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How to Survive In A Competitive Environment

Published: 20/10/2008
By: larry

I've noticed an increasing interest it the topic of real estate photography pricing and increasing competition. I believe a major factor for this increasing interest is that in most large metropolitan areas the number of real estate photographers and, competition is increasing. The increase in real estate photographers is due to:

  1. Barriers to entry in this field are being lowered. Cost of quality digital cameras is dropping rapidly. Moore's law is responsible for this. There's been a huge growth in the number of people getting into digital photography.
  2. Print media photographers are moving into real estate photography as advertising shifts away from print media and forces photographic job reductions in print publications.
  3. An increased awareness of the need for professional real estate photographers is increasing.

A common complaint I hear, from established photographers is that new photographers coming into the real estate photography business are charging less for the same product and undercutting their prices. I would not be surprised if this kind of price pressure was happening. Just yesterday a beginning real estate photographer reader told me that after buying and reading my two e-books he was out driving around a upper-end neighborhood, saw a recently listed property, called the Realtor and offered to shoot the home. The Realtor already had professionally done photographs by another photographer, but let him come shoot the home too to see what he could do. The Realtor ended up using the newbie's photographs to market the home instead of the original photographer's work. He didn't tell me the pricing details but chances are his prices were less because this was his first shoot.

It's important to not loose site of the fact that Realtors that hire you are looking for a value in their terms and don't always look at your work the same way you do. There's a lengthy discussion on this subject in the PFRE flickr discussion group. Fred Light dispenses some good advice in his commens on this thread:

1) Realtors don't care about your 'experience', your 'credentials', your 'education'.
2) Realtors don't care about WHY your photos are 'better' than someone else. They don't care about technical issues, lighting, flash vs. no flash, etc.
3) Realtors don't care what type of equipment you have or how much it costs.

For Realtors, it's not about 'the art', 'the creativity', 'the process', and you can't base your pricing on something Realtors don't care or know about. The only people that care about that are the photographers, OTHER photographers and those who really appreciate photography as ART.

Realtors care about PRICE. Realtors care that the photos look GOOD and look better than what THEY could take. It's really that simple. As long as a photographer (pro or semi pro or amateur) takes BETTER photos than the Realtor could themselves, they will get hired.

So what can you do to survive in a competitive environment? Here are some ideas:

  1. Don't assume that you know best how to shoot their listings. Talk to you customers regularly and solicit feedback on how you are doing. What would they like you to different? Different agents are going to have different hot buttons. That is, the things they want but don't bother to tell you. With my wife, it's the front shot. She wants to see every possible angle and participate in deciding which angle to use for the primary front shot. But when she hires a real estate photographer (when I can't shoot the listing) she never tells them that... it's up to them to figure it out.
  2. Include an inexpensive Flash slide show with even your minimum cost shoot. Many beginning photographers don't do this and it can be a competitive edge. A Flash slide show if nothing else presents your work in a finished, elegant format. If you have your own web site you can use Lightroom to produce Flash slide show for next to nothing.
  3. Offer a range of services. Stills, flyers, tours, brochures, 360s, PAP, postcards, listing sites. Many of these things like flyers, listing sites, postcards etc are services that you can source from someone else. The more of these services you provide, the better you are going to be able to compete in a comparative "shoot out".

If you are in the large busy market area you will eventually feel the pressure of competition so be thinking ahead about how to best compete.

Related posts:



9 comments on “How to Survive In A Competitive Environment”

  1. Larry-

    Great post! A lot of our customers are telling us that they're facing more and more competition as well.

    Fred's point from the quote in your article is also dead-on. Largely realtors don't care about any details, sometimes even quality! They don't want the BEST, they mostly want GOOD ENOUGH, since they are paying out-of-pocket with no guarantee of recouping the money. Many realtors do tours because they HAVE to, not because they think a better tour means faster sale / higher sale price.

    We are looking for ways to help photographers change who their "economic buyer" is from the realtor to the homeowner. The homeower has an emotional investment in the house, and they care much more about how the tour turns out. They also get to use keep the tour no matter if they switch agents, so there is some advantage to buying it directly.

    I also agree with your point about additional services. We are building an entirely new product stack that will make it easy for photograhpers to deliver these types of additional services to clients. We hope to launch it this year.

    Again, great post. I will definitely point it out to our customers!


  2. While some agents do want flyers, slide shows, brochures, etc- many just want the photos. A lot of tech savy agents have programs in place to create all of their own advertising material, they just need photos of their real estate listings.

  3. @ Dylan - This is the case for my local market too. My most frequent customers (i.e. well-organized agents with higher volumes) could care less about extra stuff & are happy w/ the photos + a slideshow they can link into the MLS.

    Now, regarding agents who don't have a system in place for marketing their listings... different story... but who do we want as our customers?

    YMMV, obviously.

  4. Sign Boards Web Brochures Pod Casts all need good photography.
    Large players are offering cheaper deals as a bundle, forcing some Shooters to re look their prices.
    In this tough market we need to shoot more.
    I could get by on 3 jobs day now I need 4 to 5 to make the same money.
    Most of my agents expect a more than good product.The difference between good and poor is not driven by the money its driven by people who have no passion.People who are not really from this industry just threw some money at it.
    Take a look at these guys..
    They offer a number of services that could give you an edge.
    I use them for some of my stuff.

  5. "...she never tells them that… it’s up to them to figure it out."

    There's something familiar about this statement, I just can't quite put my finger on it... 😉

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