Nexusix Photography 5:45am, 27 July 2007
I will do my best not to turn this into a rant as I have determined that this tact is not very productive, however, I am a little concerned that the value of what we do is lost on the majority of the people we are targeting as clients.


Allow me to expound. I was told today by an office manager that it was futile to sell my product at a higher price because the agents that I'm trying to market can not see the increased value of my product over my "competition". She was referring to a couple of people who go through a property and either use available light or an on camera strobe and generally don't seem to have much training in composition or other photographic techniques. She therefore could not justify my increased price to her agents and really didn't think I would get any business. At first I was taken aback a bit and attempted to compare what a created to a higher end automobile but her reply was that the agents could not see that difference or wouldn't care. I should also mention that this office specializes in homes in the million dollar range.


I advised her that I would consider her concerns and possibly adjust my rates accordingly.

Here is what I have come up with; I will lower my rates to accommodate her concerns however I will produce work more in line with what her perception of my competitors are delivering. I am having trouble with that decision, however, from a business standpoint I can no longer justify delivering a product that takes more effort and skill to produce and generally takes more time.

I tell you folks all of this because I value your opinions and I can't but feel that I am devaluing the quality/value of my business by lowering myself to meet her expectations but by the same token, a guy needs to make a living. I really would like to know what you guys think and how might you handle this situation? I feel like I'm giving up but I don't know what else to do. I still have my architectural clients and they get it and have no problem with my full/day rates but they only need me a couple of times a year and I can't survive on that.

So, what do you think? I'm extremely interested in opinions from everybody.

(originally posted in the "Photography for Real Estate" forum.)

P.S. Sorry, I tried to keep it short but obviously I couldn't do it.
geezer742uk 9 years ago
If it were me I'd create a seperate 'brand' for your clients that just want a cheap n cheerful shoot.

That way you can keep your photographic integrity for those that can recognise the quality of your work (and are willing to pay for it), but still catch the 'bread & butter' work that has to be won on price.

Just a thought.
itsxtian 9 years ago
I agree with geezer.
Create a sort of package and visual demonstration that shows the difference of these shots. It can be just subtle differences ranging to extreme differences, but in the end it may be up to the customer what they prefer (or can afford).
sounds like you give up way too easily. Learn to sell your product!

At the end of the day they want to make money, demonstrate how your photos sell the product better, and thus make them money. Nuff said.
Bo Eder 9 years ago
I don't think there's any shame in providing for the lowest common denominator. Historically, that seems to be human nature if you look at these lowest common denominator products that really took off despite being not-quite earth shattering:

VHS video machines (as opposed to the technically better Beta)
Fast food (as opposed to "good food")
Microsoft
digital cameras
this list could obviously go on and on.

In this instance, just give the client what she wants at a lower price to keep your name in the hat. Consider it time saved from having to work too hard to get the interior shot and use the extra time to either find better clients or to create another niche market to expand into.

Sometimes we have to bend to continue to make a living. I'm sure some of our luminary world-class photographers like Bresson or Avedon or Adams had to have shot a wedding at some point, or be directed by a client. As I get older it's getting easier for me to pick which battles I want to fight, and I wouldn't consider this worthy of a fight or selling out.

Do an easier job, charge a little less, and spend time looking for other people to shoot for. When the opportunity to strike out and away from your usual clients arises, then make the jump discreetly because although there's alot of people who need images out there, chances are there will be someone who knows who you've already worked for, and they talk.

That's what I think, anyway.
Daveblog 9 years ago
Geezer has a great idea. Remember, General Motors sells the Cadillac XLR-V ($98,000) and the Chevy Cobalt ($15,000). I'm guessing they sell a few more of the Cobalts.
DanielKPhoto 9 years ago
I'm going to disagree with everyone. I think that you need to maintain your high standards of quality no matter what. These bozos might not see the difference but they won't likely be the only ones who see your work and you never know when a potential client might notice you. Do you want potential future clients seeing your best work or your crappy phoned in work?

Heck, I'd even find a way to take your work to an even higher level. That earns you a better skill set if nothing else.

If you are starting out and trying to build up your client list like me, you really want your name associated with high quality work. If a potential client sees that you compromised quality on one job, why would they take a chance of your doing the same on theirs? You won't likely even know they made the decision because your work already spoke for you.

Really, what do you want your work to say about you? That you sacrifice quality if the money isn't there or that you go the extra mile no matter what? Remember that word of mouth is the best advertisement you can get.


Daniel
Bradley B Photography 9 years ago
I'm with Daniel on this one...though I'm not really a working photographer yet (just confirmed my first paid gig for september), I agree that you don't want to put bad work out there, even if you're giving them a better deal. Someone could see your so-so photo in a listing, and think it could have been done better. If they see a stunning professional photo, they're definitely a lot more likely to call.

Really you could relate it to any job...think of the retail clerk at a local shop that consistenly gives bad service. Do you not think they should give you better service? Of course, they could justify their poor service by saying that it's because they don't get paid enough, but really, you're hired to do a job. Do it well, or don't do it. If compromising your price means compromising your quality, don't do it. It'll cost you a lot more in the long run. Try to find new real estate agencies to work for, and if they ask about price, tell them you can give them a discount only if they hire you a lot. At the place where I work, we have 2 or 3 of our top clients that get special pricing on jobs as well as extra perks for free (extra work for us) because they buy a lot from us.

That's just my 2 cents. You have obviously been at it a lot longer than I have.

-Bradley B.
GarethDix 9 years ago
I'm with daniel on this one as well... you should do everything to the best of your ability... all you need is one client to show another potential one what you've shot and if they're more clued up on it then you could find yourself getting a bad name.

not sure how it works over there... but how about going to the agent directly doing a shoot (don't give them the images yet) and compare it with what the "available light" photography looks like...

is a million dollar home a lot of money for a house? no really I have no idea, here you couldn't buy a homeless person's shoe box for that
Robertv! (Edinburgh, UK) Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Robertv! (Edinburgh, UK) (member) 9 years ago
Another problem with lowering your standards to fit the bill is met by myself every few weeks (Another business.)

We keep getting low-paying jobs that want the basics, but it is very difficult to personally decide to go with the basics. We never tend to strip down as it just feels wrong. I believe you will do the same within a few weeks. You will be unhappy at your low quality output, so will just add another modifier to be happy. Give that a month or two and you are back to your full shot quality without the money.

If this was a "hobby job" I'd refuse the work. If I needed the money, then I would personally do it, but set myself another bag up, only consisting of the basics to remove temptation to upgrade the shot. Always take the cheapo bag and possibly "re-brand" yourself while doing these shots. The other options is to become a starving arty peson by refusing other peoples money for easy work.

I adjust my response on a daily basis by checking the projected income over the next few months!
toddhibbs 9 years ago
Show this office manager the number of "Days on Market" with listings with your photos compared with listings with the average DOM.

I bet that you will find that good photos sell homes faster. (assuming that the other factors weren't working against it, such as overpriced, bad location, etc)

You may have to enlist the help of a Realtor to help you get these stats.

Realtors are interested in one thing... money. To obtain that goal, they try hard to sell quickly and for highest price possible. (Which, incidentally, are the goals of almost all of the sellers that they represent, so it is a symbiotic relationship)

With an ever increasing chunk of real estate business being done via internet, quality photos are vital to every listing.

That said, there will always be folks who think that a 14 yr old with a point and shoot can do the same job as a pro with a D2x and years of experience. Sounds to me like what you need to do is educate this office manager out of her ignorance.

My 2¢ worth...
Steve.Korn Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Steve.Korn (member) 9 years ago
I think the person you spoke with is out of touch. High end real estate photography is the wave that is separating quality agencies from crappy ones. The internet is the number tool for home buyers and it's all about the pictures. If she doesn't understand that, you should go straight over her head and talk to the comapnies web developer and broker. I hope she's not the broker, if so, she's an idiot. Show her these sites:

www.scpcomm.com/

www.aaronleitz.com/portfolio/seattle_real_estate_photogra...

These guys are doing well. If nothing else, set-up something like this site with example shots and then make it available to the sellers via the listing agents. If the sellers can see that by spending $300 on having their home photographed well, that they are likely to get more people in the door, you'll be in business and won't need to work directly for the agencies any more.
lauriemarie01 PRO 9 years ago
I didn't read this whole thread so sorry if my comments aren't original. I would do an experiment. I would go ahead and shoot the job on the cheap but ALSO do some photos that meet your quality standards. Then offer them the crappy photos at the low price and the quality photos at the higher price. See which ones they choose when they can actually view them side by side.

If you do that a few times and the client routinely chooses the crappy photos, you need to re-evaluate, perhaps develop a separate brand.

However, I suspect the client will go for the good stuff. They want to sell the house as quickly as possible for as much as possible.
admin
strobist PRO 9 years ago
Do you have an example of what kind of pix you are doing and what they think is "good enough?"
I've been working with real estate agents for a long time, in various capacities. In my area, most are interested in spending as little money as possible to sell a listing. Additionally, most of the ones in my area are only going to upload images to the MRIS/MLS system, which limits you to very small images. Because of this, they see little value in exceptional photography.

Here is a link to a typical listing in my area:

www.clickrick.com/8912LibertyRd.asp

The only thing "special" about it is that the photographs were professionally done (by me). I spent a fair amount of time setting up each shot, took multiple angles, lit each one specially, corrected perspective and distortion, etc. I presented 31 images to the agent. None of the other agents in his office (a Remax location) saw any particular value in my work over what they could do themselves with a point-n-shoot -- I couldn't even give services away to them.

Frankly, if you want to make money as a real estate photographer, you need to get into magazine work, or work for a service like Obeo.
basswork Posted 9 years ago. Edited by basswork (member) 9 years ago
Geren is right. Real estate agents are cheap. Trying to make a buck off of them is a prescription for misery. I know from experience.
AdamMichiels 9 years ago
ill I have dealt with the sort of thing you are talking about for years as a graphic and web designer - since everyone's cousin can build a webpage, many mom&pop businesses just can't see the value in a product created by a trained and seasoned professional. They want $80 logos and $100 webpages (although professional logos can usually range upwards of 10's of thousands of dollars for larger companies) So I got into sales instead.

I'll make you a deal - you help me with techniques to market my photographic skills in realestate - I'll help you with my sales experience... kidding...

But seriously, what you're dealing with here is "the hard sell" - selling to someone who really doesn't want it. And the only way around it really is to have an arsenal of "products" or product classes - I think some of this was mentioned above.

Have a main portfolio with the work that you are most proud of - that's what you're going to be able to still speak passionately about when pitching these agents or agencies. Also, maybe build a second smaller portfolio with the type of work that they are used to and wcost them less dough - this apparently is the type of work that you consider to be 'lower' than your paygrade, which is something all to familiar to me.

The way to incorporate both of these product classes and successfully pitch your better and more expensive work follows as such: make your pitch for the top quality first, always. but avoid saying why its better than the lesser grade photography and stick with why its "perfect to suit their needs" because of the market - sell it on its own merits.

If they don't bite on that with your best efforts, then present the secondary portfolio - don't talk about it as if it was lesser quality, talk about it as more affordable but slightly less effective. Given your establishement in the industry you can most likely close this deal quickly.

What this does is allow for a couple things: 1. you're in with the client. 2. you're paid (which is the number one) 3. they are aware that your talents go beyond what they are paying for. 4. You now have the opportunity to constantly pitch them on the better work in future.

If you do that and work on the rapport with the client, more money and higher cost jobs should follow over time. Not to mention, if you really work on your pitch for your grade A material you should still be able to reasonably maintain a 20% conversion rate of your clients on your higher grade stuff. In fact that's what you should aim for - 1 out of 5 clients go for the good stuff.

You can push out the crap to make a buck and still keep your professional expectations high and satisfy your creativity. (sort of like how I constantly had to design coupons to make a buck while working on a larger, longer creative project)
AdamMichiels 9 years ago
wow, didn't realize it was that long. hope it helps
benrobertsabq PRO 9 years ago
If you think you've got a high quality product that demands a premium over the "quick & dirty" approach your competition is taking - then make sure you're trying to sell it in a premium market. Not sure what the value of the houses you're shooting is, but if they are lower or mid-market it might be worth trying to find some high-end Real Estate agents to work for.

Someone who sells really high-end homes is more likely to see the photos as a representation both of the "quality" of the homes they sell AND as a representation of them as individuals. That the images of the homes represent their business as a whole, not just the individual house. You can push the "Wow" factor that's needed to get a home buyer with a lot of cash in the door when they can afford any home they want - it's your photos that will push the sale. And so on.

Finding a niche where what you do is valued for reasons outside its price is the only way to compete against people who can produce something more cheaply than you.
lauriemarie01 PRO 9 years ago
The last time I was in the market to buy a house, I screened all the houses on-line before looking in person. If the photos sucked, it's likely I never even viewed the home in person. One would think that the realtors would get this and go for the better product. For a realtor, time is money. The quicker they move a house, the less time and money they spend on open houses, showings, etc. Also, having a reputation for selling properties quickly is a boon to their business. I know when choosing a realtor, I had a close look at the "days on market" statistics. I couldn't afford to have my house sit for six months unsold.
mortonphotographic 9 years ago
The funny thing is, it's not about if the realtor can see a difference, it's about the potential home buyer.

There are several things I would do, it just depends on the details.

First off, I would go to their competition. You want to see sales people do a 180? Let them see their competitors listings sell faster then theirs. And their price would go up after they changed their minds...

If the person you talked to was keeping you from the realtors, I would push harder and make it clear that you would like to give the realtors an opportunity make the final decision--after all, I believe it mostly comes out of their commission.

If that didn't work I would try and target the realtors on an individual basis.

If you could find a realtor who would go for, this could help, if they sell the house quickly, others will follow. Of course it may be worth making that place a smoking introductory, 1 time offer, under the right circumstances, to show them how important photography is.

It is important for us to remember that typically sales people are not creative people, and they don't necessarily have any vision. I will promise you, the person who turned you down does not have a creative bone in his or her body.

I have had very smart people tell me, "The picture doesn't matter." Why? because they did not get it and they aren't visual people.

Other than that... I have no problem adjusting my pricing. Like anything, photography is worth what the market will bare. I would NOT go as low as the point-n-shoot set, but I would work with them if all else fails.

Hope there is something in there that helps--good luck.
Man, I can identify with this one.

For a while about 20 years ago I had the opportunity to shoot multi-million homes in the Biltmore area here in Phoenix. It was an ongoing gig and I did the brochure design as well. I made about a grand per. (2 - 3 hours shooting and a 2-3 of hours design... simple, elegant little brochures.) I was doing about 3 -4 of these per months.

One day I dropped off a set of brochures and was told I would not be needed anymore and thanks for all the good work that I had done.

They had been approached by another agent with a camera and he was charging $100 for the shoot, the design - and 1000 'flyers'.

I smiled and left feeling a little uncertain - I had just lost about 4K per month. However, there was nothing that I could have done. There was no way I could compete with that price and there was no way they were going to pay more than that cheap price. They showed the house, gave the prospect the flyer and sold a house. They couldn't see the ROI.

Maybe it wasn't there to begin with. That guy went on to create a very large business that specializes in cheesy little crappy 'flyers' for huge, multi-million dollar homes. And the real estate business is thriving.

However, I took my great shots to a few architects and within two months I was doing the same thing I did for the agents before and now was doing for the architects. You see, they appreciated the work.

In design it is the same thing. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to design sites for people with little or no taste. But, we are in business, so we do it anyway and keep looking for the ones that appreciate and like what we do.

In design I remember something I read a long time ago. Not every job is a CA award winning job. Sometimes all the client needs is a quick, well designed piece. To agonize over the headline leading is a waste of energy. In other cases, the little details are agonized over because the design calls for it.

Real Estate photography these days seems to not call for any quality at all. With digital you can walk through a home in about 30 minutes, shoot in RAW with various exposures and layer them in easily. They aren't looking for more than that.

Your work may be too good for the clients needs.

So you may consider doing something like hiring a youngster to do the work for you... you are the expert shooter and the young guy goes out and does the work, delivers it to you and you make the difference in rate. That is a business decision, but it can work out pretty well.

Then when they need something special, you are the one they think of, not your 'assistant' and there is real value in that as well.

Anyway, hang in there.
I'll not offer you advice, but I'll tell you something.

If, five years ago, I'd met the person who I am today, I'd have thought I was a sell-out. But today I enjoy my job, I'm happier than I was five years ago and I'm earning more money.

Andrew <-- available for £1000 assignments and £45 kids parties. Got a non-rubber cheque book? I'm there...
c_bozman 9 years ago
Im big believer in cheap work just brings in more cheap work... Stand by your prices and quality. I think that its ok to lower your prices slightly, If you and the client or already close to a agreement. say with in about 10-15%. that being said never lower your quality of work!!!!!!!!
solodogs PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by solodogs (member) 9 years ago
Gary, I can really relate to what you are going through. I shoot a lot of properties for agents and the squeeze is definitely on. I am fighting back by sending out a one page brochure similar to one I layout for clients that will point out that in a tough market, the quality of your presentation is even more important and it is not in their best interest to pinch pennies on promotional material. I am going to point out that they can secure more listings by showing home owners the higher quality of their promotional material, like photography and graphics. They can use my quality to market themselves. I plan to juxtapose my shots with those taken with less skill. I am really hoping that seeing the photos side by side will highlight the fact that you are not representing your client well if you do not work with skilled photographers.

I also see nothing wrong with having more than one level of service to offer at different price points. I think it is important to remember that architectural and interior photographs made for publication and portfolio are different from good listing photos for real estate. The quality requirements are different and the production costs will be different as well. You have to remember that there are appropriate levels of quality for the job at hand. I am struggling with the same issues as you so I hope this helps a little.
xyz444 [deleted] Posted 9 years ago. Edited by xyz444 (member) 9 years ago
This reminds me of when japanese cars start hitting the market. They had a market (US, Europe etc) so they just needed to design a car with the right price for that market and with higher quality than the competition. The other manufacturers approched the thing the other way around. They first designed a good car and then they priced so they made a decent profit.

So in your case think of how you can produce a good quality product for the money the market wants to pay.

Be effecient, and streamline your process. Consider how much time you spend on these assignments and think how you can cut down that time with the same quality. Maybe you spend hours in photoshop, raw converters etc. In that case look into actions, other ways of accomplishing the same thing etc. Or maybe you can set up your shots faster. For instance by have some lighting equipment pre-assembled. I'm sure you can figure something out.
EFB_99 9 years ago
I have to agree with Geren W. Mortensen, Jr. The majority of agents operate at a level where they spend the minimum on promo that they can. If black and white is cheaper than colour, B&W please.

Some agents are in the middle ground and for them, it's not about higher-quality photography, it's about higher prestige as a selling-point for their clients and to show up their competitors.
chadworthman 9 years ago
Besides shooting photos of my own house for my real estate agent, I don't have any real experience in this, but I'll throw in my 2 cents anyway.

In addition to what's been said, I'd suggest 2 things:

1/ Compliment the client on considering and/or selecting your premium service/product. Really butter them up, "You've got a good eye and good taste. I'm glad we are getting a chance to work together on this, blah, blah, blah."

2/ It might be worth the time to develop a short (5 minute) presentation showing the differences in techniques (multi-strobe, layering, point-and-shoot) in order to educate the client.

Or if you're willing to do a less extensive job for a cheaper price don't bother with either suggestion. You know where you can cut corners to save time.
basswork 9 years ago
Another thought is to market directly to the high-end homeowners. They are paying many thousands in commissions to their agent, who probably doesn't want to spend a dime of that moola on marketing.

However, if you could brand yourself among the wealthy homeowners as "the guy" to take fine architectural shots, you might get them to insist that their agent hire you.

Wealthy people are often vain, especially in SoCal, so you might find a market for photo shoots that mimic Architectural Digest features. Even if they have no plans to sell, they might like an expensive shoot that shows them off looking good in their posh digs.

If so, then you kill two birds -- you establish yourself as the go-to guy for high-end real estate and you make a new market for your services.
> Compliment the client on considering and/or selecting
> your premium service/product. Really butter them up,
> "You've got a good eye and good taste. I'm glad we are
> getting a chance to work together on this, blah, blah, blah."

T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. advice.

Rephrase it: "When someone considers giving you their business, be dishonest and insincere with them."

People aren't stupid.
MOD
carlos.benjamin 9 years ago
Once David moderates my comment on today's blog entry you can read my take. I won't reproduce it here.....

You could create two sample brochures - one cheap with no-light photos printed on plain paper or newsprint and one slick with well lit interiors and dramatic exteriors. In the copy and in your presentation ask them if they expect their clients to see the added value of a view or marble vs tile counters, etc. or if they expect them to compare houses based on square footage alone? Ask them if that discerning buyer will be drawn by brochure A or brochure B? In a strong market it may not matter, but it's starting to matter now...... If they can't see the difference, they aren't discerning buyers.
-------------------------------------------------- [deleted] Posted 9 years ago. Edited by -------------------------------------------------- (member) 9 years ago
It would only be dishonest or insincere if there were no difference in quality. If you believe in your product, if you believe that there is a significant difference in the quality, then by all means "pump your product". That's called salesmanship.

If you have a minimum standard for shooting your real estate shots - Stick to your guns. If he balks about the price, tell your client that you are afraid that he may have chosen the wrong photographer. Tell him why yours are different and tell him what your price is. Tell him how it will benefit him and tell him where he can get much lower quality that is within his handicapped budget Refer him to your competitor and tell him "Everyone has to start somewhere".

Salesmanship. It's about being confident enough in yourself to eminate that confidence to your customer.

Everyone hates to hear this. But I keep hearing it over and over from some of the worlds most financially successful photographers. Being financially sucessful as a photographer has very little to do with technical or artistic skills and MUCH MUCH more to do with sucessful marketing and being able to sell yourself.

kenrockwell.com/tech/go-pro.htm
aaron2005 [deleted] Posted 9 years ago. Edited by aaron2005 (member) 9 years ago
@stvkrn - thanks for the nod! ;-)

Like others have already mentioned, this is an absurdly complex issue and unfortunately photo/lighting technique and skill have very little to do with it.
Nexusix Photography 9 years ago
Wow guys, I'm really touched by all of you taking the time to put your two cents in. I've made some choices based on all your recommendations and suggestions and the suggestions of other creatives here locally. In order to get into the game and not have to sell my own home I've developed another level of service and sent that off to the office manager. At least I'll have work, and at least I'll still have the higher end product. In the meantime I contacted the local paper with links to two articles that were printed about real estate and the need for quality imagery with the idea that it might be good for us to print something like that for our population so that they can be "aware" of the need. Of course I included a link to my own real estate work. Wish me luck. You guys are great as always and I'm glad that I could create such a lively discussion.

G
toddhibbs 9 years ago
I made some comments above, and, for what it's worth, I am also a Realtor.

I can't tell you how many homes I have gone to where the pictures didn't lie, but they also didn't tell the whole truth about a property. This is true on the positive side and on the negative.

That said, good pictures will get a prospective buyer inside a home. Agents will tell you that a home MUST be shown in order to create a buyer.

An agent who is selling a high end home who is unwilling to obtain quality photographs is unwise and out of touch with his market.
J0hno 9 years ago
Part of the issue is that people are divided on just what the real estate pictures are for. When I've been looking for houses, the photos have been useful for things like the age of the house and finishings - the type of cladding and roofing - whether the windows are aluminium or timber framed. etc.. Then I'd only use the photo for the objective things and be specifically distrustful of the image presented. So sorry to say, but in my case the value of the better photography would likely be largely lost.

However, I was in the class of buyer looking for the bargain, and prepared to do work to the house to make it into what I wanted. Having too good an image would suggest to me the house was going to be overpriced.

But I'm sure there is another class of buyer who will be swayed very much by the "image" of the house, and how it "feels" - after all, it is to become their personal "home". The problem is that the agent him/herself may be more in the former category, and not really appreciate the feel and impression that the latter category of people value. This is unfortunate because it is the latter group who respond to presentation that are more likely to be the ones who are influenced by the work of the agent, as opposed to a situation of the house selling itself.

But in terms of how to deal with it, I agree with Adamohseven in creating a two-tiered marketing approach: you can have package A or package B - and then with package B, best utilise your lighting knowledge to do the job in the X hours of time that you need to at that budget.
@MrCairney Posted 9 years ago. Edited by @MrCairney (member) 9 years ago
As an owner of my own company (graphic design), I face this problem on a regular basis. People always looking for freebies, constantly being under cut by freelancers. It's just how it is, and it'll always be like that.

You need to be a diplomat, an ambassador and let your work do the talking.

However, NEVER change the quality of your work to budget. That, in my opinion is business suicide. Your work, in whatever industry should at least remain constant, but ideally improve as you and your business grow.
angeleyes0815 9 years ago
I'm a classic car photographer, specialized pro field so might be hard to relate on some topics but pricing and sticking to it is one of the most challenging facets of the business. Since I offer professional photo services along with some digital art via placing the classic car later on a nice background for presentation for my clients it was hard to judge pricing but I refused to work on cheap. There are so many out there willing to take 'snapshots' or 'quick-shots' and if thats what they want they can go see them. I refuse to sacrifice quality for the job and I am very busy most of the year. Remember your name goes on your work which is a reflection of your professional quality.

Is there a way to do some comparisons with other real estate photographers on what they charge in the field. That is where I ran into a stumbling block because there is no others in my area that specialize in the car photography with a blend of art on the professional level. Makes it a little easier if there are others in that field you can compare prices with. What I did was offer a base price then offer options like custom artwork additional, etc. In effect, if they want the Chevy look on a simple background not much in frills but yet still a nice prof. shoot its base price, if they want more of an Oldsmobile or Cadillac quality look in presentation its this much more and allow the customer to make that choice.

Stick to your guns and guildelines with your quality and pricing. One small business owner told me he evaluated pricing and in effect raised alot of their pricing after he had built up a small client base. Those who wanted good quality work were still interested in his services, those who weren't he figured there would always be someone else who would call for services. Last I talked to him all held true and he has been very busy and successful.
Hope some of this helps. Maria
rob_from_ca PRO 9 years ago
It depends on the state of the real estate market as well. Remember, we're just coming off of a huge period of growth in the real estate market. All it took to sell a house was planting a sign in front. So no one was generally excited about paying a lot more for photography because it really didn't make much of a difference when houses weren't lasting more than a week or two on the market anyway.

Now that things have slowed way, way down and likely will continue to, the quality of the realtor, photos, listing copy, advertisements, home staging, etc....all make a much bigger difference now then they did before.

Of course, the realtor has to know that, and the 2nd part of the equation is that the massive run up in the market created a pretty big glut of realtors (and the peak of this glut peaks -after- the peak of the house market, since there is lag while people take classes, get certified, etc.). So it seems likely to me that a lot of the realtors out there just aren't very good, and now they are finding themselves in a tough market.

I'd guess very soon, if we're not seeing it already, we'll see a lot of realtors packing it in. Not being willing to spend a little more $$$ for photography on a deal that's going to get you $25-30,000...that seems short sighted to me.

So I'd say that you should be able to watch the market via an MLS service or articles and note the photography, and then capture the days on market for various examples, and come up with some pretty solid ROI numbers. The other thing I'd try to do is find realtors that have been around for a while, and been through a down-cycle before. They probably have a much better idea of what's required to stick around in a competitive market, and if they don't necessarily want/need you as a client, they might be willing to share some advice about how to market your product in your area.
Nexusix Photography Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Nexusix Photography (member) 9 years ago
After looking over the thread again I think I should clarify that just because I or anyone else has decided to create a lower tier that does not mean that we have elected not to offer the best possible product to our clients.

The problem with the word "best" is that it's not really definable as a business term. What does "best" really mean in this context? It's very subjective. In the case of the lower tier it has to encompass the monetary constraint placed on me by my client. Since time=money as we all know, I have to be able to do the job in a speeder fashion which means fewer lights etc. However this does not mean that I will forsake composition , light and color balance or any of the other things that I still have time to deal with. Within the price constraints I have been forced to work in I will still deliver the best possible product I can.

I'm sure that this will be better than anything that the agent could create and more than likely it will still be better than my competition.

You have to remember something else too, while I can stay close to the realtors I can educate them as to what excellent photography is and maybe even a few of them will elect to upgrade to my first tier once I get a chance to show them the difference.
solodogs PRO 9 years ago
Gary, I am glad you posted this last item. I think it is very easy to get lost in the symantics of the "quality" issue. Is a school photographer doing yearbook stuff that is well composed and exposed providing any less quality of service to their clients than a photographer with an assistant or three and a few cases of gear shooting a model for a magazine spread? I personally don't think so. They are providing a service that is appropriate to the requirements of the client. I think it is very easy for some to forget that in the type of photography in question in this thread the product is as much about the service as it is the images. I have a few agents that have me shoot everything they list including fixer-uppers because they feel like it is worth it to them and their clients. I know this is not the norm in the real estate industry but maybe they realize I try to keep my service a bit above the norm in our industry.
aaron2005 [deleted] 9 years ago
@ Gary - What you are proposing is still a tiered structure based on differences in image "quality." Obviously, you are going to be sacrificing some image quality in order to do the job faster. But if the only difference between your photo packages is the number of flashes used, I think you are going to have a difficult time convincing many agents to upgrade. You've got to give them something more beyond image quality.

I'm still of the mindset that you should start out offering your best work (if that means a lot of flashes then so be it) at a price that people will buy, establish relationships and build a loyal client base, and then raise prices.
silliopolous 9 years ago
You know, I've dealt with a number of agents over the years. And the office manager is probably absolutely correct when it comes to the majority of their agents. But I guarantee you that their top performers understand that spending a bit more to present the home to it's best potential is well worth it. Many of them have VERY sophisticated personal web-sites to augment the bare-bones MSL and office services.

Find those agents for your best work, and give the cheap service to the cheap agents. Those that don't know how to market will remain on the bottom rung, and you will still make your money off them. Show the top agents how your premium service helps them turn around their properties and you will have a higher volume of higher priced sales.

So, find out who the top sellers are and market to them directly. They are the people, after all, who will give you the most sales, and who will want the better product. Because they are the ones who understand what that service is worth to them.
Nexusix Photography 9 years ago
Aaron- How is it possible to give the same quality of work to the realtors that are paying sub standard that you are giving say an Architect that is paying full rack? That just doesn't make any business sense. You have to accommodate your lower paying client's somehow and keep it fair to your clients across the board. I realize that part of the equation is copyright (the realtors need a lot less) but other than that there has to be something differentiating the two. Especially with the difference in time constraints and monetary income that the two afore mentioned types of clients are offering. It's just night and day from each other. As business owner I have to consider that. What else is there?
aaron2005 [deleted] Posted 9 years ago. Edited by aaron2005 (member) 9 years ago
When did we start talking about architectural photography? My point is that architects/designers etc are going to recognize small differences in quality and want the best. Most real estate agents are not, so marketing a tiered system based on small differences in image quality to them is not going to work very well.
Nexusix Photography 9 years ago
We started talking about the industry as a whole when we start talking about overall pricing. In my mind I have been asked to do something that is so different from anything I offer currently from anyone that I feel that I need to compensate accordingly. If I offer the best thing I can to the Realtors at such a dramatically cut rate I don't feel that it's fair to the rest of my clientele paying rack. It is that big of a difference. It just doesn't make any sense to me...

If the difference were smaller then I could simply justify it through copyright, but I feel like this has exceeded that level. I understand what your saying but from a business aspect it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I can't justify taking the extra time it would take to create the higher end imagery. Maybe I will never be able to educate them, maybe your right, but I'm losing money if I do anything else. That's really what all of this boils down to, is income vs. time.
elv0000 9 years ago
Localy theres only a few companies that survive and they send a lot of their work overnight to India to be processed, I think thats mainly the virtual tours and and floorplans at the moment but its probably only a matter of time till al lot of the stills are retouched overseas where theres cheap labour as well. Would be very difficult to be competitive if you were doing it all yourself.
weinheimer -

I see this as a fairly cut and dry issue.

You have to decide for yourself whether the security of income is worth taking the jobs for a lower rate in order to remain competitive.

Frankly, you might have a hook in your mouth if your personal life is cut from expensive cloth; meaning, if you MUST take the jobs to stay alive, then you're up shit-creek with little paddle to fight the current. This is one of the risks with any profession, and in a market/world which urges us to spend far beyond our means in order to keep us on their side of the balance - means ultimately that we do not control our lives.

If, however, you have been wise over the years and have kept your life below your expected income-level, have saved, invested, etc., then you have some leverage.

If the former, you're going to have to bite the bullet or begin selling the farm to stay afloat while you maintain your dignity.

If the latter, you can pass on the budget-hunters, let them eat the business end of it with reduced-quality images from some other competitor, and laugh yourself to sleep while you rest secure in knowing that you do what you do because A) Yer good at it, and B) most importantly, you love doing it.

In my quest for knowledge and wisdom regarding photography and the prospect of making a living with it, I've spoken to many working shooters. Too often I hear, "Don't do this for a living; it will make you hate your camera."

I believe in my heart that such sentiment is directly and proportionately related to how much control one maintains over needs/wants and the influence that factor has on business decisions.

I wish you the best, and I hope you are in a position to do what I would hope to be able to do: refuse the bargain-hunters and set about finding a new set of customers who can afford and appreciate your services.

Best,
CE Nelson
nelsonfoto.com
Also, I would proffer that the current customers haggling with you are, between the lines, giving you plenty of reason to walk, in that their suggestion for you to cut your rates indicates they are having difficulty maintaining budget for your services.

It speaks volumes to their inability or ineptitude, and I would caution you to not let their desperation piss on your parade. Dig? You are a provider, not an employee, and should not bear any guilt or shame for their situation, whether simple market influence or lack of business skill.

Best,
C.
Moniet 9 years ago
I'm a dog groomer by profession. I've groomed and shown dogs for other people as well as my own. What does that have to do with photography? Follow along with me.

A few years ago I had as a client a dog that was the number 3 show dog in it's breed in the entire country. That is comparable to the skill level it takes to produce images for almost any realtor selling any normal property, anyplace in the country.

I also groom pets for a living. The average person would not recognize the finest points of a 'Best In Show' haircut. A Best in Show haircut takes an extra amount of time, knowledge, skill and effort, and I charge accordingly. So, let's say the Best in Show grooming would cost $500.00+. The client that has a pet that never sees anyone but the mailman does not want a $500.00+ show clip. They get the $20.00 wash and clip. I do a good, concise, correct job on that animal, but the extras that take the time, effort and experience to complete correctly, and make the difference in appearance for a show dog are not done to pets. Those things are reserved for those willing to pay for them, who appreciate them, and know what it takes to have that level of work done and maintained.

There is only one Best In Show dog in any show. But there are a lot of pets that need haircuts. Bread and butter work has to be done, and has to be done correctly, quickly, and for a competitive amount of money, for I won't pay many bills for very long on that one showdog's haircuts, and there are not endless show dogs to be groomed on a daily basis. But there are endless pets with owners that want the basic job for a reasonable price.

Take your images. The highest level shots are done to the extreme best of your ability and skill. They are priced and marketed accordingly. But the bread and butter images of everyday have to be made also, and have to stay competitive with whatever your market pays for that sort of work. To me, that means simple, well exposed images are the baseline, and the cover of House Beautiful could be the next level, till you are reach that top level, the Best In Show hairdo of photography. Find the things you're doing that take the extra mile in time, effort and skill that are not part of what your clients want to pay for, and don't do them, for the basic packages. For your own use, on your own dime, if the property warrants having that type of picture taken, take a couple Best In Show style shots of a room or two, or the same house you're possibly shooting as a basic package, and take those with you to show what the 'better' package provides. That's marketing, just as the pictures I present of client dogs that have been groomed to extreme levels and have been shown are my marketing. But don't waste your time, effort, or experience where it is not wanted, appreciated, or called for by the product you're trying to produce. There is a need and a place for basic, as well as the ultimate in anything we do, but not usually at the same time or with the same person.
Terry Moore 9 years ago
This is another non-photography business story that may be of some help.

Many years ago I took a detour into the car business. In our market the lower priced but still sound car would sell very well. Naturally every dealer went after this which raised the wholesale and retail prices. The challenge then became to find mechanically sound cars that were cosmetically challenged. And find a body shop that would do a great job at a price we could live with.

We had a highly respected body shop that did did the best work in the area and was the epitome of professionalism. It always busy. The quality was superior and delivered at the time promised. But they wouldn't do a quickie. The owner felt that his reputation was built on doing only the finest work. Hard to quibble with that but it didn't solve our problem.

In my search for a shop that could fulfill my needs I had heard about one that did equal (possibly better) work than our current one. I put off going there because I didn't think it would be what I needed. Finally in desperation I stopped and talked to the owner. While waiting for him to talk to me I looked at his work. I realized that I had found a back-up to our current shop but had assumed that he wouldn't be our quickie shop. So, I thought I'd get info from him to use as a back-up and ask for a reference for a quickie shop. He then showed me an area of the shop I hadn't previously seen. Woo Hoo he did quickies! The quality of his quickies was well above average. His price was a tad higher than the much lower quality shops. But I could live with it.

Fast forward many years to the present. I bumped into the manager of the dealership where I had worked a week or so ago. The first body shop is still going strong. Nothing has changed. Still a long wait for great work. The other shop has expanded several times over the years. It still offers superior work and really really good work. It is planning another expansion. We talked briefly about a $200,000 car he had seen in the second shop.

I'll let everyone draw their own conclusions but guess which shop got my business when the truck I had been restoring for years needed body work? The easier question is guess which shop got the job when I bought a mechanically sound car with bad paint for my step daughter to drive?
tpuerzer 9 years ago
This is a very interesting thread.

Obviously there are no one-size-fits-all answers to this question.

I find it interesting that while there are lots of opinions about the consequences of "selling out" there was very little discussion about two key assumptions:

1) High-quality photos will sell a home faster

2) A faster sale is worth a lot of money to a realtor (or at least more than the cost of the high-quality photos)

I think it would be interesting to test the above assumptions.

First, conduct some A/B tests with good and bad photos.

Do the homes with the good quality photos really sell faster? If so, by how much?

Would you be willing to "guarantee" the performance of your high-quality photos? For example, if a given home does not sell faster than some agreed to time period, would you be willing to not charge for the photos?

Did you think to ask your real estate contact what a "faster sale" is worth to them?

How about charging a sliding-scale for the photos? If the house sells in X days... or less... they pay full rack rate. If the sale takes longer than X days, your rate drops...

It seems to me that if we are really 100% confident that our quality photos will make a big difference we would be willing to assume some of the risk and therefore guarantee the performance of our superior product.

Just my 2 cents... :)
JamesStickel Posted 9 years ago. Edited by JamesStickel (member) 9 years ago
Perhaps you could compromise and take part of your increased payment in the form of advertisement in their listings. Buyers scope listings all day... but Agents scope them more and I guarantee if you catch an agents eye while he/she is looking for a buyer, you'll be remembered when they have something to sell.

Perhaps on their listings, you could propose to keep your work at the same standard and cost but request that your contact information be put into the listing. This way any agents browsing the MLS will see your contact info and possibly give you a call. This way, they're marketing a little more actively for you.

just an idea.
O Casasola 9 years ago
Why does everyone talk about selling a bad and a good photo?
That's like asking a doctor to perform a good and a bad surgery.
I would understand selling a plastic frame and a wooden frame or a fiber print and a silver print at a different price. Not your quality and skills.
I would drop the coverage time or the amount of photos you offer your clients at a discount price. You should be very careful with your agent because they will not be able to sell you at all in the near future.
That said, I would suggest you take your photography to the next level and increase your prices by about 25%.
Moniet Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Moniet (member) 9 years ago
Well, in my example, I certainly was not even close to suggesting selling an inferior/bad product. I certainly do not make my living by selling bad grooming services. And I did not continue to groom the show dogs in my care by not grooming those animals to the best of my ability, either. But there is certainly a place for levels of service in anything you do that is service related, and photography falls into that realm if you are making images as a product intended for another person's use. You might prefer to do things one way, but if the client wants something else entirely, they will not pay you no matter how gorgeous the images you can make may be.

Cutting back the number of images offered is a great idea and would help reduce overhead, and reduce the job costs to be more in line with what the client might want. That is a reduction of quality though, if your current quality is making 10 images, and you offer 5 instead, that reduces the overall quality of that package by 50%. Does that make the reduced package a bad one, or one more cost efficient? Depends on what the client wants, if there are 10 rooms, and you give images of half of them, they might prefer to have 10 images of slightly less artistic shots, rather than ones of only half the house. You have to know what the client you are working for wants to provide it, don't you?

Artistic ability is needed to perform both type of grooming jobs in my example, but for me to live and make money, I have to tailor and curb my artistic urges and ability to fit the job presented to me to be done. If I groomed every pet into show clips even if my clients did not want that, and raised my prices even 5%, in a month, I'd have no return business, because clients want what *they* want, not what *I* might want to give them and be paid for. And that is the point of my two cents worth.
jazzology [deleted] 9 years ago
i did not read all the posts so this is probably an echo


Tell them you sell "Quality" and not "Price".... a nice little reminder that not everyone can afford the "Best"... and while they are choking on their own medicine.... walk away.

You may work less initially... but the work you do get will pay a living wage from people who respect the need for their neighbor to make a living, treat you with dignity, and generally are people who are possible to please... The ones that are only concerned about stepping over dimes to pick up pennies are the kind of people who should be left on the side of the road... never happy with your work, never pleasant to be around... Really, what is a dollar worth????
andyptak 9 years ago
Gary - from an "old fart" who'se been there and back, I have three pieces of advice.

1. Kiss ass
2. Never kiss ass
3. Know when to kiss ass

My main work is in hotels and resorts. I have faced (price) competion over and over. I hold firm - pay for inexperience, get inexperience - and don't call me when it goes wrong.

When I want to move into new areas, test new ideas that clients aren't ready for, I offer a freebie. Let me try it out, if it doesn't work for you, you don't pay. However, if you like it, and you want to use the work you owe me my usual commercial rate.

Two edged sword here, but I always make sure that there is something in it for me. Even if they say no, I get some portfolio shots out of it, without the associated expenses out of my pocket, which can be huge counting travel etc.

I've done a little bit of real estate and don't like it. Realtors are cheap and arrogant, in my estimation.

The big thing here is giving something away and never getting the appropriate respect afterward. It's a tricky one and requires some cunning and balls to pull it off. If you don't feel up to it - and many times I don't - just take a pass.

You only live once - do it on your terms!
tpuerzer 9 years ago
Again, does anyone have any facts to back up the "assumption" that better (e.g. more expensive) photos sell a property faster, and if that is in fact true, has anyone asked what that is worth to an agent?

If not, then this argument simply boils down to selling someone a premium product that does not really work any better than the cheap one.
aaron2005 [deleted] 9 years ago
@tpuerzer - I think one could successfully argue a correlation between high quality photos and days on market, but you would never be able to prove a causal relationship between the two. There are just too many factors involved....many of which are more important than good images.
mortonphotographic Posted 9 years ago. Edited by mortonphotographic (member) 9 years ago
I have to agree with Aaron... it would be nearly impossible to prove (or disprove) the quick-sell of a property is due to the photograph. There are just too many factors. It could be the house, the location, the market--seriously, there is no room to list all the variables here.

However, there has to be a value in quality photography. Especially with the Internet. When I looked for my house I wouldn't even stop at a listing without an image. The listings with more, and better images got more of my time--that is what a realtor is paying for.

First and foremost, they want their images to stand out over the rest. Secondly they want this fact to help draw in the potential buyer for a closer look, and for them to stay longer and hopefully build more interest in their property. Ulitmately these images should make the potential buyer want to see more.

Realtors spend time writing up good listings, making houses look better with staging, and having open houses to show potential buyers the house. This all takes time, and time is money. So if they spend money on those things, why not quality photography? Bad pictures are the weak link in the chain and it's sad how few realtors realize this
mortonphotographic Posted 9 years ago. Edited by mortonphotographic (member) 9 years ago
Oh, by the way, I shot the pics for my house when I sold it. Even though I priced the house $5,000 more than my realtor wanted me too (I wanted to go $10K more...) it sold the first day it hit the MLS.

I know you are thinking it wasn't necessarily the pics that sold it... True, but the buyer showed up with a contract in-hand--I am confident the pics helped.
andyptak Posted 9 years ago. Edited by andyptak (member) 9 years ago
tpuerzer - according to Ronald Reagan we couldn't prove that global warming wasn't caused by swamp gas either.

We can't prove that TV advertising works either - frankly, it doesn't in my book - thank God for the remote!

This is about being treated with respect as a professional and not being treated as a schmuk. Your'e in Vancouver, I'm in Toronto, so it's the same deal. Realtors get paid 5-6% on what have now become very expensive listings and they don't spend a dime in marketing them because the market is hot and what the hell, MLS will sell them anyway.

If you can't get respect about your craft, it's time to find a new client base, in my book.

That is a fact.
tpuerzer 9 years ago
Hey, I totally agree that one should not compromise one's values or artistic aesthetics just because someone wants to low-ball you on price.

All I'm pointing out is that a lot of people are posting opinions here based on the "fact" that better photos sell houses faster and then lamenting the "fact" that real estate agents don't understand the "value" of high-quality photos.

All I'm saying is that if you want to "sell" an agent on the value of your service based on ROI then you should be able to back-up those claims. Or, if you don't have any empirical data - but still believe the "fact" to be true - then you should be willing to assume some of the risk by guaranteeing the performance of your product.

Now, if you are willing to make a different argument - one based on "standing out from the pack", or the "prestige" that the agent will feel knowing that they have the best photos in town - go for it. No arguments from me there... just don't try to BS your way into saying that the more expensive photos will perform better when you don't have the data to back it up.

Personally, I can't believe some of the crap photos that I've seen on real estate listings (could ya not get the dirty dishes out of the sink at least???). But would better photos actually sell the house faster... honestly, I just can't say for sure...
aaron2005 [deleted] 9 years ago
+1 what tpuerzer said. Hit the nail on the head.
Salsavaders 9 years ago
You have a product that your client doesn't want or see the value in anymore. They see that they can accomplish THEIR goal(s) with a cheaper product.

Now you either change your product (which you refer to as selling your soul) or you get new clients who want what you offer.

Just remember that markets change. How many people do you know buy custom tailor suits? Used to be all suits were custom tailored - now people get by with mass produced suits. Only relative few buyers remain for custom clothes.
andyptak 9 years ago
tpuerzer - I'm with you on the crappy real estate shots we see most of the time - and to concede your point, the house still sells, doesn't it?

I have an agent - friend in a resort town about 2 hours north of here and he points out that although he only has a high school education he makes more money than the local lawyers and doctors. And no, I don't do any work for him, that's why he's still a friend.

Still believe the respect thing though. No matter what we do for a living, we should do our best and expect the recognition that comes with a job well done. And in every field, some are better than others and deserve the recognition for being so.
MOD
carlos.benjamin 9 years ago
Aaron- How is it possible to give the same quality of work to the realtors that are paying sub standard that you are giving say an Architect that is paying full rack? That just doesn't make any business sense.

One also has to wonder how many folks willing to pay the premium won't call because the bulk of your work is of inferior quality......

tpuerzer - There may not be any hard causal data for quality photography but if you ask a high-end real estate agent about staging a house for sale they'll be able to tell you all about it and they understand the principle is the same. Some agents maintain an inventory of nice furniture that they move into an empty house so that they can sell it. Builders do the same thing, decorating and furnishing their model homes and I doubt they'd spend the money to do that if it didn't have some positive effect on the outcome of their sales.
Brian Garson 9 years ago
i didn't bother reading all the responses, but is it possible that your photos aren't much better than the other photographers who are selling for less?

On another note, you could contact the other photographers in your area that are undercutting you, and inform them that they could be making more money.
tkerby 9 years ago
Interesting to see this - when my girlfriend and I moved in together, we sold our two flats. The estate agent was supposedly one of the best in town and sold high value Edinburgh properties (we soon found out they weren't so hot though).

Initially, they insisted on taking the photos themselves stating file conversion issues etc. if I did the photography. I also offered to do the brochure layout and again got a refusal.

THeir photographer turned out to be one of the valuers with a basic point and shoot. WHen the brochures came back, the pictures were terrible, the layout and design almost as bad and basic mistakes in number of rooms, layout and even the brochure spelling. I wish that had rung loud alarm bells and sent me running to another company.

In the end, I took the photos myself and did the layout mockups in photoshop, wrote the text and even drew floorplans of the place. For the photos, I used a mix of flash and natural light, hdr techniques and hand stitched every one then perspective corrected them in Hugin.

Surprisingly, they were very impressed with the end result but they told me it just wasnt of interest to them as houses sold anyway despite the brochures. I dispute that as the brochure pictures were one of the key ways we selected properties to look at in the first place. SUre enough, we had much higher than average viewings but this was not attributed to good brochures.

In fact, when I looked at the schedules for the $2million+ townhouses and flats they sell, they had the same errors and bad photography we had experienced.

One thing you could consider is advertising your services directly to homeowners instead of realtors. How about you partner with a house dressser and graphic designer to do the photography and brochure. That way the owner can make the decision and is likely more easily persuaded. Offer the services cheap to some owners whose houses are not selling in return for before and after brochures you can show clients and quotes from them on how quick the sale was following the better advertising pack
clarkmackey PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by clarkmackey (member) 9 years ago
In a upward moving market I doubt higher priced photos have any real value - the houses really do sell anyway. Once the prospect sees the house in person any photo is irrelevant in their mind anyway (now that their minds eye picture supersedes), so I bet only the really bad photos matter, the ones that keep a prospect from ever visiting a house. In a downward market, all the home staging companies spring up again like rain lillies, but who really wants to work in a market (like photography for real estate) where you have so little pricing power?

Viewed long term, my thought is to stay away from real estate photography since the downward price pressures are so extreme. You are selling to a group of people whose preferred price is $0, at least as long as it's an item listed on the expense side.

To stay in real estate photography and make any money probably means being the equivalent of Walmart - take over your market with low cost and ease of use. Don't actually take photos yourself but hire the cheapest labor to service accounts with virtual tour products etc. Be effortless from the realtor's perspective. Remember that some markets are not worth taking over in the first place.

Finally, even if you can prove that better photos = more money in a sale, consider that your real enemy is the commission structure of the real estate agent. In the US, a 6% commission is common and it's usually split 1.5% selling agent, 1.5% selling firm, 1.5% buying agent, 1.5% buying firm. Thus any individual agent selling a $100,000 home would stand to make a $1500 commission. Your photos make the home sell for an extra $10,000 or the equivalent in reduced time on the market? Now that would be a difference. The agent's commission is now an underwhelming $1650. How much work/money would you put forth to make $150? Which means good photos are not worth the effort, unfortunately.

And yes, the homeowner is losing out becuase the same logic applies to home sales in general - agents are pushed to get a sale, but not the best sale. This last bit is well documented in Freakonomics, a fun book of wacky but apparently sound economic research.

My wife and I both work in real estate and I find this discussion very interesting.
alanofsac 9 years ago
Two tiers of quality ... If you pick a boring but fast lighting system and bang out Internet and pulp paper print quality prints why not do them cheep. By that I mean FAST you are all good photographers (I'm so so LOL ) and can output a lot of "product" It is not art.

Since you have an implied release in your contract (don't you ) You can await the "golden hour in the evening ,, deep blue skies and cleverly lit Architecture ... Way better than the "product" you shovel on the cheep $ and $$so

You sell pthe "good" prints to the new owners ... give them a 5 x 7 print and a 320 wide low res linked your site where they will be invited to browse and use that discount offer for some of your art prints and framing, Matt work etc .. for their bare walls. mug's anybody ??

Point is lemons give lemonade When I think micro stock, and a million kids with camera phones giving it away ... ARRRGGGG !!!! If you don't aggresivly market yourself and parlay as much business as possible ..you are toast.

Shoot 'postcard / calendar type shots of business and their field operations .. Market your unique product directly to the company again a free 5x7 sent snail mail with a ink to a 320 low res version free licence for exclusive web use exclusive use for the life of the copyright

I hate marketing, anything, myself included .. But sometimes you just gotta go with the flow was just hoping that I could post my photos and cash the checks ... ARRGGGGG.. !! #4@oo45d !! ... Oh well back to work ..
Cheester 9 years ago
General Motors doesn't tell it's potential clients "Well, we'll lower the price so you can have one." Quality comes with a price. An "INFORMED" market will tell you if your product is overpriced or not. If it was me, I would make two photographs. One their way and one my way. Make 16x20s and mount them. Stand them side by side in front of the agent, and say which one do you like better? If she picks the wrong one, walk away and say thanks, it's been nice doing business with you.
dggreen2003 9 years ago
Hello - I am a newbie to this forum. I am looking into pursuing Real Estate photography and saw this thread.

I hope it's ok to share this link below. I thought perhaps if agents saw comparisons (as Cheester suggested) to what decent photographers could do then maybe they could see the value in paying for good photographs to help sell homes.

If you want a good laugh, take a few minutes and watch these. They have got to be the worst virtual tour and photographs I have ever seen in my life:

This one is a sample a RE photographer did and put together in a slideshow to help sell his better photography services.

www.visualtour.com/shownp.asp?t=830679&sk=46

This one is 10 times worse believe it or not.

www.visualtour.com/shownp.asp?T=504291

If posting such links are not allowed, I apologize ahead of time and won't do it again.
tpuerzer 9 years ago
Really makes you appreciate the work that fellow Strobist Scott Hargis does, eh?

www.scotthargis.com/new/
Shared this discussion with a friend of mine who is doing really well in the far East valley here. Specializes in custom and semi custom home shoots. He said that about a year ago a 'cheapie' guy started to horn in. My friend then started creating a 16x20 print of the best shot for the real estate guy's office. Cost him a whopping 16 bucks at Mighty Imaging... He slightly raised his price per shot by about $10 and made more money, while keeping his client happy.

That made me think of a marketing idea and we are going to do it as well. Create a 50 page book on shooting real estate... before shots, after shots... tips for decorating etc... I am sure you have enough work to do that. 50 shots with a paragraph or two on the opposite page. Print it at LuLu and offer it as a promotional piece. I think the smaller color book runs around 10 bucks. For a couple of hundred bucks you would be the de-facto expert in shooting realestate... and if you pick up a couple of clients who are devoted... could easily be worth a hundred times the investmen.
Brentan. 9 years ago
What ya gotta do when breaking into the realestate business is to make your abilities and services seem more appealing by showing how "Better pictures" will make a home sell faster, for more money, and everyone wins. They dont see a point to paying you slightly more for better work simply because they don't feel that the photography aspect is that important.
A friend of mine recently tried to break into this business and he made a pretty good argument, they wanted him to come back with a full on powerpoint presentation.

and this is exactly what he did. Im sure that if you looked you could probably find some sort of statistics that show how a house with good photography might sell faster than photographs that look like they were done by an amateur with a disposable camera.

If you can't find statistics like that, then im sure it wouldn't be very difficult to go out and interview real prospective home buyers, and record discussions of how good photography would help in the act of deciding one purchasing a home.
ChytilPhoto 9 years ago
I'm coming in a bit late to the discussion, but I just found the topic through a click-through to my website scpcomm.com which is linked above.

It is very true that a lot of agents won't see the benefits of good photography. You don't want to work for them. I have been able to differentiate myself from the other real estate photographers in the area by bringing my laptop and shooting tethered and having the agent there during the shoot. They see each shot and can make comments and we adjust as necessary to get the shots they want. Some like what I come up with, others tell me what they want to see. It works out really well.

I got a referral to a new agent a few weeks ago from a home stager. The agent had previously hired a different photographer to shoot two of her listings. The first time he brought lights and laptop and did a great job. The second time he blew through the house in 10 minutes with on-camera flash, no tripod and no framing. Go figure.

When I was reshooting the second house for her two of her comments were "now that's what I'm talking about" and "I think I'm gonna cry" when she was viewing the images on the laptop.

Be consistent in your process and delivery, and stick to your quality. You'll find the people who appreciate it and they will tell others. I also charge more than the cheap people.

It's not an easy road by any means, and I'm not rolling in gigs all the time, yet, but the people I work with love my work and tell other agents about me.

Good luck.
Marsh Rabbit 9 years ago
I have to compromise on quality all the time. If I gave them the good stuff for the trash price I'd go broke.I'm not talking about photos but the same should apply. I they want trash, give them trash. Don't out yourself out for cheap skates.
Rabbit
kcactionphoto / Kevin Camp Photography [deleted] 9 years ago
I work for an Ironworks company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This comapny has been in business here since 1940. The original owner sold a ton of ironwork in the area over the years. The new owners purchased the business and started taking it in a new direction. We do not offer lawn furniture or other pre-made items any more. All we do is custom high end work. We are now in the top 1% of ironworks companies in the US. Most of our work goes to the northeast or to places where $15 to $100 million dollar homes are much more common than they are in Oklahoma. We did more than $6 million in business last year with 14 workers total. We did this by doing ironwork better than our competitors do. Being one of the best means that you put a hell of a lot more work into your product than other people do, that work requires recompense and we charge accordingly. A lot of people do not see the quality in what we do and they are essentially not our customer. We get less jobs that we used to get, but the ones we get are worth a lot more than they used to be also.

You've reached a fork in the road. You can lower your price and your standards and do what everyone else in the market does, or you can raise your prices and your work quality to the point that most potential customers can easily see and understand the difference. You will always have people out there that will dilligently try to work you to produce your highest quality for the lowest price. Stick to your guns and hold firm. If they go to someone else then they are no longer your headache to worry about. And a headache they would have been.
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