Why Doesn’t PFRE Have A Facility For Posting Real Estate Photography Jobs?

November 23rd, 2014

QandAA while ago I got a question from Ben in the UK:

I’m a UK based property photographer / floor planner and wandered if you have a facility / section to post jobs. I’m looking to recruit a photographer. Also, do you have many UK visitors to the site?

Answer: No I don’t have a facility for posting jobs. The primary reason is, I encourage RE photographers to be independent. In the past 7 years of doing PFRE I’ve encountered too many situations where contract photographers are hired and are not paid a living wage. So I spend all my energies teaching RE photographers how to be successful on their own. I believe there is not enough profit in RE photography transactions to have parties between the photographer and the agent. Every time I hear the details of someone like a tour company or marketing person involved in “helping” the end photographer always loosing out big time. I’m not talking about the several franchising operations that are popular in AU and NZ. I’m referring to the big tour companies here in the US.

I’ve thought a lot about this issue and at this point I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a party to real estate photographers not getting a living wage. I know It’s possible to make a living wage if you just stay independent. I realize that many companies are looking to add a photographer to expand their operation and have no predatory intent. But I don’t know how to sort out the good from the bad so for now I’m just going to stay out of promoting non-independent real estate photographers because I’m not convinced it makes sense. If you have so much business that you can’t handle it all, why not just make sure your price isn’t too low and just be happy with making a good living? Continuous, infinite growth is not always a positive thing.

Frankly, I’d like to hear some positive stories of how real estate photographers can work together cooperatively to expand business in a way that everyone gets a living wage. I haven’t heard many positive stories in this area. I’ve heard positive stories about how families can expand their business by getting more than one family member involved in the business but not many other situations.

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14 Responses to “Why Doesn’t PFRE Have A Facility For Posting Real Estate Photography Jobs?”

  • Larry, I too feel the same.
    I think there is plenty of work out there for everyone, and since RE photography is not a hi end ticket, it is hard to share people.
    Hiring a stringer or another photographer is too complicated and too much legal involvement. not to mention the insurance involved. afterwards, the new photographer will learn how to shoot and go on his or her own, and sometimes stealing clients.
    I’ve worked with partners, and I’ve worked alone. Some of my fellow real estate companies/competitors have called me to shoot their overflow, when they had too many shoots to do.

    Because integrity is one of my most important characteristics, I will never steal a client that is recommended to me by a fellow RE company. I don’t shoot for that company, I only shoot for my self, and tell the client I am helping a friend out with their shoot. And, I charge and bill the client directly my prices. Then, I always tell the client to please feel free to call me when ever his regular company can’t accommodate his company.

  • Eric, plenty of work for everyone? Where are you located? I spent years in the Chicago area promoting myself and barely got any jobs. I know it’s not my work. I was better than almost anyone in the northern Illinois market and my price was competitive. I always thought it was that the realtors just wouldn’t spend the money and didn’t see the difference between good work and bad. Or maybe they just didn’t care. I finally gave up in that market a couple of months ago and moved south hoping that realtors somewhere else had a different attitude, but that remains to be seen.

  • There are more opportunities with the same skill set. Architectural, commercial, hotel, restaurant, and luxury new construction are markets that can pay 20x the rates as RE photography with a little more work and attention to detail, and they are happy to pay you for your work!

  • First, kudos to Larry. Thank you for encouraging independence.
    That said, I’d add a “plus one” to Tony Thompson’s comments: Working for builders and architects, while somewhat more demanding, is much more lucrative! And I’d much rather deal with an architect who is getting all huffy about color balance in a mixed light shot (window light and incandescent) than a Relator who thinks you should shoot twice as many rooms as he’s willing to pay for. (e.g. “While you’re there, why don’t you just grab a couple shots of…) The first is a technical challenge, the second is just depressing.
    — Greg

    PS
    Tony: Great stuff!
    -GP

  • There are two sides to this coin. Being independant is great, the freedom blah blah blah.
    I am a photographer from London now living in Copenhagen and if you are independant, the real estate companies dont want to know.
    They seem to think if you work for yourself, you must be rubbish.
    The big companies that pay peanuts here, then dont pay you and go bankrupt seem to get all the contracts.
    In my opinion the ideal setup would be 3 photographers sharing the work.
    So the original question about posting jobs may not be so silly after all.

    Thats just my opinion. 🙂

    Jason

  • To Larry Fields,

    Very challenging here in the St. Louis area as well. Glad I’m not the primary breadwinner for my family…

    Doing RE Photography in St. Louis since 2009 and prior to that, Kansas City 2007-2009.

  • Hey,
    I am just starting my career in architecture and real estate photography, though I do have a degree in digital arts. I had some projects and I worked with one real estate agency here in Slovenia, but the market here is small and everybody is saving money, so to hire a photographer is a luxury most agencies can’t afford. On long term I want to go more in architecture photography than real estate, but I’ll take what I can get.
    I was thinking about moving to UK, because there is a larger market and I believe it would be a good start. Is there any chance I could get a contact of Ben that is mentioned in the post? I would love to start as a second shooter or assistant.
    Sorry if my post doesn’t really fit into this comment area…

  • @Anja – I forwarded your comment to Ben and gave him your email address.

  • very honest opinon!couldn’t agree more! I like this sentence—Continuous, infinite growth is not always a positive thing.

  • Hi Larry

    Ben here, who asked you original question.

    Thanks for your email and I totally understand and respect your decision not to post recruitment adverts; quite restrained of you as I expect it could be quite a lucrative revenue stream owing to the volume of site visitors / members you have.

    For what it’s worth here’s my view point:

    I started out 8 years ago working for a national provider in the UK; although freelance it was pretty much full-time. I am now totally independent and generating three times the income, but I am working about 25% more hours. The wage I earned working for the national provider was still respectable compared to my peer group and I didn’t have the complications of running my own business with the added effort and pressure, as I do now, of finding and keeping clients.

    The problem with my current situation is I am at saturation point. I would like to reduce my workload and take some pressure away, but also have cover for holiday / illness … the last thing I want to do is let my clients down! To do this I need to get some help, I realise this is going to cost me, but with my workload reduced I can concentrate more on wining new clients and making sure I retain my current ones. I don’t have aspirations to set up anything too big, as I think the service will get diluted along the way, but I would still like to expand my business.

    I value your opinion about adjusting prices, if one has too much business to handle, but why not use other photogs instead, and generate good income for them and you. Here in the UK the ‘living wage’ (http://www.livingwage.org.uk) is currently defined as £7.85 / hr (outside London, which I am), so approx. $12.30 / hr. I’m planning on paying my recruits approx. 3 times this, which is more than a fair wage for what is required.

    Another barrier to price changes are the pigeon-holes clients’ put you in. For example, 2 of my clients use 3 different suppliers, including me, all at different property price brackets. I’m in the middle, which is where most of the properties are! However, if I were to put my prices up too much my services would no longer be suitable for the bracket I’m in and I would have to compete at the highest level, where there are fewer properties to go around, but also where expectations are a lot higher, which would start to affect bookings of other jobs. When I first started out I thought it would be better to have high-end clients and charge high-end prices. However, my best clients are leaning towards the mid to lower end, who have far more jobs to offer and whose expectations, about the UK’s unpredictable weather in particular, are not so high! From a business model point of view, with expansion in mind, I believe the high-end properties don’t work quite so well.

    As an aside I have now filled the vacancy with 2 photogs as this will give me further scope to take a more managerial / photographer role. Next step will be to find a suitable admin / production assistant!

    Good to hear views from other RE photogs.

    Regards
    Ben

  • I’m with Ben. As much as I would like to continue by myself, there comes a point where it’ just impossible to wear too many hats and be a full time photographer. Finding help turns out to be easier said than done. It’s depressing how many people call themselves photographers and have no clue about basic composition.

    Paying a “living wage” is not entirely a relevant assumption. There are plenty of younger people looking to supplement an income by part time photography. There are mothers who want to get out of the house, retirees who are bored, there are wedding photographers who are idle much of the week and wouldn’t mind some extra work, the list goes on. Not everyone wants to be a real estate photographer. Some people just love photography and want to supplement their income or get out of the house

    Raising prices is of course an option, but it could also be the way to reduce your client base. After 15 years in this business I can tell you that if you charge a reasonable price you’ll have repeat clients. Real estate agents are extremely price conscious and if you go beyond what they deem reasonable they will look elsewhere or take their own pictures.

  • @jason- You can present yourself as a larger company and never let the customers know that you are a one man shop. Another option is to bring in a retoucher and a graphic artist and remain the sole photographer if you prefer to spend most of your time shooting. I understand the stigma. It’s like companies that will hire an engineer fresh out of college with no experience over an engineer with years of experience but no degree. It doesn’t make sense if the goal is to fill a vacancy with somebody that will be contributing to the bottom line asap.

  • Totally agree Matti:

    Recruiting is a very time consuming exercise, not only because of the training but also procedure manuals, making sure they have correct equipment and insurances etc. etc.

    I’ve recruited for only part-time help and your point about the demographic who this appeals to has been proven by the fact I have recruited people with additional regular income already in place and they just want to fill in the gaps in their diary. This situation suits me AND them.

  • Hi Larry. This is a message for Ben really. I’m based near Manchester, UK and would to help out if this is within his geographical area. I’d be really grateful if you could pass my email address to Ben to contact me if he is interested.

    Many thanks

    Mike

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