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Washington Home Tours is Launching a New Business

Published: 03/11/2010
By: larry

The last couple of days I've been talking to Robert Barr of Washington Home Tours in Woodinville, WA, who is launching his new real estate photography business. Robert graduated from the University of Washington in the summer of 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Robert has been shooting for an unnamed big tour company while he's been working on getting his own real estate photography company off the ground.

Robert wanted some feedback on his website and getting his company off the ground. Here's some of my feedback:

  1. When I first talked to Robert the page titled "Welcome" was his front page. Even though It had a small photo on it I told him there were too many words for the front page of a photographers site. I suggested that he move his gallery to the front page. Since he's his own web developer he immediately did that and made the front page photos larger and removed the thumbnails. I think his changes he's made the site much stronger.
  2. A few images in the gallery need a little vertical straightening and barrel distortion removal but in general they are quite strong images.
  3. Robert and I had a lot of discussion about what to charge per shoot. I suggested that in the Puget Sound area he should charge closer to twice what he was planning to charge. My argument is that I have a rental home in the Puget Sound area that I have to pay $145 to get the furnace maintained and the guy that comes has fewer tools, stays about 20 minutes and is done. As a photographer you have to drive the same amount, you have at least as much technical skill,  you have more investment in tools, you spend about 90 minutes on site plus another  hour or so when you get back home. Not only that, but the furnace guy probably has benefits like health care, two weeks paid vacation which Robert has to pay for himself. The furnace guy charged $15 more in 2010 than in 2009 so prices aren't going down. I'm suggesting that Robert or anyone doing real estate photography in the Seattle area charge a minimum of $165 per shoot. If you don't you will lose money in the long run. Why I like to use my furnace guy as a pricing reference is he's providing a service that's very similar to a real estate photographer. Why should a photographer charge less?

Robert uses the Javascript Galleria Classic HTML only slideshow for his front page and galleries so they work on all platforms.

Give Robert your feedback on his site and any advice you have on pricing. Anyone starting out these days needs all the help they can get.

18 comments on “Washington Home Tours is Launching a New Business”

  1. Thanks Larry for taking the time to give me the advice. Hopefully others who are starting out will find it helpful. Also thanks for writing this little blurb about my site.
    -- Robert

  2. Whoa strange. Could you let me know what browser, operating system, type of java installed on your computer. I have yet to come across that glitch which the computers I tested it on. Wondering what might be causing that. Thanks for pointing it out. Does it happen even if you clear your cash and load the page again?

  3. Best of luck Robert! Pictures look great and looking forward to seeing some video footage from the D7000. One note: I saw a typo on your "Services" page: wee offer premium services...

  4. I agree with Larry. Charge more! If not, agents are going to call you with big million dollar homes for $99. You might consider charging by the price or size of the house.

  5. @John. I think part of why I thought I could sustain that price point is because I was unrealistic about how many of those tours I could shoot every week. In the long run I cant sustain the business during a dry week when I am charging that little.

  6. Java version is Version 6 Update 22 (most recent) and im using IE8 here at work (the local board only allows login using IE!).

    I tried it on chrome, which is what i use everywhere else and its working fine.

  7. I'm going to disagree with Larry on pricing. Robert needs to price the photo shoots competitively as he is just getting started. I would offer two packages one at $99 which includes a fixed number of photos at one resolution (say 10 photos). Then offer a second package for $199 which includes a lot more photos at 3 resolutions (say 25 photos). Over time as your cost go up I would change the packaging but hold pricing. In other words, in a year start charging for travel costs per mile, say $0.80/mile over the costs of the $99 package. Then on the $199 package stop including the the high resolution version of the photos and charge a per unit cost to provide the high resolution photos.

    I think you understand where I'm going.

    If you price yourself out of the market from the beginning you will end up as another starving artist in my opinion.

    P.S. Nice work Robert and good luck.

  8. I agree about the pricing. When I started, 2months ago, I charged $125 and offered half price on each agents first order. Sometimes to get your foot in the door you need to make sacrifices. I've since removed the half price deal and raised my rates to $150, without any complaints. One thing to keep in mind when structuring your packages is what Realtors want. My basic package is 16 photos, which is the number that RMLS allows here, and my deluxe package is 25, which is allowed on with the showcase package. I dont think 10 pictures would be appealing to most agents.

    PS, I'm a Realtor also.

  9. I really don't know what to say about pricing. I've been doing this for about 8 months and seem to be stuck at about $99 for photos only. However, most of my work seems to include property website, domain, photos so really that $99 is a non-issue. However, I'm still lower in price when compared to established photographers.

    Most of the top realtors, who are turning houses over at a good rate, have photographers they have worked with over and over again. Getting one of them as a client is difficult. They have to want to make a change. They will only change if they aren't happy with who they are using based on quality or price. Because they have been working for a long time they are probably getting the quality they want. I only have a few top realtors, most of my work comes from realtors who only have a few houses on the market and they aren't selling all that quickly. It is a long wait between repeat work with them. These realtors are looking for photographers who will give them better photos but are inexpensive.

    But, that is just my experience.

  10. Lucas, That's an interesting point about the top Realtors having established relationships already. I havent found this to be an issue. In fact, I did a job for a big name, who had already paid a photog but wasnt too excited about his work. I've since booked a second shoot for her. You just need to figure out a good strategy for them. Mine was that my rates are competitive, and I have a lockbox key, so they dont have to be there. This is working for me so far.

  11. The Puget Sound area has one of the most progressive real estate markets in the U.S. and agents at the major brokerages are used to paying for professional photography. You're not going to be taken seriously if you charge $99 for photos.

  12. I was at a formal dinner last night with a bunch of medical professionals and local professionals serving on various boards for a local health organization. I got a chance to meet allot of new people and do some networking. I delivered my new pricing structure with all the other info about my buisness. A few of them even saw a example or two of my work on my iPhone because they asked. Even with my new pricing structure, I got allot of people who said that sounded cheap for what I was delivering. It sort of drove home the point.

  13. It looks nice however there are not enough photos on the other pages. They are all text. Add some sample photos to your other pages so people can see your work. Otherwise, I wish you the best!

  14. Probably my photos aren't of good enough quality to get higher priced work. But, after playing with pricing for some months getting work at any level has been difficult so the bottom line is I need to do what pays the bills. I will say I almost never do a $99 shoot but it is part of what gets me a phone call.

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