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Poll: How Is The Real Estate Photography Business?

Published: 06/06/2011
By: larry

A real estate photographer on the East Coast recently told me they were having a hard time making a go of it. My initial feeling was that lack of success in real estate photography these days is likely related to one's marketing approach since I hardly ever hear of anyone not getting enough business once they get up and running. But I also have a sense that the real estate photography business is easier in some locations than others. It's probably easier in large metropolitan areas than it is in less populated areas. This probably is due to the marketing sophistication and attitude of real estate agents in large cities.

I'd love to figure out a way to measure and characterize how the real estate photography demand varies by location. I was pleased several years ago when I discovered Google Trends. Trends is a way to get an insight into the number of Google searches for any given search term and how that number of searches varies over time. The number of people doing searches for the term "real estate photography" in any given location is in fact, a measure of demand for real estate photography. Google Trends results confirm the general impression about the real estate photography business climate that I get by talking to people about the real estate photography business around the world:

  1. The demand for real estate photography in Australia is 4 to 5 times higher than Canada and the US. The demand in New Zealand is between Australia and Canada.
  2. All the major metro areas in Australia have higher demand than any Canadian or US city.
  3. Canada is currently has more demand than the US, but just barely.
  4. The large US cities (LA, NY, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco) have higher demand than any other cities. Over time various cities pop on an off the list of large demand cities. Seattle has been on the list in the past year or so but in the first part of 2011 Chicago, LA and NY are the only ones on the list.

The problem is with this measure, there isn't enough detail about all cities. I'm looking for a way to get some insight on how business is doing in various cities. For now there doesn't seem to be any automatic way to measure demand for real estate photography services, so I'd like to have readers comment on how business is in your local area if you've been in business for a year or more and participate in the poll below. This way we can all get a better feel how the business climate for real estate photography is in various areas. Please mention the city or general area you are serving and your perception of the local demand for real estate services.

[polldaddy poll="5115603"]

16 comments on “Poll: How Is The Real Estate Photography Business?”

  1. In large parts of Europe it works on the basis of multiple real estate agents marketing the same property, with very little in the way of exclusives ( though more at the very high end do). Therefore, each agent has a small percentage chance of getting the commission. Sound great if you're a seller having several agents to market your property instead of one, until you realise none of them is prepared to spend any money on the marketing which includes paying for a photographer.

  2. Second that Paul: I am UK based and the story is ever reducing fees and "can you do a floorplan/ energy performance certificate at the same time for the same money..." : a lot of bad HDR going on and hastily completed shoots so that companies can make money via economies of scale using a bunch of operatives on motorcycles. Thankfully I have a couple of clients who pay me to just take photos when they have something special on their books: I like to think that it enhances an agent's standing with the owner if they say they are going to send round a specialist and then a floorplanner separately. Sometimes I shoot direct for landlords looking to let their properties via websites: for this I charge up. As Paul says the problem is that due to a property being marketed with a number of agents (great for the seller) the agent may find that their investment in professional photographs comes to nothing. In London I have to shoot for commercial clients eg interior designers/ architects and magazines to go on specialising in shooting property: real estate alone would be very hard to make ends meet. I'd like to see UK real estate agents operate more collaboratively with other agents (along US lines for example) and shoot the property once, and well!

  3. The first five months of 2011 were very busy in St. Louis. The luxury market was active. My client base grew slightly and a steady demand from existing clients.

  4. "Supply" goes hand in hand with "Demand". In a market with a huge supply of photographers willing to work for extremely low prices (Dallas, TX, USA), a constant flow of new photographers offering even lower prices, and struggling agents choosing the cheapest photographer they can find who takes "good enough" pictures (at least better than what they take themselves) is a struggle.

  5. Very slow in Southern Oregon. Just moved to Medford from Klamath Falls about 6 months ago. Klamath is much smaller but have clients there that still call on occasion. Have yet to get a "gig" in the Medford, Ashland or Grants Pass area. Been Hitting Open houses and my web page is the top listing for local search but even that is showing very little to no LOCAL "hits". The top agents feel that thier photos are "just fine".There are 1 or 2 photohraphers doing video and stills for $100.00 and under ( and I'm not going to go there. I'm not giving up and continue to aquire more equipment and knowledge while "not on the job". The way I got my "foot in" in Klamath was to become a realtor. I have an active Principal Broker license and am thinking that I may have to do that again here to "get some respect". Pretty darn expensive to do that and I'm really not interested in selling Real Estate.....I'm interested in RE photography! I'll keep plugging away 😉

  6. Vancouver Island, British Columbia has it's own economy based on affordable ocean view homes in some areas but also luxury - high-end homes in some others, along with vacation property for sale and for rent all throughout. Being on an island increases the need to market properties in a more inpactful way. This setting keeps the real estate market quite active most of the year. In the 5 years of operations on the island, we have seen a constant increase in the demand for professional photography. Although most realtors are not willing to pay big bucks for this service, they have identified the need for quality images and are willing to invest on professional photography on regular basis.

  7. Bob, That's an ugly website and some bad video on that site you mentioned. I'm sure "The Donald" wouldn't mind shutting him down for use of his likeness on his self promo video - probably not work his time though. You shouldn't have a problem exceeding that quality in any of your work. I too am in a small town where all the agents feel their photos are "just fine". I am trying to market to the sellers instead. Some of them see the value in making their listings look better than anyone else's in the area. Even when I deliver those photos to the agents, they still don't want others that they'd have to pay for.

  8. I agree with Michelle, Dallas is a tough market.. Lots of work if you're willing to shoot for $30 to $60 a house though... Just because lots of people are googling the term doesnt mean much.. that could be hoards of newbies trying to find this blog and get a crash course to opening up shop in 3 days after getting their slr...

    In all likeliness its ALOT of agents searching the term to find a photographer, and A) getting sticker shock, realizing they WONT spend that much money for their listings, or B) they are price shopping so I can get a forwarded email quote wanting me to match some $45 special, except they want well lit and edited photos, not poor quality like the $45 guy actually takes..

  9. I live in an area where real estate is very high end and always turning over with decent pace - however recently I feel a bit like the coffin maker in a town besieged by the black plague . I am getting loads of work, shooting investment properties, holiday properties and 5mill plus properties - simply because asset rich people need to liquidate . While this is good for now I think further down the track business will slow right down as the market is flooded with properties and people become hesitant to list.

    I am now starting to branch out and find work for magazines, builders etc to augment my income for when trouble strikes

  10. I've been very happy with my results after 1 year in the business. I'm definitely getting a good amount of work for the amount of advertising I've done. After finding a core group of 4 successful Realtors, my client base has multiplied by referalls. I can't complain.

  11. In the UK, the term "Real Estate" is not used so the UK will not show in Google Trends - maybe try Estate Agent Photography.

    I work in London and am finding work much busier than it has been for a couple of years now. There is more property coming to the market now but I am cautious as to whether it will continue in the Autumn.

    I only do photography, the floorplan business carries too much liability for my liking and is there is a lot of competition which has driven the price down to a level that to succeed the drawing has to be outsourced to India/Sri Lanka.

  12. Interesting to see how widely varied markets are across the country. Here, in the Boston area, I couldn't be busier! I'm actually looking forward to the summer months as things typically slow down a bit, but the last 2 months have been absolutely off the charts! I shoot at least 6, and up to 10 houses every single day. 70% both stills and video, 15% stills only, 15% video only. I'm getting TONS of new customers (shoot at least 3 new clients every day, plus all my regulars) and the phone won't stop ringing. It's been a bit overwhelming, actually. Considering I do absolutely no traditional marketing and have an unlisted number, it's obviously mostly fueled by social media, web presence and word of mouth.

    As my client yesterday said "the market is sizzling"... I guess things out here are pretty good compared to many areas, for which I'm grateful. "Make hay when the sun is shining!" I'm busy, my clients are very busy, homes are selling, all is good.

  13. Huntsville, Alabama has really picked up in the last two months while Birmingham, Alabama has died down some since the beginning of the year. At least for me

  14. I am about 3 months into business after moving from Chicago, and I have not been busier, booked my first double shoot day last week, and a week later, have another. Things are looking up!

  15. Hi All,

    I have so many questions as someone new to this and i'm looking for the appropriate place to post them. I'll drop this one here.

    Something I do each morning is spend some time looking at my local MLS sites. This morning I came across a near million dollar listing with photo's that in most cases are unusable. Point and shoot with on camera flash in dark rooms. When I say unusable, I mean it. It's shocking to me.

    My question is this: Have any of you reached out to agents listing expensive homes with horrible photos and if so, how did those conversations go? I think there is a fine line between insulting them and kindly suggesting an alternative. Obviously the agent simply doesn't understand the need for good photography. This makes no sense to me. Yesterday I came across a 1.3 million dollar listing with point and shoot photos, not horrible, but not good either.

    I'm curious what you all think about this.

    ~ Dave

  16. I've wondered how well the Drug Companies marketing techniques work with RE Photos.

    In the the US Drug Companies market to the public directly .... 'Ask your doctor about the benefits of ..... for you' anyone doing that? I'm interested in any feedback trying this method with Mast/Pole/Elevated photography for example?

    Perhaps the having the real client tell the Realtor ' Use this technique and I'll hire you' has some legs.

    Thoughts please.

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