I've been talking to a lot of real estate photographers just starting the business recently and the subject of a portfolio website comes up as one of the very first subjects of discussion. Your portfolio of real estate images is at the center of your marketing. Your website is just an accessible way to present your business to people and let them know how to contact you. Malia Campbell's site is a great example that follows all eight of these principles (although it's a little weak on #5). It's one of my favorite real estate photographer sites.
- 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 playing around with a lot of things and not making any money with photography". It makes you look like an amateur. The cost of a template website at someplace like BluDomain.com (Malia's site costs ~$100/yr at BluDomain) is small in the overall scheme of a successful business.
- 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.
- Use large images in your portfolio: Bigger images have more impact. You want to knock viewers socks off!
- Portfolios should play automatically: When a visitor hits your URL your portfolio should just play continuously. Don't make the viewer hunt for your portfolio or click on thumbnails or next buttons. The fact is, many of your client viewers just aren't smart enough to quickly spot how to navigate a site.
- The site must look good on an iPad: There used to be some controversy about the importance of iPads. Not anymore. Consumers have decided. They're buying iPads almost exclusively. This recent article in the Guardian gives the stats. The most popular approach these days is having the site decide whether to display Flash or non-Flash depending on what kind of browser a visitor has. That is, the code on the site can test to see if the visitor is viewing with an iPad and present a non-Flash version of the site for iPad visitors and Flash for others. This gives the best of both worlds.
- Have a photo of yourself on your contact page 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 personal feel.
- Have your cell phone number on the contact page: This is a customer service issue. As a real estate agent, after I sign a listing agreement with a home seller I know the seller will immediately ask, "when can we be on the market?" I want to call my real estate photographer before I leave the sellers home and book an appointment. I don't want to send an email, wait 24 hours for a reply etc. In this business you need to carry a cell phone and be instantly available. This is not that hard to do. Real estate agents do it and expect their contractors to do it too.
- 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.