It’s pretty easy to step into the real estate photography business. You can just wake up one morning and decide, “Hey! Today is the day I’m starting a real estate photography business!” and — voilà! — become a real estate photographer.
Of course, you need to have some technical skills and some knowledge of photo editing software, but those are things you can learn. But as a photographer, know that you’re not just shooting spaces. To be successful, you also need to be an entrepreneur.
Do you have what it takes to build a profitable business?
Here are twelve points you should consider if you want to be in this profession:
1. Agents are not immediately your best friends.
Many starters in this business assume that a stock of beautiful business cards, a portfolio, and a brochure will open doors. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception.
Most agents will simply not be keen on buying your services. There are so many real estate photographers that brokers sometimes feel almost besieged by all the wannabes who approach them. Agents who are committed to excellently presenting their properties are already provided. Those who are still shooting by themselves are often not ready to use outside specialists, and they will refuse you without even considering a serious conversation.
It takes time, perseverance, and a good reputation to change that. Even then, rejection is a normal phenomenon, even for seasoned professionals. But let me be honest: that’s a common thing in every profession.
2. You need money to start a business.
Don’t underestimate the expenses: training and education, branding, marketing materials, a website, a mobile phone, a laptop, a camera, business liability insurance, and so on. Your bank account will still probably be empty at the start while you’re still not generating revenue, so a reasonable buffer to get through that first period of business is necessary.
3. Customers find a professional presentation of their properties just hard.
The fact remains that if a real estate agent does not offer your real estate photography services, customers may not hire you. They’ve chosen their agent for his expertise in selling houses and would assume that he would already know to make the best marketing choices.
I know many photographers that are super excited and eager to get to work. However, they get frustrated because potential clients just don’t understand the usefulness of their services.
4. Colleagues keep their doors shut.
Many beginners try to get in touch with experienced professionals seeking advice and guidance. Unfortunately, many of these experienced professionals keep their doors shut.
Don’t be discouraged too quickly, and keep looking further. Successful colleagues are often willing to share the knowledge. They know the tricks of the trade and are not afraid of competition. In fact, photographers with a thriving business usually want to tell their stories. I do, too! You can also join a professional association for photographers to get in contact with colleagues who are just as passionate and enthusiastic as you are.
It’s a cliché, but remember this for the future: sharing is multiplying!
5. Write a solid business plan.
You don’t just want to focus on the short term; you have to think further ahead. A good business plan ensures that you can concentrate and work on a regular income stream. Where do you want to be in two years? In five years? Be as detailed and accurate as possible. Work out what your rates should be and how many billable hours you need to keep your head above water.
Don’t start with low fares. Treasure your work, and price it for its correct value. It’s seriously hard to raise your rates unless you expand your services, or when agents start to approach you. Don’t just go below the rates of your competitors — make sure your clients choose you for your work, your service, and your personality.
6. In real estate photography, you need a lot of stamina.
No matter what you do, some homeowners take it very personally if you want to move things in their homes to create a better picture. Others get emotional because they have worked to the bone to get their house ready for sale — and then you come around and tell them that it wasn’t enough.
Keep explaining why certain things have to change. Not everyone might understand your vision right away, so show them a before and after shots to help them visualize the difference.Want a career in Real Estate Photography? First, read this, it is the honest truth!Click To Tweet
7. Always keep in mind that you’re digging into someone’s private life.
You get to see everything in a house, from the basement to the bathroom — and you get to hear everything too, from happy stories to compassionate ones.
One day, you could be entering a happy couple’s home they need to move from because they’re having a baby. The next day, you’re meeting with children who need to sell the parental house because their mother or father just died. During the economic crisis, I had more client calls than I could bear of people who had to sell their homes because they were on the verge of bankruptcy if they weren’t already.
All those people needed a listening ear. Sometimes you get the feeling that you’re a social worker instead of running a real estate photography business! My advice: offer a listening ear, but don’t get carried away. Let go when you’ve finished the job.
8. The road to success is time-consuming, but success is also time-consuming.
It’s hard for an entrepreneur to keep the right work-life balance. I constantly keep falling into the trap of being busy with my work all the time.
When you work from home, it’s especially necessary to set hard limits. Networking, getting contracts, photo shoots, editing, making plans, preparing a device, building and maintaining your website, writing blog posts, bookkeeping — there are a lot of tasks, and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up working 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week! And most of those hours aren’t even billable.
Planning is crucial because your time is valuable. To keep track of things, consider using project management tools such as Notion or Clickup, and a good social media planner like Missinglettr or Later. Consider investing in a business coach, who can help you focus on the right things. And guard your social life before you get burned out.
9. You have to be visible online.
Building a brand takes a lot of time, and if your online visibility isn’t consistent and stable, your potential customers won’t be able to find you.
Be the social media expert in your field. From my experience, I can tell you that blogging, Twitter, and Facebook have helped me build my reputation.
Venture into the right groups on LinkedIn and Facebook and become familiar with your target audience. But be aware not to pitch your business all the time — people will certainly find that annoying! Create a Facebook page for your business. On social media, just share your knowledge. Your audience will recognize you as an expert, and then you can occasionally point to your services. It’s sometimes cumbersome to fill two Facebook channels, but news about your cat or your children will certainly not be attractive to the professionals you’re trying to reach. You want your followers to see content that is helpful for them.
10. Keep informed of developments in the real estate market.
A subscription to a magazine for the housing market isn’t a luxury, and you can set up an RSS feed for real estate blogs. It will help you feel more confident in yourself when you have acquisition talks with your target audience.
11. Insurance is a must.
In this work, it’s almost obvious that accidents will happen: you knock over a vase with your tripod, you step back and run into a lamp, moving a cabinet creates scratches in the parquet. You don’t want it, you’ll try to avoid it, but sometimes, it just happens! Get business liability insurance and create proper contracts to be prepared when it comes to financial surprises.
12. Build a good portfolio.
Start by creating your own work. It lets you explore where your strengths and talents are. Be honest with yourself about it. You can learn all the technical skills, but without talent, you just won’t get there. A good real estate photographer looks at a space and can instantly identify the best assets of the room and capture them,
Every single house is a possible training ground. Use your home, your sister’s, your parents’, and your friends’ to show off your skills and talent. If you have the talent but do not have a portfolio, no one will ever see your potential.
Also: never be tempted to show other people’s work on your site. Sooner or later you’ll fall by the wayside and lose your credibility.
Now get this thing going!
As mentioned in above, you need to think things through and the best way to plan your business is, well, with a plan! I have created an epic workbook to help you write your business plan:
Real estate photography as a career is fantastic, especially if it’s your passion! Take the time to prepare and launch your business. Write your business plan, research the market, and continue to invest in yourself through education and training.
Find your niche within the real estate photography business. My own is photo presentation supported by photo styling. Other colleagues focus only on vacant property. I only target brokers and agents, and others prefer to work business to consumer.
It is certainly possible to earn a real income in this field. Want to be rich? Well, it will be more than difficult. Do you have any questions? If you aren’t discouraged by this story but are instead feeling combative — then put your shoulders to the wheel and step into the real estate photography business!
Just leave you name and email and I will make sure the Epic Photographers Business Plan ends up in your inbox.
Some links on this page are affiliate links. All of those links are from products I use myself and therefore can wholeheartedly recommend. By using the links on this page, I get a small percentage of the purchase price so I can continue to write valuable content. It doesn’t cost you anything. Actually, in some cases, it might even give you a discount. If you don’t like to use these links, that’s fine! You can buy your gear anywhere you like, no hard feelings.
Robert Manley says
Many thanks for taking the time to share your skills and experience – it is very much appreciated.
You are welcome, Robert! It’s my pleasure 🙂
Thank you Nicolet! Do you mind sharing an approach for charging as a real estate photographer? Also, main gear & prefered lenses to start. Thank you 🙂
Hi Dima, you can find all the gear I use on this page: https://www.pictureandspace.com/camera-lenses-tools/ I am sorry it is not formatted correctly at this moment. I am working hard on my website to become multi-lingual and changed themes, some pages are not done yet but at least you will find what you are looking for. As for pricing, that is so hard to tell. It really depends on what you need to earn, the market in your area, etc.
Sandee Schade says
Thank you for this info! Just getting stared love the advise !
I am glad to hear it’s helpful. Good luck starting up your business, Sandee!
Thank you for thus info!! Please send me the business plan resource ASAP!
Lynnea Johnson says
This is such good information! I would love to access the Epic Photographers Business Plan!
I’m so happy to have found a real estate photographer who is willing to share their experience!! Thank you!!!
Thank you so much, Eva. Your response made my day; it encourages me to keep writing and sharing!
Thank you for all the advise!!!
You’re welcome Hesmarie!
David Thobaben says
Your advice is very good for a person starting out in this business.
I haven’t started in this business yet but I want an occupation I can
do in semi retirement years.
Thank you, David, I’ve been around in this business for quite a while! It is a great field of work and I can encourage you to step into it.