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Where Are All The High Quality Real Estate Photos?

Published: 11/08/2015
By: larry

GoogleTrendsPhil in St Louis asks:

Where are all of the high quality real estate photos?

I am just starting to become interested in real estate photography and searching a major listing company for homes in my area (starting at 800K), I am finding a hard time believing the overwhelming number of horrible agent-iPhone-taken shots for almost every single listing. Is it just me, or am I correct in assuming quality real estate photography appears to make up less than one percent of all listings? Are agents everywhere this cheap and are simply refusing to cough up a couple/few hundred bucks for a home listed at well over a million dollars?

I’ve heard many times “photos can sell a home” but obviously this doesn’t appear to be the case and it seems to me like agents are selling homes just fine, every single day, without quality photos.

It is instructive to actually view and study how real estate photography is being used in various markets. With site's like,,, and others. For example, anyone can go to and look at all the homes on the market in St Louis, $800,000 and above. I see that in this market niche most properties in St Louis in this price range have good photography, contrary to what Phil claims. Not all, but I'd guess that 95% of these homes are well presented with better than average photography. As you look at the St Louis listings from $300,000 and above the quality of presentation drops of some but is still quite good. On average, I'd say that St Louis is better than average in how well agents are using real estate photography. Another dimension to this can be seen by Googling "St Louis real estate photographer." Plenty of real estate photography competition in St Louis!

Certainly in smaller real estate markets there is not a much emphasis on marketing property well but I don't think that St Louis, MO is one of them.

To answer Phil's question: Where Are All The high-quality Real Estate Photos? They are on upper-end listings ($300,000 and above) and they are used more in large metro areas. like many subjects can specifically identify the regions and cities of the world where real estate photography is in highest demand. How, by just counting the number of google searches for "real estate photography." I wish google had enough data to show more cities but at least they show the top 10 cities in the world. There is something about the the Ausies that make them very serious about real estate photography! Particularly Brisbane!


16 comments on “Where Are All The High Quality Real Estate Photos?”

  1. &@Phil. Come take a look at the Flagler County MLS in Florida. You will fine 99% of the homes above 500K all the way to the millions to have absolutely horrible photos.

    I personally think an agent who puts up crap photos is not only insulting their high paying clients, but have no business calling themselves a professional.

  2. Phil there is plenty of opportunity here in the Lou.

    I have been booked two to three weeks out with only short breaks during the holidays for the past couple years.

    Those folks using crappy photos are just an untouched resource - I can't pursue them and they can't get on my schedule, and probably several other RE photographers (many just do RE as a sideline) here in town have the same issue.

    Start drumming up your business from those. That's how I got started.

    Good luck Phil!

  3. it just boggles my mind that some realtors have no idea how inexpensive an investment it is for hi quality real estate photography, and the return is astronomical compared to the small layout. The general consensus among professional photographers is that realtors are cheap so they don't want to waste their time shooting for real estate. I get 3 times more money just shooting a beach portrait, which is why some of my photographer associates don't want to get involved with real estate.
    when we first set-up our real-estate photography business in FL, we had hi-quality large post cards made and distributed them to all the realtors in the area. We also offered a free tour to some of the hi-end companies, and 40' bird's eye view images. once they saw what they were getting, they started using us on a permanent basis. our big break came when we offered to shoot a large showcase home for one of the largest real estate agencies in our area. at that time everything was the terrible 360 degree panning virtual tour. After the shoot, we offered the "Ken burns" style tour, which they loved and started using us for all their tours. later, other agencies started using us also.
    Another thing we did was contact the broker of each agency and offered to join in their weekly or monthly meeting, bring in donuts and coffee (everyone loves donuts or bagels) and do a very short 5 minute introduction to their agents. this usually resulted in a few tours.

    Find out if there is a local association of realtors who meet every month, and join as an associated member. it's usually early in the morning. sponsor one of the breakfasts and do a short 10 minute presentation to introduce yourself and services to the members. Some (but not all) feel dedicated to use fellow members who offer a service to help market their properties.

    I think many agents are so used to doing things the old way and need to be made aware of the benefits of professional photography and how little it costs, and what they get in return.

  4. Take a look at these photos:

    It's hard to think that the before-and-after shots are essentially the same, except that the after ones are well composed, lit and edited. It's harder to comprehend why agents, who see and portray themselves as professionals, could be such cheapskates (given the very small cost of professional photography as a ratio of their commissions) when it comes to selling the most expensive asset that most people own, people who entrust the sale to someone who they believe offers the best means of achieving the best possible outcome for them. It also hard to understand that these agents are telling potential future clients "These are examples of the way I've marketed THIS home - pick me and I'll use similarly crappy photos to sell yours (evil laughter)". It's incredible to read all the reports and articles that show that great photos almost always help market and sell properties quicker and/or for more net return (i.e. after the additional cost of professional photography). And it's hard to believe that sellers either don't know or don't care.

  5. @ReedRadcliffe.

    PLEASE TELL ME how you can get agents to schedule 2-3 weeks in advance ?? By far my biggest issue is timing. The furthest out I've ever been able to book a shoot is probably 10 days and that happens very rarely. Once a realtor signs listing agreements the home owner typically wants the house to go up ASAP and agents don't want to submit a brand new listing with their cell phone shots before they can get someone in there to photograph the property. Is there anything I'm missing here?

  6. This is no excuse, but I believe many listing agents don't pay for good photos because there is no guarantee the house will sell during their listing period. If it doesn't, they don't get the money back.

  7. We all thought that "good photography" would be mainstream by now. But that's not the case. I see opportunities all over this country for agents and photographers to raise the bar and take over their market. I just looked for a good realtor using great photos in Missoula, Montana and couldn't find one. It's a snowball effect - once it starts, it spreads.

  8. The problem is the Real Estate system. The Owners/Sellers want their homes sold for the highest price possible. They hire a Realtor, the best they think they can find. These owners also know that they need the best exposure for their home. That said, they should hire a good photographer and the Realtor might give them a couple of names. These owners then should pay the photographer.
    Why is it that the Realtor should run the risk paying everything up front and has no guaranty of selling the home?

  9. @Dan - Once the realtors get used to my photos they make sure to get the homes absolutely ready for excellent results. Many times the homes just arent worth the effort so they may go with someone who can get to them more quickly but with not as great a result. That is fine with me as I don't have any problem filling my schedule.

    Homes are selling so well here right now that sometimes I am amazed they will wait, too.

  10. I think Ron Geenen Is kinda right. If a Real Estate Agent told me I needed to have my landscaping cleaned up, Carpet cleaned and maybe a door painted to get more money out of my house... I would not expect the agent to pay for it. I could easily see an agent telling a client that the homeowner should hire a photographer. I only have one client that does this... he gives them my contact info and I give the homeowner perpetual rights to the photos until the home sells. So if one agent loses the listing the homeowner just gives the photos to the next one.

  11. I have the same question, but it is directed at agents using professional photographers, yet the quality still isn't there.

    I have been noticing some very nice photography on the upper end homes here. I'm hoping this will trickle down.

    I often wonder though, with the amount of dollars at stake, how long it will take to realize fewer, higher quality photos will sell a property for more money.

  12. I'm in the St. Louis market and have been since 2009. I find that each year I get more and more business. This year has been no exception. As Andrew pointed out in the previous post, fewer, higher quality photos do help the property sell, but also get buyers in the door. Lots of photographers in this market (St. Louis) aim to show 35-50 images for a basic home. The way I market is to offer up to 25 high quality images, highlighting the best of the house, and leave a little mystery to get buyers to want to see more. I price by the image. Most want the up to 25 package, few will request more.

  13. @ Ron Geenen - I agree 100%. The homeowner should be the one paying for the photographs. I always tell my non realtor clients that them hiring me and not the Realtor offers some advantages. One being that as they can use the images to sell the home, they can lend them to a Realtor of their choosing. If they fire one, they can lend them to their new one. Secondly, I can do more Photoshop work to clean up anything that maybe distracting, like nail holes and the like. The Realtor would get in trouble with the MLS and possibly sued.

  14. In such a hot seller's market where homes seem to be selling themselves, what is happening is that the push for professional real estate photography is actually consumer-driven, not agent-driven. Sellers want to see gorgeous photos of their homes on their retina displays and impress their neighbors. Plus, when discount brokers such as Redfin, include professional photography on all their listings, how then is the full-service realtor going to differentiate themselves?

    My marketing message to Realtors has changed in recent months to reflect that trend. It used to sound like "Here's why you need professional real estate photography...". Now my marketing is based on the assumption that any self-respecting Realtor already uses professional imagery, as expected by their clients, but that they need to build a brand based on high-end photography. I want to them to almost be bragging to their clients about how much they'll invest in marketing overall to market the home as a way to differentiate their brand as the very best.

    @Ron, photography is only one of the upfront costs that agents have to market a home. Some agents will charge extra commission when they represent the seller (i.e. 3% for themselves, 2.5% for the buyer's agent). Others would include a non-refundable marketing fee if the home doesn't sell. I've also had clients split the cost of photography with their vendors such as mortgage brokers and escrow companies. There are even agents who will have the sellers pay me directly.

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