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Ten Rules For a Real Estate Photographers Portfolio Site ?

Published: 31/08/2015
By: larry

Patrick recently asked the following question about his website:

How many images would you showcase for a particular gallery (i.e. Real Estate, Commercial, etc) ? I'm thinking 40.  (20 exteriors and 20 interiors).

Sure twenty images per gallery may work fine if you have that may top quality images. After looking at Patrick's site, I realized Patrick needed to have my sermon on portfolio websites. There are many things that are more important than how many photos you have in each portfolio. I've done this post several times over the years and readers always help refine this list. Here is the latest version:

  1. Dedicate a site to real estate photography: Web sites are not that expensive for the value they provide. Don't mix so many types of photography together on one site your visitors are not sure if you are a full-time real estate photographer. If you are working at being a full-time real estate photography have a site dedicated to real estate photography.
  2. Portfolios should play automatically: Organize your site so that when a viewer hits your URL a series (8  to 30) of your VERY BEST images automatically play without any action or navigation on the part of the viewer.
  3. Allow the viewer to easily take control: Have it so if the viewer wants to they can take over control and exit the automatic display and go to some other gallery or page.
  4. Carefully review your portfolio images: If you are just beginning have someone review your images that can give you feedback on quality. A great venue for this is the PFRE Flickr group. The point is, you want the few images in this auto displayed portfolio to be your very top images because they will be part of you brand.
  5. Use large images: Large images create more impact than small images.
  6. If you use vertical images use a diptych: If you use vertical images combine two vertical images side by side to use the same space as a single horizontal image. This this prevents switching between vertical and horizontal.
  7. Your site must look good on all mobile devices: Your portfolio and whole site must work on all devices (including smartphones and tablets). Check it out to make sure it does.
  8. Have a photo of yourself on your contact page or about page: This is about giving your site and business a more personal feel. The online world is cold, anonymous and impersonal. Do what you can to give your business personal feel.
  9. Have your cell phone number on the contact page: This is a customer service issue. As a real estate agent, after I sign a listing agreement with a home seller I know the seller will immediately ask, “when can we be on the market?” I want to call my real estate photographer before I leave the sellers home and book an appointment. I don’t want to send an email, wait 24 hours for a reply etc. In this business, you need to carry a cell phone and be instantly available. This is not that hard to do. Real estate agents do it and expect their contractors to do it too.
  10. Have as many images of upper-end homes in your portfolio as possible: Upper-end photos say, “I shoot for upper-end agents” whether you do or not. Upper-end homes make you look more professional even if most of the homes you shoot are not upper-end homes.

Here are a few of my favorite real estate photography sites. Most of them follow these rules:

Have I missed anything?

11 comments on “Ten Rules For a Real Estate Photographers Portfolio Site ?”

  1. Great list of items, Larry. I could add a couple helpful items. It's a good idea to put your web address on your portfolio photos. That will point viewers back to your website for those times when your photos drift through the internet. I've heard that happens sometimes!

    A few great things to have on an RE website is some list of past clients, links to certifications, memberships, and anything else that shows you're actively involved in the business. It will show how fresh your work is and what real clients think of it. Testimonials, reviews, and any direct feedback you can share is very useful.

    Then there are also considerations for SEO, like giving your photos descriptive filenames. Search engines extract every bit of info they can from your files. You get more out of web searches by naming photos from DSC_0123.JPG to something that spells out the features in each photo, like master-bathroom-featuring-glass-shower-and-walk-in-closet-with-mirrored-door.jpg

  2. I leave my phone number off of my website. I already get enough calls from spammers. While there is a "Do Not Call List", many marketers are finding out that there isn't any funding to investigate telemarketers so the incidence of spam calls is growing. Instead, make an email address that goes to your phone's email app and have your contact form send inquiries to your mobile email and another address (like Gmail) as a back up.

    I'm not "instantly available" at all times. I have the nasty habit of ignoring my phone if I am speaking with somebody in person. I will also ignore the phone if I am in the middle of a job if it's from a number I don't recognize. I've kicked some (former) friends to the curb for using their phones excessively when we would get together. Nothing tells a customer they don't matter more than taking a call in the middle of a discussion. Conversely, You can make a client feel important by muting the ringer without looking at the display (or caller ID on a watch). I don't answer the phone while using the restroom, in line at the bank, post office or store checkout. I don't answer the phone if I'm driving in traffic. I DO check my messages as soon as I can and will return a call quickly. I will even pull off of the road and park to return a call if know who is calling.

    I sound code my calls. Friends and important clients have their own individual ring tones. Persons in my contact list have a common ring tone and any caller not on my contact list will trigger my generic ring tone. Without looking, I know how important a call might be.

    State your service area on your home page; "I service the Anytown, CA area and adjacent communities". I have looked at many RE photo sites where I had to look up the area code on the contact number to see where they are located. Avoid informal local names. Names like "South Bay", "North Beach", "Tri-Country" or "The Four Corners", they can be very confusing even to local a town or two over. Somebody searching for your services is likely going to search for "Real Estate photographer Anytown, CA" and not "real estate photographer upper valley".

    I really hate mobile devices. If they fit in a pocket, they are too small to display a RE image. The horrible dilemma is that many agents want massively wide shots which are exactly the worst ones to view on a 4" display. My website is "responsive", but I tell people to look at it with a desktop or laptop.

    40 portfolio pictures as a maximum is a nice round number, but don't fill up the slots with so-so images. When you've filled out your 40, replace the weakest one(s) as you improve and come back with better stuff. I've seen sites with 15-20 gorgeous images and can't see how they are going to do any better by adding more.

    Don't put a soundtrack on your site! You're messing with the music I already have playing.

    I'll give a very strong "second" to Larry's advice on having a dedicated RE photography web site. Many hosting companies allow you at least three websites for the same price. If yours doesn't, switch. More expensive tiers usually include the ability to host more sites. Now you can have each genre you work in have its own web site. People feel they are getting more value and the best quality with a specialist.

  3. I would probably add one more thing to this nice recipe - in fact, I'm in the middle of revamping my website and will take note of these tips Larry has pointed out as well as the other two posters. Anyway, I will add something though:

    I'm going to have 4 to 6 subgroup sets of photos.
    1. Kitchens
    2. Bathrooms
    3. Great Rooms/Family Rooms
    4. Exterior (some twlights in here too)
    5. Formal Rooms
    6. Bedrooms (optional)

    My reasoning for these sub-sets is to allow a sight visitor to be able to view whatever types of rooms they would like to see. An agent may have a slick home but would like to see Kitchen photos only because maybe their client's kitchen is killer and they would like to see how I photograph kitchens. I also think grouping photos as I have suggested is simply easier for someone to navigate. It is nicely laid out. Personally, random photos hitting me while viewing is ok and suspenseful - not knowing what photo comes next. But I would think though that having the website with these tabs is more methodic and I think easier for someone to navigate through.

  4. Interesting, and timely. While I have a dedicated url, it became dated needing a re-work so changed by re-direct to my more general photography website which is also setup to deliver photos. The re-direct effectively put it on the "to do list" and we know how that turns out. Looking at the above links, I like the simplicity and some personalization. One obvious thing I would need to add would be a client portal tab for delivery and not certain at this point if the menu item would be a direct jump to the other site (in a new window, so both running) or iframe or otherwise program it within a page and appear to never leave the site. While I did see in the links was some discussion of preferred techniques and post work, etc, perhaps I missed it on quick review, but didn't see any pre-shoot material that was consumer oriented. Perhaps a page dedication to consumer education, like what to expect when there, how to prepare, what to look for in "good" RE photography - classic errors.

  5. You forgot the new one item for a website, and it is 10 times more important than all the other tip combined. The site must be seen. Otherwise you have the equivalent of a fancy billboard located in the Sahara desert.

    1) Stay away from Flash (It's dying anyway)
    2) Distribute the URL far and wide.
    3) Have relevant, unique text on the site that changes at least weekly.

  6. To the original question: "How many images would you showcase for a particular gallery (i.e. Real Estate, Commercial, etc) ? I’m thinking 40. (20 exteriors and 20 interiors)." -- The number I post is dependent on the size of the property. For small condo apartments, it's hard to squeeze out more than 25 good shots. For properties priced over $800k or so, I post as many as 80 or more good shots. Agents and buyers tell me, "The more photos the better".

    On another topic, I've just started adding a visible watermark copyright notice to the bottom of the photos I publish. It has my website address, so, in addition to dissuading other agents from using my photos without permission, it shows potential new clients how to find me.

  7. Have to disagree about the auto-play gallery. Find these to be outdated and annoying. Just have your images so someone can scroll on a smartphone and leave it up to them to enlarge if desired. Think Squarespace.

  8. That's all well and good, to have rules for a web site. Mine is a working site, a work in progress and an extension of my creativity.

    It's sloppy in places, there are way too many photos and it does not showcase only real estate, even though that is my primary source of work. Not that I wouldn't want other sources, RE is just the easiest to make money at. I do the other stuff for fun and once in a while I sell something, get a magazine or CD or DVD cover. That makes me feel good, but usually no real income.

    I've been doing RE photography for about five years. I have had three web sites and built and re-built every one of them myself.

    I have a use for each and every section. The real estate section has a running record of every house I shoot so clients can refer to them with their clients to choose to photos they wish to use. I have a background blog that I use to stage zip files for their download. I never delete anything because I don't have to. I can use it as my main storage and keep a backup on removable hard drives. I recently moved to Smugmug because of the ability to upload an unlimited amount of photographs and videos. It is configurable enough to satisfy me.

    I have always thought that SEO was the most important thing for a web site. After I deploy one I spend probably a week of spare time promoting it to different search engines and anything else I can think of. I have not wanted for work for at least three years and have raised my prices every year to reflect better quality and service.

    I guess what I am trying to say is "whatever works for you" is the right way to do it. What I have done certainly has worked for me!

  9. Hi guys

    Great list Larry, I also believe that as competition increases in your own marketplace an important element to include into your website's marketing strategy will be to understanding what your customers (i.e real estate agents) problems are and having the correct copywriting on your website (& pitch when in person) to talk to these problems. Understanding the problem real estate agents have and being able to articulate that even better than they can themselves, will naturally build a rapport with the agent and they will also naturally believe you have the answer to those problems.

    Coming from a very developed industry that i'm currently in, where there are now many many companies with very high standards of photography (and most using the same re-touching companies now) it has becomes necessary to set yourself apart from your competitors in more ways than just the standard of your photography. It has almost come to the point where quality photography is assumed and now what is more important is every other element of your services meeting the clients needs in a way that solves their problems.

    The key is to do your research into what problems you are actually servicing for your clients. Go deep into this understand beyond the surface level obvious things you might be solving. Agents are looking for ways to set themselves apart from their competition too. Can you tap into this? And if quality of photography isn't different from one company to the next, then what could that be?

    You need to be precise in your initial communications to be even considered to go to the next step of having a presentation meeting with them and crazy I know but you'll need to be able to do this by using more than just your photography to do this now (depending on your market) or in the near future.

    I welcome your thoughts?


  10. Thank you all for all this good information. I have had a site for my photo work for too many years without upgrading it for today's multifaceted and varied device market. And like many of you have said, it covered all the different fields I have been working in for 30+ years. So I bit the bullet, signed up with since it seemed to have quite a few different portfolio/gallery engines, did a test for free and went with it. I also finally got to use a dedicated URL similar to be different than my other one. I put about 40 images on the home page on the basis that in all probability, few would bother to get past it. So I wanted the home page to have an auto slide show and just enough text to get the idea across without making people read a book.

    Then, calling on a comment above, I put in several galleries. None dedicated to an individual shoot as I had before and I am sure put all visitors to sleep, but ID'd as "Exteriors", "Living rooms", "Pools" etc. Those are not automated slide shows but have those little thumbnails at the bottom so people can click on the ones they want to see.

    And that was pretty much it. It self configures for smart phones and you can then fine tune that. Much more fiddling to do and have to add a gallery of videos, but the nice thing is that it is very easy to do and update. Now I have to go through it and winnow out all those photos that I may like but are not really strong enough. I want to have no more than 20-30 in each gallery but I do want them to be multi representational.

    This has taken me years to get to. Now I did optimize all my images in Photoshop after sizing them and reducing them to 72 dpi in Photoshop. I have a feeling that making them look their best reduced to the fastest download is probably a good thing despite the extra time. I would like to know if any of you still do this.

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