How Important Is It To Have A Real Estate Photography Portfolio Website?

January 13th, 2015

ProtfolioI’ve gotten a ton of questions this last week that relate to various aspects of creating a real estate photography portfolio site. Steve’s question below is just one of them. Steve asks:

I have been toying with the idea of entering Real Estate Photography. I would like some feedback on a question. Are any RE Photographers using PDF Portfolios to send to potential customers ( a 8 or 12-page file)? I understand that many in this business have websites, but I am not at that stage yet. I have a graphic design background and creating PDF projects is part of my skill set.

No, I’ve never heard of anyone emailing around a PDF as a portfolio. I’ve seen photographers have their portfolios downloadable as PDFs from their website (Scott Hargis has that on his site) but that is very different from only having your portfolio on a PDF. I think just emailing PDFs to potential clients is a bad idea. Here’s why:

  • Listing agents (your potential clients) are relatively non-technical. They will be intimidated by a several Mb PDF. I know this because my wife is a long time listing agent (more technical than most) and she struggles every day with PDFs… on her iPad, her laptop and she wouldn’t even think of downloading one to her iPhone 5s although she easily could do that.
  • Every listing agent on the planet has a SmartPhone or an iPad… That MUST be the target for your portfolio.
    Your comment, “I am not at that stage yet” is I think is a misconception. If you are sending agents your portfolio you ARE at the stage you need a portfolio site. Before you talk to clients you MUST have an online portfolio. That’s just part of talking to potential clients and creating credibility.
  • A simple portfolio site (like I have lohrman.com ) at squarespace.com costs $8/mo and takes you 30 to 40 minutes to setup (literally… that’s how long it took me) to setup. It is VERY simple. No HTML or coding required. Just filling out a few forms and uploading your photos. Start out with a portfolio and contact page and expand it later. Yes, there are hundreds of other portfolio hosting sites that are similar. The point is, this is simple and inexpensive. You don’t need a web designer or know how to code HTML to do this.
  • Easily displays anywhere: The beauty of this simple approach is that if you use a hosting service like squarespace.com and your portfolio will be instantly viewable on any device the agent you are talking to has and it will look professional.

Forget the PDFs! Invest less than $100/year to make you and your business look good. Here are some other ideas relating to portfolio sites:

  • Many types of photography on one site: Websites are inexpensive enough that you should have a separate site for real estate photography. I think it is a huge distraction to go to a RE photographers site and see galleries of children, dogs and every type of photo they have ever shot and have to hunt for anything to do with real estate. What this kind of site says to me is, “I do all sorts of photography and I’m not very successful at any of it.” Not exactly the message you want to be sending.
  • Free websites: Yeah, there are a bunch of hosting sites that provide free websites that you could use as a portfolio site when you are starting out. But visitors can tell these are free sites and it says, “I’m not successful enough to be able to afford anything but this free site.” They detract from you looking professional and serious.
  • Large photos: You want your portfolio photos BIG because they have more impact that way. And in this day an age of SmartPhones, Tablets, Laptops and 27″ desktop screens you want it to automatically and painlessly adapt to whatever screen size your viewer has. Squarespace portfolio sites do that.
  • Automatic portfolio display: You want your RE photography portfolio to automatically display in a large automatic slideshow and not have to have the viewer to do anything, or have to figure out some wonky navigation scheme.

Anyone else have input to people just starting out and thinking, or not thinking about a portfolio site?

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18 Responses to “How Important Is It To Have A Real Estate Photography Portfolio Website?”

  • You should have your own website and do not forget to have your own email attached to that site too. Do not use an aol, gmail or hotmail for your business.
    The easiest way, when you want a free one, use wordpress.com, but it has limited options.
    Otherwise buy yourself a good template like Genesis, learn to work with wordpress.org and built your site.

  • I second Ron Geenen. Get your own website and learn a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. Watch out for “deals” that put the ownership of your chosen domain name in the hands of the web host. I prefer to also stay clear of proprietary templates that keep you from being able to transition your web site from one provider to another. I had one host triple the rates they wanted to charge me on an annual contract. Since I had a WordPress site, I was able to transfer my site to another host in about an hour. If you keep your site simple to start with, you can be up and running in a day or two. The keyword you want to see on a template is that it is “responsive”. That should mean that it will scale your content to display well on different sized displays/devices. While many people insist on using their phones to look at web pages, be sure to build a page that will show large high resolution images on a properly sized display (large).

    $60-$70 is all you will need to spend each year for your own domain and hosting. If it’s much less, look for the catch. For that amount you will get more than enough storage for a RE photography web site and the ability to create 20-50 email address. I see agents sites all of the time where they still list an AOL or Gmail address even when they have their own domain. It doesn’t look professional.

    Use your best photos in your portfolio and don’t worry if you don’t have very many. In fact, don’t post too many even if you do. 12-20 interiors and 10-12 exteriors max should be sufficient to advertise your expertise. If you also shoot commercial and rental properties, you can certainly build galleries to showcase that work. Once you have selected the images that you want to use, take them back into LR/PS and spend some time fussing over every detail until they are as perfect as you can make them.

    I don’t like automatic anything, so an auto slide show is not for me. If you choose a gallery plugin that has a simple interface, your visitor should have no issues clicking the obvious arrow buttons or selecting a thumbnail to view a larger version. I heartily agree with Larry about having your RE site separate from any other photography genre that you do. While wedding and newborn photography might go together, RE and pets aren’t as neat of a fit. By having specialized web sites, you appear to visitors to be much more of an expert in that type of photography. BTW, the host I use (Host Color) allows me to have three different web sites with different URL’s for the same annual price. I am only paying another few bucks annual registration for each name. I can bump up another level and have more if I like.

    If an agent has to download a PDF and open it up on their device, you have just lost more than 90% of your audience.

    Oh yeah, be sure to write on your home page the area you service! I keep seeing RE photo sites where I either can’t figure out where the photographer is or I have to run their area code on my lookup widget to find them. If you want to achieve any sort of ranking on a search site, you will want to have the cities you service written in your text many times. Don’t want to give out your address (good idea)? Get a PO Box. Worried about posting a phone number? Post it as a .jpg (or png) in stylized text.

  • If you create your own site make sure it displays properly on mobile devices.

    This is so important these days yet I see so many photographers websites that are completely unusable on mobile. I know that I won’t spend too much time on a site that doesn’t work properly on mobile, clients probably won’t either.

  • I believe it’s crucial to have a portfolio website: I haven’t found new clients on social media yet, but all links back to my website has being valuable. All new enquirers I send links from my portfolio website specific to the enquirers needs and requirements as an example of works. New projects in my experience have come directly from portfolio showcases off my website but mostly new projects come from referrals due to the established geographical network.

  • When you do have a portrait website/business do you recommend using a different name for your real estate photography website/business? Otherwise what do you recommend to separate websites under the same name?

  • It’s all about defining needs.
    What do you want and how much time do you have to build and maintain your solution.
    There are pros and cons to it all, but defining your needs will guide you through the jungle.
    If you’re a non-tech person, and don’t want to invest in a steep learning curve, then a solution
    that provide a HTML code free page, could be of interest – or the opposite if knowledgeable of HTML.
    Also in scope of consideration, should it host more than real estate – what else do you do as a photographer ?

    As mentioned, there are pretty many provider to pick from within both, but some stand out as mentioned.
    If you’re looking in the non tech (HTLM code free) direction, you might consider to start with below link to get an idea:
    http://www.top10bestwebsitebuilders.com/

    The route I’ve taken is a solution provided by a company called : smugmug.com. Found this one very cable of handling the kind of business
    we do – handling photos with direct upload from Light room as option, associated webstore and print service by some of the best labs.
    Build in marketing tool and options to run different price setup and build in watermarking option and password protecting to portfolios if needed ( Pro versions )
    Further you can add pages , contact forms and so fort.

  • Having your portfolio on the web is the single most important thing for any photographer these days. Every potential client will want to look through your past work and it doesn’t get easier than clicking on a link to do so. The easier you make it for them to see your work, the better your chances of getting the job.

    It goes beyond that too, like when you decide to advertise your company through online ads, your ads can point straight to your website portfolio. The same applies to anything else you do where you can show someone else your work by simply pointing them to your website.

  • For those who want to learn via a webinar a RE website to setup and design I have leraned it from Mark Burrell and his web is http://www.burrellgroup.com He also set up the registry and the hosting. Hosting is just one price with unlimited domain names with Hostgator.com . Mark was a R E Broker and a talk host too and understand the real estate needs.

  • A lot doesn’t help a lot. As Ken wrote: limit your displayed images strictly. Only show the best of the best. How?
    – Rate your sold photos 1 to 3.
    – Torture yourself and be ready let your babies go. Do not connect to your own memories or experiences at the time of shooting.
    – Just judge by quality (exposure, sharpness, composition) and exceptional content.
    – If all applies and you can rate it 1, add it to your portfolio.
    – When you reach your limit (maybe 20 images) start replacing existing ones only by better ones. Nobody wants to see too much or your second best.

    I remember an excellent episode (112?) on Scott Kelby’s “The Grid” on what pain it makes to create an appealing portfolio selection.

    Except having such a collection online I also have these images saved on my smart phone / pad. Because when you’re in the field and mobile reception is bad you can at least show your work. (No fancy app, just from the ordinary film roll)

  • Yes–an online portfolio is a must.

    And I agree with Larry on choosing a service like Squarespace (vs. a self-hosted WordPress installation or a free site service). Having worked with both WordPress and Squarespace for years, Squarespace sites can look fantastic and the upkeep is minimal. WordPress is very flexible, of course, but requires too much maintenance.

    For a simple portfolio site, I’d recommend Squarespace.

  • I have a site through Zenfolio for $60/year. Gives me an intro slideshow, clients can download images from a private gallery, custom pages, etc.

  • How is your domain, using squarespace called? domain.com or domain.squarespace.com?
    I bought several templates from Genesis StudioPress and that is only cost beside hosting. I just build my newest site last year and keep adding posts and pages. It is http://www.MyIndoWorld.com (It is a family and history site)

  • To Oliver’s point, I use Lightroom Mobile for live ad hoc presentations of my portfolio. Very easy to do, positive presentation behavior, and easily syncs so I have the same data set on both iPhone and iPad.

    To the core point of the thread, my website does a large portion of my selling for me. I’ve literally been talking with callers and…while they’re paging through my images…go, “Oh Wow! That’s exactly what I want…you know your portfolio X?…” Sold.

  • As to buying the domain name, Google is getting into the act at http://www.domains.google.com it was in beta and invite only but it looks like it is open to anyone now. They don’t host your website but just sell the domain. “Google Domains users can create up to 100 email aliases using their domain, and Mountain View also says it’s making domain forwarding super easy in case there’s already a Tumblr or existing site you’d like your new URL to point to. And you shouldn’t run into any problems or downtime (at least on Google’s end). Google Domains use the same DNS servers as Google’s other websites, ensuring “your domain will connect quickly and reliably to your website.”

  • simply put, get a website! it’s professional, cheap and will get your more biz. I use Weebly.com, it’s super cheap and very easy to use. Has professional themes and my clients/future client love it and enjoy seeing my work there. If you want to be taken seriously as a photographer, you need a website! Good Luck!

  • A simple start is a basic site on Zenfolio, Smugmug, Squarespace or one of the many do it yourself photo sites. These photo sites are easy to keep current with photos, but lack blogs, customized pages and (maybe) good Google search results.

    Next step;Web designers will build a simple but nice webpage with a blog on a WordPress platform, get the hosting up and make sure it works across platforms, and this will give you landing pages (describes different segments of your business) better search results, easy “contact me” forms, and a blog. Cost should be under $1,000 one time fee. You can easily (sort of) add photos to the WordPress webpage, or, maintain a webpage and a photo portfolio on one of the template portfolio sites mentioned above and link together (kind of hybrid approach.)

  • You are right Steve I. Most people forget that other people, clients, Realtors need to find the website and Google determine the website ranking.
    That means you have to create “Posts” and “Pages”, write simple articles and place in between the pictures.
    Especially Blog with different posts are very important, because Google looks at categories, Tags and links. That is why Realtors and photographers find http://www.PhotographyForRealEstate.net right!

  • I am a member of RealTalk in San Diego and Saul, who is one of the Broker/Owner of the site had the following going:

    Message from Saul:

    Every email you send is a marketing piece…when you have a Permanent email Address.

    Your e-mail address is an asset of your business and you invest in the
    e-mail address you use every time you give out a business card, piece of
    marketing material, or run an ad with it included in the ad. You are
    teaching the world that to communicate with you by e-mail, send e-mail to
    that e-mail address. If you ever changed e-mail addresses, for any reason,you would probably not receive e-mail sent to the “old” e-mail address. What about a customer who sends e-mail to you at the “old” e-mail address? If you do not receive the e-mail, you can’t respond. What is the cost of potential lost business?

    All you need for a Permanent email Address is a domain and email forwarding.
    http://InternetCrusade.com

    Comments:

    Jim Lee — And DO NOT use a company email, e.g You@ColdWellBanker.com. What if you change companies at some point in your career? Ann and I have had email accounts with Saul and the gang for more years than I can remember; they are the best. Get your own name as your domain if possible. Jim@JimLee.com and it’s yours forever and where ever you are.

    John Reilly – I agree Jim. Even if you use a custom domain for your web site and SEO purposes – like http://www.BestBrokerInMiami.com, you still should have your personal name as a domain that you will find handy for personal email purposes.

    Ron Tiller- – Realtor Dead on Kernil Lee.

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