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Real Estate Photographer Web Sites – Do You Need One?

October 12th, 2008

Yesterday I got a question from a reader asking what I thought about using a link to his Smugmug site in the PFRE Real Estate Photographer Directory.

My response was: “I highly suggest that if you register for the REP directory that you have a real estate photography only site that has a portfolio of your real estate work, contact information etc (not a smugmug or flickr site). The reason I say this is that being in the directory invites potential clients to compare your work to others in your immediate area.”

I’ll even go farther and say if you intend to do real estate photography a website dedicated to real estate photography is essential to maximize your success. Real estate photography has the capability to create a significant income stream ( 32% of readers report income $40K USD and above, 52% report $29K USD and above). Any endeavor capable of this kind of income which involves supplying clients with images for the web, screams for a dedicated web site where you show your work. After all you can have a template web site that does everything you need for as little as $199 per year. Frankly, when I see a photographer’s web site that has, portrait work, events, product shooting, wedding photography and other portfolios on it, to me it says loudly, “Hobby shooter”. Any of these shooting specialties where you have a income stream deserves a dedicated site to promote that type of work.

What’s wrong with a Smugmug or Flickr site? One of the primary goals of a web site dedicated to your real estate photography work is  looking professional. Smugmug and Flickr sites are just don’t present a professional image. You need your site to have the following features:

  1. Your own domain name–  Most web site hosting services throw this in for free these days. Use a derivative of your name or something that says “real estate photography”.
  2. Make your real estate portfolio the center piece of your site– Present it with a Flash slide show of large (800 x 600) images. Use only your best images. After all, the primary purpose of the web site is to show your work. One think that drives me absolutely crazy is portfolio slide shows that have mixed landscape and portrait format. I noticed that Aaron Leitz uses an elegant way to solve the mixed format problem in his portfolio. He displays two portrait mode photos along side each other to form a landscape mode photo. This makes the slide show smooth and elegant. Great idea Aaron!
  3. Provide your contact information. Phone number is essential.

These three items are essential but you can easily build in other features, like links to your photo delivery service, services, prices, terms of service, etc.

How do you do all this without spending a fortune on web site development? There many popular template hosting companies that have template designs for photographers and artists. You don’t have to know anything about web site development. You just fill in some forms and upload your images and you have a elegant looking site. Here are some of the most popular:

The price page at BigBlackBag.com has some price comparisons. I know of many real estate photographers that use BigBlackBag and Foliolink. Cherie Irwin, in St Louis, uses BigBlackBag and M. James Northen in Vero Beach uses Foliolink

The yearly cost of a web site at any of these template site hosting services is a small percentage (less than 1%) of your expected real estate photography income, so they are well worth the investment in marketing.

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15 Responses to “Real Estate Photographer Web Sites – Do You Need One?”

  • Great information Larry!! Your website is so helpfull when you take RE photography serious!! I’m still learning day by day..
    I life in the Netherlands and started with making my own webpage for my REphotography work wich I wanted to start with whitin 2 months… Altough you can’t read a word of it I would like it when you can give me some feedback..
    Thanks a lot already..
    http://www.ogfoto.nl

  • Really good points – photographers need to convey as much professionalism in their websites as possible.

    However, Smugmug’s largest package option allows you to have your own custom domain. I feel they are a good option as a photography host. It really comes down to what style you want your site to be. Many people may like the layout of Smugmug, while others prefer sites like Aaron Leitz (which, I think is very nice too)

  • Aside from the image of professionalism, it also helps one to “be found” via search engines. I have been getting an increasing number of portrait inquiries as a result of having my own website, and all I am really doing with it at the moment is blogging about my (mis)adventures in photography.

  • Hans-
    Good looking site! I don’t need to be able to read the words… I can guess what they say:) Looks pretty professional. Images are all excellent!

    There are some refinement suggestions I have:

    1. When I first look at your site my first reaction is to scroll up because it doesn’t feel like it is at the top of the page. What would fix this is to have a small bit of space (about a cm or 2) along the top of the page. This would make it graphically like the top. I’d also make these photo strips on each page smaller in vertical height. That way you can have a fairly large slide show on one or more of the pages and the whole page will fit on an average monitor without scrolling.
    2. On your “voorbeeld foto’s” page, I would use a Flash slide show instead of making people scroll down to see your portfolio. My favorite component for doing this is Slideshow Pro (http://slideshowpro.net/). Also, I’d be inclined to make this portfolio slide show the home page so that it is the center piece of your site since it is the primary purpose of a photographers web site.

  • Mark-
    You maybe right, I don’t actually know all the capabilities of Smugmug since I don’t have a Smugmug account. It may be possible to create a professional looking site with Smugmug. I was lumping Smugmug with Flickr because all the Smugmug sites I’ve seen look a lot like most photo sharing sites where you have to see all the kid and pet photos they are sharing to get to a real estate portfolio.

    The main criteria is that this is a real estate photographers brand so you don’t want branding from the photo sharing site and all your dog photos or photos from some other part of your photography business cluttering your real estate photography branding and marketing message.

  • Great points Larry. In addition to showing your best photos make sure you have something for the search engines to read. This mean some real text on the page. Be sure to include items like your city and state. Also include in “Real Estate Photography” somewhere on the page.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Larry I’ve just been a lurker trying to learn my way back to making something of my imaging background & enjoy your bright, informative dialogue and care at sharing quality. So, maybe I can give a small thing back….

    To translate language at a site feed the url into :

    http://translate.google.com/translate_t#

    Be sure to set the source language first or you might be in for an interesting time. Yes, guessing the language is sometimes challenging but your find the context changes really wake up your brain. Only drawback is now we have a zillion more bits of information to wade through…

    Good luck & Shutter On!

  • I dont have a web site.
    I have a delivery site and a very good retoucher.
    I did try myself, but find I was being out performed by other local shooters.
    It allows me to do more work and service my clients, having a production line for delivery.No more CDs to burn.

  • Larry thanks a lot for your feedback. Very helpfull as ever!!! You do great work for everyone starting out with REphotography!

  • Your web site is part of your brand, you need one!
    I recently separated out my RE photography http://www.casafinaphotography.com from other photography http://www.honeycombfoto.com. I completely agree with having that separated (my first business is in a bit of an identity crisis and I’m trying to get that redesigned/branded as well).

    While a template web site is light-years better than a photosharing link, I would highly advise against. There is little or no search engine optimization with those things. The same for having Flash on the front page of your web site. The bots can’t read it. If using Flash, incorporate lots of key word text (as Cape Girardeau stated).

  • Hi
    I have numerous customers probably 7 to 10 who use me often.
    All of them are with me because of my relationship with them.
    So Number one for shooters in our game is relationships.Number two good retoucher, number three delivery and service.
    Yep good retoucher maybe Larry can help us find ones that dont charge the earth.

  • Josh- You are absolutely right, relationships and service are most important. What I’m saying in this post is that looking good in the media you are working in (the web) will help you quickly build new relationships.

    Direct face-to-face relationship building is super important, but as a Realtor, if you come into my office and have a face-to-face discussion about real estate photography and you leave me your card, one of the first things I’m going to do is want to see what your work looks like. If your card has a URL of a knock-out real estate portfolio on it, I’m more likely to call you to shoot my next listing. Why would I hire someone to promote my listing on the web by someone that doesn’t have a web site.

    As for finding a good “retoucher”, an anonymous commenter left the following comment on a post that I did earlier this year about a retouching service:

    “… if you call yourself a photographer in this digital era, and don’t have Photoshop skills, then to be quite blunt about it, you’re in the wrong business, or still living in the 80’s.

    It’s a bit like an electrician being unfamiliar with a digital multimeter, or a mechanical workshop not having modern diagnostics equipment… just a tool of the trade these days.”

  • Thanks Larry.
    I shoot 3 or 4 jobs and deliver them to the retoucher , moving on to a dusk.
    By the time I get in I am not up for much.
    It works well for me, I get through more work that way.
    I cant always service my clients while shooting, and they sometimes have tight deadlines, my retoucher is always there for them.
    I am pretty good with CS3 but find my workflow best services my customers and meets their needs.

  • […] Continue reading… […]

  • I beg to differ using only Smugmug to present your photos! With 1 day’s worth of customization I was able to create a totally professional real estate photography website using Smugmug. And we all know how good Smugmug is with storing your photos, so there’s no need to pay extra for hosting your photos somewhere.

    Putting together our website brisbanepropertyphotos.com.au was about $70, which is just purchasing the Power Account and your custom domain. I wrote a complete, step-by-step tutorial how to transform your default, ugly-ish smugmug account to a stylish, professional beauty and that be seen at http://brisbanepropertyphotos.com.au/Real-Estate/Articles-and-Tutorials/Smugmug-Website-Customization/10011102_3Ny7y.

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