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Client Interaction Is a Key Aspect of Booking Your Next Real Estate Shoot

Published: 23/01/2019
By: larry

Last week, a budding new real estate photographer enthusiastically showed me his appointment booking web page that he had designed for booking real estate shoots.

I totally understood his enthusiasm about his booking web page since I'm a techie geek and am inclined to use online booking myself. But I had to pass on to him what I've learned by working and living with a top listing agent for many years.

Real estate agents do what they do because they are gregarious outgoing people. So when they need a real estate photographer, their first inclination is to call up the photographer and book the appointment on the phone. I shot all my wife's listings and if I was not with her at a listing appointment, she would call me up as soon as the sellers signed the listing agreement and we would talk about when I could shoot their home so she could tell them right then and there when the listing would be on the market.

My advice to real estate photographers is, even though there are many online booking websites that you could use, you are missing out on an important opportunity to personally interact directly with your clients if you try to automate your booking. Better to use every opportunity available to talk to your clients!

16 comments on “Client Interaction Is a Key Aspect of Booking Your Next Real Estate Shoot”

  1. Agreed, I get 90% of my requests for shoots via Messenger. the other 10% use E-mail.
    A phone call is always welcome as well and I always return all my calls.

  2. Besides the "Important opportunity" to interact with clients. Anyone that does any kind of volume, knows that "Auto scheduling" does not work. If you are doing 1 or two shoots a day, then ok, it might work for you. But, if you are doing three or more a day, then to have a auto schedule put you at one side of the county for your first shoot, then direct you to the other side of the county for your second shoot, only to redirect you back to the the other side for your third... is just foolish. That scenario does not even bring up traffic and all that goes into logistics.

  3. Although, I agree that interacting with clients is a good thing, I incorporate an online booking feature. The majority of my clients love it. They can book at the touch of a button and if they need to alter times, they just send me a text or email.

    I shoot up to 4 homes per day, so I'm in the car or in a shoot most of the time. I just can't pick up the phone and talk to my clients at the drop of a hat. They understand this, as they are on the go as well. The online system has been working for me for about 3 years and I serve over 300 clients

    My previous career as a video conferencing specialist at a large law firm of over 800 attorneys, incorporated a similar booking system. It worked flawlessly and most were happy. The only people who complained were the retired partners who liked to talk on the phone.

    As far as traveling back and forth to repeat locations based when clients book, this can be a challenge at times. However. My clients are flexible, so if I need to adjust accordingly, they're usually open to it.

  4. Completely agree that the client interaction is essential for the business. But would also say that for some clients, the online option is their preferred interaction.

    About 6 months ago I launched my first online booking option using SquareUp (not the best platform, but free), and went out of my way to make sure all my clients knew that this was just another way of booking me. Some took to it immediately, and many still prefer to text or email.

    What I've noticed is that it is actually my most active clients, who don't need to catch up with me ever few weeks, that love the convenience of being able to book online. The other benefit has been the automated reminders which has had a noticeable impact on last minute cancellations and postponements.

    By keeping all channels open to my clients, the online calendar has been a positive addition to the business.

  5. I agree with Larry. The more detached you are with your clients, the easier you are to replace. When I buy things on eBay, I'm not going back to the same vendor for another purchase, I'm running a search and choosing whoever has the best price, fastest shipping, etc since the last transaction is branded eBay more than the particular seller. If I'm talking frequently with my clients, I'm more of a person than a machine.

    The other thing I don't like about online booking is that it's easier to have a 3 minute chat with the agent and get all of the relevant information I need about the job. If I distill it down to an online questionnaire, I expect that agents aren't going to fill it out and I have to call them anyway. I'm happy to get an initial heads up via email as that gives me a chance to look the house up online and get a feel for when the best time will be to photograph it and a look at size/neighborhood. I can then call the agent back with best time/worst time to make the images and discuss what the agent sees as the major selling points, number of images, detail shots, etc. I'll confirm via email and re-confirm the day before if it's booked in advance.

    Jerry's point about being whipsawed back and forth across a territory is huge for me. I cover a very big area that is low density if averaged out. Travel is easy as there isn't much heavy traffic at the worst of times. If I'm booked in the north, I can let my customer in the south know that the chance I can get their job done on a certain day might be dicey. If I know I have several homes coming up in an area, maybe I can work with the agents to schedule them on the same day and give everybody a bit of a discount. I save money by not driving around as much and spend more of a day making photos so it's a win for everybody. Perhaps someday there will be an AI assistant that can work all of the details out, but it may be a while.

  6. Since I work a small community and rarely shoot more than 3 homes in one day, scheduling my RE work is not usually an issue. But, I wanted to chime in on a VERY important point Ken Brown made- "The more detached you are from your client, the easier you are to replace." I learned this important lesson while I was a sales rep for a food service company. When online ordering first became available for my restaurant customers, I was ecstatic. I didn't have to travel to their location to take their orders with my laptop or call them minutes before my ordering deadline to get the order over the phone. Life was good. BUT, I soon found that it was very easy to let the relationships wither, and I started to lose important clients! In some cases it wasn't a total loss (my competition also had online ordering), but the losses were significant enough that I realized I couldn't rely on my prices or products alone to keep their business. Relationships are important!

  7. I don't like to shoot more than 2 homes per day (3 if I cant avoid it), so either I or my wife like to speak to my agents personally. This way I know exactly what to expect. many agents don't have a clue which way their home is facing. I always ask, so I know if it is a morning or afternoon shoot. I also want to know if there are any issues that I might come across with the seller (I mostly like when the seller is not home so things can be moved or removed without them complaining). I once walked into a small condo on the beach, which was owned by an elderly couple. The agent said the condo was as ready as it could be and informed me that it was going to be challenging. When I got there, I saw oxygen tanks, wheelchairs and walkers neatly placed in the living room where I needed to get that beautiful view of the beach. But, because I spoke to the agent in advance she moved everything before I got there.

    I am more artist than geek, so I am not up on the latest software. one issue I need to learn about, (and could use some help) is the best way to use my Outlook 365 and s how do I access my calendar when I am on a shoot or away from home?
    I use a MAC for all my processing, but a PC for business and scheduling. I need to know how to make my Outlook calendar assessable to me on my phone or tablet, so I can schedule a shoot while I'm out of the office. does anyone in our group use Outlook 365 for their calendar? any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks

  8. I don't answer the phone while I'm shooting unless it's a family member. My clients, young and old, communicate via text (90%) and the rest email - and I make sure to respond quickly.

    The 'right' clients I've been super-lucky to accumulate in the last 4 years I consider friends. We have excellent communication and a ton of fun. I do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

    But phone are an inconvenient intrusion, a disrespect for another's time. Brokers are busy. I'm busy. Not to mention the extreme rudeness of answering the phone in front of another client during a shoot.

    I don't even have an answering service set up on my phone. It's a trick I learned 10 years ago and if you try it I promise you won't be disappointed.

    Text is better; even if it's a "call me when you have a chance".

  9. @larry - I guess I should have mentioned I don't use an impersonal online booking setup 🙂

    ...even when my 90 year old Mom wants to talk on the phone she texts me a warning beforehand (she shouldn't but she does).

  10. @Larry
    I stress to all of our fellow RE photographers, and to my Clients, that Customer service is as important as the quality of your work. I always go miles out of my way to make a client happy. besides my agents, I also try to make the seller feel special so they see that their agent only uses the highest professionals to represent them.
    I try to make each shoot special and fun. People skills are a must in out profession. I tell them, the answer is always YES, what ever they need, we can do, or we can get them someone who can do it.

    i'll never take a job I cant do 100% or can't recommend someone for that. It's always better to turn down a job you are not comfortable with, than to do it badly.

  11. @David Spencer, I agree that answering the phone when you're with another client is not good manners. It shouldn't be a problem if your clients know that if they get your voicemail that they should leave a message and you will get back to them. I WILL return a call when I'm on a job since I have a headset on and can continue to work albeit a little slower if I need to and I'll do that away from owners/agents. If I have to, I'll make the excuse that I need to get something from the car. If I have an appointment with a client after the job I am working on, I will always call back as soon as possible to make sure there isn't an issue such as needing to move the appointment time or reschedule for another day. It could mean that I have more time to spend on the current job if I need it. I will keep calls short and too the point in those cases. With vacant homes, I'm pretty loose about whether I'm on the phone or not. I really hate text. 99/100 I wind up having to follow up with a voice call and while I can talk on the phone while driving (always with a handsfree headset), there is no way I can text. The bandwidth is also much lower with text. Lock box code? works. Set up a job, almost never.

    @Eric Hilton, Won't the Apple calendar import Outlook data? My PC is in its own isolated world and I use it for CAD/CAM and keep it off of the internet so I'm not sure. I sync a version of my contact list and calendars to my phone and iPod so I have them everywhere I go. I know that I can selectively choose which files to sync so I wonder if you could sync just the calendar from the PC to your phone and other things from your Mac if you are sync'ing from the Mac. You could also sync a tablet from one computer and your phone from the other if you have both devices. It could even be cost effective to pick up a cheap tablet to use as a classic PDA. I see off brand Android tablets on Craigslist for $30-$40 in good condition. What's left of my memory is still pretty good at remembering my schedule for the next few days. If somebody is asking about time slots further out, I need to check. Calendar and contact syncing/backups between a mobile phone and a computer is so common that there should be an easy way to do it no matter what OS's/phone you have. Backing up a phone regularly is just as important as having backups of your photos.

  12. @ Ken Brown, Thanks for the feedback. I've been using Outlook on my PC for many years and try to keep my MAC as a stand alone editing machine to keep it as fast as I can.
    I recently purchased a new Android Tablet to use with my DJI Phantom Pro drone which I keep in the car at all times. so, I will see if I can synch that with my Outlook 365 which is the newest Microsoft subscription version of outlook.

  13. I agree that customer relationship is important. I don’t see though how having an online booking system to streamline the process of booking shoots for both you and the agent/office runs counter to having a good customer relationship. It’s 2019. Use the technology available already, LOL.

    A large office I do shoots for has office workers that book the tours for the agents that are going to be on location. When I introduced my online booking calendar I received nothing but positive reactions to it. Before my online booking system, the office worker had to call the homeowner to get available times and dates. Then they had to call me if I could do a shoot on the suggested times and dates and wait for my confirmation on a date and time if I wasn’t available for a call immediately. Now they can have the sellers on the phone while checking my online calendar and then book it right there when they have the seller on the phone. The result is less or virtually no back and forth emails and calls.

    There are a few agents that still call me now and then to book a shoot, mostly when those agents are on location at the home of the sellers. Of course, I still take those phone calls for bookings but always inform the agents that they can also book a tour online and on their phone. Because sometimes I might not be available and what looks better to the agent's client: an agent at the home of the seller trying to call me to confirm a shooting date and hour but not being able to reach me there and then or an agent who simply takes out his/her phone to look at the available time slots in my online booking calendar and then books a tour right there on the spot and the date and time that works for their client.

  14. Customer relations are key! I use a booking system which is used by about half my clients. The other half call and I just enter the appointment details for them. Those that book me online get an immediate call or text thanking them for scheduling me. They also get an automated reminder text 24 hours prior to our appointment.

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