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The Demise of Professional Photographers?

Published: 23/08/2007
By: larry

I ran across an article by Andrew Brown in The Guardian (newspaper in the UK) via John Knack's blog, titled We all helped to speed the demise of professional photographers. It talks about the commodification of photography.This brings to mind the complaints that I hear all the time from RE photographers that so many Realtors don't want to spend the money to hire a professional because they think they can do just as good or good enough. Yet I see very few RE photographer websites or RE photographer marketing that demonstrate the difference between a good RE image and a bad one. I think examples like the one above from Vivian Toy's article last February in the New York Times are needed to educate Realtors and others about what a good professional real estate image looks like.Mike Martin sent me a good example below:The large background image is one he took with his Canon SD430 perched on top of his 32 foot windsock pole and the small overlaid image is one a Realtor took. To me this is a striking example of what you pay a professional for. In his case the equipment that he uses is unique and worth his fee. In other cases it's the lighting experience you bring to the table or just having a ultra-wide-angle lens. In many cases it's just having a good eye for composition. In any case, I think if you demonstrate and sell with examples the strengths you have, Realtors will see that photography is not a commodity.

11 comments on “The Demise of Professional Photographers?”

  1. Exterial and aerial photos are really important, but I think it's on the interior shots that the real striking differences show. Many properties show 2 exterior and 6 interior shots.

    One thing I've noticed on pro photogaphers sites are the almost exclusive use of very high end properties (and often taken at night) which gives the message that hiring a photographeris not for everyday homes. You also hardly ever see before and after comparison shots on these sites, one of the things of most interest to viewers of home makeover shows.

    The need is there to create a market where people demand high quality images as a basic mimumum when they sign up with an agent

  2. Chin up Larry, have a look at and tell me pro's aren't still needed.

    Also I do agree with the comment above. All the pro shots I see are of luxury homes and not of everyday homes. Much of the content (and it is good content) is talk about lenses and flashes and fancy tripods.

    Half the properties I photograph in require some sort of basic vacuuming and cleaning up in order to get a half decent shot. I'm talking 30 things stuck to the fridge. I'm talking collections/hoarding behavior.

    Also some pro photos look just too good. Sometimes the home is a just disappointment after the photos. A fine line to walk.

  3. It's all about the consumer - the customer.

    Agents have no problem selling a home for the 6% commission. And thier clients never complain about the poor quality photos. So what incentive is there to hire a professional. Why spend any extra money when your client is perfectly happy with your cellphone pics you took and posted up on the MLS?

    Also, mindset. Everyother show on HGTV now is about staging a home to get it sold. But the mindset in realtors still is, I think, that potential buyers are only interested once they step inside. Like it was selling house pre-internet. Stage the house, have an open house, and the house will sell. I think alot of realtors are still in denial that over 90% of buyers start thier search on the internet - looking at pictures.

    at least, that's my .02

  4. OK, the agents don't. The total commision is that much, usualy. In the end, though, you have a home owner paying 6% of the sales price of thier home, and don't speak up about the quality of the photos. Only point I was trying to make

  5. The home owner's opinion of the quality of the photos isn't the real issue, though. The time on the market is what they're going to complain about, and quality photos are just another trick in the bag for an agent to drive traffic to the listing. Just like postcards, magazine ads, and having free coffee and lunch at the broker's open.
    Some agents understand this, some don't.

  6. I'm not so sure. If a homeowner were to 'proof' the photos first, and reject the ones they didn't like - I'd bet you'd see agents either taking better photos the first time around or hiring someone to do it.

    It's not really any different than any other industry. With enough consumer demand, industry will eventualy change to meet those demands.

  7. In the area of the country I sell the average home price is right around $200K. If you can get a 6% listing (most of the time its closer to 5%, with the listing agent getting 2%) there is no excuse not to hire someone to shoot the property if you are not skilled enough. The agent stands to make a few thousand dollars but wont spend a few hundreds for quality media... Whats worse is that they do actually spend the money, just on recipe postcards and magnetic calenders.

    Oddly enough, it is still exceptable to have bad (and sometimes really bad) photography used in marketing materials. I wish I had saved all the examples I've seen through the years as it would have made for a great topic. Nevertheless, the majority of these cases are because of ignorance and inexperience and I know the realtors would put out better quality if they thought it was easy enough to learn, or affordable.

    Pro photographers will always have a job as long as they can sell themselves. It's not that Realtors can't afford their services, it's that the photographer has to build the value first. True, great pictures speak for themselves but in this relationship driven industry, face to face "sells" works for vendors just as it does for buyers and sellers.

  8. 'It’s not that Realtors can’t afford their services, it’s that the photographer has to build the value first'

    I agree, and I tend to go back and say if the agent's customer is happy (or at least never complained) with the current level of service as far as the photography is concerned, then how do you show 'value'? Certainly makes for one hard sell 🙂

  9. Karl, maybe you should try to find some Realtors who don't have happy customers... Seriously, ask any producing agent if they have any listings that are set to expire in the next 30 days or so and get a look at the photos they currently have. If the home, or one of them anyway, appears to have some potential then maybe you could work something out where you shot the house as to give the agent a last ditch effort to save the listing. Believe me, if the agent has some clients that may not renew that listing agreement, they will be looking for something to save that deal. What better way to get them to come back around than to show them that their Realtor (via you) are still working for them. Oddly enough, most agents spend more money to get the listing, and then saving the listing, then they actually spend on the actual marketing pieces. You could do a pay at close and charge 25% more, or discount it to get a check that day, either way, if you can produce quality like I have seen on these sites then you should only have to do it once...

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