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What to Consider if You’re Looking for a New Technology Partner for Your Real Estate Photography Business

Published: 15/02/2020
By: Brandon

Sponsored Post Saturday - HDPhotoHub
Author: Herb Dierks, CEO HDPhotoHub

For nearly 10 years, Chris Crummitt has owned and run Picture Perfect, a Maryland-area real estate photography and virtual tour company. She understands continued success depends on being able to deliver her customers the best products and a simple, streamlined experience.

When her former technology vendor couldn’t deliver new features her team needed, she knew it was time to search for a system that could meet her needs. Having changed vendors previously, she knew it could be challenging to lead her business through this change.

Take Time to Research New Options

What Chris didn’t anticipate was just how easy it would be to make the transition with support from the right technology team. She discovered HDPhotoHub via a Facebook group for real estate photographers and was immediately attracted to the a la carte options that would allow her to deliver her clients feature-rich property websites and social media marketing tools. The system also offered multiple small business solutions her team needed, including payment collection and scheduling automation.

Once she did her research, spoke with the HDPhotoHub team, and made the decision to upgrade, she says it was seamless. “They did the data transfer, which was so huge. We do up to 20 shoots/day and clients are counting on us, so it was a relief to have this level of service.”

Chris remained keenly aware of all the people who were depending on her during this change. “I understand that no one has time to deal with a complicated transition to a new system. In the last ten years, I’ve moved from one technology system to another a couple of times. By far, this was my easiest transition.”

Find a Technology Vendor Who Makes Life Easier for Real Estate Agents

Chris wasn’t concerned about promoting the benefits of the new system to her real estate agent customers because HDPhotoHub was offering everything they needed to market effectively, and it would all be in one place. “HDPhotoHub was doing everything that real estate agents know is important. The new system was going to make their lives easier.”

Her agents ended up being especially impressed with the ease of the social media tools. “They love how simple the system is to use. If they’re logged in to their social sites, it only takes a couple of clicks to post something. Everything is so streamlined.”

To encourage her customers to immediately begin using all the new tools they would now have access to, Chris offered two training sessions. Her agents were so impressed that she was invited to give another presentation to a local realtor association, which further benefited her business.

Look for an Automated System that Can Save You Time and Money

In addition to a better customer experience for agents, Chris was also able to streamline many aspects of her business through the upgrade to HDPhotoHub.

“Changing to HDPhotoHub has saved me time and money,” Chris said. “We’ve been able to stop paying for multiple subscriptions each month and now work with fewer vendors, which has simplified processes for everyone on my team.”

Tired of being a “debt collector” who wasted countless hours tracking down payments, Chris was searching for a business system that could be customized to require payment before a customer could download photos. She found this solution with HDPhotoHub.

“Before, I was invoicing through QuickBooks online and collecting money in a bunch of different ways. Now, everyone pays through the system with a credit card. It’s easier to track and easier to manage.”

Her team also simplified processes by using HDPhotoHub to schedule appointments and send reminders to agents. The system is integrated with Google Calendar and delivers automated email appointment confirmations, reminders, and text messages, including a reminder text to agents on the day of the appointment.

“I used to have to manually input the shoots into a different system, which required double entry of information. Now, through HDPhotoHub, I’m only inputting information once. I was able to drop the cost for that other scheduling service, which saves me time and about $250 a month.”

Photographer workflow has also improved due to ongoing enhancements to the Dropbox integration. “HDPhotoHub is very in tune with what photographers need. They are continually improving their system, which makes it easier for real estate photographers to do their work.”

Find a System with a Support Team Who Cares about Your Success

As a small business owner, Chris takes pride in being extremely accessible to clients and she was intentional in looking for a business team that would support her with the same level of service. From day one, HDPhotoHub was receptive to her feedback and delivered an exceptional level of customer care.

“I always feel like I’m their priority. I’m not a number, I’m a person. And I can count on them to be very responsive to my customers' needs, too. They understand what it’s like to work with real estate agents.”

Chris is glad she made the change and would recommend HDPhotoHub to other business owners who are looking for better business solutions. “Not only is HDPhotoHub cost effective, their customer service is amazing and so is their product. The level of service I’ve experienced through working with HDPhotoHub is priceless.”

Background

HDPhotoHub is a platform for real estate photographers that quickly creates feature-rich property websites and social media marketing tools. The system also offers multiple small business solutions including order forms, payment collection, and scheduling. HDPhotoHub CEO Herb Dierks has been pioneering technology for real estate photography since 1997, and founded HDPhotoHub in 2018. Chris Crummitt is the owner of Picture Perfect, a Maryland-area real estate photography and virtual tour company, and she has been using the HDPhotoHub system for more than a year.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by HDPhotoHub – PFRE does NOT receive any
commission or referral fees if you choose to use their services.

19 comments on “What to Consider if You’re Looking for a New Technology Partner for Your Real Estate Photography Business”

  1. Great puff piece with good info. I would suggest closing the deal with an offer to come and talk with you and what you can do for the individual photog.

  2. @Jerry - Thank you! Like a lot of real estate photographers, we try not to be too pushy. We prefer to work hard for our clients and let the results speak for themselves. Our platform has helped hundreds of real estate photographers streamline their business workflow and deliver photos to their clients with amazing marketing tools. Agents love it when their photographer uses our platform because it makes scheduling shoots, photo downloading, and property web sites a snap. There's simply too much in the system to explain quickly, but creating an account and playing around is free - so we encourage everyone to take a look.

  3. @Herb

    How many clients do you have and how many jobs/appointments does your site complete every year?

    Any chance we could contact some of your customers?

  4. Herb,

    Me asking to talk to some of your customers is simply to gauge their satisfaction. It would be very similar to reviews people leave after buying something on Amazon. Potential buyers like that sort of thing.

    @Brandon,

    I think a great follow up to this article would be to take the title and change it to a question like this...

    "What do you need in a New Technology Partner for Your Real Estate Photography Business?

  5. @Frank - The photographers that use our platform range from single shooters to large teams, and more photographers sign up and get started every week. In the last year, the system has tracked, organized and helped deliver marketing pieces and photos for tens of thousands of orders. The technology is proven, scalable and we're working hard to add new features all the time.

    We'd be happy to put you in touch with a few clients! Let's connect via phone so we can learn more about your business, and we'll provide referrals for photography businesses that are similar to yours.

  6. Herb,

    I would rather have the conversation here. This is a great place to sell your service. Even though there are only 2 commenters, I feel, and have for some time now, that these systems are the ones that will ultimately win out. The independent real estate photographer can do anything the tour companies can do but better in many ways.

  7. I am a bit passionate about this so forgive me for taking over this thread.

    Herb,

    I asked how many photographers you have signed up because I am trying to get a feel for how many independent real estate photographers are out there. I think the tour companies are taking over but I could be wrong.

    Any idea how many independent real estate photographers are in the real estate photography industry?

  8. Hey Frank!

    Devon here from PhotoUp (www.photoup.net). Based on our calculations and data gathered over the past 8 years, we believe there is anywhere form 15,000-20,000 full time real estate photographers operating around the world at any given time.

    Now, this number increases greatly when you consider that there are a lot of real estate photographers out there who only do real estate as a part of their other photography services.

    Hopefully that helps! 🙂

  9. @Frank - Thank you for the great discussion. This is one of the things I love about this community - thoughtful engagement!

    For some Amazon-like reviews from real users, check out our Testimonials page (https://hdphotohub.com/Public/Testimonials)

    SOCIAL MEDIA
    The HDPhotoHub platform provides downloadable social media images and videos. The agent can browse the list, download a piece in the optimized size for the social channel they are about to post to, and then post it. It does require a little elbow-grease on the part of the agent - but we have found that the social platforms downgrade posts that have been made by fully automated system. To be an effective marketing tool, the agent needs to post an image/video, and add a comment about the house - something specific, not canned. We automate the image/video part, to make the best approach to social marketing as efficient as possible.

    NUMBER OF INDEPENDENTS
    @Devon - thanks for sharing your research! I haven't done anything scientific, but that number seems about right. I have heard that there are around 10,000 real estate photographers in the US, but that number includes part-time photographers - and there are a lot of those. Some that are trying to build up enough business to make photography a full time gig, some that are semi-retired, some that have another source of income that allows the flexibility to also run a side-hustle doing something they love.

    INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHERS COMPARED TO TOUR COMPANIES
    The subject of comparing the business models of tour companies vs. independent photographers is a huge subject. It's also one that I have spent a lot of time thinking about and studying over the last several years. It is my view that there are pros and cons to each business model, but from what I'm seeing, the independent photographers are the growing category between the two. I have a LOT of thoughts on why this is. If there’s interest in going deeper on this, I could offer to write a blog post about the subject – or maybe it would be a good topic for a podcast.

    I will try to keep this brief – but that will be difficult.

    I have been actively working in the real estate marketing technology space for the last 23 years and have observed the space evolve enormously in that time. That evolution has come in fits and starts with various technologies - some fad and some authentically helpful. In the last 3-7 years (depending on which market you're in), I have been pleased to see the perception of professional real estate photography mature by real estate professionals. As the quality of the images has improved, the best real estate agents have realized that hiring a pro to capture photos and videos for property is THE ONLY way to grow their brand and properly market homes in a competitive environment.

    Broadly speaking, the need for professional photography has been driven mostly by tour companies - they have invested the most in selling agents and brokers on the idea of outsourcing photography work. However, tour companies have a huge challenge to overcome. Their business model is based on economies of scale. That means, much like a franchise restaurant, to be efficient, they need everything systematized as much as possible. This means their pricing is often the same in large markets and small markets, which means that are overpriced in some places and underpriced in others. It means they offer largely the same products in very different markets across the country or globe, since they're marketing efforts are also done at scale. And perhaps the biggest challenge that they face, is that they have local photographers but in most cases their sales process happens from a corporate office, making relationship building tough. These challenges don’t apply to all tour companies, and some tour companies have overcome some of these challenges - but these are very difficult realities, and often costly, to address.

    In comparison, independent photographers can offer a much more customized service experience for their customers. They have the advantage of a deeper personal connection with their clients. Real estate is a people business, and real estate agents must be extremely flexible when putting transactions together. They also need a way to differentiate themselves from other agents in their market (and even from other agents in their brokerage). Therefore, real estate professionals like to work with people who are flexible and responsive. Those needs are often easy to for independent photographers to fulfill, but very hard for a national company.

    To compete effectively with a tour company, an independent photographer is going to need a solid technology platform. To deliver photos on a CD, via email or even Dropbox, without the marketing tools an agent needs to use those photos in an effectively way just doesn't cut it anymore. That would be like trying to do your accounting by hand on a paper ledger - or shooting with a point-and-shoot camera. To serve clients well, you need to have the proper tools. A solid technology platform is, today, one of the essentials. There are several decent options to choose from, but they are not all equal. At HDPhotoHub, our goal is to develop the best overall platform that is exclusively for real estate photographers.

    The best of both worlds is an independent team. If you have a team, you can cover for each other for things like illness and vacations, and your business can offer a wide range of services. A team can serve whole offices with packages that the broker or marketing coordinator prefer. Plus, there are many photographers that don’t want to sell – they just want to shoot. Those photographers can either find a good team to be on or can work for a tour company. They’ll probably have more creative flexibility on a local team, so in most cases they’ll be happier on a team.

    Just to be clear, I’m not bashing tour companies. In certain ways, they have plowed the way in the market for independent photographers and have helped some independents get their start. For some photographers, working for a tour company is a good fit for their personality type, and they are quite happy. But to the specific question of trending in the marketplace, it looks to me like there are fewer national tour companies today than there were ten years ago, and you never heard about them doing layoffs before. In my opinion, the glory days of tour companies are probably in the past.

    From everything I've seen, and all the people that I have talked to, it seems really clear to me that the future looks very bright for independent photographers - and I have invested heavily in HDPhotoHub based on that belief.

    Sorry for the long response – I have more thoughts to share, but I better stop now, or I never will! I am really passionate about this stuff, can you tell?

  10. Herb and Devon,

    Thanks for spicing up PFRE. Some of the tour companies are making deals with large companies. I say this because profit squeeze, imo, will lead to elimination (admittedly a bit hyperbolic) of the middleman eventually.

  11. I have been using HDPhotoHub for about 9 months and I have been extremely happy with it. As a programmer, I developed my own tour system many years ago that worked well for my clients until I realized that I could not keep up with technology and run a RE photography business. I tried a demo of every tour provider I could find and settled on Tour Buzz about 2 years ago. I switched all of my clients over to mixed results. More negative than mixed honestly. It was generally a good service, but lacking in many areas. Clients were not seeing this as an added benefit and I found some clients completely ignoring the tour. I came across HDPhotoHub on an ad somewhere, tested it out and was very impressed. Honestly, my first thought was, "This is the way I would have designed it if I had the time (and dare I admit skill)." Within a few weeks, I migrated around 150 clients, and even paid out of pocket to transition tours of premium clients that want to have a running history of their tours in a single location for marketing. The immediate response was overwhelmingly positive. Clients just love it. The designs look great are modern, and are highly customizable. The interfaces are extremely easy to use, even for my tech-challenged clients. They can easily replace images, logos, and branding. This sounds like a commercial, but its all true.

  12. Unfortunately the fact that your tours expire after 1 year is a deal breaker for my business and my clients. One of the main reason that realtors are willing to pay for a tour is that they do not expire and they keep on getting leads from them year after years and use the "view all my tours" as their resume and listing presentation.

    One of the reason why photographers love to create tours for their clients that do not expire is like Job Security. Realtors are going to stay with me because I keep on adding their listings to the same platform and they can show off all their previous listings, etc...

    Especially when most other platforms like Tourbuzz and RTV have made it a standard practice for so many years to keep the tours online "forever".

    I am very disappointed as I like your platform (very easy to use, lean SAAS platform, ok pricing, very nice templates...) but again tours expiring defeat the purpose from my perspective and my clients perspective.

  13. Just signed up for this to check it out. I used a recent shoot for practice. Very impressed. Nicely thought out, good quality output, and some nice features, most of which I still have to sort out (scheduling, billing, uploads/dropbox integration).

    I'm not sure yet how to sell this a client for the use of this tech though. Particularly since they can see plainly what it costs to create for me, which I believe creates a challenge. Any advice on that? I realize I could just bundle it into my overall pricing, but if they don't want it I'm inflating my price unnecessarily.

    My last concern is that, if all of us start using it - which I'm sure would make Herb very happy! - we'll all be giving our clients very similar sort-of canned, familiar product. Not sure how to overcome that, or if it's terribly important to overcome, but it was a thought I had.

  14. @Rom - For certain cases (like Vacation Rentals or Business Tours) it makes a lot of sense to have the site be active perpetually. For real estate listings, this can create a problem with listings are are not properly marked as SOLD. It does vary from one market to the next, but some MLS's have very strict rules about marketing sold listings. For this reason, we see 'forever' listings as something that needs to be done deliberately, not by default. We have a project on our roadmap for transitioning listings that have sold into a different display method that would be forever, in order to more directly serve the need of keeping a portfolio of past work on display, while keeping agents in compliance with MLS rules. When you have a chance, give me a buzz so we can talk through what an ideal solution might look like - we're always looking for ways to close the gap between 'current' and 'perfection'.

    @jon - I'm glad that you like what you have seen so far! Many agents are price sensitive - when it comes to certain things. I think it's part of agent culture to be always trying to negotiate a lower price for everything. However, I have noticed that most agents drive very nice cars. There are cheaper options out there, but they pick the nice ones. I think that's because agents are willing to spend when it comes to the impression that they make... in other words, they like to look good. For that reason, I think it's good to help agents see that the first impression that most of their future clients will have of them will come from how they present their listings online. For most home buyers, the real estate process begins by searching for a home - that is when they get exposed to agents in the marketplace - and a lot of them.

    So if an agent really want to look good, they need two things. 1) Fantastic photos, and 2) A great 'frame' for those photos.

    You've got the great looking photos covered. However, sadly, many agents think simply uploading those photos into the MLS is doing enough. What type of impression does it make when an agent is promoting a listing on Facebook, or a buyer picks up a flyer, and the link for more information goes to a page that is not property-specific? By linking to Zillow, Realtor.com or the broker's website, the agent is loosing an opportunity to promote themselves and their good work as a professional agent. The message they are sending is "I'm just like every other agent". Worse, that page might be promoting a different agent (one that bought the zip code from Zillow, for example), or other nearby similarly-priced listings that are competing with that listing for offers. If an agent isn't promoting a stand-alone website for their listing, they are missing huge opportunities to build up THEIR brand. This is where we (together) can really help agents.

    As you guessed, I would love it if a high percentage of independent photographers used our platform. We LOVE helping people! We love creating, providing, and evolving tools that truly help photographers, agents, brokers, home sellers and home buyers. Anticipating a day where things might become too similar, we baked something important into the DNA of our platform: radical customization. Photographers that use our platform can customize and tweak the single property web site designs, and the dashboard that the agent's use. Since unlimited custom designs are free to create, we have some photographers that are creating custom looks for certain top clients of theirs - which is winning huge loyalty for them.

    I believe the future of real estate marketing is going to be more custom tailored experiences, and we're laying the groundwork for exactly that.

  15. The more I learn about this service the more impressive it is to me. It really has a wealth of features, and unlike many tech offerings I've tried over the years that have a lot of breadth, these features are well thought out and well implemented. And little by little I'm figuring out ways to white-label, brand-integrate, and offer the extra services as part of my own, while maintaining flexibility with some a la carte pricing.

    I'll add that my questions while ramping up have been answered quickly and thoroughly, really excellent support.

    I'm going to try hard to integrate this as a value distinguisher. Breaking away from the large pack of established r/e photographers in my area has been a challenge so I'm hoping this boost will help.

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