Synergy Between Real Estate Photography and Staging

December 22nd, 2008

A friend who is starting a home staging business recently ask me about how to go about marketing her business to real estate agents.

Even though I’ve written before about the affinity between home staging and real estate photography before I’d never thought about how home staggers and real estate photographers have exactly the same clients. So a marketing plan that works for real estate photographers also works for home staggers.

The affinity goes even farther than having the same clients. A home stagger needs great photography to show off her work. And a real estate photographer needs a home stagger to create a great space to photograph. If you’ve ever read about or talked to a photographer that does high-end Architectural photography you find that usually Architectural photographers don’t even show up for a shoot without a stagger or stylist.

I know, in real estate photography you don’t always have direct control of the shooting situation  but here are some things you can do to tap into this synergy and use it to your advantage:

  1. Team with a stagger to market your services: Those agents who are willing to spend money staging a vacant home are exactly the kind of agents that are willing to spend money on great photography.
  2. Offer to do shoots for a stagger in exchange for client referrals: All the staggers I’ve seen are not very good photographers although they try. They are always anxious to get great before and after shots to show off their work.
  3. When agents ask you to shoot a vacant home, have a staggers card or brochure to refer them to: In today’s market where there are more vacant homes than ever. Many agents don’t understand how much of a difference home staging makes. Make sure the stagger you are recommending has your cards and brochure and is recommending you too.

In summary, staggers are mutual referral opportunity that is easy to make use of. Find one in you area and start taking advantage of this marketing opportunity!

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25 Responses to “Synergy Between Real Estate Photography and Staging”

  • I have always wondered if this works well. Does anyone have any experience at doing this? I haven’t really seen it happen in practice myself and a local guy here didn’t have a great response from the stagers he contacted about this last year.

  • I spent a good amount of effort trying to cross-promote with stagers with absolutely no success. Every stager I spoke to showed a lot of interest and enthusiasm about my service. They all agreed that staging and photography should go hand-in-hand. They all said that they would start recommending me and using me, but none of them did. Believe it or not, one of them even started offering “free high quality photos with each stage”. Not taken by me. Taken by herself. They’re not good.

  • Yes, I’ll have to say that all the staggers I know think they are better photographers than they really are and I’ve encountered fewer teaming success stories than I have staggers with bad photos. I’m not really sure why that is.

  • Alan and Larry, I am a home stager and I actually not only use a professional photographer, I pay for it. I am fairly new to staging and quickly figured out that I did not want to risk having one of my staged properties poorly photographed so now I hire my photographer and pay for the photography and I then I create a virtual tour. What I pay for photography is much higher than what most realtors pay so I usually split the fee somehow. Either 50/50 with the realtor, or it gets billed into the staging service and ultimately the client pays for some portion of it. While the part is simple the cost of me doing business.

    Part of how I sell home staging is the very importance of photography. I sell the importance of photography as being just as important as the staging. It is merchadising after all. Styling and photography go hand in hand. One is only as good as the other. My photographer and I do not so much refer work to one another as much as my portfolio looks fabulous which = more work for me. Her portfolio looks fabulous which = more work for her. Simple formula in a visual field. 🙂

    I find it quite unacceptable that just about everything on the market from soup to nuts is professionally photographed and usually packaged. However, the most expenisve asset that someone will ever sell is shot with a point and shoot or worse a cell phone.

    Not only is the quality poor, but the most beautiful features or focal points of the property are usually not even captured in a shot!
    Now in a perfect world my before would pro shot too! Then I would really have something to show

    OMG, I could go on forever….. 🙂

  • @ Joelle
    You’re the coolest. Please talk some sense into your colleagues. While it seems only natural that someone paying $5000 for staging would spend and extra $300 to have their home photographed well, it usually doesn’t happen. Every stager should lock arms with a photographer AND package the service. I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t give up on the idea quite yet. Then again, I did try pretty hard. I still can’t believe the lady said she wanted to team up, and instead started offering free photos taken by herself.

  • Hey guys, you are right most stagers are not good photographers, nor do they own really good cameras. Some do of course. As I mentioned above, interior styling and interior photography go hand-in-hand. We need each other to really look good.

    I think it is a matter of market positioning. If you position yourself as a “value added” photographer because you bring along a stylist, you could probably charge more, look better, create more demand for what you do and stay pretty busy. The key is find a “good stylist. This is a good arrangement for the stager as well.

    You might consider working something out with an experienced stager whose work you think is good. (looking past the less than fantastic photography she may currently display of course) because you will improve that.

    Offer to bring her in on your next shoot, and supply her with the pictures for free. She will style for free. Or after she has staged a job offer to shoot for free. No risk or loss to anyone, but each will have improved portfolio shots. Try a few projects together, see how well it works out, then try to work out an acceptable fee arrangement.

    Staging is still new, and few stager are making any money, and work very, very hard. It all comes down to $$$

  • Bryce, most stagers are encouraged (by whatever staging course they attended) to offer their “after” photos to both the client and the Realtor. It is their “value added” service. It does fall short most often, I agree (and quickly learned trying to take my own :-))

    Read my comment above, keep trying. It all seems so common sense, but not everyone gets it.

    I am on a mission to educate the public about this…so I will do my part to help you out. 🙂

  • Larry – as usual, very timely entry. I actually just learned today that a friend of mine has a family member who does staging. It was suggested that I contact her to see how we can work together. I had just finished my email when I pulled your site up to see what i have missed recently. Uncanny timing…

  • We are Real Estate Photographers and Virtual Tour Porividers.
    My Partner has always done some staging, in homes before we shoot. She has taken a course, so she could have a piece of paper showing she has been trained, and now we offer Staging, as part of our business.

  • Joelle, you seem to be pretty on top of things. Have you considered starting a blog similar to PFRE? It may help to lead the way for other stagers and photographers to work together, or at least understand the value of working together.

  • Hello Larry,
    I am in a slightly different business as I am photographing properties for holiday rental. I see this much the same as real estate except im trying to sell the properties every week of the year. I have been doing this for about 5 years and I “stage” my own photo´s. I carry a large selection of props ( Fresh fruit, fake flowers, vases, bottles of wine and beer, glasses, brightly coloured towels, etc.) and use these for foreground interest where possible. I am staging photographs not properties. I reallise that I have more flexibillity than the real eastate market but I see lots of perfectly exposed kitchen photos, for example, that are “empty”, whereas a bowl of oranges or bright green apples in the foreground can bring the photo to life and make it stand out in the listings.

  • […] Source and Read More: […]

  • Bryce and Chester: I’ve contacted stagers and said, “hey let’s work together.” But nothing has ever come of it. They email me and tell me it is a great idea, but nothing ever comes of it.

    Maybe I’m not following up enough. What do you think.


  • @Michale

    The stager I contacted was actually referred to me by her mother who subscribes to a regular mailing list I put out. I got a response fairly quickly and I am going to do some “portfolio shots” for her at no charge after the holidays. They will be good for both of us, and will give her the confidence she needs to refer me to the realtors she works with. For me, just starting out, this is a great way to get my foot in the door.

    So, in summary, I’d suggest getting back in touch with them, offer to do some free portfolio shots, then see what happens then. We all know what it is like to refer someone (we have to trust that they can deliver, as it becomes an extension of your reputation), so make them comfortable with you.

    Just my $.02 worth.

  • I’m still new to PFRE but I’ve worked with realtors for years as a mortgage broker. This business is all about the relationship and I’m sure it’s the same with stagers. If you ask once you will get a positive response and nothing else.
    Remember, the serious stagers are building a business and won’t change their business model unless they see clearly how it will help them.
    I have always had a better response selling a service if I took time to get to know their business, prove my worth, and prove my reliability.
    How to do it? Do a few for free and let the stager and realtor see what you can do. Will you get burned from time to time? Of course! But that’s the price of finding the right relationships.

  • @Larry,
    Maybe we need more specifics in what “teaming’ means. How about the below as a starting point?
    Teaming Expectations:
    1. Both will share links on each others website home pages.
    2, The photographer will build and update a virtual tour of staging photos (unlimited quantity). Links can be used without restriction.
    3. The stagger will include photography services within their staging package. A flat photography rate will be coordinated.
    4. All photos can be used for any marketing use.
    5. We will promote services jointly to all new and existing clients.

  • Guys, this is a superb idea. The Oklahoma housing market is one of the most stable in the country, with sales only down 1-4%, but there are more and more empty, freshly built homes out there. There is only so much you can do to make an empty box look good.

    It’s funny that Larry posted this because the timing could not be more perfect. Without making this a windy post (because I can get to some serious typing), a mutual friend suggested that we should partner up. I thought about it some and I think it would be a great idea. Currently it is a hobby for her and she really has no way to tax and bill clients right now. However if I was to bring her into my company as a partner- maybe change the name slightly- we might be able to build off each others talents. At the same time, I would also have an in-house stagger for my higher-end shoots, and I would be getting some business personally from photographing her projects.

    As she is not established, and I am a new RE photographer of only a couple months, to me it seems like a viable partnership. Both of us need to build some clientele and our portfolio.

    You know Larry, this site is a real thought provoker. Keep up the good work, I don’t know what any RE photog would do without these resources.

  • I know a good deal about staging and have just started with the photography (I am a Realtor and want to do my own pics) with my new D60. In our area of East Tennessee I don’t think that service is even available, and if it is, I have not heard of anyone providing it. Sounds like a great idea for the higher end homes or even spec homes that builders are trying to push. Pretty interesting concept though…

  • […] that stage listings are likely to pay for good photography. For more details on this subject see this previous post on this […]

  • I have recently teamed up with a Home Stager here and so far, things are working out great. She includes my services in her price and does NOT make it an option. It is included with her work giving the seller or agent TWO very valuable services at one time. It is a very symbiotic relationship…I need a Stager to help make the home look great, and they need me to photograph it so their work looks great online, where 85% of the market starts their research.

    I now have Home Stagers in two other cities interested in working with me, so it creates more opportunities to get my work out there.

  • When I found out my son’s friend had an interior designer mom, I started overtly hinting I wanted to work with her, only to find out later her ID was actually in real estate staging! To keep her bottom line low, she does DIY photos, but I kept reminding her, and when she got a photo job that was over her head, who did she call? Maintaining those relationships is key: the first one is the hardest.
    She still does DIY for as much as she can, but now she has someone for those tougher jobs. I now offer a package with her fee included as a subcontractor, and rather than refer out to me, she just subcontracts me as well. It’s a nice arrangement that has room to grow with other stagers in the area. They’re just like RE agents: they need to be educated about how much value good photos add to their bottom line in shorter sale times and great referrals.

  • I started as a stager in 2009 and am looking for any avenue that might help me expand my clientele. I have thought of real estate photographers and would love to team up with someone in my area (Bergen County, NJ) to try and share ideas and clients. All comments read here were very on target…

  • My comments here are both about working with a stager, and a continuing reflection on an earlier discussion about setting fees. I am new to real estate photography. I live in SF Bay Area and I have photographed three houses for a realtor who is pleased with my work. I got a call two weeks ago from a stager who was in a jam. She has worked for the last four years with a photographer who offers virtual tour packages that include flyers. social network links, web hosting and so on for $150 or straight photos for $100. He was not willing to drive to where the home was, which was close to where I live (can’t blame him for setting a limit at his fees) but 40 miles from him, and she was staging in three days.

    She had asked for a referral from the realtor who has used my photography and my name came up. I got a call from her. She was very upfront and not shy about asking what my rate and packages are (I have noticed that people in real estate are not shy about talking about money…which is good because I am…).

    After reading the article here about not undercharging, I had decided to quote a $200 fee to start with all new people I might start working with. She said she couldn’t pay that (I only offer straight photography at this point) especially since the other guy did a complete package for $150.

    She and I talked it through, she said she might look into software and do her own virtual tour using my photos instead of hiring that part out. She mentioned that if she liked my photos she would love to team up with me and if I settled on a smaller fee I would make it up in volume. Since I am still learning just about everything there is to learn to produce high quality photos, I agreed to start with her at $125 per house, and so far this last week I have done two houses with another one tomorrow. I realize this fee is too low, but I just don’t have the experience yet to know what the bottom line should really be…I don’t want to undercut anyone, so I’d love to hear what others are charging in the East Bay.

    While I was photographing at the last house, the realtor who had hired her services dropped by and was very pleased to meet me and wanted to more about my services. He also asked what I charge, and before I could put forward my $200 rate, he said that the last photographer he had worked with charged $145…thus setting the rate he is willing to pay, as best as I can figure.

    So, back to the stager part of the story; it looks like a possible way to meet the realtors she works with and she is very promotional in her orientation. She saw the landscape photos on my website and suggested I have large prints for her to use in the staged homes and she would offer them for sale (has anyone done this before?). I assume she is thinking I would pay for the prints and she would take a percentage if they sold, but we haven’t discussed the details.

    All in all, I think this is a fabulous idea; great synergy for all parties.

    Any thoughts?

  • @lory – I’m starting a real estate photography business up in sac, well at least trying to. I’m looking for the best way to approach it and the stager collaboration seems like a great way to get a foot in the door. From what I’ve read real estate agents understand the importance of staging and value it a lot. Maybe they will understand how important good photos are for showing the staging online?

    How did you get your first gig?

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