Photographs are an essential part of marketing when you’re selling property, and the nicer the photos, the better. One analysis found the selling price of a real estate listing with higher-quality pictures could be anywhere from $934 to $116,076 more than for properties with poor-quality photos.
If you’re skilled with a camera, real estate photography could be an excellent way to earn money, either as a side hustle or full time. Keep reading to find out what a career in real estate photography might look like and some tips on how to get started.
Real estate photography opportunities
Not all real estate photographers approach the business the same way. Depending on your preferences, you may become an independent photographer with your own business or work for a company that has a number of photographers on staff.
Julie vanderKroef, a drone photographer who operates her own business, Drone Photography CT, frequently works with real estate agents. While real estate photography comprises a good portion of her work, she also does other types of assignments, including commercial construction progress documentation and nonprofit event coverage.
While drone photography is a niche in the real estate photography market, vanderKroef runs her business the same way as other independent photographers — by making connections with agents and booking appointments for individual shoots.
VanderKroef appreciates the flexibility that having her own business affords. Operating your own business is potentially more lucrative than working for a company, but vanderKroef admits that it was difficult for her to break into the field as an independent. “Some real estate agencies have contracts with large photography companies, and require their agents to work with them,” she says. “That made it more of a challenge to get my foot in the door.”
While real estate photography companies are an obstacle to independent photographers, they can also be an opportunity for steady work and a good place to learn the business. Companies like these either have full-time photographers on staff or contract with a stable of photographers to send on shoots.
One such company, CT Plans, provides photography, floor plans, 3D renderings, and other marketing tools to real estate agents. The company has eight full-time technicians on staff who handle real estate photography for clients.
CT Plans works with individual agents and serves as the official vendor for some agencies. Real estate agents contact the company directly to book technician appointments.
How to get your real estate photography career off the ground
If you’re looking to ramp up your career at a place like CT Plans, some experience is helpful. CEO and founder Hicham Bensaoui notes that “experience isn’t necessarily based on years, but on your dedication to photography. If you love doing what you do, you’ll be successful, even if you’ve been doing it for a short period of time.” He recommends creating a digital portfolio to show your previous work during the job interview.
Reliability is even more important than experience, according to Bensaoui. “Your track record, performance in previous jobs, timeliness for the interview, and other small factors all demonstrate your preparedness for the job,” he says.
If you’re interested in starting your own real estate photography business, here are some tips for establishing your company and making connections:
- Create a website to showcase your portfolio and attract visitors. An online portfolio is the most important business tool a real estate photographer can have. vanderKroef took lots of new photos to post on her website. She took pictures around her hometown, volunteering for local organizations whenever possible. She also added her photos to Google Maps using her business email account and asked for reviews from clients, which she posted in Google Reviews. All of this put her in a good position whenever anyone searched online for real estate photography in her area.
- Create an easy way for agents to book appointments. John Chopourian, a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agent, says real estate agents typically require a fast turnaround on photos — if your first appointment is two weeks out, that’s too long. Set up a way to book appointments before your first prospect visits your site. JotForm has customizable online booking forms that make it easy to book and track time slots.
- Explore the local market. To find out the going rate for real estate photography in your area, Chopourian suggests contacting photography companies and asking them what they charge. If you need to charge more to support your business, expand your geographical scope to see if other locales might be a better fit. Chopourian also recommends putting yourself in front of local Realtors by asking if you can give a presentation to their office. Real estate agencies regularly feature presentations by local photographers who are interested in working with them. Prepare a 10-minute presentation highlighting your best work, give a business card to every agent, and don’t forget to bring snacks!
- Take advantage of networking opportunities. Every state has a Realtors’ association that hosts an annual convention/exhibition. These events are a big draw for real estate agents and a good place for new photographers to make connections. If you get a booth there, you’ll meet hundreds of local Realtors and build awareness of your business.
Real estate photography is a competitive field, but with the right skills and business savvy, you can build a career you love. “Do your research, understand the industry, understand what your client is looking for, and dedicate yourself to improving,” Bensaoui advises. “Be the best at it that you can be.”