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Principles for Real Estate Photography Portfolio Sites

November 26th, 2018

MaliaSite

We’ve talked about these principles several times over the past few years and I’ve refined and distilled these principles based on reader input.

Your portfolio of real estate images is at the center of your marketing. Your website is a way to present your business and yourself to people and let them know how to contact you. Malia Campbell’s site is a great example that follows these principles. It’s one of my favorite real estate photographer sites.

  1. The site MUST look good on mobile devices: Mobile device usage is widespread. Some readers report over 80% of their portfolio site traffic is mobile! Don’t use Adobe Flash, and take the time to check out your site on all the popular smartphones and tablets. It is amazing the number of people who don’t do this.
  2. Dedicate a site to real estate photography: A general purpose photography site where people have to look for the real estate section says to people, “I’m just playing around with a lot of things.” It makes you look like an amateur. The cost of a template website at someplace like SquareSpace.com is small in the overall scheme of a successful business.
  3. Carefully review your portfolio images: Have as many experienced professional photographers review your portfolio as possible. Others will see things you don’t. Remove everything but the very best images. Ask the PFRE Flickr group to review your portfolio and site. Limit your portfolio to 15 to 20 of your very best images.
  4. Use large images in your portfolio: Bigger images have more impact (around 2500px). You want to knock viewers socks off!
  5. Have a photo of yourself on your Contact or About page: This is about giving your site and business a more personal feel. The online world is cold, anonymous, and impersonal. Do what you can to give your business a personal feel.
  6. Have your cell phone number on the Contact page: This is a customer service issue. Most Realtors are people-oriented and would like to call you as an initial contact. Also, consider allowing text messages for scheduling regular clients.
  7. Have as many images of upper-end homes in your portfolio as possible: Upper-end photos say, “I shoot for upper-end agents.” Upper-end homes make you look more professional even if most of the homes you shoot are not upper-end homes.

Follow these principles and you’ll have a good base to build the rest of your marketing on.

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10 Responses to “Principles for Real Estate Photography Portfolio Sites”

  • Gee thanks. Now I have to quit procrastinating and reworking my site. I’ve known I had had to do it, but procrastination is my middle name! A lot of excellent points and having others review. While initially professional review is important, after up and running and personally showing to the target audience – Realtors – which ones do they react too with a “I really like (or don’t like) that.” Maintaining with newer material is an ongoing process and you have insight on what to retain and discard. Personalizing is a great idea, and I used two different photos for two different pages – About Me and Contact. The first, with camera and umbrellas was actually taken during a shoot by the Realtor with a backup camera, the other, on a dock with an iPad gives the message ‘hey, I’m am waiting’ contact me – was actually a selfie with wireless remote and iPhone hidden by iPad. The site itself was created with Adobe Muse which no longer have access to since downgraded Adobe CC to the Photography Plan, but that is not the only reason for updating. Never did like Muse’s slideshow of the portfolio as not possible to pause and discuss or navigate out of order, so any update would be with a different web builder program anyway. Without Adobe CC, Dreamweaver which I have used in the past is out, but impressed with Sparkle (Apple only) which has matured in v2 and maintains the WYSWYG block building simplicity of Muse but with better portfolio handling, avoiding the more intensive coding of Dreamweaver competitors, both of which are preferable in my opinion to the online builders. Reviewing it today saw another issue on the “Client Access” page which was very easy to construct – a button with a link over to my Zenfolio site and supporting dialog stated in a positive manner. Unfortunately, when I switched video hosting, I forgot about this one and thus the access message. It is not as easy as replacing with a current link, as I have to totally re-work the walkthrough video of the fictional Ima Realtor’s account as Zenfolio made it obsolete by changing (for the better) the process. Guess I know what my holiday project will be.

  • Maybe as many as 95% of the upper end homes I shoot are the gaudiest, most horribly styled homes on the planet as far as I can tell. I do not hold it against anyone for putting those monstrosities in the port, but it is an interesting topic. The gaudy, baroque-tuscan look with the painfully ugly styling and walls painted in gerber baby food diarrhea color may look great in your port, but not in mine.

    I gotta say here I am by no means a business marketing expert. But again, that stuff aint going in my port. And if you do decide to put that crap in your port, think long and hard how it may affect your potential dealings with higher end clients.

    But like i said, this is an interesting question, and I can see both sides of the equation here.

  • I agree with both Larry’s. Top Larry are all good points and I am with Larry just below in always finding something else to do rather than keep my site up to date. There just always seems to be something more demanding every time I sit down at the computer to update my site especially the RE videos whose quality have taken large jumps in the last year or so as I have put to work Grant Johnston’s “How to Shoot Better Real Estate Video” and his great new tutorial on how to edit RE video on Final Cut ProX. So thanks for the reminder. I host on Wix which has the features that allow for fine tuning the site for viewing on cell phones as well as tablets and computers.

  • If anyone is wanting to bounce ideas or do a round robin critic of sites, let me know.

    I will add in a few additional items.
    1) Go with HTTPS. The biggest advantage for us is the speed.
    2) The site has to be fast, both on mobile and desktop. Speed is a factor in search rankings.
    3) Keep the content fresh. Think daily if possible, but you can stretch that out to 2 weeks.
    4) I shouldn’t have to say this, but NO FLASH PERIOD. There is a reason that the browsers don’t have that extension on be default.
    5) The site has to be responsive. This goes along with displaying and functioning well on mobile devices.
    6) Back the site up.
    7) This site has to be fast. Have a target of no more than 3 seconds. You may not reach it, but that should be your target.

  • I suggest against posting a cell phone number if your business it more than a one person operation. It is preferable that people call your office number as the first point of contact and only use your cell phone number when they are a customer and have a need to contact you directly. It’s a waste of your time to field calls about invoices, booking, etc if you have staff that do that for you.

    You may also want to not advertise that it is a cell phone or even list it as a landline. I don’t pick up very often when I don’t recognize the number or the caller ID is blocked.

    If you post a phone number it can be a good idea to post it as a .jpg rather than text to avoid spiders that auto-harvest phone numbers. Yes, they can’t just click the number to dial you up, but I get more telemarketing calls than I do new potential clients calling so it’s a question of wasting time with junk calls vs more potential business. A high percentage of calls I get from agents are often where they are fishing for massive discounts or free work. Anybody really interested will make that tiniest bit of effort to write down my number and give me a call.

    Using Text is something I don’t do. It’s not reliable and very few customers will provide all of the information needed which means having to talk anyway. I can also field calls while I’m driving and doing other things where I have to stop everything else to deal with a text. I’m not losing any customers over not having it. They just know to call or email and we can exchange all of the needed information in 5 minutes vs swapping texts for 30 minutes with humorous auto-correction errors if there doesn’t turn out to be a long delay.

    I agree with Andrew on upper-end decoration. Many of my portfolio images are from very modest homes that were tastefully decorated and well staged. If you come up with something good, use it. If you do a mansion that looks like Liberace vs. Elton John, maybe you don’t want to use those.

    There isn’t any need for Adobe Flash anymore and it’s off by default or blocked on many mobile devices. Apple is very anti-Flash and there are a lot of iPhones and iPads out there. It’s a crack up to see a bunch of people waiting at a bus stop since they don’t have a car fiddling with a $1200 iPhone. Go figure.

  • What excellent, to-the-point advice! Although it all clicks as “intuitive,” a couple of points I had not thought of before. God bless you.

  • I agree with most of this and I’ve worked to change my old website to one more appropriate. While your example is some great work there I would have thought you would have had an example that hit all the points. Number 5 is missing.

  • I think that an important point for display work is to show the sort of images you want to take. If you want high end work ( but not Tuscan-outre ;)) then you need to show high end contemporary or modern images.
    If you want to shoot cutting edge commercial buildings, build a portfolio with those images.
    If you want designers and architects (those with bigger budgets and a willingness to pay) then show work that appeals to them. Realtors will still call you.

    Clients looking for average home shots aren’t going to be wowed by looking at average home shots that look like the rest of the MLS but rather they go straight to the price list. If you are selling price then ignore this.

    The website is still going to be number two behind referrals but needs to be aimed squarely at the prospect you wish to acquire.

  • @Ron – Several years ago when I started using Malia’s site as my example she had a great photo of herself that was great on her about page but has since taken it down. What can I say? Many people seem to be sensitive about self-images.

  • I really can’t add much other than to say Squarespace really does offer some great solutions that work really well across all devices.

    The samples mentioned here, starting with Malia Campbell’s, are so wonderfully attractive and certainly are worthy goals to someone like myself to aim for. By the way, has anyone noticed that in her images and videos, there is NOT ONE SINGLE visible lamp cord or digital cable visible anywhere in those frames? Wow! THAT is very difficult to accomplish (in my opinion). She must train her agents incredibly well.

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