Property Photography Clients
Property Photography Clients: Who and how to approach, and what to offer
We are nearly at the end and ready to roll. You now have the necessary skills, a stunning portfolio both in print and online, and some really competitive prices to "woo" your clients with! Now you need to get out into the big wide world and get yourself seen.
Property Photography Clients: WHO
The list of people to approach is almost endless. Look around you, in your town, village or city, or the next town, village or city. One thing this world is not short of is properties!
Rather than narrowing yourself down to one type of client here, what you need to do is kick-start your business with a bang. You need to approach everyone and anyone who owns or has dealings with properties;
Each one will have different reasons for wanting and needing high quality images. If they don’t know it, you can sell it to them.
Individual Property Owners
People like you and me. People like your parents, friends, colleagues and associates. But what reasons would someone want to have their house or home photographed?
- 1Maybe they are thinking of selling in the near future and would like a portfolio of their home while it is tip top condition to give out to agencies, to be ahead of the game. Pictures sell!
- 2Perhaps they just want a record of their family home for sentimental reasons. I really wish we had some nice shots of the house that I grew up in.
- 3Maybe they are about to or have just completely refurbished their house. Offer to do a "before and after" session.
- 4You could even cleverly combine the property shots with a beautiful family portrait at a reduced rate. That way you kill two birds with one stone and get some more shots for your portfolio.
Do a good enough job here and more work is bound to follow. I found that people love to show off their property and make it known that they have had photographs done. Leave enough business cards out there and the referrals will come.
Real Estate Agencies
If you work hard enough and really get yourself noticed, you could well end up with:
Next time you are out and about around town, count the real estate companies you see. Now try the next town, and the next, for a radius of 50 miles or more. If you have ever looked in a real estate window, the reason for showing quality images is obvious, but why would they need photos at all?
Back in in 2003, I sent my portfolio to a new and exciting property company in London and they offered me an interview for 2 days time. Unfortunately, living in Spain with a heavily pregnant wife meant I couldn't go, but a freelance contract is waiting for me when I return to the UK.
This freelance position also had, after a trial period, a full contract for £25,000 + p.a. with car. Plus all the top end digital gear I could dream of. It would also leave the weekends and evenings free for weddings and portraits. Please don't ask me the name of the company ; )
I have now moved back to the UK long ago. I ended up not taking on that contract and am now 100% self employed shooting properties, weddings, commercial contracts and aerial video and photo work.
Anyway, my point is that unless you ask, you certainly don’t get, and without a portfolio to back you up, you can’t even ask. Persistence and a good portfolio can pay dividends.
Property Photography Clients: Business Premises
From a small, local clothes shop, to a large multi-outlet retailer, they all need to promote themselves. Whether advertising in local papers, online, in magazines or just in the church newsletter, nice pictures are required.
The more you plug away and get your portfolio seen and your name known, the more chances you have of getting a call. It is 50% photography and 50% you!
People remember people more than they do photographs. It is you that has to sell yourself and your business. Always be professional, smart and know what you are talking about.
If you can get in here, you are doing well. Do a good job and you will have work for a long time. Developers are constantly building, promoting, selling and moving on. Photographs are forefront for their campaigns and they need to be good.
They will, at some point, build a show house or apartment and this will need photographing for promotional purposes. They may also need other shots such as lifestyle, local area etc. for the web.
When out and about, look for new buildings, signs, sites, housing estates and look for the billboards or hoardings with the developers name on. Go to their website and check out their photography.
Make a list of their names, websites and email addresses. Get as many as you can.
You have more of a chance of securing long-term retainers with the big companies. They have a bigger budget for photography and design and this could be a very nice area to get into.
Many people these days are buying up old, dilapidated properties, doing them up and selling them on. Not many keep a professional looking record or portfolio of their work.
Whether it is an individual, or large company, they are worth approaching. A beautifully taken portfolio of their hard work, presented in a nice portfolio album does wonders for their ego, their banks (for future reference), and future clients.
You need to find these people. If they are not having their work photographed throughout the refurbishment, sell yourself and the idea so they feel they can't afford not to do it. Maybe offer to do one for free to build up your portfolio?
Let's say a person goes to a bank to ask for a mortgage to refurbish a property. Do you think it would bode him well to show a complete portfolio of beautiful, glossy images from his last exploits, along with the other documents? Of course it would.
Large Estates and Manor Houses
No harm in "popping in" to a few of these. The owners can sometimes be quite eccentric and willing to help a budding new talent. Many stately homes in the UK are now being done up and opened to the general public. A great time to get in and photograph these beautiful places.
If you can manage to get one of these under your belt, your portfolio will absolutely shine and add some real clout and "Je ne sais quoi" to your work.
Property Photography Clients: HOW
How and how many of these companies you approach is directly related to the amount of work that you receive. Make it sloppy with a "couldn't care less" attitude and it is "so long partner". You don't need that sort of reputation.
Every e-mail or letter written, every phone call made and every visit undertaken should be done with the right attitude and bags of professionalism.
Even if it would be your first time shooting a shop interior for example, don't let them know that. You know that you can do it, so approach the owners with the confidence and charisma that puts them at their ease. Like I said before, it is all about you!
I would recommend that you include a link to your online portfolio on ALL of your advertising, stationery and communications. You need to get your work seen.
Individual Property Owners
There are many ways to approach your everyday people. You will want to try as many as you can to test the water in the area so to speak.
Best of all, aim high. Approach the larger, grander houses. Find a street full of posh, expensive properties and target those. A couple of times I shot large, expensive villas for an agency, and I remember one owner asked for a set of prints in a folder of every photograph. There were 25 in all and he paid me £10 per 10×8 print. Not bad as an added "extra"!
Real Estate Agencies
You really need to put your professional hat on here. You need to contact all the agencies in and around your area at least once.
Here is a quick example of what happened to me.
Last year (at the time of writing), the real estate company I was contracted to (who were the largest at that point) hit hard times. Many "luxuries" including the photography, were stopped.
I immediately emailed about 100 real estate agents in the area and the response I got was pretty good:
Three responses out of a hundred doesn't sound a lot, but do a good job for the work you get and it is amazing how quickly you become known and the work comes in. A few others said they would keep me and my portfolio on their files so you never know.
Like I said before, this book isn't just about property photography, it is about all photography. You just need to narrow down your target audience, specialise in one or two things and other work just has to come.
Property Photography Clients: Business Premises
You can do the same here, send an email to as many businesses as you can. Keep a record of them so you know who you have approached and when. Explain what you do and include, once again, a link to your portfolio. The worst that can happen is that they put you on file for future reference.
If you hear nothing in 3-4 months, send again. Be persistent and people will remember you, just be polite and apologetic when doing so. Try actually going into the business or shop, see what the place is like. Is it smart? Do they rely on or are they proud of their appearance? How do they advertise?
Try and see the marketing people or someone in authority. Be polite, dress smart and explain what you do. Ask that if they have nothing at present, for them to possibly keep you on file for future reference. Have plenty of business cards handy.
Building and establishing a business can take time, but the foundations that you build here will stick and hopefully secure you a lot of work for a long time. However, you need to put in the effort.
When you are driving about, keep your eyes peeled for any new developments that are starting. Is there a plot of land being "scraped" away to make way for buildings near you? Does it have a sales office? Does it have contact information?
The company probably has a photographer already, but again, it doesn't do any harm to ask. Say something like;
"I was driving through town and noticed a new development you are currently starting. I hope you don’t mind but I thought I would write you a quick letter/email to let you know what I do…"
Again, include some of your portfolio and you never know.
It is important to remember that not everyone will reply and not every reply will be good news, just keep trying. Remember my 3 out of a hundred?
Keep a look out for any old, run down properties that have a "sold" sign on the outside. Get in touch with the selling agent and ask for the clients details. Of course, explain why you want them.
If they won't divulge the information, ask them to pass on your details explaining what you do, why and your contact details. Don't ask, don't get!
If you spot someone starting to work on an old property, just pop in and talk to them. The idea may never have crossed their mind but make sure you give them a good deal and explain how good your photos will look when done professionally. The last thing you want is for them to take your idea and try to do it themselves with a point and shoot camera!
Large Estates and Public Manor Houses
If nothing else comes from approaching these, at least you have got to see some interesting and beautiful local history!
Visit a few of these beautiful buildings. Explain what you do and ask permission to take photographs of the building and gardens in general for your own personal collection. If you get approval, take as many high quality shots as you can, getting as much of the key points in as possible;
Make them look exceptional. Use your Photoshop skills to really enhance the colours and textures. Sharpen them well and make some stunning 10 x 8 prints.
Go back, or send a selection of the best images to the owners or people that run the Estate. Maybe they will sell them for you as postcards in the gift shop, or maybe they will offer to buy the rights to sell them?
You could even drop a hint that you specialise in interior/exterior property photography and would simply love to photograph an entire estate such as this!
I would actually offer to do one for free if they couldn't pay me. For one it would be an awesome addition to my portfolio and secondly, once they see the beautiful images you have produced, they may well buy them anyway for promotional shots.
You really do have to love what you do, this enthusiasm will shine through and show people you are serious about what you do and it isn’t just a business.
Property Photography Clients: WHAT (to offer)
What you offer to clients has to get them interested. It has to be different, cheaper and better than anyone else. Think of your own ideas and work out would be best for each particular client. Here are a few pointers to get you started;
Individual Property Owners
A couple of ideas that came to me last year, may well work for you and your clients.
If the house is reasonably expensive and is on or going on the market, the photography could go a long way to help with the sale. You need to explain that the money that this will cost, is nothing compared to the money they make on the sale. Plus the money they save for a "quick" sale possibly helped by your work.
Any large house that is difficult to see from the road that has a huge wall or hedge surrounding it is worth approaching with this. Offer the owner, again at a reasonable but "profitable" price, a "For Sale" sign that incorporates a stunning image of the house as seen from the garden.
Then, prospective buyers driving around looking for houses to view may well be swayed a lot more with a "photo board" than just a telephone number stuck on the wall of a house they cannot see. It could be the thing that gets them all wanting to see the house. (See the image below of a very quick mock up to explain what I mean). If you can't see the property, do you think this would help a sale? It is just an idea.
Work out the cost of an A1 print and mounting board with weatherproofing and set the price accordingly. Drive around, looking for "for sale" signs and do a bit of selling!
Let's say the property is valued at £1/2 a million or more. Would it be in the owner's interest to pay a little extra (say £500-1,000) and really push the property for a quick sale? Offer the owner the chance to have printed, a hundred or more (or less) glossy four page brochures. Each with your stunning photography throughout, including all the fine details about the property inside and out.
These could be sent to any prospective clients through enquiries, given to agencies to take to their exhibitions or to give out through their shops/offices.
Find a design and print company that could produce a mock up or demo print and use it as a sample. Tell the design company that you will use them for any work it produces. If a property seller is having trouble selling their house, or the market is depressed, or even if it is booming and competition is fierce, show them the sample.
Explain that for this amount (whatever you decide), their property would be shown in all its glory with these "free", stunning, glossy brochures given out to interested parties. Again, this is just an idea, but may give you food for thought and fuel your own imagination.
Like I mentioned before, if you struggle to get a job photographing just the house, incorporate a portrait sitting. Tell them that as you will have all the studio lights set up anyway, you will throw in one or two family portraits. They can get ready while you are photographing the house. Finish up in the room where you will do the portraits and it will take less than half an hour extra to do these extra photographs.
People love freebies
Make people feel like they are getting something for free. It won't cost you a penny more to do but may well secure the job, add to your portfolio and possibly get a few referrals!
As part of the package for photographing a property, include a free DVD/Download of all the finished images as well as any prints that they order. Don't tell them this beforehand as they will just get the prints done themselves from the CD/DVD. Charge what you like for the prints if they aren't included in the price, but make them competitive.
Show them what kind of prints they can have other than the bulk standard 5 x 7 or 10 x 8's. Maybe a nice canvas print or a framed montage that you could design, these can bring in some nice additional revenue. One family I photographed bought 4 A1 canvas prints for their villa at €450 each along with around 100 other normal sized enlargements. You never know and nor do they unless you explain what is on offer.
Once the clients have their photos, offer them a referral fee for any other work they can get you. Tell them, in front of the kids, that they could use the money to get their children a present for being so good and well behaved, the kids will pester them for weeks ; )
Lastly, explain that you do weddings too (assuming that you do), and you will pay them handsomely for any jobs they refer you to. If you don't ask, you don't get!
Property Photography Clients: Real Estate Agencies
Obviously, you are going to offer these agents some of the best property photography they have seen. What else could you give that is different? Think of things that could clinch the deal and explain that you can do it cheaper and better than anyone.
If you think it may help and that the agent will not just steal your idea, try the things I mentioned above (photo board and brochures). Tell them that you will work with them to produce these including the photography and design/printing.
It could be the thing that stands them out from the rest.
For all the other businesses, homes, developers etc., modify and expand on the above ideas and "brainstorm" your own.
Look at what they have already and improve on it. Think of new ideas, something different. How could you help to improve their image and business? You have to be doing this for their benefit as well as your own.