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How Was The Real Estate Photography Business In 2013?

Published: 30/12/2013
By: larry

[polldaddy poll=7678752] This year I've talked both real estate photographers that are struggling and photographers that were on track to do 800 to 850 shoots in 2013. There seem to be plenty of both cases. For those that are struggling it's hard to determine if their problem is a geographic location with low demand for real estate photography, or they need help with marketing.

There are two major factors that are an impediment to building a real estate photography business:

  1. Getting started isn't easy. You have to be able to market yourself and keep at it. For most it takes a year or more to get up and running well. Not everyone can do this well.
  2. Not all geographic locations have the same level of demand for real estate photography. I wish there was a better way to tell which locations have the highest demand, but the best I've found is google trends that shows the trend result fo the english search term "real estate photography". The image at the right shows the 10 cities world wide that have the highest demand for real estate photography. I rarely find people struggling with real estate photography in these cities. Problem is, this doesn't get as detailed as one would like.

The US states with the highest real estate interest are Washington 100, Utah 92, Colorado 89, North Carolina 88, Oregon 84, Arizona 78, Louisania 77, Tennessee 77, Texas 75, Florida 73. Again, there's only data for the top ten. More data would really be nice.

In the end all you readers have the best information about the real estate photography business. It's been a couple of years since I've done a poll on this subject. So how is business going for everyone?


21 comments on “How Was The Real Estate Photography Business In 2013?”

  1. 2013 was a big year. The inventory in NYC was very tight and often the listings I shot were sold within days. I am shooting a full day today, and with that, I will come in with just under 1000 shoots for the year. It would be great if I could clone myself, I need some time on a beach. Until then, I will keep shooting and wish everyone a busy and fun 2014.

  2. I'm personally going to take the plunge this spring. I tried building a client base while still working a full time job, but it's just not working so I'm tossing myself out of the nest to see if I can fly on my own. Hopefully I can come back next year end and answer "it's never been better"!

  3. I really can't add anything relevant ... I have only done model home photography up to this point. Always happy to do more in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware areas. Will check back to see what other's are saying as this is a very interesting topic.

    @ Richard Caplan ... beautiful portfolio .. you've given me at least one great idea.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  4. 8 years. Survived the housing crash. Shooting 900-1000 the last few years and looking for a good 2014. Its not an easy business to get started (thank god) I work 50+ hours a week but would not go back to the cubicle.

  5. 2013 was my first year. I am in a small market with some competition. I managed to shoot 73 homes and built my client base to 17 agents - all by referral. A few agents take advantage of Just Listed/Sold postcards and other marketing materials that help boost the bottom line. I expect to continue to grow my business and double or triple my output in 2014.

  6. As I was reading through the replies I noticed Richard said that he had just under a thousand shoots for the year so I went to his site thinking how good could that many shoots in a year be? Wow! With the quality of today's camera's all you have to do to take cool shots is point the camera at something cool, but @Rcihard you take cool and artistic to a whole other level.

    Even if I could shoot that well I can't imagine being able to do 1000 shoots in a year, how do you guys do it?

    @Niel where are you located?

  7. Thanks everyone for the great real estate photography business feedback. For those commenting it is helpful to everyone if you state where your business is and put you website URL in the comment header so that people can see your work etc that is on your website.

  8. I started shooting real estate in mid May, so I had a late start. Only shot 63 houses in a market that is pretty small (Boise). Right now it's all but dried up because of the winter- not many homes going on the market when it's 20 and snowy.

    REALLY hoping 2014 picks up.

  9. year 13 for me, another great year, demand remains very strong, I am shooting less homes but charging more, have less agents but they are listing more homes all of which have photography, its now rare to see homes listed with out professional photos, my area in Far North Queensland Australia has approx. 150k population and there is at least a dozen real estate photographers, The strong growth area in 2013 was Holiday Homes, which are charged a premium due to their commercial use and additional styling.

  10. Dang Richard, I need to come and shoot with you for a bit...outstanding work..I can see why you shoot so many a year.

  11. No kidding that it's not an easy business to get started in. We've been at this for close to 14 years. Worked with many of the national tour brands but never did better than being on our own. About 800 tours this year in SE Michigan, looking to up that considerably in 2014. You guys/gals in the warmer climates have an unfair advantage ???? in the winter months our volume slows considerably.

  12. I'm in Westchester NY -20 miles north of Manhattan. This was my first year. I had two problems:

    1. Agents are cheap or/and they think they know how to shoot when they don't. I have been an agent and still hold a license so this is nothing new to me. But I'm surprised at just how cheap many of of the very successful ones are. They want the photos, but they want them for next to nothing. There is no point in taking on clients like that. Flipping burgers would pay more, so that narrows the field a great deal.
    2. Big companies that pay almost nothing are really taking over. They are the 800 lb gorilla. Around here most brokerages are big-box. "Micro-brews" are not doing well at all. So I need to get my foot in the door at the big-box brokerages. Unfortunately, 90% of those big-box brokerages have established relationships with big-box photography companies.

    In general, I'm surprised these companies are finding photographers willing to work for them given what they pay (awful) and the cost of living around here (also awful). But sadly, enough people do it for pocket change. These companies offer these amazing spreads. The photography is slipshod, but they throw a lot of "stuff" in and brokerages love it. I've found that many agents think slipshod is "good enough".

    Don't know what's going to happen next year. I'm giving it one more year, but I only did 48 shoots. It started deadly slow and then picked up to 2-3 a week towards the end of the year. So I'm looking at about 130 a year if that pace is kept. I'm hoping to get to 300 shoots next year, but I don't think that's likely. If I get to about 200-250, I'll hang in, but will have to take on something else to make ends meet. Right now its pocket change, but not a business. I spend a great deal of time marketing myself. Very frustrating.

  13. I feel your pain, Ruthmarie. If things don't pick up for me too, I'm looking at doing something else, sadly maybe altogether.
    I'm also out there marketing, but haven't found the magic bullet that works around here. I have to agree about agents being cheap- it's fine if they bring in the dough, but not the person making their inventory look so good. My RE package starts at a paltry $99 (cost of living and pay are really low around here) and I get agents complaining on a regular basis that I'm too expensive.


  14. I know that lots of people are saying that business has never been better, but wonder what these people have done to market themselves? I believe the real job is marketing, then being a skilled photographer.

  15. My business has been crazy-good in the Atlanta market! I finished 2013 having shot 862 listings. In business for seven years, and have a client list of nearly 200 agents.

  16. I am another one just really getting started, and have already found wayyy to many realtors that are basically too cheap to want to hire someone to make their listings look sooo much better then what they are doing with their point and shoots. Thankfully, I have a full-time job, so I will continue marketing especially in the next few weeks and see how it goes..

  17. I had a wonderful 2013! I had a very busy year, (from condos to mansions), the final numbers for 2013, 871 homes! WOW!! I have been shooting virtual tours since 2001, and have had my own clients and company since about 2005. I love doing what I do, its not as easy as it looks, a lot of hours involved, driving, paperwork, etc. but it is my lifetime career choice! I am looking forward to a fantastic year ahead!

  18. Happy New Year everyone! I was one of the ones to claim a great year and I'll try to explain why I had a good year and the business model I have built and stand by.

    I shoot in a relatively small 4 season city in the interior of British Columbia with just over 100,000 people. It is however a 4 season paradise and very desirable place to live in Canada which has kept the market stable even through the crash…barely. This business is a tricky one to get involved in this late in the game especially in smaller markets since they are already established with lots of competition, but it doesn't mean you can't squeeze in and make a go of it if you're creative and persistent. A little history on me, I started my company in 2007 while also working full time as a graphic designer and was not aware of anyone else in the market specializing in real estate. In 2010 I quit my full time job and left the country for almost two years and the business obviously fell apart which I was ok with (soul searching trip). When I got back in early 2012 I went full time with the photography and I had to work my tail off marketing again and one thing I spent all winter working on was HD Video in a way no other company was offering (more on this later). This is what got me back into a front runner position.

    The KEY to this business is fairly simple because unfortunately most realtors don't care as much about quality as we do so don't waste your breath trying to explain why you're better than the other guys and deserve more money. At the end of the day PRICE is the most important thing to them. Next comes SERVICE and they don't realize it at first but this is the number one winner over any price in the end. I too have realtors complain about price but I stand firm knowing they will eventually come knocking and most do. When they go with the bottom feeders, eventually they will get tired of never reaching them on the phone or waiting days if not more to get their images. Another thing I don't do is to force realtors into contracts, let your work and work ethic speak for itself. I have an open door policy.

    If I receive a call anytime of day I take it or return it asap as well as text messages and emails. You MUST make this a priority to stay competitive. Time and time again I get compliments on how easy it is to reach me and how quickly I make bookings and turn around the images and videos and the great quality is an added bonus at that point. I also will work 7 days a week with almost no time restrictions. Realtors may not practice this same business model but they certainly do expect the moon from every service they hire, so give it to them and you will have a loyal, repeat client every time and watch your business grow.

    HD VIDEO - It was slow to start (winter) and one of the most difficult parts was pricing it right and every market will be different. During the summer the video popularity grew rapidly and word spread so I gained about 20 new clients because of it all of which left their existing photographers because I offered the whole package at a discount (convenience factor). By the end of my first year making HD Video I have completed 150 unique videos ( which added substantial income to my business and allowed me to double my best previous year in the business which was 2009. HD video is not the future of Real Estate marketing, it is the present and if you don't learn it well and offer it, you will eventually be weeded out of the market I firmly believe. It's not easy to do, is time consuming and there are many pitfalls and expenses with a huge learning curve, but it's incredibly fun, creative and lucrative so my advice would be to get started now instead of thinking a good photo is all you need. In my area I gave myself a one year jump on the competition and now it seems every Tom, Dick and Harry is trying to crack into the market so I have to keep ahead of the game. In this game quality wins over price unlike the photo market because any realtor can use their internal video systems to put together iPhone videos so they need something with WOW factor to convince them to open their wallets. Do NOT cheap out on video gear as it will show in your work.

    Another great tip is to be incredibly kind and genuine to the home owners. Talk to them and make them feel comfortable when you're in their home. You don't know why they are selling and it may be a very stressful time for them having all these people coming through their homes, so be kind and put them at ease. That feedback will get back to the realtor guaranteed and make them very comfortable knowing you are representing them in a professional and courteous way.

    Also don't stay comfortable with what you're doing. There is always somebody below you trying to climb the ladder so keep climbing it or they will go right over top of you. If you have a financially decent year, then invest more money in gear, marketing and education. Some might buy fancy cars and vacations with their profits but I personally invest 25-30% back into the business and will continue to do so every year.

    Real Estate photography is MUCH more than knowing how to take a great photograph and the same goes for any profession. So don't focus everything on price. Market yourself with incredible service and the word will spread, just give it time and don't expect instant results and you'll do fine.

  19. Wow Matt. I couldn't have said it better. So many people in this business are obsessed with things that actually DON'T MATTER to clients, ignoring those things that actually DO win you the business and keep clients in your corner as the next little guy comes gunning for your business with shoddy service, poor quality and lower prices.

    I absolutely agree with everything you said. Congrats on your success! You have the right mindset!

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