Join Scott Hargis for an in-depth discussion in this video Real estate agent interview: Part 1, part of Real Estate Photography: Marketing Pricing and Client Relations.
- So we've been talking about how all this stuff works from the photographer's standpoint, setting up our business, trying to be attractive to our clients et cetera, I thought it would be a great idea if we talk to a real, live, real estate agent and got her perspective, so I've asked my good friend and long-time client, Claudia Mills, to step in and talk to us a little bit about what photography looks like from her perspective. Welcome, Claudia. - Yeah, thank you, Scott for having me. - [Scott] Really appreciate you being here. - Yeah, it's my pleasure. - Good, let's just get this thing off the floor here, with the burning question that all real estate photographers are obsessed with, which is price.
We're so worried about price all the time and we think that we can't charge too much or we won't get hired. How important is this from your perspective? - Well I think price is important with my colleagues, I do hear them talking about it in the office, and what things cost, however, for me personally, I'm always much more, the driver in that decision of what photographer I choose, is more based on the quality of the photos.
I have the luxury when I'm working in a certain price range, to have a much larger budget and making sure that those photos really sing, is the most important thing to me. - This is music to a photographer's ears to hear you say that. There'll be an extra $20 for you at the end of the day. But yeah, you know, so, there's a range of prices that are out there though, right? You must encounter photographers that are, that are at every level. - Yeah, and everyone is trying to find that photographer that can do the most for them and so, packaging.
I know there are some photographers and photography studios that now are providing a package deal. So you have still photography, then there's also the twilight photography, which is very important, especially in the market that I work in, it's very competitive. You really need to get your listing out and the photos are what provide that drive to really make buyers see your listing on this little tiny picture on one of these syndicated websites that are pulled off of MLS.
So that first front shot has to be gold. It needs to capture somebody's attention, regardless of what price point that house is, if your, even if it's a $150 dollar condo, up to a $5 million dollar house, that front shot of how you're representing that property has to have sparkle. - This is so interesting and maybe we'll just step into that for a second and then come back to money, because what you're saying is that people are looking at thumbnail photos, or they're on their phone, right? - [Claudia] They're on their phone.
- Looking at listings, and the twilight photo is the lead-in because it's so rich and colorful, is that? - That's what it is, yup. - And it's got that attraction. - It's got that extra dynamic to it, and that level that, while in some cultures, 'cause now we're a global market, especially here in the Bay Area, that in some cultures, the twilight photo is not the preferred photo, but for most cultures and for most buyers here in the East Bay, who are local, I'm talking globally, from a different country, but for most buyers here in the United States, they're going to resonate with that twilight, with those glowing windows in that shot, is what's going to drive that person to want to click on that listing to have it unfold so you can see more.
- Right on, okay. That's such good information to have. - So it's such an important photo. I mean, out of every photo, that every photographer takes, that's the money, right there. - So I've often said the same thing and I feel the same way about it, but you just said that in much stronger terms than I even, than even I would have expected. - [Claudia] Yeah. - It's huge, huh? - It's huge. I mean right now, I'm marketing a number of listings and making sure, trying to drive traffic to look at your front of the house shot, and I've had other properties that haven't quite had, we didn't have time to take a twilight photo because it was, it had a perfectly nice front shot but it didn't have that extra pizzazz.
You got to have the extra pizzazz. So that would be something for photographers to really cultivate, that, that front shot, that they look at it, it can't, you can't be looking up at the house, that doesn't look good. You know, all these technical things that you, I'm sure, are reviewing to a very specific way. But it needs to be beautiful. - This is golden, guys, so put twilights in your portfolio, because it's that important, right? - It's that important.
- So circling back to where we started on that, you were talking about photographers that package things together, so there's like, the regular daytime shoot of the house and then there's a twilight photo and then there are other things, that, - They're doing video now, and packaging the video together, doing a website so there's those types of photographers who are doing it all, a very, a few of them - So how important is that, that there be a one stop shop, where you can get all of these boxes checked versus hiring somebody that specializes and then another guy to do the floorplan and then another guy to do the video, is it? - Yeah, if you, as a photographer, can join ranks with other professionals, like the floorplan person and the web designer and create your own little boutique, to supply that one, if the realtor can just call one number, their life is so busy doing a million things every day, so if you can make their life more seamless, they will, that will attract them.
- Got it, and yet, you'll step outside of that because for example, I don't do any of those things, I do twilights, you know, but I'm not doing your video, I'm not doing your floorplan, I'm not going to make your flyer, and you seem to be okay with that, so what's driving that? How come? - Well, for me, I'm a unique person, because I have, I'm married to the person who does all of my marketing, except for my photography. So I have the luxury of having all of that in-house so I don't need that, but when I say, that's a strong piece for other people, I just know, in working in my office with other, and see how other realtors handle things, it's easier if that's done.
- Good to know. - Although, in some brokerages, for instance, in my brokerage and I know in a number of other larger brokerages, they supply the entire website as part of the, what is attractive for that agent so the brokerages are already supplying the property website, we have very nice, I do a custom website on top because I have that, that's just how I am, but we have a very nice platform if you were to work for my brokerage, and then the photography, there is a property website that the brokerage supplies, so a lot of agents just use that as a model too.
- So the brokerage is putting together those packages and they may be sourcing it from different places, but it's still pretty easy from the agent's perspective. - Right, and then they, then you can be specific about which photographer. For instance, the brokerage will have, I think they have about five different choices of photographers that are in my area that will come to my location. Then I can choose from one of those five, or I can choose somebody else.
But they're already making a deal with, I think there's probably, we're regional, so there's probably 15, photographer that are approved by my brokerage and then all that gets paid through the brokerage itself. - Okay, so, everybody watching this right now is thinking, alright, if I get to be one of those 15, what do I do to be the one that gets the call? Like how do you decide, between photographer A, B, and C? - Yeah, I mean, for me it's always how beautiful the photographs are.
So that for me, is always number one. I just want beautiful pictures. Then it gets into being available and being easy to work with is also another big piece of it. As a second piece because if you're unreliable, I've had shoots where the photographer got the address went wrong and you're waiting for them, for hours. And that's just, not, - That would be bad. - That bad, 'cause yeah.
It's not great, so being on time, having a really good practical system of knowing how to get to A, point A to point B, on time, is a really important thing, I think. - Right, and so you mentioned three things. You said, the beauty of the photographs, you talked about availability, and that seems like a straightforward, like, are you just too booked to fit me in kind of a thing. And then the third one was reliability and some of the professionalism, it sounds like.
- [Claudia] Professionalism. - Yeah. - I've had the luxury of always working with extremely professional photographers. So I've never been left in the loop, where I need my photos, just maybe two days after they're shot, generally I get them the following day. So the window for photography is so small. Because those have to go on MLS. - Have you got any good horror stories? - I don't. I have to say, everyone has always provided me with the photos.
So the vetting process of my brokerage, I guess is really good, and I'm working with you. So those two things, everyone has always provided, you know, what they needed. I did have recently, where the front shot, the famed front shot, the photographer was going on vacation so he was a little rushed, and he sends me the whole Dropbox link, blah blah blah, with the different resolution photos, and the front shot's not there. - Oops. - I'm like, which is not the end of the world, you know, you just have to kind of roll 'cause that's part of what, everything's very last-minute, and you can't get too stressed about things.
But I'm like, emailing him and he's like, oh my gosh, I'm driving right now to go camping, but he made it happen, you know? - He did take the picture, he just, - He did take the picture, he just had forgotten to put it into the whole, number, I'm sure he took way more than he actually sends, sent me, 'cause I typically get 20 to 30 pictures, approximately, from a photographer, and so, they take, I always see you, I'm sure you take way more than 20 to 30 pictures and you pick and choose, based on what you have, what's going to be the right ones and then you edit them, and then you send them over.
And you cherry-pick the most, the nicest ones. - There's that one winner, out of the whole set, right. - And there's the one winner. And that's, you know, the winner is, there's the front shot that has to be beautiful, and then we need the winner. - So there's the front exterior shot, which is going to be - It's very important. - the lead photo because that's kind of the rule on the MLS is you have to start with that, but you're saying that that's not necessarily the money shot, there's another one, probably inside, - There's another money shot. - That's really got it. - That captures what, the story of the house, so yeah, I guess you need two shots.
- So this is getting into like, kind of a touchy-feely thing, where it's, it's hard to articulate but, and you said, the first thing you said about how to choose your photographer was this beauty aspect to the photos. The photos have to be beautiful. That's a hard question to answer, but what does that mean? - [Claudia] What does that mean? - What is a beautiful photo? - What is a beautiful photo? You know, a beautiful photo is one that is captured, that there is that eye. The photographer has the eye to frame the photo in such a way that captures a moment at that house, that you see more than just the chairs and the walls and the windows, and it, they're doing this by, and here, this is just through a realtor's eye, I'm sure you would have your own way of describing it, but through placement of the shot, through, even moving pieces of furniture and staging, to make sure that the shot is composed correctly within that shot, so things have to get shifted because perhaps the chair's in the wrong spot or there's a plant that's slightly out of frame, that now has to get moved back, moved slightly back in, so all of these things have to be there.
- [Scott] All these little details. - The details have to be there. It can't be too high, it can't be looking down, all that placement, and then there's the light. And the lighting is gold. It's like the gold brush on top of the whole picture. So, and when you have that shot, I mean, I'm sitting here in your studio, so I'm just looking over at a shot that is just beautiful and has that resonance. It's not shadowy but there's a life to the shot, through the light of how it's being photographed, and I don't know, is it time of day, combined with how the, I'm sure you can probably do it, and you can do it without the time of day, but, - Well, we augment, right? Yeah, we try to choose the time of day and then when it's not working for us, we augment it a little bit, try to create that sort of magical feel that I think you're trying to describe, you know, that sort of sense of depth, a little bit of shadow, a little bit of mystery.
- [Claudia] Little bit of mystery. - Just the right amount of information we want to have information like oh, there's a kitchen in this house and look, it has a stove but the feel of it, right? I mean, we were talking earlier and I said I think people don't really buy houses, they fall in love with homes. Is that the goal? Trying to make them, - You want them to to fall in love with the space. Yeah, you're trying to create an emotional connection with this house, through this photo, and there only, I mean, if there's two or three, it's like you're golden.
But really, for my purposes, there's that one shot that's going to be in the brochure, - [Scott] So interesting. - That is the big, the big glossy brochure that has some smaller, you know, you've got your bathroom and you got your master, and maybe it is the master that is the money, I don't know, it's hard to know until you're at the house. But that photo, that is that emotional connect, is the big one. And then you can make the rest of it all work. - That's so interesting. I mean, I think I agree. That's been my experience as well although it's just interesting to hear you talk about there just being that one room and that's kind of all you need.
The rest of it can be, just a picture, - It can be a picture, a good picture, yeah. Confidently well shot. - Whatever room it is, it's probably a living room or a kitchen or maybe a master bedroom or maybe even a pool or something, but there's that one that's going to be the wow shot and that's like the core of the entire marketing piece. - Exactly. - So interesting. - Because you need those other shots as well, - [Scott] Right, of course. - You have to have your bedroom shots. You have to show the bathrooms, you have a swimming pool, you have to show the pool. There're all these things that have to, and if it's ugly, don't shoot it.
That's my motto. Because what we're, we're taking pictures of a fantasy of this house. We're not taking pictures of the true essence of the, of maybe the back yard is kind of not very attractive right now, then we're going to skip that. We just talk about it in our copy but we're not going to take up an ugly photo. - Not everybody is as sophisticated about it in that way, there are people who are like, show everything, including the closet with the hot water heater. - They're too literal. You don't, don't think so literally. - And then people are self-selecting to some extent.
Like there's, on the MLS, they're seeing how many bedrooms there are, they see the square footage, like all the cold hard stats are already there, by the time they get to the pictures, so then the pictures are serving a different function. It's not so much about like, let me see if I can count the number of bedrooms, they don't need to do that. It's about, is this a place where my kids are going to play is this where I'm going to fall in love and can I bring my bride home, that's the sort of, - They're going to sit there at work and, most likely, if they have a desk job, they're going to flip back and go to that website that has those photos and they're going to sit there and watch them again and again and again and fall in love with the house and that's, you want to provide that content so that love can be had.
- Right. It's all about the love. - It's all about the love. - Cool. That's great stuff to hear from you. That reinforces some things that I already believed in but hearing it come out of your mouth that way is terrific.