Delivering Real Estate Marketing Photos To Realtors

September 4th, 2013

A recent question from Phil in Texas made me realize it’s been a long time since I’ve talked about photo delivery. Phil says, “I have been delivering a disk to the agents but am looking at doing the upload (to the MLS) myself to save time and aggravation with realtors who can’t figure it out.”

Yes, you need to be sensitive to your clients needs an abilities but I don’t recommend uploading your clients photos to their MLS because this violates most MLS password sharing rules. Let the client, or someone in the clients office setup their listings. Photographers shouldn’t be doing that. Most brokers have someone in the office that can setup listings and upload photos for any agent in the office.

Here are several popular alternatives for real estate photo delivery:

  1. Physical delivery of a CD: Most agents are not that technically adept so having a CD with the photos on it can be a benefit (a CD is harder to loose for some people than a download link). As your business grows there’s going to be less and less time for this approach. If you are doing serious amount of business in a large metro area there just isn’t time to physically deliver photos although if you aren’t doing many shoots, physically going to the agent’s office is a marketing opportunity. Beware that in most states that have sales tax, delivering a physical product requires you collect sales tax yet if you deliver an electronic product you don’t need to collect sales tax. Check your local tax law. This could be a big reason NOT to deliver photos in physical form.
  2. Client logon to your site then download: This approach creates a professional feel for online delivery because delivery is via your personal branded site. However, this means you have to have a site that has this capability and you client has another account and password to remember. One example of a template website hosting service that has a client logon feature is bigblackbag.com ($14.99/mo).
  3. Tourbuzz.net and PFREtour.com: (the popular independent tour hosting sites) both have photo delivery features that allow you to deliver photos as well as supply tours. Tourbuzz.net allows delivery even if you are not supplying a tour.
  4. Box.net: This is a great site that allows photo delivery very smoothly. It has a 2 gig free version so you can try it out but the pay version has better delivery options than the free version.
  5. Dropbox.com: Dropbox is designed more for online backup and online syncing between computers, but it has a publicly accessible folder and a photo sharing feature that can be easily be used for photo delivery. You can send clients a download link via e-mail. The 2 Gig free version is even usable this way. The lowest level of full service is $9.99/mo for 50 Gig of online storage.
  6. YouSendIt.com: This is a very popular delivery with real estate photographers. It has a 14 day trial. The lowest level of service is $9.99/mo. It has tracking features, security features and a return receipt feature as well as plug-ins to make it work smoothly with Photoshop, FinalCut Pro, Aperture, iPhoto, Outlook and CorelDraw.
  7. Pixoasis.com: Pixoasis is a professional looking delivery service available for $11.95/month.

There are literally hundreds of file delivery/sharing sites these days. Here’s a review of what someone considers the top 14 file delivery/sharing sites. Photo delivery as a marketing and customer service opportunity. Use delivery to keep in contact with your client and present yourself professionally.

What is your favorite way to deliver photos?

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34 Responses to “Delivering Real Estate Marketing Photos To Realtors”

  • I use WeTransfer for my clients. I used to use imgur, but I’ve since switched to WeTransfer– the transfer emails from IMGUR were winding up in agents’ spam folders. And WeTransfer just looks SO pretty 🙂

  • In TX you are supposed to collect sales tax on ALL image sales, even if they are simply digital files transferred electronically. It gets even more confusing if you are a portrait studio and do sitting fees etc. Having been down that road, I can assure you getting copies of a clients tax exemption certificate is critical if you arent charging them sales tax due to a B2B sales scenario.

    Tx at least has a guide for us, even thought its rarely followed by many people.
    http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx94_176.pdf

  • One of my clients turned me on to Dropbox, so for the past 18 months, I have used Dropbox to deliver all of my work, including videos. I used to do DVD’s hand delivered or mailed. It was very inefficient, but at the time it was probably a good thing to be in and out of their offices networking. I’ve never paid for Dropbox either and my current capacity is 10 GB. Apparently I get a 500MB referral bonus every time one of my clients signs up for a free account. Since I started using Dropbox, I now charge $75 for a DVD, obviously to deter the practice. No takers so far! And no complainers either! I also explain to my clients (in the delivery email) that “…they need to download all of the files for their use / archive as I periodically clear out my Dropbox to make space for new projects” Most my clients figure out Dropbox quickly either from me or their peers and realize it’s a better solution. If they want a DVD/CD, they can burn one themselves assuming their computer was made in the last decade. As always, you have to educate your clients on stuff like this and it’s worth it, in this case one of my clients educated me. Everyday’s a school day. Most of my clients are reasonably tech savvy, which in my and their business, is a necessity.

  • I’m running a server with owncloud.
    It’s like dropbox but hosted on my server. Load the photos and share with a link.
    You can put a time limit on the share and password protect it. You can even allow them to be able to upload and they don’t need to have an account.
    It’s open source and you change the theme to suite you.

  • I use Dropbox with RE as pre-paid and recently opened a Zenfolio account which intend to use for other photography supporting ancillary sales. Only had one Realtor having “problems” with Dropbox. While I also use Tourbuzz, I haven’t played with it’s upgraded files only download function, as prior to the upgrade wasn’t certain how to segregate excess photos from tour as all were included. They may have changed that. With internet delivery, I also copy in either the Realtor’s hired assistant, or the general office assistant hired by the broker to support the agents (and protect the broker making sure all the squares are filled on each transaction). Under no circumstances would I load the photos into MLS as virtually every agent knows how. As I recall, it is part of the mandatory training by MLS before their account/password is unlocked. I do coach them where the unbranded tour link goes as it is about 160 lines down (or 40 lines counting up from the bottom) on the listing set-up page.

    On Dropbox I deliver three folders, identical files by number within each folder, but 1500px or MLS800px noted in the file name and folder label. The 800x600px pop right in to MLS without resizing. Biggest problem I have after the first time is coaching them not to be alarmed is all the files are not there. Dropbox notifies them immediately with a pop-up if they are on their computer, but take about 15 minutes to fully upload. Finally, unless they have an assistant, I train them to cut/paste removing from Dropbox and freeing up space, otherwise copy/paste to their system. I am still on the “free” 2gb space as each new client signs up, Dropbox gives you more space. Here is an email I got last week from Dropbox. “Since (client name) installed Dropbox after joining your shared folder, we’ve awarded both of you 500 MB of bonus space! You’re now sporting a total of 13.25 GB on Dropbox.”

  • I agree with Mike. But there are some Realtors that are still not in the 20th Century and you are forced to consider to give them a disk or walk them through how to use any of the above choices. Its crazy. I can not believe they exist and actually think they can make a living as an agent. Just vent a little….yes, play the violin! 😉

  • I just email the images direct to whoever in the office needs them. Large files are sent individually, but it works well as the agents only have to look in their inbox to find the pictures.

  • I use YouSendIt (recently rebranded to Hightail.com). I have a “pro” account, which is $50 for the year (~ $4.17/month). That may be a grandfathered rate, as I’ve been a customer for a few years now. It gives me plenty of room for file sizes, downloads and I can even save files on the Hightail server for the inevitable case when a client “can’t find the download link” I sent them two weeks ago. Even the most technically challenged clients have seemed to figure out how to get their pictures downloaded from the site. No complaints and beats the heck out of driving all over the state to deliver CDs.

  • Love Box.net

  • I use WeTransfer, too. It’s great and free!

  • I’m a Realtor as well as a photographer, so new agent customers could allow me to post to the MLS, but none do. When they ask, and I tell them they need to login and let me load, or tell me their login info, they raise their eyebrows then tell me to send the images through Dropbox or a DVD…which they resist, but accept once they hear their other choices.

    I prefer Dropbox because as soon as I’m done processing the images, I load up the files to Dropbox and send an email invitation to the agent and follow up immediately with a phone call to them. A DVD takes time and scheduling to deliver. Rather than take the opportunity to meet other agents as I’m delivering the DVD, I’d rather let the agent I worked with tell other agents how efficiently they received their photos from me. I can always call on the other other agents between assignments. Agents want to post photos immediately upon preparing the listing. Most get that done soon after meeting with the home owner, and the MLS rules here say that listings can’t be posted without photos.

    All the trouble to make the images exceptional is lost on our current MLS display, so I offer a HiDef slide show link to a page on my website dedicated to that listing. The MLS can only hold 36 photos, so I always supply several more to the agent. That link can be accessed by customers browsing for homes when they open the listing and click on the main photo. In addition to photo thumbs, they see links to disclosures, VT(also with degraded images), plats and the link to my HiDef page with the extra photos. When they ask their agent to arrange a showing, the agent sees that link and photos, and my name and a link to my main site.

    The tax thing in Ky…I just pay the sales tax out of the invoice amount. The state is happy just to get it from either party and I think the agents like not seeing the additional amount listed there.

  • Whatever method you use, I recommend do not deliver the photos before getting paid %100 if you are not paid in advance.

  • The technical inexperience or fear that so many clients have make online delivery a challenge at times.
    I use DropBox and I get endless calls (despite the inclusion of simple instructions) about how to click on a link (?), what is a ZIP file, and then what to do now that there are images on their computer.
    I charge extra for a CD as it is more tedious to get it to a client. (They ALWAYS want it quickly…personal delivery) Yet even then I have some who are mystified by what happens next.
    In the days of film we could just hand off prints and wish them luck.

    Here in California the entire photo shoot is taxable if the images are delivered on a disk. Electronic delivery or copying to a client thumb drive is not taxable. Thus the incentive for E-delivery.

  • I use LiveBooks for my website and included is a module that allows FTP uploads. I simply put all the photos in a zip folder, upload the folder, then send the link for the folder to the client in an email. When they click the link, it automatically begins the download of the file. I could also have each client use the “login” screen on my website but just sending them the link saves a step and makes it faster for them. It’s quick and easy and I’ve never had a complaint about it. So, if you have or are considering LiveBooks for your site, use that module.

    In my humble opinion, hand delivery of your photos on a disk might give you more face time with your client but it also eats into your profit (a trip to the location to take the photos and a trip somewhere to meet the realtor). Not a good use of time if you ask me. Plus realtors just want to be able to get a quick email for their photo delivery, not set aside time to meet the photographer (again) and receive the photos then have to move them from disk to PC.

    -Paul Nicol
    Premier Property Photo

  • I don’t like the idea of CD delivery. It’s not 1998. Many realtors have tablets etc, that they do most of their work on. If you send a link or some way to download they can look at the pictures instantly wherever they are. Maybe a CD in addition to online delivery?

  • I have received my personal “login code” for MLS HAR (Houston), after HAR checked my references and portfolio. After receiving a property MLS# I can upload 32 pictures directly into the listing. I highly recommend it. Sweet… Upon request the broker can still receive a CD by mail.

  • Here in FL, the Marketing department of a large real estate company asked me to shoot a few properties which I did. After I sent an invoice, their accountant called and required I charge them sales tax, which I never do. Afraid I would open a can of worms by collecting this, I contacted the local tax collector (which Larry suggested I do). I was informed that because I was providing a service, and NOT giving any product (hard copy) I should not collect tax.

    This is a very touchy subject and important that you speak to your accountant and know the state and local tax laws.

  • Hello,

    Here in Michigan, our tax approach is as Larry describes. Digital delivery, no tax. Physical (e.g. CD), taxed. Given time to create a CD, there’s a modest charge for that as well.

    My preferred online delivery solution is Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Fast, easy to use, and lets agents preview the images easily. Best part, you get 7GB of space free of charge. As my business develops, I clearly see value in bringing this functionality in-house to my own site. But for now SkyDrive works well.

    Cheers,
    JT…

  • I am totally new to the real estate side of photography and still setting things up. I did however see on the flicker page about Copy.com as a source for sharing files. I have signed up and used it a little just to get the feel of it. So far I am pretty happy with what it does. They give you 15GB right off and additional with referrals. If you decide you like it use this link https://copy.com?r=cQMI4t and we will both get an additional 5gb.
    I have really enjoyed this site. It has been a great learning tool.
    Randy

  • Hi Larry, all. This is interesting, I don’t see the name Adobe SendNow mentioned at all. I have been using it without a hitch for 3 years. It is a premium service that is like a cloud where you upload your files. I prefer to zip them first and it automatically sends a message to your client, or clients. and they have 30 days to download. It keeps a record of which files have and have not been downloaded, emails you when the file has been completed and is reasonably priced for the level of service that I require. (I think I have something like 10GB capability for around $70/year) Like everything else that Adobe makes, I thought this would be the standard of the industry.
    Give ’em your best!

  • Many of the REALTORS in the Tucson area are using SugarSync. I tried it and it’s easy to use and links to the client better than Dropbox. I am using both now and will reevaluate in the future. I haven’t had clients that don’t have “tech abilities”, but I’m prepared to deliver a CD or memory stick if need be.

  • I use Dropbox with one client who’s quite comfortable with it. Otherwise, I have a Zenfolio account that hosts my domain from which clients purchase and then download their MLS photos. When a client’s photos are ready, I send them an email with step-by-step instructions for purchasing and downloading them. Even with those instructions, though, I’ve had to assist some who have ’emerging’ tech skills, but are, nevertheless, quite willing to take the time to learn a digital delivery system.

    One client initially asked about uploading their photos to the MLS site. A seasoned realtor, however, strongly advised that I don’t want to go there–especially since I don’t have the authority to do so.

    On a side note, I was contacted by a new client yesterday for a shoot. She mentioned that she would pay me with a check at the time of the job. I asked her if she was comfortable paying online (PayPal or other), as my site supports this. She said that she’s “old fashioned,” and preferred a traditional payment method. I said that a check was fine, and mentioned that some of my clients strictly prefer paying online, but others prefer paying by check. After hearing this, she apologized and then said that she’ll stick with her usual photographer. I thanked her for contacting me about the job, and expressed hope that I’d have another opportunity to work with her. I’m reminded that I don’t want to ‘corral’ my clients into a single payment protocol, but give payment options upfront–even if I may prefer online transactions. Yet I’m puzzled by her balking at hiring me when presented with paying online. Perhaps she felt it was an unwelcome complication, at this time.

    –Gary

  • I use smugmug to store all client images and I supply both a nice reference gallery with facility to download individual files or, the more preferable route , smugmug will generate a zip file download link where my client can collect everything. So I send them a link to the viewable gallery and they download as zip file link. Trouble is, these files are only available as hi res jpegs which have in some cases been too big for clients’ website upload programs. In which case it’s a case of exporting lower res files from lightroom (eg 2mb) and uploading to yousendit (now known as hightail) who I find excellent but always worth sending a separate notification email (facilitated via their site) in case the yousendit’s own message gets spam flagged. For smaller res files (screen size) I generate a simple branded web gallery in lightroom using html: they can right click and save images but can’t batch download. In most cases though smugmug (which serves as an entire archive backup) is a decent solution. If you want to spend more money photoshelter will store images, provide a portfolio front end, and you can set download permissions for different clients : you can also set/ limit resolutions they can download at: this can be used for those who want medium not full res files for both site upload and hard copy brochure/small prints. And you can offer batch download. I use this Photoshelter as well but its Lightroom plugin doesn’t work as well in Lightroom as the smugmug plug in.

  • As Eric noted, it is very important to check with the State concerning sales tax collection. As Eric noted, photographers are considered part of a group that provides a service – like barbers, lawyers, etc – however in tight economic times there is the call to remove the exemption. FL actually further protected the digital download a couple of years ago when creating the exemption for streaming delivery, such as Netflix, and other digital download.

  • I utilize Zenfolio for two reasons – it’s not (that) expensive for unlimited space and I use it as a backup of my completed photo projects and videos. I made a PDF that goes through the steps for downloading photos directly from the site and even my most technologically challenged clients have mastered how to downloading photos.

    Clients can right click on any of their photos and download a ZIP file with a complete set of photos from each listing. Lightroom can export directly to Zenfolio and there are a number of other uploaders available. I use my own subdomain and make a folder for each of my clients that gives them an easy, quick way to access their photos: http://photos.jasondavidpage.com/ggre for Gomez Gabriel Real Estate – some of the agencies have even requested password protection which can be applied all the way from Folders (called Groups) to Galleries to individual photos.

    Unlimited plans for photo deliver and backup start at $60 per year.

  • I have my own domain names and use an FTP client to upload zipped photo folders to my storage space. I then send a link via email to my customers that they can simply click to download the file. The zipped file contains at least three sets of photos at different resolutions in different folders with a text file that explains what each set is for. Print, Hi-Res online and MLS. Using Lightroom, I create an export preset for each client based on their needs. Most of the time, I simply rename my standard RE preset for a specific customer. I haven’t found any need to use DropBox or any other file transfer service. Agents can forward the email I send them to the listing coordinator in their office, if they have one.

    The online folder I use for customer zip packages is not linked from any page on my web site and is on a different domain than my RE web pages. The folder is not normally viewable from a web browser as far as I have been able to find out. If you were to try and get a listing of the files on the page, you will get a notice that access is denied or you do not have permission to see the page, but it’s no problem to download the zip file if you have the full address. I’m not all that concerned about security as the photos aren’t a commodity that could be sold on the black market. Once I have verified with the customer that they have successfully downloaded and unzipped the photos, I delete the file from the FTP repository. I find the follow up to be a good way to show them that I am making sure I am giving good service. I can also respond to problems faster if they have any difficulties. Standard hosting packages typically have far more bandwidth allowance and storage allocation than I need. Many now offer unlimited storage and bandwidth for a given value of unlimited. Virtually unlimited, unless you really hoover up some resources. I don’t want to add an extra complexity to the process of getting the photos delivered.

    I do get customers that are completely baffled by clicking on a link or expect a 125mb zip file to download in 2 or 3 secs and interrupt the transfer before it’s complete with complaints that the file is not working. I also just recently received a call from a new agent that tried to upload the files configured for printing and kept getting an error from the MLS system that the files were too large. It took about 10 min’s to guide her to the folder that was titled “For the MLS” and to get her to upload those pictures. I’m starting to get the feeling that I can make a nice living off of teaching some basic PC skills to a few of my customers.

    So far, my system works for me and my customers. YMMV.

  • Gary,
    Some banks will now let you use a picture of a check sent from your smartphone to make the deposit. I haven’t implemented this yet, but I will before too long. My credit union doesn’t accept deposits by this method, so I will have to open another account at an institution that does. I don’t know if you get any confirmation that the check is valid and there are funds in the account, but that’s a question I’ll be asking. I’m all for making it easy for customers to pay me.

  • For the ease of use for the customer we deliver our photos in four sizes: the native size, with 1080 px height for screen display (flat tv) and the publishing sizes for the two leading online-portals for real estate in Germany ready to upload. Plus our larger packages also contain some form of presentation.
    For delivery we currently use Dropbox since I haven’t found a reliable solution with a WordPress plugin that has a password protected login for individual customer’s folders. We limit the download time manually for 30 days to save Dropbox space. And for those who prefer old style delivery we offer sending the data out on a CD / DVD / USB stick via snailmail for extra charge.
    Other products like brochures, photobooks or large format prints are sent out by delivery services.
    Locally we deliver even by ourselves because personal contact matters a lot. Often it is worth investing the extra time and mileage because new assignments may come up or just some secret info on what’s happening in the market.

  • Hi Ken.

    Yes, I’ve used my smartphone to deposit checks, and the bank emails me the results of a successful deposit.

    You said, “I’m all for making it easy for customers to pay me.” Agreed.

    –Gary

  • I moved from Dropbox after years of reliable use (due to various issues of clients suddenly not being able to download) – to a new ‘player’ called Copy.
    Much better interface, reliable, fast AND I got 15GB storage free ‘off-the-bat’ when registering! (no annual fee)
    Works exactly the same as Dropbox, but run by a company called Barracuda Networks who specialize in net security, so hopefully very secure too.
    If you want to register and get an additional 5GB on top of the free 15GB use the referral link https://copy.com?r=w3XNPs
    and we both get an additional 5GB.
    Clients don’t really care what I use, as long as they can get their files quickly and easily.
    There were some initial issues with seeing the previews of images before downloading (important for some clients) but they responded quickly to my complaint and the issue seems to be sorted.
    Definitely worth at try in my books and works/interfaces seamlessly with my Mac and iPad

  • Yea, i use Dropbox too. In my opinion the best servies, but i havent used all of the listed ones yet!

  • Thanks Larry! This was a timely post for me since one of my clients was not comfortable saving from email. I used the WeTransfer service suggested by @MikePayne with good success. When I recently joined SmugMug I planned to use SmugMug for sharing. Disappointed to hear @SimonMaxwell say SM can only share the high res photos. Those would be mangled by my MLS.

  • I didn’t see FileChute mentioned. I’ve used it for several years, it loads the images on to space on my web site and then provides a .zip link that I send out to my clients. They can also send out that link to their clients. They double click it. let it un-zip and they have the images. Most agents or support staff can work it; it will even work with DropBox, which I also use. Its pretty simple. Its from Yellow Mug Software, I believe it only works with Macs – but the links will work in either world.

  • I use BOX for delivering my files. The free account is very handy but the business upgrade has tons of controls and features that are great for business use and very professional. Downloads are easy to obtain and the service is very reliable.

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