Is The New Frugality A Problem or Opportunity?

January 22nd, 2010

Clark Dugger just sent me a link to an article in the LA Times today by James Rainey, titled “For photographers and graphic artists, not a pretty picture out there“.

To me it feels like this article is written from the point of view of someone that has spent their career in print media and now finds their job working for “big media” threatened. Yes, the Internet is the huge game changer of our era and is being felt in all businesses that have not embraced the “new rules” of the Internet. I submit that the opportunities it exposes out weigh the problems it creates. I’m not saying it’s easy to figure out and adapt to these new rules and flattening of the world that the Internet has created. I’m saying for those willing to adapt to the new rules the opportunities are significant.

This relates to real estate photography in that real estate photography is a relatively new niche where a photographer willing to personally take charge of  their career can make a living and flourish. I talk to real estate photographers almost every day that have moved out of jobs working for a large company into the real estate photography business where they can personally in charge of their own success. Photography, video and audio are increasingly morphing into digital media and are tightly coupled to the Internet because the Internet is the distribution mechanism. Real estate marketing has been a will continue to be effected by this digital media evolution.

Photographers like David Hobby ( epitomize  the exploding opportunities the Internet provides. David lost his job at the Baltimore Sun but invented a whole new photographic niche at the same time. There are many other stories like David’s. Buried in the fourth paragraph from the end of the article Rainey acknowledge’s the opportunities when he says, “Those who continue to distinguish themselves and thrive manage to carve out niches where their expertise and the quality of their work shine through“.

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9 Responses to “Is The New Frugality A Problem or Opportunity?”

  • Are there actually that many niches to go around?

  • Michael,
    A niche niche here, a niche niche there, everywhere a niche niche. So far I have not found my niche, much less two niches! Ninety-nine point nine percent of the agents in my area are way too cheap to let go a buck for professionally made real estate photographs. Their PHD cameras (Push Here Dummy) work very well for them, including all the crooked distorted, badly lighted images they produce. They think why pay a pro for 1.5 hours work to snap a house when they can do it in ten minutes and get out. They are too stupid and/or cheap to care about the difference in quality. Of the many hundreds of agents in my area, only one, who sold $100,000,000 in 2008, uses a semi-pro. I say semi because his photographer has yet to learn how to make horizontals, verticals and lens distortion lines straight.
    Sorry to sound like I have a bad attitude about this, I’m getting very fed up with them.

  • Some markets seem to respong well to RE photographers – but many (most) I think are like what Jerry says. One the one hand, you can understand a RE agent who has to lay out these costs and hope the home sells – on the other hand – that is his ‘job’ and the risks associated with it

    To me, it is like asking a RE agent if he would show up to a client meeting in a wrinkled up old suit, dirt stains here and there, un-combed hair, and say, hey – good enough!

    How it is that a vast majority of RE agents still don’t grasp the concept of ‘professional image’ when clients look at their horrible ‘PHD’ shots is beyond me. Or perhaps they do – but – in order to keep costs down, they ‘go with the flow’ and don’t buck the system. As long as all the photos in an area are bad – that is the standard this is expected by clients.

    In any case – Jerry – try vacation rental listing owners if you live in a ‘touristy’ town. They make their living on people from all over the world viewing their properties and deciding to rent their property vs the competition. Maybe easier sell:)

  • Hey Guys it is about the agents.
    Some do understand marketing and the need for great shots.
    Marketing obviously is one tool in selling a property and its the importance the agents put on this.
    Its clear that there is a huge influx of pretty average photographers flooding the markets as well as the agents taking their own shots.
    Great marketing and using experienced photographers gets more people in,good agents understand that.

  • “Good agents understand that.” Really? In my market, many agents are using professional photography, but it is generally of the highly mediocre (at best) type, even for very expensive and attractive properties. I have a feeling that it is often not necessarily about the quality of the photography (as long as it is better than what most realtors can produce). It is about convenience. It is about having a one-stop shop where they can get the photography, the tour, the flyers, the sign rider, the portal links, and anything else, all at one place. I suspect that, even when they may feel that better photography could help them, this convenience may trump that. Plus, I wonder if realtors are just so busy that they often simply do not have the time to make changes that might be in their best interest, even if the change would effect their costs minimally, if at all. It seems a tough nut to crack. It is so frustrating to me when I see a beautifully designed and decorated multi-multimillion-dollar home presented with mediocre photography and a boring, generic tour format. Personally, I don’t want to have to create a whole real-estate marketing business. I’d rather just create images. However, I am wondering if those of us who are in higher-end markets, and want to provide higher-quality presentations than what the mass-market companies are providing, need to find a way to form some kind of real-estate-marketing services, rather than just a photography service.

  • David,
    Most photographers I know, dont want to work with others.
    Maybe thats the difference, the average joe , who is new to this game is willing to work for a one stop shop or work as a team with others, where as the high end guys with years of experience finds it hard to fit into the team environment.
    I understand where you are coming from as I see lots of very average work pouring into the industry on the back on the one stop shops.I dont know the answer.

  • David,
    In my area, the real estate business is controlled by about ten very large agencies. Each agency has their own marketing department and the agents work through them. The agents only supply the photography to marketing and marketing does the rest, all delivered in a day or so. All the agencies have stopped the 360 tours, all now do mostly six to 15 image slide shows and they call that the virtual tour. That cuts cost since agents can snap the poor quality photos. I’ve had agents tell me home buyers don’t care how the photos look and photography has nothing to do with increasing the sales of the homes.

  • You have to come up with something extra to attract the sellers who then make the agents call you. I use an area web site that comes up pretty high in google and the sellers that visit it make their agents call me for photos and a listing on the site. My listing site is in the Birmingham area. About half my jobs each month come from new agents this way. These are agents who have never spent a dime on marketing, but are afraid not to listen to there seller. The site is low cost and I give them a pass code to change their prices when they want. I have had great success with this and I am always busy, even in tough times.

  • It’s about time to separate the good, the bad and the ugly.

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