Should You List Your Prices On Your Real Estate Photography Website?

December 4th, 2014

PriceOnSiteBraulio asked the following question yesterday:

I am wondering about showing my prices online. Many people don’t show their prices on their website. You used to show your prices on your website but not anymore. I am thinking about removing my prices from my site. Could you tell me what the benefits are to hididing your prices?

Here is my response to Braulio: Since a real estate photographers website is a central focus for marketing I think the thing to do is to promote the aspect of your business where you want to compete. If you want to compete on price be sure to list all your prices. If you want to compete on quality, dazzle your visitors with quality. If you want to compete with service be sure to promote all the unique services you provide.

I think when you list a lot of detail about pricing you attract clients that are interested in pricing and if you don’t have prices listed you are going to attract more business by clients that are concerned about more than price.

The thing that always bothers me is real estate photography websites that are filled with a massive amount of words and little photos. A real estate photographers’ site should have mostly photos.

What do you think about listing prices on real estate photography websites?


How Should Real Estate Photographers Handle Modifying Property Photos?

December 3rd, 2014

EthicsDave from New Zealand asked the following:

Any feedback on how far this has gone in the USA, I think its a bit over the top re “grass” ( attached photo from a Property Weekly in NZ had label on the grass “digitally enhanced grass”) … Surely this is not in the same class as Power Lines as in the removal of them from property shoot?

Reason I am asking was it only seems a year or two back when someone in Canada or US was driving around in a truck with a big tank on the back and they were painting lawns green specifically for RE shoots.

Over the years, we’ve had a lot of heated discussions here on the PFRE blog about ethics of image modification in the context of real estate photography.  I think the subject is important enough that I have a separate page dedicated to summarizing the consensus that has evolved out of these discussions over the years.

Here is a general outline of that consensus:

  1. Real estate photographers typically work for the listing agent and in some cases will be asked to modify photographs of properties for sale.
  2. Listing agents everywhere have a legal responsibility to not “materially misrepresent” a property. That’s a meaningful expression to lawyers since it keeps popping up every time this subject is talked about.
  3. Modifying or removing temporary objects like garbage cans, cars, overcast skies etc is customary and generally not considered materially misrepresenting the property.
  4. Removing permanent objects like power lines, telephone poles, neighboring homes etc. are customarily considered materially misrepresenting the property because they hide undesirable permanent property features.
  5. Landscaping seems to be an area where not everyone agrees. Landscaping seems to be in between permanent and temporary. Many people believe that fixing defects in the grass or landscaping is OK whereas others believe it is not OK. When there is some question about if a feature is permanent or temporary it’s safest to treat it as a permanent feature.

In summary the photographer is working for the listing agent, not the potential buyer and representation of the property is the listing agent’s legal responsibility, not the photographers. However, prudence suggests that if the photographer is asked to modify photographs they believe materially misrepresents the property, they should document in writing the fact they are modifying the photograph at the agents request.

What Is The Income Potential Of Real Estate Photography? How To Raise Your Price?

December 2nd, 2014

I recently had an interesting discussion with a real estate photographer in the Huntington Beach, California area who said she “wasn’t making any money” and needed to raise her prices. She said she was averaging 55 shoots a month and getting $150-$200 per shoot. And although she wasn’t the lowest priced photographer in her area she was among the lower priced real estate photographers. Her concern was that whenever she talked about raising her prices her clients complained and she was afraid of losing her best clients that were giving her 15 to 30 shoots a year. Here are some things that I pointed out to her:

  1. Grossing in the neighborhood of $100,000 a year isn’t all that bad so one first step would be to review all her expenses and make sure she was operating as efficiently as possible. She outsources her post processing ($.40/image) and has a contract employee ($45-$65/shoot) that helps her with shoots.
  2. Another obvious solution would be to raise the level of clients she is marketing to and raise the price she is charging. While in the short term this may loose some of her clients that wouldn’t pay the higher prices, in the long term her income will increase. This also may require researching who the upper-end agents are in her area and what they need and expect. It would also require overcoming her fear of losing old clients.
  3. A question that comes to mind in a discussion like this is what should one expect to make as a real estate photographer? While there are likely geographic variations, there are bound to be some natural limits. To get at this question I did this poll about 7 of years ago. The old poll was a little fuzzy since it didn’t say “Net income”. So I thought it would be interesting to do a new poll (the one to the right) for this post that clearly polled Net annual income.

What are your experiences with raising your prices to generate more income? I know this works because others have reported an increase in business when they increased their prices.

Please take the poll before you leave! Remember the poll is about NET income in USD= YearlyGross – YearlyExpenses.

$15 Discount On Image Editing For Real Estate Photography Thru Dec 31

December 2nd, 2014

ImageEditingCoverEveryone is doing discounts. We’ve decide to get on the bandwagon an do a discount too.

So as of right now through the end of the 2014, John McBay’s e-book, Image Editing For Real Estate Photography is on sale for $30. That’s $15 off the regular price of $45.

In case you aren’t familiar with John’s classic post processing e-book here is the table of contents. John covers 30 real estate editing problems and explains how to do the editing in either Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom. Of course, some of these edits can’t be done in Lightroom (like Sky Replacement and removing objects) but Photoshop will do all 30 edits and Photoshop Elements will do 29 of the 30 edits.

So here’s your chance, click here and get Johns e-book for $15 off.

Congratulations Jacob and Jamie McNeil PFRE Videographers Of The Month For Oct/Nov 2014

December 1st, 2014

JJMcNeilCongratulations Jacob and Jamie McNeil, of PlatinumHD Canada, PFRE Videographers Of The Month For Oct/Nov 2014.

The video jurors  used a new more structured scoring system this month. And again, if you haven’t read the comments by the jurors I invite you to take a look in the Videography contest forum.

Here are the points awarded by the jurors:

  1. 183 pts, #5, Jacob/ Jaimie McNeil – Vancouver, BC
  2. 174 pts, #13, Andre Mckenzie – Toronto, Canada
  3. 169 pts, #12, Allan MacKenzie – Buderim, Australia
  4. 163 pts, #3, Anders Carlson – Kailua Kona, Hawaii
  5. 162 pts, #14, Jason Ikaida – Portland, Oregon
  6. 157 pts, #1, Jonathan Davis – Big Island, Hawaii
  7. 145 pts, #8, Charlie Dresen – Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  8. 140 pts, #10, Hamish Beeston – Bristol, United Kingdom
  9. 135 pts, #4, Sharon/Lyndon Davey – Perth, Australia
  10. 125 pts, #11, Christine Bickley – Brisbane, Australia
  11. 123 pts, #2, Christina Carbo/David Barger – Tucson Arizona
  12. 118 pts, #9, Steve Dolinsky -Nyack, New York
  13. 111 pts,  #6, Dom Bower – Edinburgh, Scotland
  14. 98 pts, #7, Matthew Stallone – Toronto, Ontario

Here are Jacob and Jamie McNeil’s comments on their winning video:

This one was pretty fun and was shot over two days. All the aerials were done from a chopper with doors off. Hand held and stabilized in post. There are some crane shots in there as well just to help add to the mix of shots.

Because the home was pretty unique we wanted to showcase the owners  passion for the home. It needed to be more than a property video to try and capture the feeling of the property.

Interview with the home owner was pretty straight forward. Two lights were used and a reflector.

Congratulations to Sebastian Erras November Photographer Of The Month

November 30th, 2014

SebastianErrasNov2014Congratulations to Sebastian Erras, Amberg, Germany, who won the November contest with this image of a property in Knokke-Heist, Belgium. This is Sebastian’s second win this year. He won this contest in May.

A bunch of great images this month as usual. If you haven’t already, it’s worth your while to browse the contest entrants and read the comments thanks to several of the  jurors.

Congratulations to all the entrants that the jury awarded points to: Here is the jury’s voting results:

  1. 30 pts #12, Sebastian Erras, Amberg, Germany
  2. 14 pts #20, Jason Roehner, Tempe, Arizona
  3. 13 pts #25, Dan Ryan, New Jersey
  4. 7 pts #15, Barry Mackenzie, London, Ontario
  5. 6 pts #34, Travis Rowan, Maui, Hawaii
  6. 5 pts #23, Hamish Beeston, Bristol, UK
  7. 3 pts #1, David Sparks, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  8. 2 pts  #32, Robert Morning, Los Angeles, California

Here are Sebastian’s comments on his winning photo:

Wow what a surprise! I really feel honoured to be the winner amongst all these amazing entries in this month’s competition.  So here are some more information regarding the making of the image:
The house is located at the Belgian coast and it’s the home of my grandparents. It’s really special to me cause this the place where I took my first interior images. It has been kind of my training ground, where I would go to test new stuff and practice new techniques. Lately, I have spent quite some time there taking pictures as I am preparing an article of the house for Interior magazines.
So here I used two different exposure (f11, 0.3s / f11, 1/8s) : one for the foreground and a second one for the much brighter room in the back. Afterwards, I manually blended the exposures together in Photoshop.
I am a big fan of shooting interiors only with the ambient light and I rarely switch on any additional lighting that is in the house to avoid a color cast and white balance issues. This was shot on an overcast afternoon, so the light was a bit more soft which helped a lot to balance the exposure better. On the far left the windows are covered by a light tissue to avoid next door neighbours peeking into the house. So basically these perform as big soft boxes.
For the composition I went with a classic one point perspective. I used the 24mm TS-E and shifted it slightly up to show more of the ceiling wood work.
Larry and the rest of the group, thanks a lot for all your support and giving me the opportunity to be part of this!

What Lens Should Real Estate Photographers Use On APS-C DSLRs?

November 28th, 2014

sigma10-20Several readers have already asked if the 18-55mm lens that came with that dirt cheap DSLR that they just picked up at a Black Friday sale will work for real estate. So my guess is there are others that have the same question.

The answer is no, not completely. The 18-55mm kit lens that usually comes with low-end DSLRs is not wide enough for shooting interiors, but it will be fine for shooting exteriors.

First of all, when talking about shooting interiors to make sure that everyone is talking about the same thing we talk about 35mm equivalent focal length. This is because the angle of view of lenses depends on the sensor size of the camera it’s used on an there’s no standard convention for digital sensor sizes. So there’s a focal length multiplier for each kind of DSLR that converts the focal length to 35mm equivalent focal length:

  • For Nikon DSLRs that are not full frame (also called APS-C sensors) you multiply the focal length by 1.5 to get 35mm equivalent focal length. So the 18-55mm lens on APS-C Nikon body would be 27-82.5mm.
  • For Canon DSLRs that are not full frame (also called APS-C sensors) you multiply the focal length by 1.6 to get 35mm equivalent focal length. So the 18-55mm lens on APS-C Canon body would be 28.8-88mm.

The general rule of thumb for shooting interiors is you need at least a 24mm lens and most real estate shooters use a zoom lens that can get in the range from 16mm to 24mm. This is why tilt-shift lenses are frequently 24mm and the popular lenses for full frame DSLRs are 16-35mm  or 17-40mm. 24m is kind of the sweet spot for interiors.

Here are the best choices for Nikon and Canon APS-C DSLRs:

  • Canon: Best – Canon 10-22mm $649, Cheapest – Canon 10-18mm $299, Good – Sigma 10-20mm $379
  • Nikon: Good – Sigma 10-20mm Note that there is a different version of the Sigma 10-20mm for Nikon and Canon because the lens mount is different.
  • For other DSLRs look at the PFRE Lens page that gives recommended lenses for real estate photography and shows which are the most popular with PFRE readers.

Oh, yeah, it’s not likely you will find wide-angle lenses on sale because they aren’t high volume items.



What About Holiday Gifts or Promotional Gifts As A Marketing Tool?

November 25th, 2014

shutterstock_153628559Today Jonathan posed the question:

I was wondering if you have ever discussed the topic of holiday gifts or promotional gifts as a client retention/acquisition tool. I’m talking coffee mugs and USB key type stuff. With the holiday season approaching this might be a good way to lure potential clients. Any thoughts?

My general feeling on the subject is that the thing that counts with these kinds of gifts is that it should be a personal thank you for the client’s business. Include a personal hand written thank you note with your gift. For your A-list clients, stop by the clients office and personally give them the gift. Think of the gift giving as part of the relationship building process. You are trying to build a relationship with your clients so they trust you, value your great service and will readily refer their friends and associates to you.

To me just sending them a coffee mug with your company advertisement without the personal contact or at least a personal hand written note is too impersonal. I think it is the personal part that’s important… something handwritten or a face-to-face thank you and handshake.

Note that there are real estate agent mastermind groups like Brian Buffini that teach agents how to build their business by providing great service and building personal relationships with clients. One of the techniques they teach is to build personal relationships with personal notes and personal face to face contact. So many top agents understand and use this process in their own business.

What are your experiences with these kind of gifts?

PFRE Still and Property Video Contests Are A Great Learning Opportunity

November 24th, 2014

ContestsToday (11/24) I turned over both the still and video contest to the respective juries for voting. The reason I want to point this out is that studying the entries in both contests is a great learning opportunity. The entries in these contests are some of the best-of-the-best in the real estate photography and videography genre.

In any profession to improve the level of your work, it’s important to see what the best in the profession are doing. These two contests show you some of the best work that is being done in real estate work today.

So I encourage those that are still learning this profession (pretty much all of us) to go have a look at the entries in:

You can view these photos and videos without becoming a member of each flickr group but to comment on them you have to join the flickr group. Both juries will be finished voting by the end of the month. In December the juries will be choosing the Photographer and Videographer of the year from the  2014 monthly winners.

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.

Tasmanian Homeowner Gordon Brown Stars In Property Video Of His Property

November 20th, 2014

GordonBrownThanks to Scott Hargis for pointing out this great little property video that his friend Jasmin Latona in Tasmania, AU shot. The star of this video is Gordon Brown, the home owner! Gordon is an antique dealer and does a fantastic job of describing the history and presenting the details of his property. Not many homeowners that can to the job that Gordon does.

Gordon is a great example of the of the kind of performer personality to be on the look out for when you are shooting property video. Some times if the home owner has a personality like Gordon they are the best ones to talk about their property! Great job Gordon and Jasmin!


Reader Questions About Shooting Rentals and North Facing Homes

November 19th, 2014


Jason’s Question:  What is the best way to shoot exteriors that have lots of shadows or in complete shadow due to the front-side facing North?

Answer: I would say do a twilight shoot. At twilight North facing vs South Facing doesn’t make much difference. Problem is of course this takes an extra trip or a very carefully planned shoot where you shoot the inside just before twilight and the exterior at twilight. I’ve tried this several times and its hard to get the timing right.

Another alternative would be to learn how to do light painting like Mike Kelley does.

Adrian’s Question:  An agent has asked me to shoot some rentals. Would you charge more for taking rental images or still the same as real estate ones?

Answer: I can’t think of any justification for charging more for rental photo usage, unless it’s that rental photos are typically used much longer than resale listing photos. The problem with trying to get more for rental photos is rental agencies make much less than resale agents so they are probably going to push-back on higher prices.

The problem with pursuing shooting rental properties is there typically isn’t the repeat business with rentals that there is with resale listings. Resale listing agents will list 10 to 50 or more listings a year so it doesn’t take many listing agent clients to fill your schedule. All the rental listing agents I’ve ever met never seem to care much about marketing.

The exception to this is if you live in a vacation area where there are lots of rental properties. I would always try to deal with the rental owners if possible. They seem to understand the benefits of good marketing photos than rental agents.


Real Estate Videography/Photography With Drones May Be Over For A While

November 18th, 2014

PirkervFAAToday an appeals court ruled that the FAA can make any drone flight illegal. For drone pilots, this means a taking a flight could potentially set them back $10,000 if the FAA chooses to use its powers. Here is the text of the ruling. I can’t make sense out of it, maybe you can.

Here is what others are saying about this ruling:

On the one hand, this seems like a “Dumbass” ruling that defies common logic. On the other hand, this decision may keep the UAV situation from being more chaotic and  out of  control than it already is. The bottom line is that Real Estate UAV videography and photography is probably over for another year or so until the FAA creates some rules. No one expects the FAA to meet their September 2015 deadline.

Update late 11/18: Pirker’s attorney, Brendan Schulman’s comment on the decision (from article above) was:

While we disagree with the decision, today’s NTSB ruling in the Pirker case is narrowly limited to whether unmanned aircraft systems are subject to an aviation safety regulation concerning reckless operation, an issue that the NTSB has said requires further factual investigation before a penalty is imposed. The more significant question of whether the safe operation of drones for business purposes is prohibited by any law was not addressed in the decision, and is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit in other cases being handled by Kramer Levin. We are reviewing the options for our next steps in the Pirker case.

So perhaps this doesn’t settle the issue of whether commercial drone operation is legal.

Controlling Window Reflections

November 17th, 2014

LightScienceMagicLaura Recently asked the following question:

I am currently shooting for a glass company to showcase their work on mostly large corporate buildings.  Do you know of any good resources for getting the best window photos without all the reflections etc? I usually try to shoot around dusk, but I am fighting with almost mirror like reflections at times. I need to get interior shots but mostly exterior.

I don’t use flash extensively but do mostly HDR. The reflections I pick up in the windows are simply of the items in the room as I try to shoot later in the day so the windows are a bit darker and tend to become mirror-like.

Laura, The first thing to try is a circular polarizing filter (C-PL). However, my experience is that the C-PL will frequently reduce but not completely eliminate the reflections.

Another approach do dealing with reflections is to understand the physics behind reflections. A great resource for this the book Light: science and Magic: And Introduction to Photographic LightingIn Chapter 3, this book explains how to manage reflections and the different types of reflections. There are actually different kinds of reflections. direct reflections, diffuse reflections and polarized reflections.

Here’s an article from that has a bunch of suggestions for ways to deal with reflections.

Anyone have any specific suggestions for Laura?

What Tripod Head For Real Estate Photography – Shooting Small Half Baths

November 16th, 2014

SmallBathroomRichard Asked the following questions:

Question 1: I’m upgrading my tripod and am looking at the popular brand legs (Dolica, slik, Manfrotto) that will allow me to mount the camera up to at least 72″. It seems ball heads are popular, and levels are a must. What kind of head do you recommend for RE work, ball head or a pan and tilt head like the Manfrotto Pro 3 models?

Question 2: While I’m here with you, have you ever run a column on how to best shoot a small 1/2 bath? Camera inside shot via remote or lean in just enough to avoid reflections (my usual way to do it)? High vs eye vs low-angle? Best way to light?

My answers:

To question 1:  Tripod heads – Pan and tilt heads are better for video than still shooting. I used a ball head on my tripod for many years until I met Scott Hargis and saw the Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head that Scott uses. I started using the 405 Pro head for real estate and I love how it can quickly be adjusted accurately in all three dimensions with a bubble level in each dimension. Yea, I know, it’s pricey, but the Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head is very similar but less expensive than the 405. What heads do others recommend? Continue Reading »