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Eight Real Estate Photographer Website Principles

July 28th, 2011

I’ve been talking to a lot of real estate photographers just starting the business recently and the subject of a portfolio website comes up as one of the very first subjects of discussion. Your portfolio of real estate images is at the center of your marketing. Your website is just an accessible way to present your business to people and let them know how to contact you. Malia Campbell’s site is a great example that follows all eight of these principles (although it’s a little weak on #5). It’s one of my favorite real estate photographer sites.

  1. Dedicate a site to real estate photography: A general purpose photography site where people have to look for the real estate section says to people, “I’m playing around with a lot of things and not making any money with photography”. It makes you look like an amateur. The cost of a template website at someplace like BluDomain.com (Malia’s site costs ~$100/yr at BluDomain) is small in the overall scheme of a successful business.
  2. Carefully review your portfolio Images: Have as many experienced professional photographers review your portfolio as possible. Others will see things you don’t. Remove everything but the very best images. Ask the PFRE flickr group to review your portfolio and site.
  3. Use large images in your portfolio: Bigger images have more impact. You want to knock viewers socks off!
  4. Portfolios should play automatically: When a visitor hits your URL your portfolio should just play continuously. Don’t make the viewer hunt for your portfolio or click on thumbnails or next buttons. The fact is, many of your client viewers just aren’t smart enough to quickly spot how to navigate a site.
  5. The site must look good on an iPad: There used to be some controversy about the importance of iPads. Not anymore. Consumers have decided. They’re buying iPads almost exclusively. This recent article in the Guardian gives the stats. The most popular approach these days is having the site decide whether to display Flash or non-Flash depending on what kind of browser a visitor has. That is, the code on the site can test to see if the visitor is viewing with an iPad and present a non-Flash version of the site for iPad visitors and Flash for others. This gives the best of both worlds.
  6. Have a photo of yourself on your contact page or about page: This is about giving your site and business a more personal feel. The online world is cold, anonymous and impersonal. Do what you can to give your business personal feel.
  7. Have your cell phone number on the contact page: This is a customer service issue. As a real estate agent, after I sign a listing agreement with a home seller I know the seller will immediately ask, “when can we be on the market?” I want to call my real estate photographer before I leave the sellers home and book an appointment. I don’t want to send an email, wait 24 hours for a reply etc. In this business you need to carry a cell phone and be instantly available. This is not that hard to do. Real estate agents do it and expect their contractors to do it too.
  8. Have as many images of upper-end homes in your portfolio as possible: Upper-end photos say, “I shoot for upper-end agents”. Upper-end homes make you look more professional even if most of the homes you shoot are not upper-end homes.

Follow these principles and you’ll have a good base to build the rest of your marketing on.

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12 Responses to “Eight Real Estate Photographer Website Principles”

  • Nice list, but #4 – Portfolios should play automatically, is something that I just hate. I want to view images and go to the next one when I am ready. I’m forever looking for the darn pause button.

  • Not certain what that first comment is. Spam? I occasionally get nonsense random letters inquirys where some robot taps into my “contact me” widget forms on my websites

    Good article Larry, and dedicated websites are the way to go. Website – plural – is the key word. What I would add, is look for a hosting service that allows hosting multiple websites for the same set price. While there are a few with good reputations, I personally use Dreamhost which allows unlimited websites, bandwith, emails accounts, etc for $8.95/mo. While I only have 2, soon to be 3, I know a couple of people who have close to 100. Then it is just a matter of buying the domain name for $9.95/yr, developing the pages and uploading it.

    The two that I have are the RE Photography site, and another that focuses on new constuction where I can also put things that I cannot put on my corporate (major national Firm) site. Specifically, I have a couple of pages dedicated to why you DON’T want to buy a foreclosure or short sale which could not go on my corporate account, and has both the narrative on why not plus some of the worst, garrish pictures of foreclosures and shortsale would ever want to see. They would never make it on my real estate site. My pending 3rd site is general photography oriented – weddings, portraits, etc – where I already have the domain matching my LLC, just not enough photos. For cost reference, that national site cost me $79 per month for hosting while hosting those other 3 are a single $8.95/mo.

    Finally, if you do your own web design and maintain it, it is easy to make changes as you are not dependent on a 3rd party. You don’t have to know Dreamweaver and CSS (although I am learning it for its flexability) where are quite a few ‘simplified’ web building programs out there. Some are ‘free’ while others are a software purchase and much cheaper than Dreamweaver.

  • Hey thanks, Larry! My website is just a template from BluDomain. I think it was $100 (or maybe $150).

  • I, too, like the list, lots of good information here. But, while I think that having a dedicated website for Real Estate photography is a good idea, I don’t believe that having a multiple use website indicates that one is an amateur, or even looks like one.

    It might portray this person as having talents in multiple areas of photography, and might be looking to expand their streams of income until such a time that they can stand up a dedicated RE site on the net.

  • Nice website Malia. Ive found some pretty good wordpress themes at http://www.photocrati.com aimed at photographers/bloggers, one of the best ones ive seen thus far. If you want to keep your own theme, one can also create a pretty neat slideshow using the ‘nextgen gallery plugin’ and a JW player. Here is a video tutorial on how todo that http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJmav9yMq3w.

    I agree with Drew regarding having multiple use website wont portray a person/site being amateur as long as you’re categorize your work well.

  • Solid advice as always Larry. Thanks.

  • @Susan- Thanks for the example of WordPress templates for photographers. So for ~$79 for the template + ~$6.95/mo (for WordPress hosting) one could have a nice portfolio site. This is a great inexpensive alternative for anyone that feels technically up to setting up their own WordPress site… not difficult but a little more geeky than setting up a site like Malia’s at BluDomain.

    @DrewC- Here’s the question anyone with a multi-purpose photographic site needs to ask themselves. “If I make $150/year or more from a particular photographic specialty and I could get a site like Malia’s for $100-$150/year why wouldn’t I want to a top job of marketing in that photographic niche with a dedicated site?”

  • @Dave- Yes, the best possible navigation for a portfolio is one that starts automatically but is obvious how to pause and restart or go forward or backward. The fact is though most top agents I know are not as tech-savy as readers of this blog and can’t find their way around websites quickly and easily.

  • About #5. I didn’t by an iPad. I’ve got a Toshiba Thrive and am very happy. There is almost no learning curve between it any my Android phone. It also supports full size USB stuff (external keyboard, hard drives, etc.). Look out iPad lovers.

    About #8. I think showing a Google map with pin points of hundreds of my photo shoots speaks very loud. While the pin points show exact locations, a list of the left shows each in descending list price order. Click on any for the marketing text and one more click shows the virtual tour. This shows the reality of what you can do.

  • Another alternative to giving out you cell # or getting a dedicated business cell is to get a Google voice number. It rings through to any phone you want, cell and/or home. Best of all it’s free and integrates well with the Android phones so you can elect to make calls with the voice number or not.

  • @Keith- Yes, google voice is great idea. Anything that improves your availability is important. Your comment reminds me of a related issue. Real Estate agents work on weekends. In fact the top producing ones work 7days a week.

    @Mike Martin- About #5: You’ve missed the whole point… no one cares what your personal preference or my personal preference is, it’s and issue of what your clients and their clients are are using to view the web… it is very clear that Realtors are quickly figuring out that they want their tours viewable on iPads because there are so many in use. It’s not hard be visible on ANY browser… with your portfolio and your tours.

  • Hi Larry,

    I recently followed your advice and split up my personal website (http://www.nickdeclercq.com/) with my real estate photography website (http://www.ampersandphotography.eu/). I can only say that it was great advice, my personal site got 200 more unique visitors every month since the split and my RE site has been slowly but steady growing month after month.

    And the last thing I did, which probably helped the most, was placing a “Website Critique”-post on the PFRE-group. I received tons of comments, tips and critiques, a lot off things that I had missed were filtered by the group. So your post and the forum helped a lot.

    Sincerely,
    Nick De Clercq from Belgium

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