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How Do Real Estate Photographers Compete With Established Photographers?

Published: 19/02/2016
By: larry

CompetitionDrew asked this important question:

The area I'm in an area that has a hot real estate market and there are a good amount of real estate photographers. What are some things I can do to stand out from the pack?

This is a classic question! We've discussed this subject before. As the number of real estate photographers increases in large market areas competition increases.

Here are some suggestions distilled from previous discussions on this subject:

  1. Understand your competition: You need to know what you have to do to compete so understand your competition's price, quality what extras photographers in your area offer. You can do this by looking at the websites of other real estate photographers. What features and services to they supply. Don't try to compete by just charging less. Focus rather on continuously upping your game.
  2. Maintain a great looking portfolio: Work at looking as good or better than your competition. The portfolio on your website is the center of any marketing you do so make it top notch! Don't skimp on your portfolio website, it helps you sell yourself. Shooting new construction model homes is a great way to build your portfolio. Ask the site agent to let you shoot their model home during a quiet period. Model homes are typically beautifully staged and make great portfolio images.
  3. Meet your potential clients: You need to meet your potential clients if possible. Real estate agents are people oriented and respond best to personal face-to-face contact. Go to their open houses, their office meetings and real estate agent events to meet them face-to-face.
  4. Offer products beyond still photography: Extras like floorplans, tours and simple video can attract more business.
  5. Create a marketing piece: Create a regular size or jumbo size glossy postcard that has one or more of your very best images on it along with your contact info. Deliver your marketing piece to targeted agents office mail slots. You don't have to mail these. Agents have mail slots at their office. You can personally deliver these to these mail slots. Distribute your marketing piece every few months.
  6. Create a presence on social media: Most agents these days are on Facebook or LinkedIn. Show off your successes and connect with agents. For many agents, social media is more important than email.
  7. Be persistent: You have to stay visible to agents. Do the same things over and over. Build a mailing list of agents you shoot for and agents you've met and send out an update every few months. If you stay visible, then an agent is likely to try you out when their regular photographer can't make a shoot.
  8. When you get a chance to shoot, make a good impression: Word-of-mouth from other agents is THE most powerful marketing. So when you get a chance, dazzle them with great customer service. Great customer service is more important than anything else; even more important than how your photos look.
  9. Ask for referrals: Don't be afraid to ask clients to refer you to their friends. Some photographers give discounted shoots to clients the refer them or give a thank you gifts for referrals. Also, be sure to write a personal note or thank the client face-to-face when someone refers you. Agents understand the process and importance of referrals because referrals are key in their marketing too.

What have others found to be good competitive practices to breaking into a market?

7 comments on “How Do Real Estate Photographers Compete With Established Photographers?”

  1. I agree 100% with every suggestion. I've done them (a bit lacking on 6 and 9) and have waaaay more business than I can handle... In less than 1 year... Market timing? Well, maybe.

    But the only thing I see missing from this list is quality. I believe that after all the dust settles... It's really the 800 lb gorilla. I learned (here on this blog) that many good brokers hold quality above price (or their perception of quality anyway). They WANT to pay and get more! Those are exactly the brokers you want - but you absolutely must deliver, product and service. I also believe strongly that part of a smart plan is educating them on what they DO want, what IS GOOD.

    As Scott Hargis says; over-deliver. And don't fall into the trap of resentment for what they're getting for the money. Just get better - and charge them more.

    In my opinion #3 is the golden secret to this business. Toe-to-toe. Not the easiest suggestion on Larry's list, but by far the most effective - or so I've found.

  2. Those are all good suggestions for getting into a crowded market. However, trying to wedge yourself into an already crowded market may not be a good idea. Even a excellent photographer may not be able to do well if the is an oversupply of photography talent. Sometime the best business decision is to find a different market or even a different business. There is an old saying about trying to sell sand in the dessert, sometime old saying fit.

  3. Maybe it is just me, but I am not inclined to give advice on matters that would cause my business's bottom line to decrease. I have spent years working to bring my business income to over the 6 figure mark. The time, effort, experience and determination spent is not something I want to give away to some wet behind the ears newbie. I think they should earn the success that they get, just like we have.

    That is not to say I am against anyone getting into this business, in my or any other area, competition after all, promotes better products and service. It is just that inevitably, I see the newbie who will offer to do it for half of what the market will pay and THAT hurts us all......

    So, my one piece of advice to newbie's would be, if you're going to get into this business, then charge the going rate and earn your reward just like your competition. Think about it, if you were to see a open corner on a busy street that had gas stations on the other three corners that were doing great and thought "hey, I will open up one on the open corner and reap the rewards that the other three are." You drop the price of your fuel to half of what the others are charging and are busy as can be. Everything great, right? Wrong, you come to find out that you can't survive on what you are charging and have to raise your prices to what the market is. In the meantime, the other three stations have suffered your ignorance and are now determined to drive you out.

  4. Rather than fight competition I am taking a younger person on to train and allow me to expand my business. They will, if they show the right attitude, have a share of that business and in turn help to keep it viable. That in turn will allow me to consider other possibilities both within and without the trade.

  5. @ Jerry Miller -- honestly, Jerry, if you can't compete successfully against a "newbie" then the problem belongs to you, not to them. If your work isn't better than theirs, then whose fault is that? If your clients don't see the value in what you're providing and will happily switch to someone else, then it sounds to me like you've been overcharging them. I certainly wouldn't want to think that the only reason I could stay in business was by freezing out anyone who wanted to get into the industry. I'd prefer to stand, or fall, by my own merits.

    I'm sure you never learned anything from a book, or a website, or a mentor...but most of us were shown by somebody else how to operate a camera, or develop film, or calculate an exposure. There has never been a better time in the history of the industry to be a photographer - growth in the industry is nothing to be afraid of. Just don't think that you can operate today the way you did in 1980, or 1990, or 2000, or 2010...because no one, in ANY industry, has that luxury.

  6. Under promise and over-deliver. Charging the lowest price will get you some initial work, but probably not in homes with good portfolio potential. You will also be working very hard for very little money. Keep in mind that we are providing a service and not so much a product, so the service aspects of your business need to be top notch. Showing up on time and ready to work might displace an established photographer that is constantly late on-site and with deliveries.

    Try offering weekend appointments if the competition is only working M-F. Many homeowners like to be present during photography and it's easier on agents if they don't have to be the ones chaperoning the photographer. You may also want to specialize in doing mostly twilight photos if you are holding down another job.

    Offering other services is great if you already have some experience with them. If you are trying to learn video production or how to lay out flyers, you may spread yourself too thin if you are offering those services before you are ready. Providing floor plans doesn't take much investment in gear and software, but you will need to develop a good workflow so you can get them done quickly enough to make better than minimum wage. Even though your camera may have video capability, there will be another couple of cases of gear to buy depending on what level of production you want/have to offer. The same applies to aerials. Find out first how much demand there is for services that will require you to make a large capital outlay and what agents will pay for that service (take whatever they tell you can divide by two for the most optimistic case.)

    I'm no fan of FB, so I recommend against it. Work on building and promoting your own web site where you have control over your work and get out and meet agents and brokers. Instead of updating your FB page, go out and make some images of local features that you can offer as a perk to agents that hire you for use on listings.

  7. Honestly Scott, I share your sentiment and did not mean to imply otherwise. All things being equal, I will stack my work against anyone else and live with the results. As I said, competition keeps us on our toes.

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