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International Association of Real Estate Photographers?

January 12th, 2009

I’d like to initiate a discussion about a professional society for real estate photographers. Perhaps it could be called the International Association of Real Estate Photographers (IAREP).

Today I had a reader that is entering the business of real estate photography ask if there was a real estate photographer certification or a professional society of real estate photographers. He also pointed out that the PFRE community was currently the closest thing to a professional association for real estate photographers. Over the last couple of years I’ve talked to a number of people that felt the need for a professional certification or professional association that would add credibility to a newcomer to this business. I tend to lump the concepts of a professional certification and a professional association together because they both seem to be a way to enhance the professional stature of members or certification holders.

I must say, I’m not a fan of the typical real estate certification concept. These certifications tend to just be a recognition that the agent has taken some particular classes not that they learned anything. To me a more meaningful certification would be a peer review type of certification where the applicants work would be reviewed against some criteria.

If you look at professional associations like IAAP or IVRPA the PFRE community already has many of the components of these two associations although the PFRE community is much less formal. Being less formal can be better or worse depending on your point of view. I guess the down side of a professional association is that only members participate, whereas with an informal community like PFRE there is potentially much wider participation.

So, I’d like to hear what readers think about the importance of having a formal professional association for real estate photographers. Either leave a comment or take the poll below or both.

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39 Responses to “International Association of Real Estate Photographers?”

  • And who selects the peer reviewers? I don’t like that idea at all…too much potential for personalities to be involved. Sounds too exclusive to me. To be a member of APA you just pay your dues. That’s more fair. Personally, I think Real Estate Photographers should join the associations already out there. ASMP and APA to name the biggies.

  • the idea again promotes a meaningless group of letters behind an agents name. The only one who profits is the one who starts the group and is paid to use the letters. If an agent cannot take professional pictures, hire a professional photographer. I am both !
    I thought of a new designation SAN = signify absolutely nothing. The public won’t ask what it means but it’s more letters.
    Being a REALTOR should be enough professionalism and should not have levels based on initials behind it.

  • Well, I like the idea very much ! I have been working for two years soon in Sweden as a real estate photographer, and I would welcome this association very much. It would give us credability. Just like the realtor has got his or her credability and can now put “realtor” on their buisiness card. And it would be great to get to meetings with photographers worldwide sharing tips, trix and ideas. Keep on our good work…

  • Maybe I am missing something. Is this a designation directed to professional photographers or realtors? The above reply threw me. I like the idea of having a professional organization for Real Estate Photographers. And there should be specific criteria for membership. Paying your dues should be about doing the work and gaining the experience and expertise, not just sending in a check. I think the world is big enough for PFRE as it is now and a separate or spinoff professional organization/certificate. The one provides community while the other can serve to promote a higher standard in the industry. There are individuals involved in PFRE who I would trust hands down to serve as a peer review board. Their involvement in discussions in this community, have demonstrated their dedication to our industry and have shown their ability to participate in this forum without prejudice.

  • I like the idea. Professional designations convey a sense of security and trust to people that might hire you – if that photographer is a member of the “International Professional Real Estate Photographers Association” he/she must have some experience and produce quality photos. As to who gets the designation and who decides the qualifications: Maybe Larry and some of the senior photographers here.

    I would volunteer to work with a group to hammer out the rules and get this going.

    Michael

  • I agree with Steven Harp, I think the only thing this will do is promote meaningless letters behind your name. Many people do not care about what certification you have as long as you do the job well.

  • I am really keen on the idea of ramping up the educational aspect of real estate photography. I think an association of some type could better address that need than just a blog on the internet.
    I think Larry has done and outstanding job keeping this forum going – first class. One of the greatest needs in the the world of real estate photography is educating its members on the technical and business aspects of photography.

    As I see it from where I’m standing this forum addresses two types of photographers : The real estate agent who is looking to improve their skill in photography so they can create photographs that are definitely a cut above the norm. The second individual on this forum is the photographer who is seeking to carve out a niche in the real estate photography business or the pro who dabbles in real estate photography to supplement their wedding or commercial photography business.

    With that said I think there is an opportunity to develop a more formal approach to the educational aspect of some type of association. I am not sure in the realm of real estate that most brokers could give a rip whether you belong to an association or not. Outside of this forum I would question the real significance of a IAREP. But on the flip side as an educational platform, I think therein lies the real opportunity.

    I would caution charging any dues or collecting fees too early in the game as many a forum and website have disappeared or diminished when they became fee paying.

    Just some serious thoughts regarding an interesting idea.

    Best Regards,
    Ron

  • The thing with designations is that some you buy, and some you earn. IMO designations can certainly be meaningful if they’re earned. Someone mentioned they thought peer reviews would be a bad idea. I disagree. There’s no multiple choice quizes in RE Photography. So, how else would one earn a designation if not through the quality of their images? And what’s wrong with exclusivity? If anybody could join it wouldn’t be special. Larry, I say give it a shot.
    Bryce

  • I have spent a lifetime in various occupations which have some form of professional organization with professional certifications. I found they did little to actually advance the profession and in most cases it was only a matter of paying high fees to get certified. I have learned that a string of letters following a persons name has no real meaning. Too often the individual turns out to be a person who has a lot of education with little experience and knowledge based on classroom work rather than real world, on the street experience.

  • I am relatively new to photography as a whole, and have studied everything I can find about real estate photography. I like the idea for two reasons:
    1. I think it has the potential to set a benchmark for those of us still maybe trailing behind those who are inventing the craft.
    2. I hate trying to explain to realtors why/how I think I am qualified to shoot a house and get paid for it (and maybe I am not yet). A certification would simplify the process.

    The staging industry had a dozen or so different training and certification programs before they decided they needed to create a unifying association; I believe the battle is still raging…let’s not get to that point.

    If certification is in the future of PFRE, it should probably happen now while numbers are relatively small.
    Just my 2 cents,
    Susie

  • I’m OK with an professional organization with a firm set of standards to be a member, but how are you going to make the designation be worth anything. Unless the public or agents understand the organization they will be worth nothing. To get the agents to understand will need a large education and advertising campaign. Large campaigns cost a lot of money.

  • I have to say I agree with those who say they like the idea. I do as well. I really believe those “useless letters after your name” add credibility in many circles and this is a hard industry to get into. I have been working to build business for 2 years and have had limited success but would welcome a certification process that I could show to agents and brokers.

  • Although I’m new to PFRE, I’ve spent the last 8 years working with real estate agents (mortgage broker). They have a number of designation and they understand that designations mean a higher level of knowledge and accomplishment. Check out the the Realtor designation at http://www.realtor.com for the requirements. If a designation is offered, it would be a good thing.

  • Look, if you’re a professional photographer, you’ll have a degree and/or work experience. If you don’t have a degree, then you should have at least 5 years of experience working with lighting and exposure. Otherwise you’re not a professional, you’re just an amateur riding the latest trend, in this instance, real estate photography.

    There are any number of professional photography organizations out there to join, no need to designate a Real Estate Photography Organization. No, if you’re a professional photographer, you can handle any type of lighting be it interior or exterior, architectural or landscape or what have you. I wouldn’t use a photographer who didn’t understand photography completely, especially when it comes to interiors where understanding lighting and color temperature are so critical in producing your photograph.

  • I disagree totally with this statement.

    You don’t need a degree to work as a pro. I have shot a lot of stuff for money and make my living in commercial photography. I am still learning RE photography but does that mean I am not professional?

    I don’t think so.

  • I don’t totally disagree with you. A photographer is as good as his/her portfolio, no doubt. But…

    Like I said, if you do not have a degree, you should have at least five years of experience working with lighting. I’m assuming you have a solid working portfolio if you’re supporting yourself with commercial photography gigs and I’m guessing it took you a good amount of time to make it presentable and it’s probably always evolving.

    And if you’ve mastered studio lighting, which is what I’m assuming you’ve done since you’re making money in the commercial market, the transition to interior photography should not be that difficult. If you understand light, it should come natural.

    My point is, is that it takes time to become a professional photographer. I think you would agree that is true in any line of work. I don’t think a certification course makes you a professional. I would say that comes from education and work experience.

  • Why can’t Anonymous identify him/herself?

    Michael

  • I don’t know why that’s relevant, but if you insist on knowing my name, I’ll even give you my last initial.

    Jim K.

  • “..you should have at least 5 years of experience working with lighting and exposure. Otherwise you’re not a professional…”

    Pat statements like that are worse than useless. What’s magic about 5 years? And what about photographers who don’t use (added) lighting at all?

    And why is a definition of “professional” even relevant to this discussion? Plenty of people hold degrees and certifications in fields that aren’t their primary occupations.

    Regarding the proposed association, I’m on the bubble. I’d want to know what differentiates it from existing organizations like the IAAP, APA, ASMP, etc. etc.

  • The only thing I’d expect from a professional designation is to separate the real pros from the “guy with a camera” who’s low-balling the industry to death. We need to either get those guys to step up or get out. I don’t pursue residential photography much because, in my area, it is swamped by guys making $40 to shoot a house. How can I go to a potential client and say they need to spend 10-20 times that amount on me?

    I have found that joining an association is too expensive and time consuming to get any real benefit from it. Unless the association is regularly putting photographers in touch with potential clients, rather than only with other photographers, it’s just a club.

    I am also a professional photo-retoucher. And the same thing has happened there. Any kid with Photoshop is suddenly a pro. And they are willing to do the job for a six-pack.

    Creativity has become de-valued. If an association can put a shine on the industry, then I am for it.

  • Five years is a good amount of time to experience numerous different lighting situations, that’s why I say five years. The more experience you have with light, the better the photographer you are.

    And it doesn’t matter whether you use “added” lighting or natural lighting, you still need to have a thorough comprehension of all types of lighting. If you don’t understand artificial and natural lighting, you’re not a professional photographer, I’m sorry to break it to you. It’s ridiculous for me to even have to explain that….if you’re a pro you already know that…..photo=light.

  • Though I probably don’t meet Jim K’s definition of a professional photographer, I use a still camera to make my living. Call me whatever you like…it’s all pointless semantics and I don’t think those of us making our livings with cameras really care. I sure don’t. The taxman, however most definitely considers me a professional photographer ;-).

    Back to the discussion…I’ll pay money to join a professional organization if it can do three things for me: 1) provide legal resources, 2) help get me new clients and 3) give me lots of discounts and free stuff. Anything beyond these three things I can find on the internet or talk with a fellow photographer without filling out applications or getting approval.

    I anticipate that the IAREP will probably not be my first stop when looking for legal advice 😉 and I don’t see how it will help me get any more clients any more than participating on this blog already does so it doesn’t seem too useful to me. The free stuff I can get elsewhere as well. Others’ mileage may vary of course.

    Instead of working on the logistics of setting up something like the IAREP, I think the effort would be better spent on getting the REP directory to show up first on every major search engine. I’d rather pay $100 a year for that than for some designation that doesn’t mean anything to anyone.

  • Aaron- You are wise beyond your years. Your suggestion about making the REP directory show up first on every major search engine inspired me to do some research. In 2008 the major search engines were:

    Google.com 71.97%
    Yahoo.com 17.70%
    Live.com 4.10%
    ask.com 3.35%

    The REP Directory is #1 in all these search engines for the search term “real estate photographer directory” Does this count?

  • I think I like the idea. Being able to say that I’m a member of an association because the quality of my photography is good enough could be helpful as a marketing tool. For example, if I’m hiring an electrician to do a job at my place, I want a bloke who’s part of the relevant industry association because I know he’s not just a backyard hack.

    Secondly, an association that can apply legal pressure when needed could be good too, but how would that work when the association is “International” in its scope? Could be tricky, and therefore less beneficial.

    All in all I give the idea 4 stars … definitely worth further consideration.

  • I’ve been wondering what the term “real estate photographer” even means. On the flickr site linked to PFRE, the group says that any real estate “not for sale” cannot be posted so I have been dying to post pictures to get feedback but since the real estate I photograph isn’t technically for sale, I haven’t.

    My personal business is in mostly wedding photography but I work fulltime for a company as a photographer for the many properties in their massive portfolio. They range from dingy and old family duplexes to new and plush multi-floor senior apartment complexes complete with billards and barber shops. I can end up doing 15 properties in a 2 day span sometimes, both interior and exterior and the photos end up being used for high executive portfolios, web, advertisements, large signs, etc.

    What I do sounds an awful lot to me like a real estate photographer but I am salaried and the places I photograph are for rent and belong to my company or its partners. Does that make me any less of a real estate photographer? Would I even be allowed to join something that would be a professional organization for real estate photographers? I feel like it’s still up for debate if I actually *am* a real estate photographer. I’m sure there are very few out there like me but I was just curious what even “real estate photographer” would mean, even? This may be a completely moot question and I’m probably the only one out there even asking this.

    Otherwise, for me personally I would love to find in a professional organization what I find on this site: resources. Networking is huge, too as I often have so many questions with no one to ask!

    But, still, I’m probably with Aaron on this one.

  • Just an FYI:
    http://www.iarep.org – International Association for Research in Economic Psychology
    http://www.iarep.com – “This Domain is For Sale” – $60
    http://www.iarep.net – owned by Hover/Tucows, who don’t sell their domain names

  • Jim K.’s advice on gaining experience over time doesn’t take into consideration the volume/quality of shooting within that timeframe. Everyone would agree that someone with 200 shoots under their belt in one year has gained more practical knowledge than a person of identical abilities with 100 shoots in 2 years… Ultimately I think he’s just saying we improve with experience.

    I’m not sure there is much point in a professional association for real estate photographers. It won’t translate into greater sales…. real estate photography bookings (like all photography bookings) occur based on some combination of personality, portfolio and price. Make sure those are all pro quality and no one will think twice about your affiliations with pro organizations. And if some or all of those aren’t pro quality then no one will think twice about your affiliations with pro organizations. It isn’t necessary as a learning tool… that’s what great blogs like this are for! The other amenities sought after in pro-photog organizations are already available within the existing national orgs.

  • Why not IREPA, International Real Estate Photography/er’s Association??? http://www.IREPA.net seems to be available…..

  • I have mixed feelings about a professional organization. I have an idea that the best things about it can be obtained in other ways. The Pros are that it would be a clearing house for information, certification (if anyone wants that), education, recognition (for clients) and finding work. The cons are that it can be a lot of work for someone/group that spends time where there needs to be money to run the “organization”. I know that I spend enough time with my business that I do not really have the time to dedicate to building a professional organization.

    I have an idea that the biggest things that most people here would be looking for (and I too) is the education factor and the ability to find work (and of course, the community).

    That being said, I also have an idea that most of that is coming together very nicely here on this site. My hat is off to Larry for all the time it appears he puts into this site. I certainly appreciate ever effort. I may not be penning my thoughts on ever issue, still I am here at least twice a week.

    A couple of ideas are for us all to look for ways to promote ourselves and our talents (Real Estate Photography) at every juncture. I know that I am always promoting REP to any and all Realtors I meet and my intention is to get them to realize the advantages it has to their business and how it makes them look more professional. I also wrote an article last year about why to use Pro REP.

    I recently became familiar with a site called Meetup.com. I know it is not the end all and be all for us connecting in our own areas, still it may be a good start. If we all use this tool to set up meetings/gatherings in our own areas, we may be able to connect with others that want to share their experience and passion for out art form. We then can share ideas across these groups and maybe come up with information, agenda for meetings, programs, training sessions and other ideas at promoting ourselves and Real Estate Photography.

    Once we have a following in our own areas, we can introduce ourselves to to the realtor in our areas promoting REP and gaining credibility that way. This could lead to a better understanding of how an organized effort can help us as professionals and the industry of REP. Who knows, it may lead to a professional organization by starting as local organizations that come together to form a national or international association. By the way, REPPA.org is available. (Real Estate Professional Photographers Association.

    Does anyone have thoughts on these ideas? What are some of your ideas on how we can start to organize local groups to explore the interest and share idea and resources?

    Larry,
    A question about your comment/research about the search engine results for Real Estate Photography Directory. In your own stats for PFRE, how many people or should I say, what is the percentage of times someone arrives at PFRE using the search term “Real Estate Photography Directory” as opposed to other search terms to reach your site? Since you are #1, this would be a good indicator of three things: first, it would tell us how many people go to PFRE for the directory, second, how many people are using that search term to actually find a REP and third, how many people are looking for a REP.

    Cheers!
    Gar

  • Gar- To try answer your question about search terms. The search terms that the PFRE blogs gets referrals from (virtually all from Google) are:

    “real estate photography”
    “photography for real estate”
    “photography real estate”
    “real estate photographer”
    “real estate photography tips”
    “real estate photography jobs”
    “real estate photography business”

    The PFRE blog comes up #1 for most all of these I’ve checked in all the major search engines. “real estate photography directory” has actually never show up… meaning that’s not a search term people use.

    Another way of quantifying the subject is as follows: The PFRE blog on the average gets 12,000 unique visitors per month and over half of that is due to referrals from Google for a search term above or similar to the above. A much smaller percentage (around 14%) of the referrals from Google go directly to the REP directory page instead of to the blog from page. This is why I added the large blue ad link on the front page for the directory.

  • Hi Larry, I like the idea, Some of the guys here in Australia have talked to me about setting up and Australian association. (Real Estate Photography Association of Australia – REPAA) and there is definitely a need for it and I think an arm in each country would also work well. Let me know if you need me to assist in any way as I would love to be involved in a project like this. Regards
    Vince DeStefano

  • Larry,

    I think this is a great idea worth pursuing. Whether it has the word professional in it is neither here nor there for me. It would be a great resource for those who are and those who want to make a career of real estate photography.

    In Australia there is and institute called REIA – http://www.reia.com.au/institute/index.asp – that caters for the real estate industry and agents can join by subscription. They are made up of members from each state with their own name -ie; here in Victoria it is the REIV – not all agents join.

    As a member of this association they provide a search option on the site to find an REIA agent anywhere in Australia – this would be a great tool – like the directory you run. I feel what you are proposing would be similar to the one above in what it could become – not necessarily at government level but within the real estate industry.

    If there was such an association worldwide with maybe individual country associations, after sometime [once settled and operating] they could approach the above sorts of associations and likely to be more accepted in the general business of real estate. This could have a large impact on changing attitudes of agents and others towards real estate photography.

    It could legitimise our profession in the eyes of those that matter. I would be keen to get involved at either level – international or Australian [Oceanic??]

    Regards
    Andrew

    Here is a brief blurb on what they are;
    About REIA
    In Australia, the property market is a major source of wealth creation for investors, contributing significantly to the socio-economic well being of all Australians. For example, in the financial year 2006/2007 property sales totalled $204.3 billion; 64% of Australians owned their own houses and 27% rented on the private market. Property affects everybody in Australia.

    The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) is the national professional association for the real estate industry in Australia. Since 1924, REIA has worked to represent real estate industry interests. REIA is a politically non-aligned organisation that provides researched and well-informed advice to the Federal Government, Opposition, media, and the public on a range of issues affecting the property market. REIA has an excellent reputation as the most credible source of knowledge and considered opinion regarding the commercial and residential property markets in Australia.

    REIA has eight members, comprised of the State and Territory Real Estate Institutes, through which about 80 per cent of real estate firms and licensed agents are collectively represented.

    REIA has entered into strategic alliances with the National Real Estate Franchise Association of Australia (NREFA), First National Real Estate and Australian Commercial Property Agents Association (ACPAA) , strengthening its research and policy focus in residential and commercial real estate.

    REIA also represents Australian real estate internationally as a founding member of the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations (ICREA), a principal member of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) and as a co-operating association with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the USA.

    From November 2008, President of the REIA is Noel Dyett (VIC) with David Airey (WA) as Deputy President

  • PS. I would see the blog and flickr group remain as an informal way of feeding ideas and people into a separate and organised association if they so desired.

  • Let’s do it!

    Michael

  • Hello, thanks in advance as I am hoping you will be able to help me, I am interested in Real Estate Photography. I live in south Jersey in Medford Lakes and frequent monthly Manhattan NY.
    Thank you Deborah Gilmartin,

  • I’d like to thank everyone for all the great ideas, feedback and suggestions! As usual there is a real diversity of opinion here.

    I’m trying to contact Thomas Bliss, founder of the IAAP (http://iaap.co.uk/). I know some readers of this blog are members of IAAP. This may be an appropriate organization for those that want to join a professional organization. At this point in time, I’m not inclined to start a new organization when one that already appears to serve the same purpose.

    I’m thinking about expanding the blog tutorial section into an online basic real estate photography training resource. This may contain fill the requests for a certification. I’ll have to get more into the creation of the training to see.

  • Hi Larry,

    The IAAP would be happy to have a new speciality group to add to our growing community of Architectural Photographers.

    Real Estate Photographers & Architectural Photographers share more in common than not. I am often asked by my commercial clients to images custom homes, and to shoot a commercial space more in the style of a “Real Estate Photographer”, that is to say, less production, faster shoots, often without any production at all. Get in, get out, deliver the image, much like the Real Estate game.

    Depending on the level of interest we at the IAAP could offer a reduced yearly membership for the first year, and also set up a speciality member forum on our community. I have emailed you the details, however I’ll post them here as well.

    The “Real Estate Photographers” sign up on the site: http://iaap.co.uk/join.html

    Choose the $87.50 Yearly Subscription: Upon sign-up I will rebate $37.50 back to the Photographer, then it will be $50.00 for the first year, and then go to $87.50 for each additional year should the member choose to do so.

    REBATE RULES: In order to be eligible for the rebate, the new member must send an email to dues@iaap.us and ask for it with promo code: PFRE in the subject line. Upon receipt of the email we will log into our PayPal or 2CO account and rebate $37.50. Please allow 24-48 hours for rebates, as we are all working photographers and my not be able to issue the rebate on the spot.

    After joining and uploading images the new member can click over to our forums and register there. The forum is free to all IAAP members, however it uses a different log-in than the listing for security reasons. Once the new member signs up at the forum, we will turn on full access. Access is turned on manually after the members listing and forum registration is reviewed, usually no more than a few hours at max, sometimes in just a few minutes.

    IMAGES FOR LISTING:

    Q: How do I prep my images for my listing?
    A: Keyword your images: Photoshop ?File Info?. At least fill out description field, include your name.
    Watermark your images:

    A small watermark is recommended on all your images. Use the font ?Verdana? if you have it. Place the watermark/copyright notice in lower right hand corner of your image. Example: ? © 2009 Your Name Here All rights reserved? or © 2009 Your Name Here.

    Sample http://www.iaap.co.uk/sample_iaap_image.jpg

    Image Specs:
    10 jpeg files > RGB > Baseline
    Dimensions: up to 600px on the longest side.
    Use naming convention: lastname_00.jpg to lastname_09.jpg
    Saved in ?baseline? quality setting 12.
    Save For Web Function in Photoshop try to get files small, but looking good.

    Total File sizes not to exceed 5mg (for all ten) Use PhotoShop ?”Save For Web?” Make the file size as small as possible, but do retain as much quality as possible. It is Possible to get a 600px image down to 66kb to 120kb and still have it look great.

    This image is just under 112kb: http://www.iaap.co.uk/sample_iaap_image.jpg in my opinion it is just fine for the site. And will speed in the load time of your portfolio and showcase image. In the end use your best judgment on image quality.

    Q: My Images don’t stay in order?
    A: The images loaded into your user control panel rotate, as to present a fresh look each time a visitor sees your search results page, and listing page. It does not make a difference what order you upload your images.

    Well, that about covers it, any questions please feel free to drop me a line. admin@iaap.us.

    Best Regards
    Thomas Bliss, IAAP
    http://www.iaap.us
    http://www.iaap.co.uk
    http://www.architecturalphotographers.org

  • […] want to highlight a recent comment made by Thomas Bliss, founder of the IAAP on the subject of a professional association for real estate photographers. Based on the discussion on this subject I think IAAP membership would provide most […]

  • * Addendum: IAAP REBATE RULES

    REBATE RULES: In order to be eligible for the PFRE-IAAP rebate, the new member must send an email to dues@iaap.us and ask for it with promo code: PFRE in the subject line (*WITHIN 48 HOURS OF JOINING). Upon receipt of the email we will log into our PayPal or 2CO account and rebate $37.50. Please allow 24-48 hours for rebates, as we are all working photographers and my not be able to issue the rebate on the spot.

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