I see the 10-year challenge posts on Facebook right now and it has made me reflect back on my past ten years. Though people’s journeys can’t always be captured or comprised into two photos 10 years apart (ironic coming from a photographer I know).
In just the last four years I have gone from dude with a camera, to professional real estate photographer with a growing business. In the first two years I worked with another photographer, as a contract photographer, a hired lens if you will. The experience helped me get more efficient, nail down a good workflow, but left little time to interact with homeowners or realtors. Shooting 4-7 houses a day made for a hectic fast paced schedule, that kept me very busy. Factor in drive time and editing, making for a 60-70 hour work week. The photographer I worked for based their business on volume, doing as many houses as possible, cheaper for as many realtors as they can. I don’t disagree with that at all! But I was getting burned out quick, working for someone else was great for my wallet, but bad for my own business and bad for my mental health.
So, as I transitioned out on my own, I had to figure out how I was going to do to mold my own business. What is important to me? What helps make me unique? Was it doing a ton of houses, working with as many people as possible? I saw what high volume work worked like. There were and are many ways, and things I could focus on that will take my business in different directions.
1. Passion. I have been a passionate creator/artist/photographer my whole life. I didn’t just learn this to make money. I apply a lifetime of art training, and love of the creative process with me. I’ve worked with a wide variety of clients over the years, on projects of every scale. I understand what it takes to deliver quality.
2. Customer care. I had done the hectic pace style, gone in and shot the house and left, having never really spoken to the homeowner. It just felt weird. I barge in, photograph their house, and leave. Rinse. Repeat.
As I transitioned into building my own business, I was able to take more time, get to talk to homeowners, set their minds a t ease a bit. Also I got to know the realtors better, building good relationships. This made all the difference to me. As Realtors I know this is not at all a foreign concept to any of you. Although if it is…… You may want to seriously rethink that.
The realtor has set up a time, given the homeowners a list of things to clean, paint, fix, replace, get rid of, or hide for the photos. They are usually scrambling last minute to get things done from their list, then I show up. The culmination of all this stress. “THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS HERE!!”
My number one priority is to try to put people at ease, to assure them that all of their hard work is going to pay off. The number one thing any photographer strives to do; whether they are a portrait, wedding, or even a real estate photographer, is to get people to relax. Nervous people make poor photography subjects, and nervous homeowners make for stressful work conditions. I get those that follow me around, look over my shoulder, and generally try to micro-manage me; this can make for a hard shoot. If I can get those people to relax, smile, laugh, feel at ease, understand that “I’ve got this”, it makes for such a better experience for us all.
Not don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m going to stand there all day talking to your clients (although it has been known to happen). Or that am going to spend all day moving things, or cleaning up for them (although it has been known to happen). It does mean that I am going to be compassionate, help when and where I can, listen, and instill complete confidence that I AM the professional and I have it handled.
I want them to be able to enjoy the experience, or at least say “Man, I was stressed about the whole taking pictures part, but it wasn’t a big deal at all.” If they can say that I have done my job.
I know the quality of my photos. Those that work with me know the level of quality they are getting from my photos, but what they may not get a sense of; are the intangible service that I provide. Assurance that when the photographer showed up, he did all he could to make sure his/her clients had a great selling experience. Usually when I arrive at the house I introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Scott. (fill in the blank)’s photographer.” In that time and place I am an extension of your realty business.
I understand how powerful word of mouth is in the real estate industry. If Sellers have a positive experience, they will pass on your name. Let’s face it, when realtors stay busy, I stay busy. Great realtors work hard building good personal relationships with their clients, in turn I work hard to continue that experience for them. I may not be the cheapest, I may not have a team of photographers, editors, and other employees at my disposal. That may come in time. But for now, I am committed to building a business I can proud of, built the way I want it built, around great/ passionate people, while continuing to provide those intangible things that make selling a home easier and more pleasant.
Thanks for reading.
From behind the lens, this is your friendly neighboorhood photographer,