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Track Your Expenses And Understand If You Are Making Money

August 23rd, 2016

REphotoChallengesThere are beginning real estate photographers that don’t know what the lower limit is for what they can work for. $99/shoot may make sense in rural Iowa but it may not make sense for New York or Southern California.

Over the years I’ve talked to photographers are doing shoots for $30, $50 and $99. The cases where the photographers were making $30 and $50 a shoot were for large nationwide companies. So they didn’t have marketing expenses or post-processing expenses but still, everyone should keep track of their expenses and do the arithmetic or they could actually be losing money.

Beware there are nationwide companies that will try to contact real estate photographers to shoot for them for prices that the photographer makes little or nothing. My experience suggests that there is not enough profit margin in real estate photography to allow a national company to be making money on a shoot AND the photographer doing the shooting is making a decent wage. Real estate photography works the best when the photographer gets all the proceeds from the shoot.

An essential part of being in business (for yourself or as a contract photographer for a company) is understanding what it’s your expenses are. That is, you’ve got a bunch of fixed costs that are the same no matter how many shoots you do. Costs like:

  1. Car payments, maintenance and insurance costs for the vehicle you use to go to shoots.
  2. Marketing costs: Your portfolio website and money you spend on marketing clients.
  3. Taxes: State and local taxes, federal taxes
  4. Business insurance that covers your equipment and liability insurance that covers you if you inadvertently break some homeowners priceless artwork.
  5. Health Insurance: Yea, this is a cost of showing up, in the old day’s employers used to pay for this but most don’t anymore. It’s up to you nowadays.
  6. Computer hardware costs: you are going to have to replace it every three or four years.
  7. Computer software costs: you are going to upgrade Lightroom and Photoshop.
  8. Personal development costs – this is training costs for publications and workshops that keep you current and help you improve your craft.

I don’t claim that this an exhaustive list, you may have more or less. These are just typical examples of expenses that are applicable for most real estate photographers.

My point is any business person needs to carefully track ALL their expenses and understand what they have to do to break even and make money. At first, of course, you won’t make money but understand what you need to do to make money.


Transitioning From A 9 to 5 Job To Full Time Real Estate Photography

August 22nd, 2016

ChangeMichael in Atlanta asked the following:

I’ve shot professionally 3-4 years ago (while in college) and have since taken the more traditional career route of a 9-5, however, as of late I’ve felt an overwhelming urge to go back to my roots. Photography is definitely a passion, but the lifestyle it affords is almost as, if not more, attractive.

My question revolves around the schedules that most real estate agents prefer – I’m ready to begin pitching listing agents, though I’m hesitant as I’m still currently employed for 40 hours per week. Have you found agents willing to schedule shoots on the weekends? I would like to have a longer “proof of concept” that this idea could work prior to leaving my secure job.

Do you have any advice for those making the transition from a traditional 9-5 to real estate photography?

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Congratulations Aaron Kraft – August PFRE Photographer Of The Month

August 21st, 2016

2016AugustAaronKraftCongratulations to Aaron Kraft of Jackson, Wyoming who the jury as voted PFRE Photographer of the month for August 2016. Aaron’s stunning daylight exterior photo won by a huge margin!

Here are all the entries that the jurors awarded points to this month:

  1. Aaron Kraft
  2. Tony Colangelo
  3. Barry MacKenzie – Photo deleted from the contest pool by entrant
  4. Caleb Vandermeer
  5. Gary Kasl
  6. Michael Lefebvre
  7. Ryan Wicks
  8. Nathan Philps
  9. Paula Cheese

Here are Aaron’s comments on the winning photo:

Thanks to everyone who contributes to this amazing community of like minded photographers.  By allowing each other to understand how an image or how a business decision is made, we all benefit and are able to create work that is more interesting and more beneficial to our clients.  I know that I have learned a ton from everyone in this community who is willing to share their work.

This image was made on one of the four sessions that I was asked to come back and photograph this unique property for the listing agent.  During the summers in Wyoming, it’s not uncommon to endure the smoke from nearby wildfires and this shoot fell during a particularly smokey month.  The smoke during the day was so thick that I couldn’t even see the Grand Teton mountain range from the property, which is a huge selling point, but during my evening session, the smoke settled in the valley.  The setting sun created beautiful colors and the now visible mountain range, became just a sawtooth silhouette.  Catching the setting sun between the walls of windows in this contemporary home, I was able to create this image from two slightly different, ambient exposures. The best, or most interesting part of the shoot came after I finished my traditional twilight images.  I was then invited inside by the very quirky and wealthy, English homeowner to have one of the most awkward conversations of my life while his private chef cooked me a gourmet dinner that I was to eat, alone, in front of the homeowner. Overall, it was a great home to add to my portfolio.

What Is A Good Photography Portfolio Hosting Service?

August 18th, 2016

SquareSpaceGeoffrey says:

I purchased and read The Business of Real Estate Photography and Photography for Real Estate books. I would like to make a website with a slideshow of my portfolio on my home page.

Do you know any web hosting companies that automatically provide both HTML5 and Flash format for slideshows (for Apple, Windows, and Android devices)?

I would like to make a website that is an easy DIY type of website. Also, I’m looking a very low priced web hosting company. I live in the US.

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How To Photograph Interiors With Challenging Problems?

August 17th, 2016

EnfuseLR6Kathy in Maryland asks:

Can you give me any pointers on photographing kitchens that have black cabinets and light or white countertops? I just photographed an empty townhouse, that had that and very light colored bamboo flooring open concept main level, yellowish tile and counters and black cabinets, with stainless steel appliances. I also find open concept style homes challenging too with my multiple lights. I tried an umbrella in this kitchen, but the darn umbrella just was getting in my way and reflecting in the stainless steel. I find these types of kitchens to be my biggest challenge. I follow Scott Hargis’s pointers a lot. But still struggling with this.

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Update On Tyra Pacheco!

August 16th, 2016


Tyra Pacheco’s daughter Emma recently sent out the following update on Tyra’s condition. For those that don’t know Tyra see the June 17 post on Tyra’s accident:

It has been just over two months since Tyra’s terrible accident. After enduring countless operations and procedures, she is on the mend!

Continue Reading »

What Can A Real Estate Photographer Do If The Client Doesn’t Pay?

August 15th, 2016

3rdParyViolationA reader in New York asked the following:

What is the best way to make a formal complaint against a broker/agent that has tried to cheat me on the invoice. First time… so annoyed.

PFRE readers report that this kind of thing is a rather rare occurrence. Here are some actions you can take: Continue Reading »

Real Estate Photographers Make Sure You Are Not Using Adobe Flash ASAP

August 14th, 2016

Occupy-Flash-Logo-658x297About a year ago I described why you should make sure your website or tours don’t use Adobe Flash. I’m always amazed when I find a real estate photographer who is still using a product that uses Adobe Flash. Flash can’t be seen on any iPhone or iPad. Back in 2007 when this all started one could easily blow it off. Not anymore. Massive numbers of agents and home sellers use iPhones and iPads so using Adobe Flash in any way eliminates all these viewers. Continue Reading »

When Can Someone Call Themselves a Real Estate Photographer?

August 11th, 2016

TourVendorsHeather in Kentucky asked the following:

I have been working hard on applying the tips you gave me to make my photos better! I know I still have aways to go, but I can already see the improvement. Thanks! I was also wondering… when can someone call themselves a “real estate photographer”? Is there an association to apply for an join, or a degree to earn? Or can just anyone say “oh yeah, I’m a real estate photographer”? Even if they have no real experience or equipment?

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What About Self Hosted Slide Shows?

August 10th, 2016

TourBuzzJohn in Texas asks:

I did a quick search on the PFRE blog and did not see any recent discussion about tools that can be used to create and host slideshows. Any suggestions?

The last post I did on real estate photographer hosted slide shows was here, back when SlideShoPro discontinued their product. Probably the best alternative for hosting your own simple slide shows is Juicebox. Continue Reading »

Ten Business Essentials For Real Estate Photographers

August 9th, 2016

It just dawned on me that for years I’ve had a ten essentials list for the technical aspects of real estate photography that I promote in my Photography For Real Estate book and the free PDF on What Real Estate Agents need to Know About Photography but I’ve never summarized the business things that we always talk about here on the PFRE blog in the same way. So here is the first step towards fixing that. My first cut at 10 business essentials for real estate photographers: Continue Reading »

When Is The Best Time To Do White Balance Adjustment Before or After Bracket Processing?

August 8th, 2016

LRlensProfilesPeggy asked the following question:

I have just recently purchased the book on Enfuse and Hand Blending in Lightroom.  Lots of good information in here for persons new to RE photography.  My only question is, for those of you who use the Enfuse Plugin, do you do your white balance on each shot before Enfuse as the author does, or do you wait to white balance post-Enfuse images?  I have been doing it post merge prior to reading this.  I am not finding thus far that it makes a large enough difference vs the time savings by doing it only once.

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Doortop Flash Can Save You A Huge Amount Of Time For Small Rooms

August 7th, 2016


In his book, The Essential Guide To Lighting Interiors  Scott Hargis describes a simple but effective technique for using a single manual flash to light small rooms like bathrooms and small bedrooms. Scott has a whole chapter dedicated to explaining all the details and all the variations. By setting the flash on the top of the open door pointing up at the ceiling/wall joint you can light most small bedrooms and bathrooms. This means you can shoot a bunch of rooms in a property in literally a few minutes and get the lighting right on. Sure, you have to set the power right but once you do a few you’ll guess the right power easily. Continue Reading »

Verticals Matter When Shooting Interior Video

August 4th, 2016

AllanTutorialOne of my crusades here on the PFRE blog over the years has been to raise the awareness of the importance of making sure verticals in interiors images are vertical. I think the importance of verticals applies to video as well as still images. Over the years it’s always amazed me how many people will argue that verticals don’t matter and then eventually become converts to the Vertical-Verticals religion. I’ve had several discussions about this subject with interior video shooters that come to shooting interiors from other specialties recently.

My friend Allan MacKenzie in  down in Mooloolba agrees with me on this and has created a tutorial on how to fix verticals in a video using Premiere Pro CS6.

Do you work to keep your video verticals vertical?

Previous Listing Agent Wants to Control How Photos of Their Staging are Used

August 3rd, 2016

StagingLisa in Texas asked the following:

An interesting dilemma came across by desk today and I thought perhaps you might have some advice. I work for a real estate team who recently got a new sale listing. The home owners ended their listing agreement with their previous agent prior to hiring us. The previous agent had paid to have the home staged. We were hired, sent our photographer out to take photos a couple of days later, and they’ve been on the MLS for over 30 days. Now the previous listing agent says that we cannot keep the photographs on the MLS because the staging was done by her. The stager did not remove the furniture in the home until a week after we received the signed listing agreement.

Continue Reading »