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How to Shoot Upper-End Property for Your Portfolio?

November 20th, 2017

ProtfolioJun in LA asked:

If I haven’t shot have any real estate videos yet, how do I get started with that part of the business? I’m still fairly new as a real estate photographer, so I don’t have clientele with big beautiful listings. How can I create some  awesome videos? How would I approach established agents and offer video to build my reel?

First, make sure you know what you are doing. Study what others are doing with video. Practice at home and on friends’ homes to get the technique down. Then building your portfolio for video is much the same as building a skills portfolio.

Don’t even try to cover up the fact you are a beginner. Any experienced agent will probably recognize that you are a beginner.

  1. Model homes in new developments: You don’t call or contact the builders! Of course, they won’t bother to call you back. They already have marketing video… probably better than you can produce! You simply SHOW UP at the model home when it’s open. Typically, the person who’ll be there will be the listing agent for the development. You tell her, “I’m a beginning real estate videographer. I’d like to practice on your beautiful model home.” She won’t care. Just don’t get in the way at a busy time. Choose a time when there aren’t many people around. These kinds of model homes are the best place to practice because they are beautifully staged and nobody cares if you photograph the place as long as you don’t become a nuisance.
  2. Home stagers: This is somewhat of a long shot. You’ll have to do a selling job just to give them a free video. Most good stagers already work with photographers but may appreciate having a video. You’ll have to convince them that your work is worth their time inviting you to shoot some of their work. Best to talk to these people face to face and do a selling job.
  3. Free shoots for listing agents that do upper-end listings: I’ve heard arguments on both sides. Some beginning real estate photographers tell me that giving a free shoot of a multi-million dollar property was a huge advantage to them. Others will say they don’t want to give away free shoots. The fact is, this may be the only way a beginner will get to shoot a multi-million dollar custom property! You are not going to fool many upper-end listing agents that you are an experienced shooter! Be honest. Tell them you are just beginning and you’d like to shoot some expensive properties for your portfolio. You may have to show them examples of your work just to let you do a free shoot. Letting you shoot is an investment in time and a risk for them.

Again, #1 is the best and easiest option because you don’t have to sell anyone… you just do it and stay out of the way.

Does anyone else have any advice for Jun?

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5 Responses to “How to Shoot Upper-End Property for Your Portfolio?”

  • Consider staking out a niche in apartment communities. All of the larger ones have model apartments that show well. They’ll typically welcome a free video shoot. Make it a walk-through just as if you were seeing the apartment as a prospective renter. Do a voice-over rather than music. Create a YouTube channel and post your video.

    Next, begin networking on LinkedIn, promoting your video to management and leasing professionals. You’re likely to have limited competition and a receptive audience that isn’t very demanding on the quality of the video.

  • I’ve asked to photograph model homes in my area and was told flaty, “No”. I have also tried to market developers and the last one told me that “they don’t hire local yokels”. I bit my tongue, but is was a close thing. If you can get your foot in the door, models are generally very well staged. The odd thing is that the ones I have visited don’t have doors mounted, so it’s obvious that they are models.

    I highly recommend #2. A busy stager can be a good referrer. You can pay them a commission or trade them some photos of their work in exchange. Doing some pro bono work up front might be a good move. Be sure to emphasize that the free or discounted photos are unusual. Also send them an invoice with a 100% discount so they see what you would charge for that work normally and include your licensing terms on the back of the invoice.

    Be very confident in your work when you start marketing to agents that handle high-end homes. You want to be decent at sky swaps, window pulls, getting accurate color, all your verticals are straight and you can do basic cleanup in Photoshop. Those agents will be much more critical of your work and you want to make a good first impression so you will be on their list to call again. The middle market is the fattest and agents will not nit pick little things if the overall quality of your work is good and you provide good service.

  • Why start with upper end? Utilize the listings you are shooting stills for to hone your video skills. Offer the final video to the realtor at a discounted rate that way you can get some payment for your time and practice.

  • We have a background in documentary film production but still had to learn the mechanics involved in shooting professional property videos. It’s not as easy as it looks.

    Maybe just start out with simple walk-thru’s, these can be shot with your cell phone.

    Check out Zillow’s photographer program: https://www.zillow.com/wikipages/Zillow-Certified-Photographer-Rules-and-Guidelines/

    Good luck!

  • Hi Larry, Aaron, and Joanna,

    Thank you so much for your input. Tremendous help and I appreciate you chiming in with your experience.

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