoasis.com and e-mailed myself a link to the gallery and after 30 minutes I still haven’t gotten the e-mailed link. Hmm… probably a temporary problem.

www.bigblackbag.com on the other hand allows you to create a template website that is gallery oriented and is setup so you don’t have to have website maintenance applications. This hosting service has most of the standard web hosting services: 3 e-mail accounts, free domain name, 6 named sections, download section, use their templates or create you own all for $17/month.

I think the significant thing about this service and others like it is that it allows you to create a professional looking web presence and a minimum expense. Having a gallery of your work online that looks professional is essential for building a business these days. It’s much easier than it used to be.

Posted in BusinessProcess | 11 Comments »

Rules at Reuters for Modifying Photographs

Posted by larrylohrman on July 4, 2007

Drew King sent me this link to an explanation of the rules  now in force at Reuters for the use of  Photoshop.  Obviously, this has no direct link to real estate photography but I though it was interesting to see the photo modification rules in the photo journalism world… Reuters doesn’t even allow in-camera sharpening! For those of you not familiar with the events that led up to this crackdown on photo modification by Reuters see this background article.

The indirect relation to real estate photography is that this incident back in August of 2006 got allot press and raised the public awareness of photo modification.

Posted in BusinessProcess | 9 Comments »

Summary of Real Estate Photography Ethics Ideas

Posted by larrylohrman on June 26, 2007

Judging by the traffic on the blog and the number of comments on this subject the ethics of modifying real estate photos is a topic of high interest. So I’ve attempted to  improve the wording and summarize previous posts and comments and suggestions on the ethics topic and create a page that has a link at the top menu bar. You can continue to make comments on the original post below or the new page on the menu bar.

As a related note: Reuters, Adobe and Canon are working on technology that will detect doctored photos.

Posted in BusinessProcess | Leave a Comment »

Proposed Real Estate Photography Code of Ethics

Posted by larrylohrman on June 25, 2007

I don’t know how many of you noticed it but it but HighPix Commercial Photography BRISBAN commented on the post I did titled “When Does Wide Become Too Wide?” They quoted article 35 of the Standards of Business Practice of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ). Article 35 says:

“Article 35 – Photographic Representation
Members must not alter or permit to be altered photographic images of properties, digitally or by other means, such that the images no longer truthfully and fairly represent that property.
Notes: Whether the alteration of a photographic representation is misleading or deceptive will depend upon all of the circumstances. For example, digitally adjusting the exposure of a photograph so as to brighten the lighting of the photograph taken on a dull day may well be legitimate. However, removing television aerials or power poles adjacent to the property; brightening up paint work on a house or over-stating the views that might be achieved from the property may well amount to misleading or deceptive conduct. Members may well be liable for misleading representations contained in photographs that have originated from external sources such as an advertising sub-contractor or the seller. The passing on of such photographs by agents to potential buyers can amount to misleading or deceptive conduct by a Member. Members would be well advised to ensure that their contracts with advertising sub-contractors include provisions to ensure that the sub-contractors do not engage in misleading and deceptive conduct, including in connection with marketing representations contained in photographs.”

I completely agree with the intent of this ethics article but I’m find the detail language saying it’s OK to “brighten the lighting” but it’s not OK to “brighten the paint work” confusing and incongruous… are we to mask the “paint work” and change the level of everything else? I think the problem here is having non-photographers write a technical code of ethics for photographers. There needs to be specific language about whats OK and whats not. But it has to make sense to photographers. I know this is a sensitive and important area the needs to be clarified. So, I’d like to propose a code of ethics for real estate photographers:

Proposed REP Code of ethics- Modification of images of properties

Real Estate Photographers should not digitally modify images of properties such that the images no longer truthfully and fairly represent that property. Images of the house and surrounding environment should not be materially modified in anyway. However, image enhancements that do not material change the house or surrounding environment are allowed. The following is a list of what kind of modifications are considered material and which are not:

Allowed

  • Removing temporary objects like garbage cans, cars etc.
  • Changing image saturation, brightness, contrast or color balance
  • Fixing converging verticals, lens barrel distortion or color fringing
  • Removing refrigerator clutter i.e, the photos, post-it’s etc sellers typically have on refrigerators
  • Sky replacement or enhancement

Not allowed

  • Removing or modifying power lines, antennas or power poles
  • Changing any part of the house or landscaping
  • Changing the grass, trees

Photographic Equipment

Use of any particular type of photographic equipment like ultra-wide-angle lenses, tilt and shift perspective control lenses, or filters will never be considered modification of the image.

So what did I forget? Is this too weak or too strong?

Posted in BusinessProcess | 27 Comments »

Use Google Checkout to Collect From Your Clients

Posted by larrylohrman on February 16, 2007

Susanne Hayek reports that she is using Google Checkout to collect fees from her clients. She says:

“…thanks to one of your readers for mentioning google checkout. I had been trying to figure out how to accept credit cards without the hefty fees. I signed up for it and as soon as I let my clients know, they started using it!”

Checkout her pay online page

Posted in BusinessProcess | Leave a Comment »