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Are You Up to Becoming a Dynamic Duo?

September 14th, 2010

I believe the current high unemployment rate is creating an opportunity for some of you well established real estate photographers out there that are complaining about the amount of work they have to do! You could become a “Dynamic Duo”.

In 4+ years of doing this blog and talking to hundreds of real estate photographers no one has ever asked me about getting a job with an established real estate photographer. In the last 2 days I’ve had two beginning real estate photographers want to talk about his subject. One in Phoenix and one in Seattle. The reality is that it takes a around a year to get established in this business. It just doesn’t happen overnight or in a month or two. But people have mortgages and bills to pay. Not everyone has the time it takes to invest into starting a business.

What I point out to people asking about this is the fact that the profit margin in real estate photography is very thin, typically not enough for photographic assistants. Real estate photographers have to track expenses carefully to make sure they are not loosing money. Furthermore, agents are frequently paying for the look that a given photographer delivers so it’s not always easy get a second person involved and still retain the same quality or look. Real estate photographers slammed with work don’t have time to train people. The other challenge is that it takes significant management skills to move a business from a single person business to a two person business.

My suggestion to real estate photographers that don’t have the time to build their own business is to talk to established real estate photographers to see if there is a way they can team with someone that has more business than they can handle in a mutually beneficial way. But don’t expect to get a traditional photographers assistant job. The math just doesn’t work out. Many photographic assistants work for free just for the experience because there’s a significant period of time the assistant costs more than they contribute.

Despite these downsides, if you are an established real estate photographer, slammed with business perhaps there is an opportunity here. In the long run you may be able to do more shoots, keep your quality at the same level and make more money. It’s clearly not for everyone, but it may be an opportunity for some.

Update: 9/16/2010: Great ideas from commenters on how to take your real estate photography business to the next level! It would be great to hear more insights from those that have successfully managed to scale up their business to more than one person.

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8 Responses to “Are You Up to Becoming a Dynamic Duo?”

  • Interesting comments.
    Having a small business, I have gone for the look rather than the photographer, more and more these days the look is created by the post production team because it works.I have my whole team run by the post production manager, he organises styling tips, angles and educates the photographers I hire, how to shoot for our PP team, it works really well and with a small team the photographers all shooting to his formula, we have a very consistent look.

  • Larry: Some interesting ideas about how to expand, which is just what I’ve been thinking about doing.

    Thank you.

    Michael

  • Yep agree agree, we just paid for some very good post production training, NOT CHEAP! It made so much sense from production through to quality and consistency, worth every dollar.I can see how and why we have gone wrong in the past.
    PS he put us onto this site, a great source of knowledge.

  • If you’re going to add one photographer, I think you should probably try to scale up and add three. You are going to make the transition from shooter to manager/owner by hiring one, so make it worth your while. You will suddenly need to spend more of your time marketing to bring in the business necessary to keep your new photographer(s) working. If you don’t keep them working, all you have accomplished is training your competition and introducing them to your clients.

    The “train from post” model is a very good one. It will keep your images consistent and will keep the “personality” of your hired photogs somewhat in check. You won’t hear “Send Cheryl for this listing. I like the way she shoots kitchens,” because all of your shooters will do it in a similar fashion. It will keep YOU as the personality of the business you started in the first place.

    Since you won’t be going out to shoot many houses, you can utilize your office time to create new revenue streams (which you will need) such as VTs, flyers, staging, stock sales… whatever it takes to add value for the client and to maximize profit from the photos coming in the door.

    Unless you want to start a partnership with someone (partnership = marriage without the sex), consider scaling up by quadrupling your staff as opposed to hiring just one.

  • The training from Post does make sense, but where do you find the right person to manage that area?

  • Not many photographers understand, web colour, print colour,retouching,etc etc, we had a photographer running the studio, he admitted himself, most of the technical issues were well over his head, we have a post production expert with this knowledge, starting very soon, they will co ordinate our team, a big step and a change to our current model, we also have the support of a colour expert as a consultant.When we were shown other company structures in marketing it all made sense.

  • Good to see people realise this….Its a team effort and needs to be a team effort if you want to grow and be consistent. Most photographers would have worked as individuals, most experienced post production/retouchers will have been working in a team environment from day one, sharing info and understanding deadlines.

  • PS,I run a large retouching /post production operation the largest for real estate imaging in Sydney producing thousands of images each month……..we the post production team have set standards and deadlines, formulas which are simple to follow, deadlines that are simple to understand…..The customers need and expect consistency and they need to meet deadlines or the ads etc dont make it…its simple logic…………

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