Realtor’s Guide to Using Photos in Real Estate Marketing

June 15th, 2009

I spent this weekend off the grid on a mountain biking trip in the Columbia Gorge in Northern Oregon along the Columbia River. All that blood getting pumped to my brain gave me some important insights. Besides all the extra blood in my brain, here were the three events that triggered my insight:

  1. The first was an e-mail Friday from a good friend that is a Realtor. He sent me a link to a virtual tour provider that he uses to do his photography. He characterized the photos as “Quality Photography”. And in my opinion the photography was awful. He’s a managing broker and has been selling real estate for probably 15 years. I know if I pointed out why his tour weren’t “quality photos” he would get the message. I need something I can just send to Realtors that explains what quality photography looks like.
  2. The second was an e-mail Friday from a person doing an article on real estate photography that wanted to link to a real estate photography article that “talked to Realtors about photography”. I had to say no, I didn’t have a article that talked to the average Joe Realtor about photography.
  3. The third was Saturday while riding on a back road near Hood River, OR, I ran across a large billboard type display for a bunch of newly constructed Condos. The listing agent or builder had clearly had spent thousands dollars on the large billboard size sign that had a series of large interior photos on the sign that illustrated the interiors of the condo units. They were bad and not as effective as they could have been.

My insight was this: The majority of Realtors don’t have a clue what good real estate marketing photos look like or what makes a good marketing photo. They need to be educated. They aren’t dumb, they just are not visually sophisticated enough to know what looks good and what doesn’t in a marketing photo. Very simply, they need to be educated. What is needed is a photo marketing guide for Realtors, written in simple language, that describes what good real estate marketing photos look like and what makes photos effective.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write a real estate photography guide for Realtors, that’s just a few pages written for Realtors in non-technical language and make it available to everyone in PDF form. I’ve developed basic marketing photo concepts with my list of 10 essentials. I go into more depth on the 10 Essentials chapter in my Photography For Real Estate e-book. But that chapter is more for photographers than to Realtors. I’m going to revamp and update my 10 Essentials for educating Realtors. My goal is to refine this guide in the future so it can be used as a tool to educate Realtors. I believe this will benefit Realtors and real estate photographers.

Help me in this education process. Suggest improvements for the Realtor Guide, use it as a marketing and education tool for your clients. I’ll releasing it as Creative Commons (Attribute and Share Alike) that is, anyone can copy and distribute and remix this guide, just give me (PhotographyForRealEstate.net) credit. So far I’ve only spent about an hour creating the guide so it still needs work. I’ll be adding photos and having my editor scrub the words and just generally refining it. In the mean time have at it.

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22 Responses to “Realtor’s Guide to Using Photos in Real Estate Marketing”

  • Larry, this is *just* what I was looking for! I’m so glad I contributed to the inspiration, and doubly glad you went so quickly from inspiration to implementation.

    I’ll definitely be sharing this with our readers and clients!

    Thank you!!

    Jenn

  • Great idea Larry. Incredible where inspiration comes from!
    Main points from me would be:-
    – K.I.S.S. & WIIFM (from agents POV)
    – Vendor is happy and content. Proud of the way is property is presented. Listing starts off on the right foot
    – More enquiries , more offers, better price for vendor
    – More opportunities from those enquiries to obtain listings
    – Time management. Let the pro photo worry about getting the photos..agents gets on to what they have to do..LIST and SELL!!
    – Admin staff like it. No more dumping of memory cards..”you pick the best ones out”. Cuts out any PP, re-sizing they need to do
    – Can be that point of difference that wins the agent the listing…”the other agent didn’t offer me that”
    – more professional image for the Company in the media and market place..photoboards etc
    – agent should be encouraged to include the cost in the vendor’s marketing package, rather than a cost to the agent.
    That’s my quick points
    Cheers Milton

  • Larry: Excellent idea. I can see using it in one of my email blasts, and printing it and distributing it to local realtors.

    Milton’s ideas, above, are also good ones.

  • Great idea Larry. There have been some great points listed above, but I thinks one of the most important ones is the time savings to the realtor. Plus the fact that professional photos make the agent and their company look better and shows that the agent really cares about marketing the property.

  • I’d be happy to contribute / review. I’m an agent / photographer and hire out to other agents. I know what many are thinking.

  • HI there Larry, I love this. It is a perfect compliment to the PFRE guides I already purchased. Thank you so much for creating such a great venue to learn all there is to learn from the pros who are in the group, Ileen

  • […] and Read More: photographyforrealestate.netSHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Realtor’s Guide to Using Photos in Real Estate Marketing – Larry […]

  • This sound good. You may want to come up with something to educate the seller. The agents in Birmingham don’t want to spend a dime. I started running ads aimed at the sellers. It worked and I am now busy all the time. I get the sellers fired up and they in-turn make the agents call me! When business starts to slow, I run a few more ads geared to the sellers and the agents start ordering tours again. I normally run them in Homes and Land and other real estate magazines.

  • John- Your comment about home sellers reading Homes and Land is a great insight! Our experience here in the NW is that home buyers DON’T even look at Homes and Land because the listings are so “behind the market” (it takes a minimum of two weeks and as much as a month to get a new home listing in Homes and Land). But you are right, home sellers DO look at it because they use it to help choose a listing agent… all the top listing agents have flashy ads in Homes and Land. In fact that has become it’s only function, it is worthless for searching for a home.

    My experience however is seller’s don’t need educating… they all instantly understand why they need professional photos to market their home… all they need is the name and phone # of a professional photographer!

  • Larry,
    I’m glad you said it:” sellers don’t need educating”. It’s a no brainer. And to through a bit of a wet blanket, neither do RE agents need educating. What they (or really their brokers) need is convincing that great photography improves sales. And this apparently is a hard sell. Why? I expect it’s the environment they work in. RE brokers and agencies don’t promote it. Their photo viewers are antiquated. Local MLS are worse. Even great photos show small and distorted. The most progressive agencies promote the DYI approach to virtual tours. Accordingly, to make the best progress, I recommend raising the bar and aim at educating brokers and their agencies. In light of current RE commissions rates, a fixed expense of around $200 for good/great photography and a VT seems like a no brainer. Why don’t brokers and RE agencies expect it from their agents?

  • Mike- Brokers and agencies are rarely even involved. Agents are independent contractors that make all their marketing decisions themselves. There may be a few exceptions where brokers in small companies have time to take a strong interest in the success of each agent but I think that is the exception.

    In my 10+ years of working with my wife on Seattle’s Eastside I’ve never seen a broker involved in any aspect of a transaction (sale or listing) except when a potential legal problem arises. Basically, you call your broker when you get into trouble. This is because the broker typically provides liability insurance and legal support and that is the biggest cost. Brokers may negotiate company wide deals with advertising contractors (photographers) but it’s up to each agent whether or not the agent uses that contractor or they own thing.

    In short, agents are independent and make virtually all their own marketing decisions.

  • Hi, I’m an aerial photographer – using a digital camera in a 60- ft mast in the San Diego area. This article is music to my ears because the idea of large scale use of aerial photography is slow to catch on with realtors here in this area… However, getting custom aerial will be as common as the need to have a cell phone – they just don’t know it yet… This recession as forced everyone and every industry to do paradigm shifts. When they learn that they can get quality photos at low cost – they will take a second look…

  • Larry,
    You paint a bleak picture of how RE works. One in which the running companies doesn’t care about the success or failure of their employees (agents). There must be some reason why an agent chooses to be a CBBain or Windermere or John L Scott, etc. So, if they (the companies) aren’t involved in their agent’s sales success, what do you think it is? Agencies/brokers get a cut on sales. They must have some interest. They control the websites and their photo viewers.
    In short, you can’t expect a used car salesman to purchase good photography if their car dealership won’t help them properly show the car. Only the very extraodinary will find a way to do so.

  • I’m an agent, who loves an appreciates good photography but just haven’t learned enough yet as far as working in post, extra lightning, etc. Also, my city doesn’t necessarily need or supports the outstanding photography I see on PFRE, but I have seen a big increase in the amount of agents using wider angles.

    Agents around here still take horrific pics (I have seen Polaroids!) and its mostly such basic things as terrible angles, not turning on the lights, not moving objects out of the way. I do my best but have a long way to go, but compared to the majority of MLS photos I see, my pics stand out.

    My point is, while you are still writing your Realtors guide, you may need some section where you COMPLETELY dumb it down. I would guess most of our agents don’t know what verticles are, maybe not even a wide angle lens. I mean, if they won’t even turn on the lights, how much can they really care about great real estate photography, you know?

  • I am a licensed realtor and assistant for one of the top selling agents in my area. I take photos of his listings and use these for web marketing, virtual tours and printable brochures, and make sure that they are clear and well lit photographs with minmimal post processing.

    You have to be realistic about real estate photography, the majority of homes and photos do not look like the ones displayed on this site or the flickr group.

    I have learned to take the best photo in the most efficient way as possible, moving quickly through the home. Agents cannot afford to pay you much for your time. There are a few agents that still use virtual tour company photographers but not many in this market.

    You do need a DSLR camera with an external flash for this to work best. Most agents do not know what a DSLR camera is, or a wide angle lens for that matter. They are still using point and shoots, and the results are really bad shots of the front and back, over exposed windows, dark rooms, and lots of digital noise. They then upload about 30 of these really horrific photos to MLS..

    So this is the audience that you need to direct your guide to.

    Hope this helps..Claire

  • Larry, my mom just pointed me to this article which discusses this topic from a realtor’s POV…

    http://www.thestate.com/home-garden/story/821786.html

  • Thx Larrry – good idea. I do want to make one comment that you made in your insights

    “The majority of Realtors don’t have a clue what good real estate marketing photos look like or what makes a good marketing photo. They need to be educated. They aren’t dumb, they just are not visually sophisticated enough to know what looks good and what doesn’t in a marketing photo.”

    I am sure this is true in many cases, unfortunately, it is also true that many agents obviously know the difference between good and bad photos, and quite simply, don’t really care. The answer with them is all the same ‘I’m happy with them they are good enough’

    Unfortunately as well, there is no ‘hard data’ that can be shown that suggests a property with good photography sells faster than that with bad photography. And I suppose when it comes down to time and expense, ‘Good Enough’ seems to to win the majority of the time…

  • Karl- You raise a good point. It’s hard to prove that increased quality is worth the extra cost and to an agent barely making ends meet good enough is a necessity.

    While working on the update to my Business of Real Estate Photography book I ran into some stats from a 2004 NAR study that “The median income for agents that have been in real estate for 2 years or less in 2004 was $13,000/yr”. At the same time the Top 6% of agents were making $250,000/yr and over. I think this huge spread in income explains a lot about the big spread in attitude about marketing.

  • It’s a simple formula: RE agents ONLY get paid on commission, after the sale. They’re not willing to pay high sums of money for services BEFORE they get paid. Consequently, RE agents are only willing to pay $39 +/- for photography. Unfortunately, I know this first-hand as a Realtor and a photographer.

  • @Mark- I’ve been a Realtor in the Seattle area for 10+ years and in that market the listing agent must spend money up front to get a listing sold. Just like any other business, you have to spend money to make money.

    A large percentage of top agents in the Seattle area that have been in business for more than just a few years routinely pay from $200 to $600 an over for top quality marketing photography.

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  • This is a common mistake I see so many real estate agents make. Very informative article.

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