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Here is a Targeted Approach to Email Marketing That Works For Real Estate Photographers

Published: 16/01/2017

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Charlotte in MA asks:

I was wondering if you were aware of any email vehicle (email list I can buy) that has Realtor emails addresses suitable for a photographer to use to communicate and market with.  Or if you have any suggestions about how to best begin an email marketing campaign to local Realtors.

Here is a much better way to build an email list to of Realtors that are good candidates for likely customers:

  1. Decide on your target area. Say it's YourTown.
  2. Make a list of the real estate offices in YourTown. To get a started just google "YourTown real estate"
  3. There will be sites like say that will list all the ColdwellBanker agents in YourTown.
  4. Make a spreadsheet that has the names, office, phone #, email and the number of listings and what type of listings (upper-end, land etc.). During this process, you will notice that many Realtors don't even have any listings. These are buyers agents that rarely need real estate photography. No need to even put them on your list.
  5. During this process, you can even see from the photos on their listings if they already use professional real estate photography or not. Put this on your list too.

At first, this process may seem like a lot of work but this list is like gold. It will allow you to make a list of agents that are likely to need real estate photography services. Email by itself is typically not as effective as personal marketing like going to listing agents open houses and meeting them personally. Many use email as a follow up to personal marketing but some real estate photographers say they get started with just email marketing.

If you use email marketing to get started or to send a periodic newsletter to your clients there are services like MailChimp and many others that allow you to track your email campaigns in detail and comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Here is a focused approach to email marketing that one reader reports a 25% success rate with. Usually, email marketing tends to not be very focused. That is, you perhaps send emails to a thousand agents in your local area once every few months. The more focused and targeted your emails are the more effective they will be.

Here is the targeting process that this reader uses:

  1. Go to a local real estate office website and find listings that have photos that are not as good as the photos you typically deliver.
  2. Take a few of the listing photos from the listing and construct an email to the listing agent that compares their listing photo of say a living room compared to one of your living room shots. Include examples of 3 or 4 of their listing photos compared to your typical listing photos.
  3. You'll have to do this from a local real estate office site where the listing agents email is available. Most, but not all, office real estate sites have agents email addresses and all the listings of each agent in the office.

Your email to the listing agent might look like the following:

This is the only email I'll send you in 2017. I feel like I can raise the bar for your listing marketing photography. Please compare the following examples of your to my similar photos:

Their kitchen photo
Your kitchen photo
Their living room photo
Your living room photo

If you'd like to know why my photos are better or any other info, please don't hesitate to call. If you don't see a difference or are being loyal to a friend, thank you for your time. Have a great year!

It's important to understand that in general email marketing is nowhere near as effective as getting out there meeting potential clients face to face but it can produce results if done in a targeted focused way.

Larry Lohrman

22 comments on “Here is a Targeted Approach to Email Marketing That Works For Real Estate Photographers”

  1. Been there done that. They could not tell the difference. But they sure could tell the difference between $1 and $2. And they always go for the $1!

  2. A word of caution to Australian photographers about the advice above: Australia has had anti-spam legislation in place for well over 10 years so unless there's an existing business relationship with the person/business being contacted or that person/business has given their consent to be contacted, businesses may be subjected to very hefty penalties (see There's also a "Do Not Call" register - once a person/business has entered their telephone, mobile or fax details to the register, businesses contacting them via those methods may also receive heavy fines (see

  3. I would have a hard time doing that as it treads a thin line, if not blatant disregard, of respecting another's copyright as you would expect for yourself. Even the person who takes the "bad" photography owns the copyright to is, and assuming that the Realtor (or homeowner) didn't take them, but purchased it would typically be beyond even the most liberal license. Essentially what you are doing is using another person's photo - presented in a negative light - and coverting it to a solicitation for business. Sure, you can rationalize that it is "educational" and therefore OK, but the bottom line of the email is "I want your business" NOT "This is how you tell the difference." Essentially, you have taken another's photograph and applied it to a totally different commercial application than originally intended. Anytime I do a "theirs" "mine" comparison...such as a Powerpoint presentation, or a web page I am developing for my website, I've taken both - and found it a challenge to re-create bad as you train yourself otherwise. Re-shoots of other's poor work are easier as you have something to model after, but I also have clients call me with "hey Larry, check out MLS#" for particularly bad photo examples.

  4. @Larry,

    There's an easy fix for not taking someone else's photo. We all figure that bad photography is just most people using the auto setting. So the next time you're shooting a median priced home take a few of those shots. Then take your shots aand edit them. You then have the example of your professional work and a non professional example. Apples to apples of the same space.

  5. If I want to show a good/bad example, I just take a picture with my iPhone in front of my lens so I have a comparison of the same room with the same composition taken the way many agents would do it.

  6. You could just include some examples of your work in the email. If it's good they will see the difference even without a side by side comparison and of course include the link to your portfolio. You might even say that you saw the photos on their listing and wondered if they were using a professional. If not here's an example of my work... etc. Whatever your approach it has to be courteous, professional and ethical.

  7. I typically send an email congratulating them on the listing and introducing myself as a local photographer. I include several of the other agencies that I've shot for and provide 4-5 shots of a typical shoot. 2 of those shots are a "before" and "after" of the processing with them labeled. Ideally they'll hire you before the listing goes live however I've had much success after the fact as well. I can't claim anywhere near a 25% response ratio, more like a 5-10 at best, but if I send out 100 emails on a slow day, 5-10 shoots aren't bad. My favorite client is the first timers. It gives them the "wow" factor and spreads from there.

  8. I agree with almost everybody that's posted, somehow, haha.

    I have done this before. One way around Larry's assertion is you put a nice photo you've taken, you then find a link that is up to a photo of the same space, taken in the past. I have tried to use google image's "view original image" to get that link, which works well. You then just say... compare my photography to the last photographers. You don't even have to say anything bad really, just letting them compare.

    As Jerry point out, I don't think anybody even notices though. In fact, I would not be surprised if many of the agents liked the other photo better than mine (and yes I've used atrocious ones). The more hip and up to date the area you live in though, the more apt it is to work. I'm glad someone is having success with the technique though.

  9. Even if I did not agree with the other comments above, I am not so sure that this sort of campaign will be very effective, depending of course on what your market is and what sort of people you are targeting. I have not been in this business very long, only about 5 years, but my impression based on quite my small market is that only a few of the more discerning realtors are that visually sensitive to identifying various shades of quality, and as mentioned above, price is so often more important than quality as long as the work they are currently being supplied is adequate, at least in their opinion.

    It might make a difference if a realtor whose inventory has been mostly tract houses and suddenly finds themselves with a higher end / higher price, larger margin property. And I have a feeling that most people would actually feel offended if you question their judgement suggesting the they have their taste in their toes for using the photographer they are currently using over and over again.

    I would suggest that rather than disparaging the current photographer and by extension the clients you are trying to win over, it would be better simply to talk about yourself, your quality and your service as well as your range to the target audience - i.e. why should the target make the switch which is seldom just based on quality. If your sample photos are significantly better than your competition, and you come across as an easy and flexible person to work with who can be depended upon and help agents out of difficult situations, you will simply shine brighter and be more appealing. And you cannot disparage loyalty in your clients who may have been using their photographer of choice for years.

    I have found in my own small corner of the world, that word of mouth and asking to make a presentation of your work and services during the once a month (or more or less depending on the agency) agency wide meeting can introduce you to the entire agency without having to track down agents one by one or adding to their "inbox" with either emails or e-cards. And essentially you are being invited to meet people which is always results in a warmer welcome than cold contacts. I have often picked up new clients at these events since often they all go to the open houses right afterwards and you can often tag along with them and get to chat thus making a personal connection.

    I try to get invited back from time to time so generally restrict my presentation to just one or two of the services I offer to avoid not overloading the audience. When you see people texting, sleeping or chatting with their neighbors you know you have talked too long. Then on the next visit I can push another product or service I offer.

    You have to consider the client who at least knows the devil they are dealing with currently vs the devil they don't if they rely on you. But again, my experience is based on my own small market; other markets I know can vary greatly.

  10. This is a typical features vs benefits question. That your photos are better is nice, but it's only a feature. You have to go one step further and explain why the feature of having nicer images is a benefit to them.

  11. I agree, not sure if it's a good approach to insult another photographer. And as Jerry Kelley, a lot of agents simply can't tell the difference.

    I've tried email marketing, mailing large cards with high-quality photos, leaving cards at their offices, leaving "this home was photographed by..." cards on site. Little, if any, response from any of those approaches. I get 95% of my shoots from my web site, I think. And I find that agents are not only after quality, but price, flexibility, and quick turn-around.

  12. My question to the OP would be, How would you feel, react and move if you were made aware of how your photos were being used?

    Competition is one thing, Dirty play is another.

  13. @ Jerry Miller - there's some strong points being made here about this type of solicitation. I was nodding my head in agreement until I read yours; "...How would you feel, react and move if you were made aware of how your photos were being used?"

    Answer: I'd feel awful if someone pulled that stunt on me. And I'd make damn sure it didn't happen again - by improving my camera and processing skills (also by tightening up my existing client relationships).

    I think competition is a wonderful thing. It helps us and the client in many ways. But competition has a way of defining certain lines. I do agree that someone else's photos in YOUR advertisement is wrong.

  14. Not the most unprofessional marketing email I've read but it's up there. Managed to insult both the recipient and another photographer in just a few sentences.

  15. I'd like to point out that AnonymousOne is a registered PFRE anonymous commenter. That is, this person suggested having registered anonymous commenters maybe a way to get more experienced photographers in the discussion that would not comment if they were not anonymous. Sounds like an interesting idea so I thought I'd try it out and see how it works.

  16. @Dave Spencer - Competition is one thing, Unethical behavior is another.....starting with the unauthorized use of ones property....Do I need to go on? I am disappointed that you do not see the big picture in this type of behavior. What if someone took something else of yours and used it against you, say your emails? Are you going to make sure it didn't happen again - by improving your penmanship?

    I come from the old school of business where ones word was their bond and transactions could be made with a simple hand shake. These days, it's all about "Me, me, me and how can I get the upper hand fair or not.

    Bottom line, there should be some ethical standards that you live by

  17. I have asked agents why they use a photographer without telling them I can do better. It is a personality thing or friendship or a gender thing rather then cost or quality. If you are female and you belong to the local women's associations realtors then you will be successful. You will be hosting ($) their breakfasts meetings and taking free images at all their meetings events as well as the local Association of Realtors. They are so bad they do not have the right to be called virtual tour providers or real estate photographers.

  18. I'm a Realtor and a professional photographer. There are several agents that I know in our office and at other brokers who pride themselves of being a good photographer. Some do decent pictures of their listings, others don't do so well. Either way, they are proud of what they turn out. I know for a fact that these agents would not appreciate this tactic. They will not only bad-mouth you in the office, they will tell every agent they know how you insulted their work. Agents network a lot. A favorite topic is good, bad and rude vendors.

  19. I'm not so sure I'd want to insult another photographer's work or, in this case, the agents themselves. Many agents do the photos themselves and while it's usually atrocious (even if they have a decent camera and decent skills), I fail to imagine how I'd get their business if, right out the gate, I insult their photos. Might as well tell agents, "I think you're a sub-par agent all around and your photos back up this assertion," because that's what this marketing strategy amounts to. If a retouching service marketed to you, as a real estate photographer, by saying, "Your photos are pretty bad dude, why don't you let us touch them up?" would you be compelled to use that service? I certainly wouldn't.

    As to another comment talking about getting in front of agents at their broker meetings, great idea, though many brokerages (such as Keller Williams) don't even let you get your foot in the door for less than $300. You have to be in their preferred vendor program and that means you have to pay. While that's just business, and we should all see programs like that as simple reinvestment into our businesses or at least another form of paid advertisment, you may find yourself considering other forms of marketing that don't cost ~$300 up front just to be able to get into a meeting. That's the lowest tier for KW, and the next tier up is twice as much. For the lowest tier, you're not allowed to get in with new agents, which is pretty valuable because then you can get them to consider and/or hire you before they even know they need a photographer, much less have another one they are using.

  20. One of the projects I have in mind is to get a basic point and shoot camera and when I have the time, photograph a home with the P&S using the bad compositions I typically find using auto on the camera. At the same time, I will also photograph the same home with my DSLR and much better compositions. The P&S photos will be presented as they come off of the memory card and the DSLR photos will be run through my usual workflow. Using the same home at the same time of day should provide a realistic comparison. Since I will be making all of the photos, there is no Copyright or ethical considerations to worry about.

    In the past I have taken posted photos, corrected color and geometry and sent them to the listing agent with no response. I was very polite in the email, btw. ZROI tells me that it's a waste of my time in my area. I also selected higher priced homes for the examples.

    If KW charges a stack of money, market to smaller brokerages and other franchises that don't. I don't think the KW offices near me charge for the opportunity to present at their meetings, but they also don't return calls. I won't pay to be on a preferred provider list unless I am guaranteed more work than the cost of getting on the list. I tend to see that sort of thing as a way for the broker to make money without having to promise anything in return.

    @Dave Williamson, there are anti-spam laws in the US, but there isn't much enforcement. The US "Do Not Call" list exists, but it was admitted last year or in 2015 that there isn't any budget to investigate complaints. My approach is to only do email mailings 2-3 times each year so I'm not too annoying. I put an "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of the email and move the email of anybody that wants off to another cell on the spreadsheet so they won't be included in the next merge. I don't delete their information so I have a record of who has unsubscribed and I will still have their contact information should things change. I've had one person that unsubscribed later start using me when potential clients insisted on professional photography. One of my steady customers let me know that they would like me to contact them. If I meet anybody in person I ask if I can send them an email from time to time to stay in touch. They always agree as it's hard to say no to a polite request made in person.

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