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How Exactly Does a Real Estate Photographer Take a Vacation?

Published: 04/07/2017
By: larry

Chris in California says:

I've been shooting real estate for about a year now and business is starting to really pick up. I'm shooting between 4 and 7 properties a week and some of them are for somewhat demanding clients. They want the photos done when they want them, and there can be few exceptions. Coming up in a few months, my girlfriend and I have two trips (that will total three weeks) that have been long planned and I'm starting to worry. How exactly does a real estate photographer take a vacation?

I know exactly how you feel! My wife was a real estate agent for 26 years and during that time, taking a vacation was difficult, if not impossible. At least as a real estate photographer, it is conceivable (but not easy) to train someone to cover your shoots for three weeks. That's not the case when you are a listing agent because listing homes involves contracts and signing listing agreements; not something you want to delegate to someone.

Most people in the real estate industry take time off between Thanksgiving and New Years when most people don't want their home on the market. Nothing much is going on in real estate during this period but during the spring and summer when the rest of the world takes vacations the markets are smoking hot!

As the farmers say you need to make hay while the sun shines!

20 comments on “How Exactly Does a Real Estate Photographer Take a Vacation?”

  1. How do you take a vacation? Find a trusted associate to shoot for you. If you tell your regular clients that you are going on vacation without a substitute, they will look for someone else to shoot the photos while you're gone. In my experience, that gives the new photographer an opportunity to permanently replace you.

  2. Short vacations are possible durning the summer such as right now where the 4th of July falls on a Tuesday. I let my customers know that I was all booked on Friday (little white lie) and doing family stuff until the 5th (another little white lie). I'm trying to catch up on household stuff and transferring data to a couple of new hard drives. If I can, I want to give the car a nice detailing and install the iPod interface that's been sitting in my office for a couple of months. Wednesday and Thursday (5-6th) are already booked solid with a couple of tenatives for Friday. My mini vacation in the middle of summer hasn't hurt business a bit. I only had one inquiry for 7/3, but not a problem to reschedule as the agent wasn't going to be around to upload the listing until the 7th anyway. Different countries, different dates.

    The slow period for me in the US is Thanksgiving at the end of November through Superbowl. I may push hard to get more apartment sessions and summer rental photo shoots this year to help fill in.

    PFRE is a spring/summer/fall business and if you want to take holidays during that time, you might lose some customers to the competition if you take too many days off in a row. The last time I took a holiday in Europe was to visit Prague just at the beginning of December before the holiday slam which turned out to be a wizard time. The crowds were thin yet the city square crafts booths were all set up. The cool weather (and hot spiced wine booths) made walking the town much better. A couple of years ago I visited Death Valley in the winter for a little get away and filled up several memory cards with all sorts of photos. There is plenty of ways to vacation in the winter and see all sorts of neat stuff. If you still miss spending your holidays in loud shorts and Aloha shirts, you can splurge on a trip down under.

  3. Some of the most popular photographers that I know of are almost constantly booked two weeks out. If you're doing the math already, guess what, people LOVE that. I'm just gonna let you read between the lines there, but it shouldn't be all that hard to get a two week vacation going anytime you please.

  4. Looks like every year about this time I have to force myself to go over to Switzerland for a couple of weeks. Rough job but somebody has to do it, and while there spend an extra week on excursions destinations, this year UK. Last year was twice - birth of grandchild in March, then the discovery that all child care closes nationwide for a month summer vacation which coincides with prime time for daughter's research samplings. In Florida, there is no such thing as a slow season, in fact Oct/Nov are prime listing (photograph) as people try to close before Jan 1 for property tax purposes. As a Realtor and photographer it hits me both ways. For photography I have a photo club friend cover who is retired, not looking to start a business but appreciated the spare income. I taught techniques and let them borrow supplemental equipment, such as lighting, as I travel light and won't need them. For Real Estate, more complicated as team with an associate to cover and a pre-established commission split. The hardest part is right now with the run-up to leaving as prospecting future business takes a back seat. Finally, as a thank you, I come back with a stash of Swiss chocolate and clients love it.

  5. I struggle with this every year, also. Usually we take a full vacation in September, just after school starts, and a number of 3-day weekends during the summer. Most agents want to list before the weekend, so not being around on a Friday isn't too difficult.

    My spouse really wants to take a longer vacation in the summer. So next year I just may have to go with it and say "it is what it is". I worry more about losing the clients than the money.

  6. I just got back from taking 2 weeks in South Africa. Wasn't exactly easy to plan, but looked several months ahead of time and trained an apprentice. He did ok based on his experience and continues to do some editing for me when I'm swamped. I referred out 1-2 clients to others. As soon as I came back however I was absolutely swamped again. Apparently some of them missed me which is a great feeling. You may lose a client or two along the way, but others will come along too. After working 12-16 hour days for months on end, striking that work/life balance is becoming more and more important for me.

  7. It would be nice to create an independent network that we can rely on to cover each other. Rely on as in take great photos and don't steal any clients during a certain time frame...

    Just a thought I've had for a while.

  8. Here is something I copied several months ago. I call it Photographer's Lament (but very true). First sentence changed to reflect our team.

    I am an Independent Photographer and work with my wife as a Team, plus a team of 3 others, which I still have to manage.

    The problem is:
    1. We CAN’T get sick…. . Why? someone may ask… , because if our clients depend on our reliability and they expect to get Photos and Presentations as promised… Next Business Day.
    If one of us gets sick, we then let those agents down…. that count on us and would make them look bad to their clients… who count on them. There is a lot of money on the line for the agent… listing commission which is in thousands of $ and those sellers are not easy to find and sign contract with… .
    2. If we want to take vacation…. we need to “close all operations”… we let them down.
    3. At the peak times…. about 8 months out of the year, we both work too hard, because I don’t want my clients to be forced to go to a competitor, and then…. we may not have this client at the slow time of the year, when schedule is not completely full.
    4. Even though I have my Post-Processing Dept… I still have to worry about what and how things are happening.

    Taking photos of the property takes less than an hour and post processing takes another 1 – 2 hrs…. at least that’s how it works for us.
    Quality Real Estate Photography is advertising my company, creates more business for my Agent clients and also quality photography makes everyone feel good…. Photographer, Agent, Homeowner…. everyone is a winner, but… it does take time and expertise.
    I just know that there are so many photographers that want to… make that extra income and their quality of photography suffers, what then makes it harder to keep the client/agent they have so…. the fee they end up charging is much less and become the… back up photographer if their primary photographer is busy.

  9. Agree with Scott Hargis, if two weeks is all it takes to lose a customer, probably on the way to losing them anyway.

    I provide a back up name, some wait for me, some go with sub. When I come back, lots waiting. Just let people know in advance enough so they can plan, too.

    Worth it to get time off.

  10. I have a couple friends who are in the business that I can trust not to try to steal my clients when I am gone. I start letting my clients know I will be leaving on vacation more than a month in advance and letting them know their options. As above, some go with the subs, some wait for me. My schedule is like a jigsaw puzzle anyway. I stay booked all the time - last year it did slow down after Thanksgiving, but I take a week in the early spring and a week in October for specific music festivals that I have been attending for years and I go on a trip for a reunion every year with one of my Navy ships. It works fine. There is so much work here in St. Louis that we are all staying pretty busy.

    I'd like to take a month long photographic expedition like I used to when I worked in the corporate world, but right now I have family matters preventing trips like that. I just keep putting my nose to the grindstone and saving my pennies for when I am able to go.

  11. My client encourage me to take holidays, they are RE agents they know how important breaks are and how hard they are to take, they use other photographers till I get back, which I let them source themselves, some how you are more appreciated when you get back.... they miss your customer service, attention to the vendor and your style of images. In saying that I find 2 weeks is about the max I can afford to take for my own cash flow. I just book it in my diary and thats it I am going, its called having a life. x K

  12. I think you have built your business on a few agents that think to much of themselves. Would you be out of business or your income seriously hurt if 1 or 2 went away? If so, you dug a hole, a big one. From what you said, your a lackey, and they appreciate having you at their disposal. If they use you for the convenience instead of your work, then we will be seeing fade away. If it's the quality of your work, then take control back.

    This may seem pompous, but I (yes I) make my schedule and my clients appreciate me finding the time for them. Now don't get me wrong, I don't book them weeks out, but weekly, they want Monday at 2, well it may be Tuesday at 10 that I give them. Sometimes just to maintain control. Other times I fit them in when they need it, if they make a convincing beg (Oh the seller just had surgery and their Mother died). Point is, it's your business, not theirs. If you lose one of these clods, then so be it, that frees up your time to take on a better client, one that appreciates you and what you do for them.

    Look at this way, the Realtor asks the seller "Okay, you want me to sell this home for you" you ask the Realtor "Okay, you want me to sell this home for you". Now your a Real Estate Photographer, your a PRO. Then the vacations will come if your not to busy counting the money.

  13. I feel like one of the bigger mistakes I've made the last year was telling clients I was booked solid for the 6 days I wanted to be off (instead of just being honest with them that I was going on vacation). It definitely resulted in some interesting "you've gotten to busy for me" dialogue... delivered as flattery, no mistaking the ominous undertone...

    Many agents have no clue what makes a 'good photo' but they are definitely sensitive to what 'good service' entails. Yet those same agents are the first to get out of town to escape their clients when it comes to getting some time off. That in mind, I told everyone that emailed and texted I was taking 2 days to get out of town for today's holiday. I heard nothing but "good for you!" ...

  14. Sometimes you need to take time off to recharge your mental battery. Otherwise, you'll start feeling drained and burnt out- even if photography is your most favorite thing in the world to do. It'a not the work, but the stress of managing the work and dealing with clients as well. As the saying goes, "All work and no play...."

  15. Running a successful business takes a lot of work and commitment. One needs to weigh the value of taking off for a few weeks with the consequences after only a year in business. Chances are your business is just starting to pick up in the last few months of the first year and now you’re thinking of taking off? For a few weeks… Not a good idea. You have not built up the relationships that will endure the agent’s tolerance. They have a business to run and for anyone to expect them to wait a week, let alone three weeks to get photos is just not going to fly. Don’t expect your clients to put their business on hold.

    As Larry and others have pointed out, understand your area seasons and take the opportunity to vacation with the least impact. You would be surprised at the lower rates, less crowds and opportunities that prevail in the “Off season” for most resorts. My better half and I stay in the penthouse section in most places for the same amount that we would spend in high season. Is it perfect, no but with a little research, you and yours can have a great time for far less money.

    Some have suggested getting a substitute to cover your absence while you’re away. Well, this presents a couple of challenges that could come back and bite you in the buttock. I have trained many photogs over the years, most in the business of wedding photography and was very successful with the outcome of their loyalty, ethics and their long lasting friendships to this day. Yet, when I broke away from the business of babysitting high strung clients to shooting commercial / Real Estate, I found that as soon as I trained someone the “Ins and Outs” of RE photography…….. They became my competition. What can I say? If I was unable to keep them busy full time, they strayed…..can you blame them? Another challenge is that your clients, will expect nothing less than your quality with the substitute, so now you are taking on the responsibility for your subs actions…..
    My solution, let your clients know that you are like them and like to take vacations from time to time. That while they may look at you as “always there”, you do get sick, accidents happen, and life has a way of throwing a spit ball at you once in a while. Let them know that you will give plenty of notice when you are planning a trip out of town. That they should have a backup photographer or two to contact while you are gone. As Scott H and others indicated, if the backups end up taking your clients, then you have more to worry about than a vacation. If you are on the right track, your clients will be happy you are back and appreciate you and your service that much more.

    ALL that said, take the time for vacations …. Live and enjoy the fruits of you labor. Life is short and take it from me, when the doctor puts a time stamp on you or your loved ones life, things take on a whole different look….

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