Finding the right photographer for your listings can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a new agent or have had negative experiences in the past. But professional photography can make all the difference. Here’s what to look for when looking for photography services, image rights, and costs.
Choose someone who’s familiar with real estate. One REALTOR® says she chose a photographer who understands the business: His wife is a real estate agent.
You might find photographers with specific qualifications you seek at networking events, such as the CVAR Summer Kickoff or the upcoming End of Summer bash on Sept. 14, or local Chamber of Commerce events. Professionals might charge from $100 on up, based on the square footage of a home, and whether you want a virtual tours or video walkthrough.
Pay attention to their professionalism. Real estate photographers are an extension of the agent and how they conduct business, says Brandon Doyle, e-PRO, a sales associate with RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis. So you want someone who shows up on time, conducts themselves in a professional manner around clients, delivers images in a timely manner, and stays up to date on the latest technology.
One REALTOR® hired a company that offers standard photography packages starting at $185, 3-D virtual walkthroughs starting at $275, and aerial photography and video starting at $175. “Agents aren’t photographers, and there are people who are better at it,” the agent says. Using professional photography is “part of our value proposition for our clients.”
“Every time we meet with a seller, they always say they’ve looked us up online and are impressed with our photos.”
Shoot “sharable” photos and video. Make use of social media and email, by highly publicizing listing pictures and videos there. Professionally done photos and video will attract attention, especially valuable is uploading your video to Facebook, since it will play automatically.
Jennifer Terrell, director of sales and marketing at Spacecrafting, says the photography company works with agents on how to best tell the story of a home. “We don’t nickel and dime our clients by saying, ‘You’re going to get 18 images or 25 images,’” she says. “We truly believe in the variety of things agents can do to showcase the home.” For agents who want to take their marketing to the next level, companies such as Spacecrafting also offer night photography or twilight images, lifestyle videos, architectural or aerial video, and 3-D tours.
Make sure they’re committed to the industry. You’ll want a photographer who isn’t “the jack of all trades and the master of none.” Think of a photographer’s website as their storefront: Is it well laid out? Does it feature the type of real estate images and videos you’re looking for?
Ashley Endris, ABR, a sales associate in Gulfport, Miss., uses a photographer who’s an affiliate member of her local REALTOR® association. She says that ensures the photographer understands what it means to be a REALTOR®. Healthy communication is also key when working with a photographer, she says. “You need someone who can take negative feedback. I had one client who didn’t like the photos. My photographer wasn’t offended; he just did it over.”
Ask for fast turnaround. Often in real estate, time is of the essence, so hiring a photographer who can edit and deliver images and video files quickly is important. Endris receives her images via Dropbox in 24 to 48 hours, paying $85 for about 25 photos. For a 3-D tour package, Doyle receives three links from Spacecrafting: one for a branded tour with a downloadable PDF floor plan, another for an unbranded tour he uploads to the MLS, and another to download the listing photos.
Know the terms of image use. Copyright infringement is a serious legal issue for real estate professionals. Some individual photographers or photography companies have restrictions around how and when their images can be used. It’s important to remember that listing photos posted on the MLS are often syndicated to other real estate websites and listing aggregators such as realtor.com®, Zillow, Trulia, and others. That may inadvertently violate a photographer’s copyright terms. (See more details on this topic in an upcoming issue of CVAR At A Glance.)
In February, Zillow was ordered to pay $8.3 million to VHT Inc., a nationwide photography services company, for image copyright violations. This involved listing photos commissioned by everyday real estate professionals that appeared on Zillow after the home was sold, a violation of VHT’s terms. Katie Johnson, general counsel for the National Association of REALTORS®, recommends that practitioners find a photographer who offers unrestricted permission for use of listing and marketing photos. NAR offers members sample image agreements you can use when contracting with a photographer.