Marc Smith and I recently had the pleasure of co-hosting our first CubiCollective in the Chicago area, and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet several of our Certified Photographers, including photographers at all levels of experience with real estate imaging.
One of our guests at the Collective was our recent webinar guest, Mark Gutierrez of Epic Homes Photography and VHT Studios. Mark is half of a dynamic couple in photography and life, with Martina Magnusson, also a VHT photographer and an amazing creative.
As a veteran real estate photographer with over ten years of experience and an educator, Mark shared a bit of helpful information for fledgling real estate photographers. It can be difficult as a beginner in this business, and understanding the three main paths for photographers is helpful just starting out.
Three Main Paths for Real Estate Photographers
Path One : SoloPreneur
This might be a good fit for you if you like to control all aspects of your business. Shooting, Editing, Sales, Marketing, Accounting, and the list goes on. The advantages to being a SoloPreneur are that you are in complete control of your schedule and earnings. If you are a keen business person and plan to scale a business up by adding more photographers, this might be the best option for you.
Path Two : SubContractor, Local Imaging Company
If you are comfortable handing over some responsibilities such as editing and administrative work, this could be a good choice for you. A smaller local imaging company may still give you the opportunity to connect with your co-workers, the possibility of in-person training, and give you the opportunity to shoot more. While your revenue will be less on a per shoot basis than if you operate as a SoloPreneur, this option takes some of the daily work off your shoulders and allows you to spend more time doing photography.
Path Three : SubContractor, Larger/National Imaging Company
Similar to working with a local imaging company, this allows more time to photograph because you are not responsible for administrative or sales tasks. Typically you work on your own in your territory, without knowing your co-workers (the new normal of remote work for many.) The trade off for your company shouldering scheduling, delivery, and so on, means your compensation will be less per shoot, but again, allows you to shoot more properties.
Foundations for success
Regardless which path you pursue in your real estate photography career, Mark recommends these tips:
- Get the business education you need
- Keep track of everything and use your data, not your emotions to make business decisions
- Shoot with consistency (the quality has to be there!)
- Always, Always, Always Keep the Client in Mind and serve their best interests
- Attitude Matters – Shoot with the same intention no matter if the house is listing for $300K or $3 Million.
This is our profession, take pride no matter the subject
- Understand your value and charge accordingly – this will change as your level of expertise increases
- Respect your competition as well, it does not serve any of us to drive prices down trying to undercut other photographers.
Charge fairly for your services and level of quality.
For Mark, with over 12,000 homes photographed, working with VHT Studios has been the way to go. He spends his time shooting beautiful properties, primarily in the Hinsdale area outside Chicago. I had the good fortune to shadow Mark on his shoots for a day, and observe his workflow (Canon, Tilt/Shift lenses, and the Arca-Swiss Cube Geared Head.) Mark provides still photography, 3d tours and floor plans, and is exploring video as well.
The benefits that Mark sees in offering floor plans extend to both the agent and the buyer. The seamless process of creating a CubiCasa floor plan is impressive to agents and homeowners alike during a shoot, and help the agent (and the photographer) differentiate their marketing capabilities from competitors. In one appointment, the agent has imaging needs taken care of and prospective buyers will be able to understand the layout and flow of the home.
Elevating the Industry Overall
With his easy interactions with homeowners and agents, Mark is on a mission to elevate real estate imaging for both photographers and the agents we work with. Over the years that Mark has worked in this industry, he has forged lasting relationships with his clients. One question he hears repeatedly is, “Is it good for you?” meaning his clients have become his friends and want to make sure that the work he does for them is also beneficial to Mark. His response, always, is “If it is good for YOU, it’s good for me.” It is this perspective of always putting the client first in your mind and motivations that Mark credits for his success. Working this way, he has become a trusted long-term partner to his clients.
One extra perk Mark provides to his realtors is detail shots that can be used for their social media posts. One agent taking advantage of this content is Tracy Anderson. Tracy has picked up detail shots from the listing below and repurposed the images on Instagram. This is a great example of how we can add value for our clients – instead of using stock photography, help them build their own curated library.
In addition to a full shooting schedule, Mark also takes time to give back to his community. He trains new photographers with VHT, and meets with local realtors to explain the value that professional photography brings to their listings and how it can enhance their branding.
One of Mark’s initiatives was creating this brochure to promote not only his personal business, but to promote professional photography overall. It’s a great idea and it caught on – these are examples of Mark’s and co-VHT photographer Mikel Pickett’s brochures.
Mark is available as a real estate photography mentor and teacher, and serves on the Board of Directors for FreshLens Chicago, a not-for-profit photography program for students from under-resourced areas of Chicago.
Thank you to Mark, and to Kim Lotka for making this experience possible. If you are interested in talking with Mark about mentoring, or anything else real estate imaging, you can find him at epichomesphotography.com, on Facebook, and on Instagram. Be on the lookout for updates coming soon from “Mindshift Mark.”