Can Independent Real Estate Photographers Compete With Larger Companies?

April 18th, 2016

GC poses the following question:

As a subcontractor to a larger photography studio who wants to do it on his own, how does one compete with the bigger businesses who offer every service within the field?

Now that the service doesn’t only include photos, it includes floor plans, copywriting, and elevated photography at the very least, so is it even possible for a smaller one-man business to compete with one who offers services for every facet in the field? Or can one only just offer photos and hope that some agencies only need them?

Yes, absolutely, the majority of readers of this blog are competing with to some extent with the larger regional and national companies that provide real estate photography services in their area and many do very well at it.

Sure when you are an independent you’ll need to master more skills than if you are working for a larger operation where someone else is doing the marketing and providing tours etc. But I think those that have gone through the process of learning how to compete with the bigger companies will tell you that it’s worth the extra work! And, yes many independent real estate photographers just do still photography.

In fact, many of the photographers featured in our success stories category started out working for large national tour companies and became independent. One of my favorite independent real estate photographer success stories is Peggy in Tampa. Peggy started out working for a national tour company for $30/shoot and eventually was so successful that she had to hire two employees to keep up with the work. Peggy is now retired and her sister is running FastPix Real Estate Photography.

There are many more stories out there like Peggy’s. If you have a story like Peggy’s let us know people like GC who are just starting out need encouragement!

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3 Responses to “Can Independent Real Estate Photographers Compete With Larger Companies?”

  • It’s true, Larry, and it’s all about the individualized service you can provide. The big tour companies just can’t do that.

  • Some companies do provide a good service, but as “artisans” we can provide a premium product that they, because of their size, can’t, which on the long run will get you to charge a bit more and earn more. By premium I we say quality in the pictures and service.

  • I’ve heard several success stories here in LA of people who have started out working for national tour companies and gone independent, who are now regularly fully booked as independent photographers. While that is one way to get into the business, in my opinion it also serves to devalue the work that those photographers create. The prices the national outfits charge barely cover the time spent sitting in traffic to get to the shoot, but photographers eager to earn their spurs are willing to be at least temporarily subservient to an otherwise unsustainable business model. I’ve had several instances recently where agents have questioned my price in comparison to a couple photographers in particular who both started with a national provider and continued as independents. In all cases, the price (not the other photographer’s quality of work, service, or other qualities) has been the primary point of contention. Those photographers are all busy, but they have aligned themselves with a client base whose primary concern is cost and does not care how good they become. Their skills may improve, but they are known for being cheap, not for being good.

    The best advice I’ve ever gotten as a creative is this: The people who want cheap things will never appreciate you or your work. If you can defend your pricing with concrete comparisons to the quality and services your competition provides, you will attract the clients that will remain loyal to you for reasons at least somewhat independent of price. In terms of competing on services offered, I’ve found invariably that the best way to approach it is to let myself be good at what I know I can be good at, and let someone else do the rest. I use a tour provider for all my property websites because the fee I pay them is such a better value for me than manually creating a WordPress or other site myself. For services such as drone photo/video, copywriting for property descriptions, and other ancillary services, I refer the agent to trusted colleagues who specialize in those areas. I find that the services the national providers offer in those categories to be on par with their photography services—it may be one stop shopping, but in my experience it’s kind of like buying your groceries at the car wash.

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