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Eight Principles for Real Estate Photography Portfolio Sites

October 25th, 2017

MaliaSite

I’ve talked to several people recently about their website. Some were struggling with what their domain name should be yet needed work on the basic principles. How your site presents you and your brand is more important than what it’s called.

Your portfolio of real estate images is at the center of your marketing. Your website is a way to present your business and yourself to people and let them know how to contact you. Malia Campbell’s site is a great example that follows these principles (except for #6 and #7 which are minor and easy to change). 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 just playing around with a lot of things.” It makes you look like an amateur. The cost of a template website at someplace like Squarespace.com ($107 USD/yr) 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. Also, the viewer should be able to pause the automatic display and take over control, just like Malia’s site.
  5. The site must look good on mobile devices: Mobile device usage is widespread. First of all, don’t use Flash and take the time to check out your site on all the popular smartphones and tablets. It is amazing the number of people that don’t do this.
  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 a personal feel.
  7. Have your cell phone number on the Contact page: This is a customer service issue. Most Realtors are people-oriented and would like to call you as an initial contact.
  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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10 Responses to “Eight Principles for Real Estate Photography Portfolio Sites”

  • I can only speak for my local Northwest market, for that I’d say you might make #5 a strong number #1 on the list. According to Google Analytics 38.9% of my total visitors in the last 30 days arrived via mobile. That’s a pretty big number but here’s another: 81.48% of my W WA State visitors during that time have been mobile. YTD is close to similar. The days of Realtors hanging out in front of the desktop are o-v-e-r (at least around here).

    Photos don’t need to be larger than 2500px (yet). In fact depending on your site/ server, that might still be too big. Nobody expects a photography site to load very fast but it’s super-important how your images are reduced (if quality is a concern). Some companies like Squarespace resize with good software, lots of others others don’t. Larger is not always a good thing.

    I think a cell phone number is good idea… but since I never answer it during a shoot, I suggest they text me for quickest response. Maybe that’s the reason I get the clients I do, but very few seem like they need a ‘personal voice contact’ to initiate a relationship. In fact, if I’m being honest, I’m not even sure I’d want a text-averse broker client anymore.

    I respectfully disagree about auto-play. Countless studies suggest a simple static landing page is best: What do you offer? What action would you like a visitor to take? Can you be trusted?

  • 1. I agree that a dedicated PFRE web site is important. If you are also handling commercial buildings and other Arch/Int clients, you might split visitors off at the home page, but other genres aren’t a good fit. Be careful when using service that have proprietary templates. They are quick, easy and look good, but if you decide that you want to move from that host, you will have to rebuild your entire site from scratch at your new host. You also want to have a close look at the Terms and Conditions that go with your hosting account. Some hosts, even very well known hosts, offer low prices but will own your domain name. It’s better to register your domain name at someplace such as NameCheap.com or NetworkSolutions.com and have your hosting someplace else. Separating those two gives you much more control. I’ve been bitten by the ol’ bait and switch where the first year of hosting was a great deal and when it was time to renew, the price tripled and it was no longer even competitive. I’ll be that I didn’t spot that in the T&C’s when I first signed up. It meant that I have to find a new host, got set up and transferred where my domain name pointed. It only took a couple of hours since I had my domain name separate and was able to recreate my WordPress generated web site by restoring from backup and tweaking a few things. Most of the time I spent on the change over was learning how to migrate a WordPress site.

    2./8. Don’t put hundreds of photos up. If you have great images of high end homes, use those preferentially but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few images of a vacant home if you have some that came out great. I’m limiting my galleries to 24 images. Currently I have galleries for individual interior and exterior images and also two homes where I am showing a complete set as I typically deliver.

    3. Mobile sucks. We’ve taken a huge step backwards when it come to viewing images digitally. People will insist on trying to do everything on their phone in the same way that they will drive nails with an adjustable wrench. Wrong tool for the job, but everybody does it. Your website must be “responsive” so it works on real computers, tablets and phones. This also means that super wide images are less effective if you are playing to the small screen. They have to be zoomed to really see anything. If you are using a host’s proprietary tools or web development tool such as WordPress, it’s hard to find a template that isn’t responsive.

    4. At first I didn’t know if I could agree with number 4, but thinking about mobile device displays makes it a very good move. It’s easier to just view a slide show than to try and fat finger the little “next” arrows.

    6. I have a photo of myself on my site but I’m not sold that it’s an imperative. A friend took a photo of me in a helicopter when I got back from an aerial job and I don’t look too fat in it.

    7. I like to have my initial blind contacts come through email rather than a phone call. If I’m working on a job where a homeowner or agent is on site, I don’t answer my cell phone with very few exceptions. I also work on movie sets somedays where I have to turn my cell phone completely off. Even in silent mode, there are some stupid notices that still make a noise (usually adverts). I blame Google since the phone’s OS is Android. When I canvass open houses or do a mailing, I include my phone number so those people will have it and I make sure that I return message promptly. If you do put your phone number on your web site, create a image in Photoshop with your number and save it as a .jpg. It makes it a bit harder for bots to just hoover it up automatically.

    9. Do a blog with helpful hints. Search engines rank sites higher that update their content frequently and posting short blogs is a good way to make sure your site is always changing.

    10. Social media is not a replacement for your own website. While you might get some business through FB, they might be filtered on a company’s office LAN to keep people focused on work rather than what’s on their wall. Nearly every social media site’s Terms and Conditions state that by using them, you grant a them the rights to use everything you post or sell it if they like with no compensation or credit. It’s better to use them to drive visitors to your own web site with teasers and behind the scenes images and keep your best work where you control it.

    11. (Two number ones) Make sure you state the area you service!. If there are several cities that you accept work in, list them somewhere. I see countless RE photographer sites where I have no idea where they are located or what region they consider their service area. You want any search for Real Estate Photography and the name of the city where you are to always pop up on the first page of results. I have traveled 300 miles to photograph a home, but 98% of the work I do is local.

  • Sorry about all of the errors. I need to start typing replies in a text editor and go back through to catch all of the mistakes.

  • Websites are indeed the “virtual storefront” for any photography business. Here’s a link to a few more tips/ideas to consider when building a website focused on photography: https://www.foliowebsites.com/rules-to-live-by-when-creating-a-photography-website/

  • I agree with Larry and Ken above. I have my site with wix.com. And I too have my domain name reserved separately at 123cheapdomains.com. I have been with them since the mid 1990`s. But putting up even the best site is sort of like buying a car but not driving it. You also have to promote it. It does nothing unless people see it and can find it. It must be on all of your promotion tools, FB page, flyers, post cards and business cards.

    My activity logs on the property sites I supply my clients, the average number of images people look at on the home page are between 12 and 24 depending on the property. In fact on Tourbuzz, their html5 Crisp template will only play the fist 8 images. So I limit that first home page slide show (which reminds me I need to cut it down more than it is now) and then have larger galleries broken down into Exteriors, Interiors, Bathrooms, Gardens, Pools etc. further into the site. I have found that in building sites, you want to feed information in small bites . Once the viewer is hooked and wants to see more, then make it easy for them to find more.

    All that beng said, I have found over the years that I have never gotten a new client from my web site. Rather it functions as a validation of my work after either I have made personal contact or word of mouth. I have received some new clients from my work on Houzz but my best clients have come from appearing at the weekly real estate agency meetings where I can make a short presentation and hand out my cards and take questions.

    And unlike myself, do keep the site up to date.

  • A couple of things I would mention in addition to what Larry posted:

    -You don’t have to be number 1 on Google. No matter how much effort and money you throw at that, there will always be somebody else who is hellbent on a #1 placement. But you do have to be found via search engines, so your site must be programmed with as many hints about what you do, and those keywords are what search engines use. Label photos, drop names of clients, whatever it takes to associate your site with RE photography. I’m not number one on Google, probably somewhere down the list, and yet magically I get lots of work from out-of-state folks who need RE and commercial architecture, probably because the words they search with are more specific then people looking for general photography.

    – To some extent, the name of your site and business does matter. Not from a search engines standpoint, but from the ability of your customers and potential customers to remember your name, or even just to pronounce the name. While the portfolio is the bottom line, I still think people will choose the path of least resistance, the name they can remember over the one they struggle with.

  • I just wish there was someone out there that could manage, run, maitain….whatever my site so I don’t have to deal with it.

  • Enjoying the discussion. I am starting to specialize in sites for designers, photographers, and architects.

    Jerry Miller: I offer those services to web clients all the time so would you like more info?

    One item not on the list is maintaining security updates. This is critical for WordPress and CMS sites. Things break with core and plugin updates that can bring your site down!

  • @Ken Brown – get Grammarly – just the free version – helps greatly when typing into web forms and comment areas.

    I do almost everything wrong with my website, but I stay booked for two to three weeks almost all year. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years, so I’m established. I still get clients that have never used a professional photographer, though!

    I feed work that I cannot do to a couple other photographers I feel I can trust to respect my clients the way I do – they are getting busier, too. Might be our market in St. Louis.

  • I feel like about 8 or 9 out of ten of the upper end homes I shoot have a pretty horrible aesthetic inside in terms of decor and styling. It’s tough to put images of a very gaudy house in my portfolio for me. It’s just so tacky. I’ve shot a few homes that are really only a step or two above the median around here, but say a designer owns them. The images from these homes just appeal to me much more.

    I do think other people’s opinions are important, but ultimately I think you’ve got to let what you really like the look of drive the feel of your portfolio. And for me, 9 times out of 10 that’s not the upper end stuff I shoot.

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