In the last several months I've been trying come up with a reasonable explanation of why there is such a variation in demand for real estate photography. In a few past posts (here and here). I've spent most of my real estate life in the Seattle area where you get thrown out of a listing presentation if you don't promise the home seller professional quality photography.
When I moved to Salem, OR a few years ago it was clearly different reality. No one in Salem had ever heard of real estate photography. I hear from others all the time that live in small towns like Salem where selling real estate photography is a struggle. It's like agents and home sellers in small towns think differently than big metro areas.
But I think I have it figured it out! If you go to Zillow.com or Trulia.com and look at the cities where people report struggling to get agents to use marketing photography (Salem OR, Appleton WI, Wentzville MO and Mankato MN) and compare these markets to cities there real estate photography is the norm (Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Honolulu, etc) the real estate market is different. The major factor present in areas that have a high percentage of quality photography used to market listings is the number of sales of upper-end homes. $300k appears to be the dividing line to defining upper-end homes (upper-end is greater than $300K). It's like marketing is a upper-end home thing. In all of the cities that have a low percentage of marketing photography going on very few if any sales occur above $300K. While there are plenty of sales in the lower price ranges.
Intuitively you would think that real estate photography would work just as well on these low end homes as upper-end homes. But apparently, agents and home sellers don't believe it makes a difference in low-end homes. Remember the classic Redfin study? That study also found that, "Homes shot with a DSLR camera, have an increased likelihood of selling for homes priced above $300,000."
I think the most likely explanation is that small town agents just don't want to spend marketing money and small towns mostly have low-end homes. It would work if they tried it, but they'd just don't want to bother.
The fact is though, if you are in a small town where, there isn't much of a market above $300K you are going to have to work much harder to make a go of it in real estate photography.