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How Do You Get It Across To Some Realtors That Their Photos Are Awful?

MarketingBrochureMatt asks:

Is there a way to tactfully and respectfully communicate to a real estate agent that you can tell they are taking their own photos, and that they should consider upgrading to professional photography? These photos typically feature converging verticals, overexposed ceilings from flash, and dark secondary rooms (through doorways, etc). When I ask these potential clients about shooting their listings, they respond with "I take all of my photos because I'm very picky and I don't think anyone else will get the photos right." With regards to the converging verticals, there seem to be many agents that think that more flooring in the photo the better.

I believe that one way of marketing agents is to simply take the time to train them in the basics of real estate marketing photography. Some will be able to do it themselves but most will realize they can't do a good job of it and need to hire a professional (you) to do it. This training is the primary intent of the give-a-way PDF I have called What Home Sellers and Agents Need to Know about Photography.

Matt's immediate response was, "I wish I had clients that would read something that long!" OK, so the What Home Sellers and Agents Need to Know about Photography is 9 pages and it's intended to be a handout for a presentation to agents about marketing photography. It's not really an elevator pitch. But I admit that it has grown over the years so maybe Matt is right, a boiled down elevator pitch style version of this could could be useful.

So I reduced the nine pages down into a one double-sided page to hand out to agents. The front explains the essence of WHY real estate photography is important and the back lists the essence of what good professional real estate marketing photography looks like. I agree, for some situations it would work better to have a single page to hand to agents. So there you have it - everything distilled down to one double sided page.

Feel free to use this anyway you want. Make it your marketing piece. If you want to change it for your own use just use an online PDF to word converter to create a word file and then edit it and make your own PDF.

34 comments on “How Do You Get It Across To Some Realtors That Their Photos Are Awful?”

  1. It's easier said than done. Most of the ones I've come across can't tell the difference between a good photo and a bad one even when held side by side. But they sure can tell the difference between 2 cents and 3 cents. Most of the ones than can see the difference still do not want to pay the extra dollars for better photos. I have printed out your PDF and handed them out and nearly all of them land in the circular filling basket. They seem to love verticals at 60 degrees and the clown vomit look. Anything we consider properly photographed they call old fashioned!

  2. A very nice gesture for Larry to share his experience and layout. While I think that something like this might get traction if posted on your website for agents to browse, I am not sure that an agent you hit cold calling will take to it....maybe though, no harm in trying.

    I have found the most success with noting the properties around a property I have just shot and sending them a link to the mls of the property photos with a note: "I noticed that you have a property in competition with the property I just professionally photographed down the street. If you ever decide to hire a pro, I would be pleased to offer my services". I would also include a list of my services and fees so that they understand what the financial commitment would be.

    I never put down the photos they have and if the issue comes up in our conversation, I just tell them that I am SURE that I can do a much better job than with what they have now, "Just look at what I did around the corner".

    For those agents that choke on the price, at least they have the information should they ever see the light. One agent that I had talked to months earlier, recently called me and said they were ready to make the step since everyone around her were using pros.

  3. @Jerry Kelley - The agent reaction you express has got to be location related. I've personally used the "What Home Sellers and Agents Need to Know about Photography" PDF to present to agents in the Seattle area and on Maui (Tom Tezak's office) and in both places agents had a very positive reaction.

  4. @Larry - Yes, it could be the location. I've only been in Virginia Beach and Albuquerque and Va. Beach is by far worse than ABQ, at least when I lived there three years ago. Thank you for reducing to 2 pages, maybe it will work better, I'll try it and see what happens. I too have never put down the quality of photos the agents have used.

  5. I agree with Jerry Kelley, most of the agents I talk to at open houses can't tell the difference. I constantly see multi-million dollar houses marketed with dreadful photographs. I also see bad photography from so-called professional photographers that the agent has hired believing they received "professional" photos. They don't seem to know the difference between good and bad "professional" photography, either. Most only look at price.
    Recently I went to a Home Show and talked to an interior designer at length. First she asked me how much I would charge to shoot 100 photos of one of her jobs. I asked her, "Do you really have 100 photos to shoot at this job?" Eventually the count got down to 5 photos so I gave her a price. She also asked how many of the 5 shots she would be able to use. I told her, "Well...all of them. If you can't use them why would I give them to you?" Then I found out the reason for her original question about 100 shots. Seems she hired a wedding photographer to shoot one of her interior design jobs and out of 100+ shots the photographer took she was only able to use 2 images. The wedding photographer charged her $100. I told her, "Well, you get what you pay for." The point is, too many people only see price and get burned by "professionals" who are not professional at all. I believe we as architecture and real estate photographers should create a certification program and educate our clients to what it means to be a certified "professional". This could help weed out bad photographers and give our profession back it's good name. This is something the PPofA should have done and has repeatedly failed to do. It has become a worthless organization that just takes it's members money and does absolutely nothing to help photographers and educate the general public about what it takes to be a true professional photographer.

  6. Thanks Larry - this is a nice marketing piece. Since I am also a REALTOR in Northern Virginia, it helps, but what I do is contact the office manager and ask if I can talk for 10 minutes at an office's weekly or bi-weekly meeting and either bring pizza or subs for the agents that usually attend the meetings. (Usually runs me under $100). Then I show them a before and after listing photos, I show a small home and large home (ones I took) showing the same attention to detail for both and how these home sold in under a week and some the day they are listed. Most REALTOR, (being one) do not really know marketing and how important good photos are. I tell the REALTOR in my own office that their listings are a direct reflection of them and their marketing. If they have poor quality photo's and another agent uses a professional photographer, maybe a stager, in todays competitive market, the agent using professional services will usually win the listing. Just my two sense worth, but love the marketing piece!

  7. When I see an opportunity to attend a local open house in my area I pop in if I notice that the photos on the listing website don't look professionally shot. I do this to meet the agent and possibly earn a new client and to leave my card behind for the homeowner. More than once I've gotten a call from the property owner asking what I charge for professional photos and I've been hired directly by them. One homeowner said her agent shot the photos and told her that professional photos were a waste of money and "just a way to make the homeowner feel better". I said of course they are, isn't it part of her job to make you feel like she's doing everything she can to market your property to the right buyers? The house had been listed for 6 months. The homeowner hired me to retake the images and within a week she had offers. Professional photos don't sell a property but they do bring the right kind of buyers to a listing. An agent is representing his/her brand when they post a listing and their brand needs to project a professional image. If an agent says they can't tell the difference between professional photos and ones shot on a smartphone that's a stubborn agent who doesn't care about their image, their marketing strategy or their brand. The agent who didn't believe in professional photos told the homeowner that if my photos brought them a buyer, she would hire me next time. She is now my client too. I've done the dog and pony show for agents and get 1 or 2 new clients out of a room of 20 agents. That is a good day! Believe in what you do, always do the best work you can, under promise and over deliver! It will pay off and soon you will be the go to photographer in your area.

  8. Anybody who gets paid for their photos can call themselves a professional photographer whether the photos are of good or bad quality. So an agent hires a photographer and gets the professional photos. They may look like the photos I described in my post above, verticals that are leaning 60 degrees with the clown vomit HDR effect. Because the agent paid for the photos they must be professional, right? There is a difference between them. The difference is what I call "professional quality" and snapshots. That is something many agents don't seem to understand and they may never understand because they are "numbers" people and not "pictures" people. They truly can not tell the difference.

    I think it would be great if wannabe agents in RE school were taught the difference between good and bad photography. If so, it would be a win win for all of us.

  9. I think pretty much the only way to do this is to show them their photos, or ones that look very much like them, and show them your work next to that, and it better look at lot better to their eyes.

  10. We have sent e-mails to agents educating them on how we do things differently than other photographers. We have picked up a few jobs this way. We see everything in our market. Bad verticals, blue windows, dark rooms, over saturated colors. It is hard to steal work from agents with long standing loyalty to their existing photographers. But at least we can show them how we do things differently.

  11. Professional real estate photography is for agents that want to create a more professional brand in an attempt to gain more listings. The end users of those photos, the buyers, do not care about pretty pictures. Most MLS photos give buyers all the information they need to decide to see the property. In 20+ years as a real estate broker I have never had a buyer tell me they dont want to see a listing because the verticals are not plumb, or because an adjoining room is too dark. Until buyers start demanding “professional” images before they will buy a property, agents will continue to take point and shoot photos. BTW, what exactly is a “professional” real estate photograph?

  12. @Rohnn. FYI I have had several agents come to me to shoot their photos because their sellers have complained that the agents were shooting their own photos wondering why they didn't use professional photographers to shoot them instead? Try looking at some of the really good photographers mentioned on this site and maybe you will learn what "professional" real estate photographs really look like (if you actually care to learn). You are the kind of agent this post is talking about. Possibly you do not care about your image to potential new clients? It's not the buyer as much as sellers you need to impress. Otherwise you will miss out on potential new seller clients. It's a fact that sellers will list with agents that have a more professional image and that know good marketing. It's already been proven that professional photography is good marketing. Whether you accept the fact that sellers and buyers are becoming more sophisticated and aware of the photographs used in the marketing of homes is of little consequence. It's happening whether you believe it or not.

  13. @Rohnn - There have been quite a few times as I was photographing a new listing, the homeowner wanted to see what my photos look like. Once I showed them the photos, they felt relief. They said they looked at many RE listings and saw so many awful photos, they choose the agent with the best photos. There are sellers who want photos that make their home look good!

  14. Larry,

    There's a typo in #6!

    I have a friend that has her house on the market. She, not the Realtor, took the stamp included! I tried to convince her that I could take some better shots with a little depersonalizing, etc of her space, and she would not budge! Her reasoning was that no one had complained about the personal items in the photos, and the right person will come along, and buy her house! Oy!

  15. with all due respect to Realtors across the country, let's face it. There is NO requirement to have knowledge on marketing and merchandising. I do not think our target market will ever be with the mass majority of Realtors. They just do not get it. The top producers yes. Perhaps the top 5%? It is a shame, because we here all the time how our product helps our clients get new listings. Some of the blame has to lye with the seller. They either do not care or do not know that they should care. I think if they knew that they are potentially leaving money on the table, not getting the maximum # of eyeballs on their home or not getting the most they could from their agent, they would demand great photos and video.

    Maybe the question should be what is the best, most efficient way to appeal to and educate the home seller? knocking on doors is not the answer

  16. @John, I feel John that a large part of the blame lies with the real estate industry itself.

    You're right however in that home sellers don't know that they should care.

    But that is why they are employing a professional (ie the agent) who should know what to care about to help them get the best result.

    There is simply too much emphasis in the industry on LISTING - it's like a frenzy. We have never seen a seminar or training conference on 'how to sell a house' - it's all about listing - hence agents get no training or importance placed on marketing.

    And I get that - I appreciate that you have to 'list to last' but we have chosen to take a different path - we do believe we are in the business of selling houses (I can hear the dinosaur agents giggling at us now) and it's amazing where that approach can get you.

    Great marketing will get a better price for a property - we have no doubt about that. We call it the 'Evian effect' - wrapping the property in a label that increases the perceived value of that property.

    And pro photography is the NUMBER ONE factor in that strategy.

    They won't watch the video or see the fancy sign out the front of the property if the photos aren't up to scratch - and I don't just mean pretty- they have to deliver information as well.

    And that strategy gets us more listings. There are sellers that get it and they're the people we want to work with. We do very little prospecting at all - the business comes to us - and if they don't get it they're welcome to go to the discount agent down the road.

    More sales, better results, more exposure, more sales, more listings - it's an upward spiral - but the additional listings TO US is a bi product of our attitude towards marketing and getting the best result for the seller - not it's purpose.

    Which agent would you prefer to have represent you?

    The one who just see's you as a stepping stone to the next listing or the one who is genuinely interested in helping you get the best result for YOUR property?

    Literally when I was typing this today my wife's phone rang with a potential seller who had seen a couple of her listings and videos on line and commented that "she seemed like an agent who cared" - that listing is potentially for four new home units.

    We consider our photographer as a true partner in our business. We fret when he goes on holidays and will hold a listing until he returns so we know we will get what we need. We've now taken the next step and insist on a twilight shoot with nearly every listing - why? Because a twilight shoot stands out among the crowd and may be that edge that catches the eye of a potential buyer - and to quote Fred Light, "homes look much sexier at night".

    So I do sympathise with you guys and gals out there selling your pro services but there are agents out there who get it. I also understand that the majority of agents are using today's listing to get tomorrow's and that your own marketing and approach has to take that into account.

    But to any new agents coming into the business learn to list yes, but learn about marketing - read photog blogs like this one - for it's the agents who can market property well (among the myriad of other skills required to be successful in this business) who are going to survive and thrive in the future.

  17. Same here @Larry... getting a 404 page not found on the marketing piece. Would love to use it!! THanks so much for sharing!

  18. @Larry Fields:

    Your response to Rohnn would make sense unless you looked at his website.

    I believe Rohnn has valid points. Who gets to define what is actually a "professional" real estate photograph. Yes most people here know the basics (verticals vertical, reflections, wb, int/ext balance). But I see it all the time where people list themselves as professional real estate photographers and think...really! The fact is if they are selling images then they are by definition professional.

    I am sure there is truth in potential buyers not caring about verticals, wb and correct angles. That is just us obsessing and trying to improve our craft, but the real world works with that potential buyer saying "that kitchen looks nice" regardless of who took the photo and how 'professional' it looks to us.

    Where I think your response was wrong was about Rohnn. Click on his link. He work is what you and I would consider "professional' real estate photos. he was just stating a valid point.


  19. @Randy & Ellora - I've fixed the problem now. I updated a typo in the file and forgot to change all three links in the post. Sorry.

  20. The Redfin report is a farse. It is simply a marketing piece by Redfin to try to attract new clients, nothing more. They through the word “professional” around and assume any photo shot with a DSLR is a professional shoot and any photo not shot with a DSLR is a point and shoot, per their methodology.
    Just because someone is using a DSLR does not make the images “professional” quality. Then they use some mathematical gymnastics to prove if you list with one of the Redfin brokerages using DSLR cameras you will sell your home faster and for more money. Is Warren Buffet/Bershire Hathaway going to let a nickel of profit slip through his profiteering capitalistic fingers? If there is any truth to the Redfin report wouldnt he have photographers on staff in his offices coast to coast? The lack thereof proves the report is Redfin propaganda.
    I believe a better definition of a professional real estate photography would include 24mm wide angle views, composition, level horizontals, evenly lit, off camera flashes, color balanced, rule of thirds, foreground, middle ground, background elements, post processing skills and others. Anybody can use an automated DSLR, that does not make them a professional. PFRE should not be promoting the Redfin fraud.

  21. What I don't understand at all about the reluctance to use photos that are worth a damn, is the fact that they get the money back sooner or later.

    The realtor who has/takes/needs photos has the listing. No matter who ends up selling the property, the listing agent will make a percentage way over and above the amount the photographer is paid.

    This is also possible... I have a modest number of realtors who immediately pass the cost of the shoot on to the owners. They are going to listen to what their realtor tells them, and if he/she tells them they need to hire a professional to take the shots, the seller will do what he's told, if serious about selling the house. it is one of the absolutes, as much as the need for the house to be clean, uncluttered and pleasingly presentable.

    It's a no-brainer. However, many realtors do not have well-developed brains.

  22. "The realtor who has/takes/needs photos has the listing. No matter who ends up selling the property, the listing agent will make a percentage way over and above the amount the photographer is paid."

    Unless the house is re-listed with a different agent. I imagine that's where they balk at the idea of paying someone that knows what they're doing.

  23. If the agent is paying for the photos they have a certain amount of risk of not recouping that money if they lose the listing or the owner changes their mind on selling. I know it's a concern, but I don't see it happening very often with listings I make images for. It would be interesting to hear how often that happens from listing agents where the seller is taking their guidance on the asking price. I do know a few times where the seller wanted an unreasonable amount of money for the property and the agent didn't want to sink much money into the marketing. I suggest to them that in those cases, they have the seller pay for the photography and offer to rebate that cost back if the home sells.

    If more agents were onboard with how much better having professional photos makes THEM look in the eyes of new clients, they might start having all of their listings photographed. The top producers in my area all use professional photography for nearly all of their listings. The few that just have snapshots are the dogs going cheap.

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