Which Business? – Real Estate Photography
I’ve done my fair share of real estate photography and it isn’t as glamorous as it looks. Yes, shooting stunning multi-million dollar mansions would be great, but regular homes are not that exciting.
Taking pictures of a house that has been staged is a pleasure. Unfortunately, very few people pay to get a stager in. Staging companies are not cheap and the longer your property is on the market the more it costs. Plus, if you still have to live in the house it can be difficult.
So the truth is that many of the homes you go in will need you to hide dirty dishes in the sink. I’ve been in homes where the beds weren’t made and bathrooms were dirty.
If you are going to choose real estate photography as a business you need to educate your realtors. Supply them with a checklist they can give the homeowner.
What Realtors want
There are great opportunities for a good photographer. Realtors are ego-driven and want their images to look better than their competitors. For this reason, you need to learn how the best real estate photographers go about getting those beautiful photos.
Most realtors have their own website and need photos and videos to show off the listings. They also put their listings on the MLS service. MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. It’s available in the USA and in Canada. I’m sure you have a similar service if you are outside of North America.
The big thing now is drone photography and video. Everyone wants an aerial shot and larger homes need aerial video footage of the property.
As far as the camera body goes you can get great results using an entry-level camera body.
The lens you choose depends on whether your camera has a cropped or full-frame sensor. Cropped sensors give a narrower field of view so lens choice is crucial.
You need a 16-35mm zoom or a prime lens around 16mm for a full-frame camera. For a crop sensor body with a multiplier of x1.6, you will need a 10-18mm (16-28) or 10-22mm (16-35) zoom or a 10mm prime lens. If you don’t understand the difference between crop and full-frame bodies you need to read my blog post “Cropped or Full-Frame?”
These lenses give a wide field of view, enabling you to get all the room into the frame. I tried a kit lens and the 18mm works out at 27mm with the x1.5 multiplier. This isn’t wide enough so don’t even bother.
The next thing you want to consider is lighting. You need to light the rooms to achieve the quality you are looking for. Speedlight flashes are perfect for this, small enough to hide behind furniture and can be triggered remotely. You can get away with 2 Speedlights, 3 would be perfect with a remote trigger. If you are shooting a kitchen, put one behind the island, one next to you, and maybe if there is an open door, one in the other room. When the photo is taken the added light brightens the room, removes the shadows behind the island, and the doorway. Lighting is a game-changer and not many real estate photographers use it.
Another item you desperately need is a tripod. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, something in the area of $75 will be good enough.
Without a doubt I consider a drone to be needed. If you want the top realtors to use you, you need to offer aerial videos and stills. In most areas you need to be licensed to use one commercially, so check on the requirements.
If you offer videos inside the property, you will need a gimbal to mount your camera on. The gimbal will balance the camera so there are no jerky movements.
Most towns and cities have a real estate section in the local newspaper. Go through it and see who is selling the expensive high-end properties. Visit all the real estate company websites and make a list of names, emails, and phone numbers. Get to know the local market.
Now before you can start selling your services you need to have a portfolio. So offer to do a free shoot for a couple of realtors that sell the high-end properties.
Once you have a portfolio to show potential customers, you need to market yourself to all the realtors in your area. Put your business card in all the offices.
Realtors are cheap, but their egos are big. Don’t be afraid of charging more than your competitors. A high price will be thought of as better quality. The best quality is what a big ego needs.
Have tiered pricing so that the regular realtors selling smaller family homes can use you.
As far as the actual price to charge, you need to investigate your competition and find out what they charge.
Don’t compete on price, offer them more than your competitors. For instance, when shooting a video offer to put their logo and contact information at the beginning and end.
There is one section of the real estate market I haven’t covered and that is For Sale By Owner, they need photos and video too. So put a price package together for them.
If you offer the best quality photos and video you can make a great living from shooting real estate. Avoid going in cheap and only shooting properties at the lower end of the market. It’s just a race to the bottom. Build a reputation for quality and you will do well.