In This Economy Should I Be Starting A Real Estate Photography Business?

March 5th, 2009

Today a reader asked me, “…in this down economy, is it a good idea to be thinking about starting a RE Photography business?”.  My answer is “yes”, here’s why:

  1. In today’s real estate market, photography is more important than ever. I did a post back in October of 2008 explaining why.
  2. Real estate photographers make money when a home comes on the market, not when it’s sold. In many geographic areas the number of homes coming on the market is almost twice what it’s been at any time in the last 10 years. This means there is plenty of work out there.
  3. As a real estate photographer you can work for yourself. In difficult times their are benefits to working for yourself. You may have to work harder at marketing yourself than other jobs but you are not going to get “laid off”.

You need to understand that making a successful business out of real estate photography probably has more to do with your marketing skills than your technical skills. Sure, it helps to be a great photographer but the key factor is convincing real estate agents your services will help them sell their listings. Here is an example from the PFRE flickr discussion group of the kind of thing you’ll need to do to sell yourself.

It will help you talk to real estate agents if you understand a little history. From about 2002 to 2006 a real estate agent didn’t really have to do much to sell a home. This has a lot to do with the economic mess we are in today. So agents that entered the business during those years are not used to having to aggressively market a home. For this reason, as a real estate photographer you will be ready to explain to agents how great photography can help them get their job done.

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4 Responses to “In This Economy Should I Be Starting A Real Estate Photography Business?”

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  • That’s a long post you link to and I didn’t yet get to read it all. I did notice the comments about doing the initial shoot for free. I have a different approach to this. I offer to do the initial post at no cost unless they like the photos and use them. This takes away their risk, but still gets me paid as most times, they want the photos.

  • You have some really good points here. I especially like some of the marketing concepts. Thank you for the information.

  • Please pardon my ranting in this post, but I see a disaster looming and I need to get this out! I would like to make a few comments regarding what I have seen become of the state of our industry. I have been shooting architecture for 6 years professionally and have done really well as far as the types of assignments I shoot and the money I’ve made. I have been published internationally and have a great reputation amongst my clients. Now, this last year has been particularly rough, as many of you can attest. About 2/3 of my clientele are RE Agents, the other 1/3 comprises of Architects, Developers, RE Management Co’s. etc… I have noticed very major drops in business due to three very major factors. They are: 1) Architects and the people that support them are not designing, or building any new projects. And, since they aren’t bringing in much new business, they aren’t marketing like they used to. 2) RE Agents are scared to spend the money to professionally photograph new listings because the listings stay on the market long past the contract term these agents have with their clients. 3) The influx of individuals, and big Co’s (like the one that advertises at the top of this blogs directory. And you had better check them out, because they are coming to a town near you!), who will shoot an entire house and give a ton of photos for a very nominal fee! (this one bugs me the most because they devalue what it is that we do). In most cases, they provide sub-par imagery at rock-bottom prices just to get the job. Now what I hear from my agents is that “It’s good enough and the price is right”. I actually had one of my biggest clients ask me to do a job for over %75 off my normal rate to match a new Photographer’s pricing! I have been shooting for this client for 4 years! They are now using the other person, because I refused to shoot an entire house for… Hold onto your hats… $40.00!!! Now personally, I wouldn’t get out of bed for that, but I have to tell you, that is who we are competing with. And, I can’t compete with that (The price that is, not the quality. The images were terrible). I flat out told my client to hire them. I refuse to compromise my quality, my integrity and getting paid what I am worth, just so I can keep an account that shows no loyalty. Now, here is the thing that really rubbed salt in the wound. I have an insider that I know who does not like the company and she filled me in that even though the market was down, the Co. had a banner year from volume! They made more money this year than they did in the last 2 years combined. Now as I am sure you all know, now that they know that they can pay someone so cheaply to shoot, they will never go back to paying the rates we charge and so rightfully deserve! I have friends that shoot all types of things from weddings to journalism and they are all experiencing the same phenomenon. I guess we can either join them, or beat them… Any suggestions?

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