Author: Garey Gomez
When I was first starting out, I thought that approaching agents with low-quality photos would be a good market to try to target. I felt that I had something to offer that was an improvement over what they currently had, and if I could show them that there is a clear difference in the quality of the work that I was producing, they would hire me. It seems like a reasonable approach but in my experience, it just didn't work out the way I thought it would. Here's what I found:
Quality is subjective.
We have our own notion of what a "good" photo looks like, and we go about doing it the best we can. We compose our shots the way we are inclined to, we choose to turn the lights off or turn the lights on, we choose what our window exposure looks like (that can of worms won't be opened in this article!). We make a series of decisions for every photo that gives us the desired look that we want, and guess what... not everyone will like it. You can't be a "better" photographer to everyone.
More importantly, if you are targeting an agent with low-quality listing photos, presumably part of your pitch will require you to mention that your photos are better. I hate to point out the obvious, but you are not going to win a new client very easily when you start the conversation with, "You're doing it wrong...".
INSTEAD, MARKET YOURSELF TO HIGH-PRODUCING AGENTS
Regardless of the quality of their listing photos, top producing agents are your best bet for growing your business and staying busy. The more homes your clients list, the more shoots you will book. Plain and simple. Find a way to appeal to top producing agents over the photographer they are currently using. I have been much more successful with that. I think that's because:
People who kick butt at their job like other professionals who kick butt at their job.
This is an area where I can compete that is not nearly as subjective as image quality.
I set out to kick butt at my job. I make the best pictures I can with the time I have, and I communicate clearly. I set expectations up front, and do what I say I'm going to do. I deliver next morning, and I accommodate my client's needs for scheduling and the shot list. I'm polite and buttoned up and present well in front of the homeowner. I'm a no-nonsense contractor for the agents I work with, and they appreciate that they never have to worry about what I'm doing. It's very rewarding, too. It feels great to be trusted.
Not all of my competitors operate this way as I have learned, and that's a big part of the value I offer. I charge a fair rate for it too, and I find that busy agents are happy to pay a little more for the service I deliver because they save time and are able to focus on other aspects of their job.
High producing agents tend to have professional and polished marketing.
Savvy marketers take into account every aspect of their brand; and for many agents, quality imagery is often an important part of their branding strategy. If you build a portfolio of polished, high-quality work that is different from the work of other photographers in your market, you will have an easier time standing out from your competition when marketing yourself to top producing agents.
I find that great composition is the best differentiator, personally, so I make that a goal for every photo I make. Because many, if not most real estate photographers shoot ultra-wide, corner-to-corner compositions, it's really easy to stand out when you shoot longer focal lengths and more thoughtful compositions.
Who would you rather work with?
Top producers have their ducks in a row. They have a team that shares the workload. They have their listings cleaned, staged, de-cluttered, and ready for photography when I show up. I never wait on these agents, and they pay their invoices quickly. These people don't mess around. "The best" agents only work with "the best" contractors. It's part of their brand. Get in that club.
What has been most successful for you in your marketing efforts? How have you defined your ideal client?