How to Get Started in Real Estate Photography
Are you new to real estate photography and don’t know where to start or how to get your first clients? In this post we are going to discuss some ideas on how to help you get started in real estate photography and kick start your new business endeavor.
So let me just preface this post by saying there is certainly no set formula on how to succeed in real estate photography and it will certainly take a great deal of dedication and persistence to achieve. What I am going to outline in this post are just some suggestions that may help you get started. Everyone’s journey is different and I urge you to think of creative ways to get yourself some exposure and connect with prospective clients.
One of the most common questions I hear is “how do I get started?” or “how do I get my first clients?”. I understand your frustration and I know it can feel insurmountable. It is not easy and it will take a while to build up into a full time business but you can do it. Real estate photography was a part time gig for me for a while before I was able to make it my full time job. You just need to stick with it and stay committed. In the next few minutes I’m going to share some ideas with you that will hopefully help you get the ball rolling.
First thing that you should do without question is to get some sort of portfolio together. How can you expect to get hired If you don’t have any work to show prospective clients? Agents are going to want to get an idea of the quality of your work before they hire you to shoot one of their listings. Start practicing taking pictures of your own house and once you feel like you have a good grip on things start calling up close friends and relatives and see if they will let you take photos of their homes. If you can get something like 3-5 homes photographed that should probably be enough for a starter portfolio. You just need a bit of a variety of images to show agents in order to make an impression and give agents some confidence in hiring you to shoot their listing.
Once you have a little bit of a portfolio together now you need a place to showcase it. Make yourself a simple portfolio website that shows some of the work you’ve created and maybe a little info about yourself. Doesn’t need to be anything crazy. Websites are cheap and easy to make these days so it shouldn’t take all that long. You can use a service like Squarespace or Wix which makes the process pretty simple.
Next thing you may want to consider is getting some business cards made to give to people with your new website address on it to point them toward your portfolio. It's also not a bad idea to get some one page flyers or brochures printed up with some of your images and information printed on them to give to people as well. Not everyone is going to take the time to go to your website so having something physical to hand to someone in person is huge and can make an immediate impression.
Now before you start reaching out to clients you need to set the pricing for your services. Please, please do not price yourself dirt cheap because you think it will get you a lot of clients in the beginning. This is I think the biggest mistake that people make when starting out. You need to establish pricing that will sustain you in the future and not send you out of business in a couple of years. By pricing low you are setting yourself up for trouble because you will be stuck down the road with clients that are paying a price for your services that you are no longer happy with and it will be a battle raising your prices on them. Also, having really low prices attracts the worst and most difficult clients and you want to avoid that kind of headache. Pricing varies from area to area so my suggestion would be to research other photographers in your area and get a good idea what people are charging and price your services accordingly. You want to be competitive obviously but you don’t want to be scraping the bottom of the barrel and you don’t want to be the cheapest around. Just because you're new doesn’t mean you can’t market yourself as having a good quality product.
Ok, now that you have a portfolio along with some promotional materials and your pricing all set, it’s time to start trying to acquire clients. The obvious place to start is with people you know. I started because my cousin became a realtor and I was a photographer so naturally I wanted to help her out even though I never took any real estate photos before and had no idea what I was doing. The fact that you are watching this video and doing your research I can tell you that you will be better prepared than I was for my first paid real estate shoot. So rack your brain, go through all your Facebook friends.... Do you know anyone that is a real estate agent? Personal connections are a great place to start.
In addition to people you may know personally, you need to start reaching out and connecting with agents in your area. Nothing beats an in person introduction. You could reach out online via email or social media but that can easily be written off by most people as spam and not be taken seriously. That being said, I think the best course of action is to make a list of all the agencies in your area and set aside some time to drive around and start visiting them all. Go in and introduce yourself and tell them about your services and personally hand them your card and one of your flyers or brochures so they can see some of your photos right then and there. If you can speak to the broker in the office that would be the best case scenario because if you can make an impression on them that could result in them recommending you to the rest of the agents. A lot of agencies also do weekly or periodic meetings with their whole team and you could ask about if they would be willing to let you pop in for their next meeting to introduce yourself to their team and talk about your services for a few minutes. Don’t forget to bring some bagels, donuts or some sort of token of appreciation in with you when you go. Offering them an incentive to try you out is also something I’d suggest. I personally think the “I’ll do the first shoot for free” approach is a mistake however offering them some sort of discount on their first shoot I think is a valid move. Can’t hurt either to follow your visit up with an email a few days later to thank them for hearing you out and it will also remind them about your visit and what you had to say.
Another thing I would suggest is to search through listings online within the area you are looking to work in and see which listings do not have professional photography. The agents posting listings without professional photos are either too cheap or possible potential clients. Either way it can’t hurt to give them a call and find out. What’s the worst that can happen, they say no thanks? Give them a call and say how you noticed that their listing didn’t have any professional photos and tell them how you’re looking to build relationships and partnerships with local agents in order to help them professionally market their properties and offer them a discounted shoot. If they say no don’t get discouraged, just keep moving on. If they express some interest but don’t want to book anything just yet then follow up with a text message immediately after thanking them for speaking with you and include your name and number and a couple of your favorite real estate photos for them to see and also a link to your website.
Another thing you may want to try is some online marketing. Facebook ads are nice because you can get very specific with your targeting. You can literally target people who are realtors working in the exact area you would like to work in. You can run an ad targeting them specifically using one of your favorite images from your portfolio to help grab their attention. You can have the ad link to your website or have a button to message you and have the wording say something about getting a discounted price on their first shoot that they book with you. I hear mixed reviews on whether or not these types of ads are effective for photographers. It may have to do with the area you are in. It can't hurt to spend $20 on one though and see what kind of traction you get and decide whether or not you want to invest any more into it. You can also experiment with different kinds of ads and see what works best.
If you’re looking to get a faster jump into full time real estate photography something worth considering is contracting yourself out to another bigger real estate photography company in the area to supplement the work you are getting on your own. It’s a great way to get more experienced and familiarize yourself with the business. It will also allow you to do the work you want to do instead of working some other part time job while you build out your own business. Tread carefully though and make sure whatever company you are shooting for fully understands that you are building your own business and that you have a fair and solid agreement with them. I contracted myself out years ago to another company and that was originally what helped me make the leap to full time. My own personal business has grown a lot since then but I still maintain a great relationship with them and still do some work for them as needed. It’s also great being connected to a network of local real estate photographers in case you got sick or ever needed someone to cover for you.
One more thing that I want to discuss and what is probably the most important thing I will mention in this video is referrals. In the long run, this will be your number one way of acquiring new clients. Word of mouth is everything. Once you start getting a few clients it’s imperative that you treat them like gold and show them that you will go above and beyond for them. Be super accommodating to their requests even if you think they are silly or annoying. Because you are super awesome to them they will rave about you to other agents and tell them they have to try out this new awesome photographer they found. I can’t overstate enough how important this is. I know we all think the quality of our photographs are the most important thing but it's not. The most important thing is being great to your clients. Of course the quality of your work needs to be good but your personality and the way you conduct yourself will be the most important factor on whether or not agents will like you and talk about you to other agents.
Do any of you have any ideas or helpful suggestions that I didn’t mention on how to grow your business when you are first starting out? Please share them with everyone in the comments below.