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Print Media Photographers Moving To Real Estate Photography

Published: 10/08/2008
By: larry

Vincent Laforet, a Pulitzer prize-winning staff photographer for the NY Times, sums up the situation going on now in photography as follows: "This past year has been one of the roughest years for the newspaper and magazine industry --- and the truth be told --- the outlook for the next few years looks even grimmer" in his post "The Cloud is Falling".

David Hobby over at has a pretty graphic story of about how these same economic forces have touched him in his recent post, "Will Shoot For Food".

The good news for real estate photographers is that many of these same forces that threaten photographers in the print media are having the opposite effect in the real estate industry. The real estate industry has been becoming increasingly web centric for years. Real estate photography is already primarily web centric and real estate photographers are for the most part independent contractors. The whole business model in real estate photography is more sustainable.

So what is the effect of the demise of print media on real estate photography? It's not very hard to figure out- competition is going to increase. I've talked to several new real estate photographers in the last month that used to have staff jobs at print publications. They don't like the fact that they are now independent contractors rather than on salary but it's possible to build a consistent income doing real estate photography. One ex-staff photographer told me he saw his options as wedding photography or real estate photography and he didn't have the personality for shooting weddings. I predict that the competition in real estate photography will increase in the next few years. This increased competition is going to make it more and more important to be doing all the basics well so you can compete successfully.

Here are the things I think are going to become increasingly important to compete well in real estate photography:

  1. Use good marketing techniques: This means making personal contact with the agents that invest in real estate photography (the top 10%). Agents are better at recognizing good marketing than they are at recognizing good photography and they expect to be marketed. In fact they love a good marketing pitch! They are sales people!
  2. Maintain an accessible portfolio: Increasingly you will be forced to compete with other established real estate photographers so you'll need a way to show agents you produce good work. The best way to do this is a breathtaking web site that displays a portfolio that is as good or better than the people you are competing with. The nice thing about a portfolio based web site is that when talking to someone on the phone you can refer them to your portfolio (if the URL is simple enough).
  3. Do what you say: 1. and 2 involve a lot of promises. To get and keep clients you need to show up on time, deliver what you promised and exceed expectations.

These sound easy enough but it's difficult to consistently do these three things well. The biggest impediment to doing these three things is that we are geeks and tend to get wrapped up in the technical details like cameras and Photoshop and don't do the marketing and people things as well as they need to be done. Remember to build your business you need to be proactive. Don't just build a great web site and wait for agents to find you. The best way to expand you business is to make personal contact with people you know are potential clients.

6 comments on “Print Media Photographers Moving To Real Estate Photography”

  1. The problem with most creative people is that they're good being 'creative', and lousy being a business person.

    The people that are succeeding in real estate photography are good businesspeople. They probably aren't even the best photographers, but they are good at marketing themselves and their business.

    There may be more competition, but 99% of the successful real estate photographers that are steadily working are just plain good at business and marketing THEMSELVES. Most photographers are anything but.

    It's always been that way and always will... concentrate on your business skills and you'll do more business than photographers 100 times better than you.... and doing BUSINESS pays bills. Just being GOOD does not, unfortunately.

  2. Our biggest compentition is the local newpaper. They took our business plan, copied it and tried to resell it to our customers. Fortunaly, our customers did not bite. They then started giving away the photos and advertising. Some agent do work with them but most either work only with us or with both.

  3. Cape G- Interesting. This is probably an attempt to keep some of their staff photographers by finding a way to have them generate some income for the paper. Newspapers are doing everything they can to replace their disappearing advertising income that their business model is based on.

  4. There was a David Hobby interview in USAToday a few months back (now behind a pay firewall) and I believe it said he's pulling down 6 figures between his seminars and the advertising on

    Not too shabby for a career change

  5. Kevin- Yes, in his "will shoot for food" post David said his blog income would give him "breathing room" in his career change.

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