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Do You Use Metrics in Your Photography Business?

Author: Tony Colangelo

Darrin in Los Angeles, CA writes:

I'm going through the StoryBrand framework right now. In it, the author discusses ways to provide proof that you are a “competent guide” such as testimonials, awards, etc. One way of proving competence is through statistics. So, I have two questions: First, for those who mention stats to your customers, what metrics do you use? The second question is related to Redfin's study showing pro photography is better than point-and-shoot. Has anyone been able to show this improvement through their own stats?

A very interesting couple of questions, Darrin. Thanks for sending them in! I’d like to begin my answer by tackling your second question, first. In short, I would respectfully suggest to you, Darrin, that trying to find metrics to highlight the value of pro photography vs point-and-shoot photography would be a very tedious research study to design and execute; and, even if you were to find a way to do so, it would serve very little purpose and would likely even end up being self-defeating. Let me explain...

First, regardless of whether an agent is using pro photography or point-and-shoot photography, there are simply too many variables at play that contribute to the sale of a house that carry far more weight on influencing the sale than your photography. Moreover, even if you could prove the value of pro photography vs the point-and-shoot approach that so many agents use in their listings, it would likely not be of any value to you because you’d essentially be opening the door to other pro photographers; after all, if the results from your research confirm the value of pro photography, then you run the risk of sending the message to real estate agents that any pro photographer will do!

I’d like to suggest that if you’re going to examine ways to leverage metrics in your photography business, then you need to be examining the topic from a more strategic perspective. That is, if your “desired state” (which is what all strategic thinking should be aimed at), is for you to be seen as an invaluable, long-term resource/partner for your clients, then it behooves you to find metrics that highlight the value of YOU.

In terms of getting useful metrics for your business, I think that something that could work well is to use an evaluation form that can be filled out anonymously by your clients. This evaluation can be focused on getting your clients’ input on the value that YOU bring to the equation (i.e., punctuality in showing up to a shoot, timeliness in delivering images, follow-up, etc.). Indeed, by using a 5-point Likert scale (where a score of 5=strongly agree; 1=strongly disagree), you can gauge your clients’ perceptions on those key behaviors that are directly tied to your value.

At the end of the evaluation form, you can leave room for qualitative feedback too. For instance, you can ask your clients what they’d like to see more of or less of--either from you or your business. This can give you very powerful insights into our clients’ experience of you and the services they’re getting. This type on input can inform future decision-making regarding your business. For instance, what if, in their answer to the question, “What would you like to see more of?”, 75% of respondents shared that they’d like to see you offer aerial photography, so as to save them the trouble of hiring another professional to deliver that service. Wouldn’t you be more confident taking on the financial and time commitment as far as buying a drone and going through the certification, if you knew that there’d be a high likelihood of a big pay-off if you did so? Finally, leaving room for comments also allows your clients an opportunity to state, in their own words, how much they value working with you. This allows you to gather a number of testimonials that can be used as part of your future marketing efforts.

So, if you are using metrics in your business, I hope you’ll take a moment to describe them and share what value they’ve brought to your business. Thanks!

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

4 comments on “Do You Use Metrics in Your Photography Business?”

  1. Darrin: I'm excited to see that you are a StoryBrander! Donald Miller has been someone I follow and value for several years now. Just going through his program will elevate you miles above your competition because your entire viewpoint and methodology of doing business will transform. I believe that metrics are very important and agree with Tony that you need to make those metrics focus on yourself. If you have existing real estate agents for clients - you don't really have to do much more than keep your website and blog up to date with client stories and profiles. People love to see themselves highlighted and linked! For obtaining new clients it is also important to create a metric around the speed or success of higher $$ from your photography. I personally have not discovered how to create this metric but know it would be very helpful.
    Perhaps the metric would be in the money shots on similar priced, style and community: Twilight vs no Twilight, Video vs no Video, Virtual Tour vs no Virtual Tour, Drone vs No Drone, Flash vs non Flash, Continuous Light, Architectural photography style vs quick real estate - etc. This would help you sell enhanced photography at higher pricing.

    As to the pro photography vs point and shoot - I don't believe that it the issue. A good photographer gets good pictures out of a DSLR, point and shoot or cell phone - although each one has its pros and cons. Knowing how to get the best shots out of each is great for your tool box. I think the better metric - professional vs non-professional and then within that the category type of camera, average pricing charged, etc.

  2. I'm glad that Tony gave such an accurate reply. The truth is that "quality" and the search for it as a competitive advantage is a fools game. In both Architecture Photography and Real Estate Photography it seems clear that only one question matters to the customer in regards to quality. That question is....

    Is it "Above the Bar"?

    I've spent so much time looking at interiors/exteriors images both online and, more recently, by spending lots of money on magazines and studying the images there. What I've noticed is that quality is all over the board. For instance, if you pick up Florida Home & Design you'll notice that lots of the photographers that get featured there don't seem to do a punch list on their images. That is, they're clearly using flash and there are unsightly flash shadows all over the place. Shadows from catching the fan. Ceilings with a big central hot spot that should have been graded to normal with a hit from the radial adjustment tool. Shadows from catching palm branches outside and fronds inside. In fact, I see all kinds of shadows that, to me, should have been buffed out with an ambient layer because they're clearly artificial.

    But those images are still included in that magazine. On $8M to $25M homes.

    The same weird situation exists in the real estate side of things. Tons of shots clearly taken way too wide at 12mm to 14mm where the upper third of every image is a bare, white ceiling. Even if you've never taken a composition class and have never heard the term "negative space"....how do you not see that what is, for all intents and purposes, a blank white sheet covering the upper third of your image is not compositionally incorrect?

    And on the real estate side of things...how about the all-ambient shooters who don't do what's necessary to get rid of the color casts? I see images that look like a child was given the help to the computer and just started sloshing on different super-saturated colors onto a top color blend layer and then did a merge-save once it was sufficiently garish enough. Hey...I shoot some homes all-ambient too. I did just yesterday. Vacant 1,000 sqft home not updated since it was built in 1963.
    I gave the whole interior the 5-shot ambient treatment. But the editor I use gets the colors to come out properly. So it can be done. Yet these competitors don't make the necessary effort to get colors even CLOSE to normal. It's a terrible practice but those people keep getting hired too.

    My point is that in the real estate space, as long as its both wide and has the "light-n-bright" look...the quality is "above the bar" and you can get hired. Again and again. The "bar" is very low. So if that's the case, then trying to sell on the basis of quality is a complete waste of time which means that spending ANY time preparing a presentation that tries to appeal to the customer's desire for "high quality" is also a waste of time. Because very few of them value that highly. So you'd have to talk with a LOT of people in order to get customers that way.

    My point is that "Quality" is not as important as we want to believe. It just isn't. All that matters is whether the quality is "Above the Bar"....or not. The bar is higher for Architecture than it is for real estate...but the idea is the same for both. Once you're "above the bar" for quality....then quality as a factor in determining whether you get hired or not levels out and becomes a non-factor in whether you get the job or not.

    It's all the "other stuff" that determines if you get the business....or not.

  3. @BrianKurtz Your attitude is fantastic, and will have you out of the realtor rat race faster than many. With your attitude of wanting to provide quality over quantity...start reaching out to architects, interior designers, landscape designers, & developers. Pay is $2500 - $5,000 per shoot...there is plenty of return work...and the client is more artistically invested in the project. They WILL care when the colors are just a little off...or if you didn't take the time to come at the right time of day. They will care about shadows, photoshopping out power lines, & sky replacements. Also, it is not uncommon for a builder or developer to give you say....5-10 homes at $3K a pop. To be honest, we can survive an entire year on 1 or 2 clients if we decided to do so.

    The contracts are out there...if you believe in doing good work always. We always have done all our own shooting, and all our own editing...and kept our quality under full control.

    If you have the mentality to do what's "just above the bar", you will forever be in a race at the bottom.

  4. Darren - Although I work in a rather small marketplace (no similarity to LA), I still think the metric or question our clients ask is pretty universal:

    "Who among the pro photographers in my market will help me the most to ATTRACT the QUICKEST SALE at the HIGHEST PRICE for my properties?"

    That question involves ALL those valid factors beautifully discussed above, but it is the bottom line for your client. The StoryBrand Framework approach you are studying certainly shines a light on the important parts of your thought process and approach and message, but the "bottom line" seems to be of prime importance, so reverse engineer from there. Just one humble opinion.

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