Real Estate, as you well know, has changed a lot over recent years. Buyers rarely set foot inside a realtors office before they have "shopped" online by looking at sites such as Zillow, or Realtor.com. Chances are, they have viewed multiple images, virtual tours, and videos long before booking a viewing with the representing agent. As such, the MLS listing has become the portal and first stop for many buyers; which in turn means that the images that represent the listing have become one of your primary, if not most important, selling tools.
Gone are the days when shooting a quick snap on your iPhone is good enough - in fact by doing so you're probably losing sales and viewings for your clients. The images that you present to potential buyers, whether you like it or not, play a key role in their decision to book a viewing. Poorly exposed images, and bad compositions turn people away - it's just human nature when presented with an image that's not of a high quality.
The reality of the situation is that realtors specialize, for the most part, in selling real estate. Photographers specialize in creating images. Very few realtors have the software and hardware necessary to take a good high quality image for their clients. No more than a photographer has the knowledge to sell a piece of real estate.
This is why you, as a real estate agent, need somebody like me. Most real estate agents, and you may be the exception to the rule, do not have the time, or photographic skill-set, to either place and use lights / strobes correctly, or have the ability to create and post-process an image, yet alone a HDR image or a create a composite. While your images maybe good enough, chances are they could be better - the bottom line is that good high quality images attract attention on listings. Why would you want to settle for sub-par images?
Why Pay For, and Hire a Professional Photographer?
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The quality produced by phones, and other point and click cameras is a tricky question to answer - are the images good enough, in all honesty quite possibly, but they could be a lot better. In an age where people are looking on sites like Zillow and Realtor.com before they even think about a viewing, and with the increasing desire to see virtual walk-through tours, then the answer leans more towards not really. To set yourself apart and get your listing recognized you need images that are of a higher quality - that's why you need a professional photographer. Case in point, would you rather have your listing represented by Image A, or Image B below:
Is The Quality From A Phone Really So Bad?
Shot on a Phone - The bright sunlight confused the meter built into the phone's camera, for which you have little to no control. Hence the room appears slightly under exposed. The verticals aren't ... well vertical. And the lens doesn't have a wide enough angle to capture the entire scene properly - now compare this image to Image B!
Shot on DSLR with Professional Grade Lens & Post-Processed Afterwards.
Maybe you can see the difference!
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There's more that goes into a shoot than just standing behind the camera and clicking a button.
Photographers, when they look through a camera lens, are evaluating the scene constantly. We're looking at the light, the shadows, if there are any foreign objects that shouldn't be in the shot, questioning if this is the best composition, checking for areas of complication - such as mirrors, windows, or areas that are brighter than others. That's before we even start to consider the settings on the camera, like which would be the best aperture, focal length, and ISO rating, and exposure setting for the given light conditions, should we bracket, do we need any exposure compensation, is there going to be lens flare etc. Then we have to consider things like: how will all of those factors be impacted by flash, if/when they are used. Have we set the white balance for the current lighting conditions, and is the light changing between shots enough to require a re-calibration. That all happens before the button is pressed to take the image.
Then there's the post-processing - I personally spend 15-30 mins on each image, and that time adds up when you start talking about 15-25+ images.
Finally, we're self-employed professionals, and our hourly rate has to factor in the possibility that we won't work every single day, and as a small business we also have to cover overheads.
Personally, if you get 25 images, you've had typically at least an hour of travel time, an hour or two of me shooting at your location, and then 6-8 hours of post-processing and editing of the images. If I charge $260 for that shoot, that puts me at just over $30 / hour - and when you compare that to the national average of $60 - $100 / hour of the average professional photographer, I think you're getting a bargain! That's how I justify my fee.
How Do You Justify Your Prices?
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High quality images require specialist knowledge and techniques, both during the shooting of the images, and the post processing that goes into each image afterwards. So, there is a need for specialist training and equipment, and it's just a fact that many real estate agents are no longer equipped to produce high quality images for their clients because of this. This is the primary reason for hiring somebody like myself.
The final factor comes down to cost. When you consider that the average real estate agent receives 6% commission for selling a home, assuming that the commission isn't split with another agent, and that the average home in the USA is valued at $200,000 (approx. 2600 sq.ft), and can be shot for as little as $260 + sales tax (assuming you use Image Package B); however, even the highest tiered package that I have to offer would only cost in the region of $450 + sales tax (on a property of that size), then when you consider this against the commission that you'll earn from selling the property (which comes to roughly $12,000), then I think it's a small price to pay for such an important marketing tool. While there's no guarantee that the property will sell, with high quality professional images, the chances increase for a minimal overhead cost (see my price sheet for more information).
If you're still shooting your own images, and the they don't look like the images shown in my portfolio, then you need to ask yourself if you're getting the most from your listings. Whether you like it or not, high quality images help sell real estate.