An Email From An Independent Real Estate Photographer

October 6th, 2013

SusanneHayekI just got an email from a long time PFRE reader Susanne Hayek of the Pasadena, CA area. Susanne told me she is approaching her 10th anniversary of being in the real estate/Architectural photography business. Congratulations Susanne!

Susanne said:

I’m approaching my ten year anniversary in business and wanting to thank you for the large role you have had in my success. I still look at your website several times a week and still always find useful information and ways to grow there.

When I started shooting real estate I shot in Program mode with one flash in the hot shoe. Thanks to what I learned on your site I moved through stages of expertise adding flashes, aperture priority, exposure blending, etc. Now I shoot in manual (hurray, I finally get it!). I shoot three bracketed exposures, all with remote flash, one next to the camera and one in any adjoining visible space. It’s efficient and fast, and I am out of most homes in 60-90 minutes.

This business has allowed my husband to complete a career change moving from being a personal trainer to being a clinical psychologist (licensed marriage and family therapist). An expensive and time consuming endeavor…

I want to add that the most important components of my business are service and relationships. My competition increases yearly. Some of my competitors are outstanding photographers so more and more, relationships and service are the key to keeping my clients.

It’s great hearing about successes like Susanne’s, and I know that being in the business 10 years isn’t all that unusual. There are a lot of you out there that have been in this business for 10 years and are very successful. But I think it is useful for the many people just starting out in business to hear success stories like Susanne’s and understand what is possible.

The part I’d like to point out to those of you just starting out is that in this business is that it’s possible to support a family in Southern California like Susanne has done as an independent real estate photographer. In these times where getting and keeping a substantial job is getting more and more challenging, if you are in business in a significant enough market area (like Southern California or similar locations) you can make a solid living as a real estate photographer!

The other important aspect of operating your own business is the part about being independent, if you choose to be. I know becoming independent can be a bit scary but if you are willing to work hard it has huge advantages. Note that, Susanne achieved the success she describes during and coming out of one of the biggest US  real estate down markets in history.

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7 Responses to “An Email From An Independent Real Estate Photographer”

  • Good job, Susanne!

  • Larry,

    That has to make you feel good. Isn’t it interesting that when we quit competing with each other and, like you Larry, work at helping each other and improving our industry.

    Please continue your great work. Know that you are appreciated.

  • Congratulations Susanne,

    I thought I had found my very own Heaven when I found PFRE, I had been looking for years online for guidance and direction on how to move forward with my business and increase my photography skills, and like you follow the posts and information with much appreciation. I have just started my 14th year and totally agree that the key to my continued success in totally due to the relationships and service of my very loyal hard working agents who keep me flat out ever week…. do you think we will be doing this when we are old ladies!!! or will technology see us as obsolete as a film camera!

  • Congrats Susanne. I’m glad to see success stories like yours and PFRE. No matter what business we are in – you are absolutely correct – it is all about the relationships. Ours is a profession we can all be proud of and your accomplishments deserve notice.

  • Susan’
    Congratulations on your 10th year. With this experience under your belt I am sure you have a lot you could share to help us underlings. Would you care to share with us:
    What you do and don’t do in marketing your business?
    What type of basic and optional offering do you have for your clients?
    What have you found is the most effective method for pricing your work?
    What are your published rates you show clients?

  • First, thank you Larry and thank you readers for the kind comments!

    To Richard’s questions: I got into a unique situation when I first started out because the manager of a large brokerage put my card in each agent’s folder. They had a photographer who didn’t want to continue the work because she had a second child. (I happened to have done a portrait shoot for someone who worked in the office.) I was honest and told the manager I didn’t know how to shoot homes but wanted to learn, but 10 years ago, the expectation was pretty low and I was being paid $50/house. It really just snowballed from there. The only “marketing” I have done since then is my website, my Facebook business page (the cheapest marketing around), and a consistently interesting business card. (I like the small square and the fold over cards from Tiny Prints)
    As far as my offerings: photography and property websites. I charge hourly but I don’t publish my rates. If any PFRE readers would like to know what they are, feel free to email me and I will gladly give you the lowdown. I also do a fair amount of “redesign” which is simply working with what the seller already has to make the house photograph and show better. Yes, I do move furniture, declutter, etc. (obviously with client and seller help) My clients count on me for that and it’s one of my favorite parts of the job.

  • Good work! Your post is an excellent example of why I keep coming back to read your excellent quality content that is forever updated.

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