Question #35: About The Quality Of Real Estate Photographs

Q: "Hi Valérie. So far I have not really found what type of photography I would like to specialize in. This is probably because I am having fun with everything. I love landscape, macro, portrait (of my wife and daughter) and interior/real estate photography. Two weeks ago, I contacted a real estate agent I know to help me build my portfolio. She allowed me to photograph a house on a Sunday before her official photographer would photograph it (the following day). I had the chance to compare my pictures to the ones from the other photographer and I can honestly say that my pictures were technically way better. She did not use any flash while I used two, her windows were blown out, and her white balance was way off. I asked for some feedback from the agent and was told that highest quality pictures are not top priorities in real estate photography, and that by producing better lighting I am also showing the flaws of the house.

While I agree that I need to learn to not show the flaws of a house, I was disappointed to learn that high quality pictures were not top priorities. Most people I talk to tend to say that the quality of the photos of most listings are awful. So, is this the general rule in real estate photography? Or should I go after those who value great pictures among the agents? Thank you for your answers." Patrick, Canada.

A: "Thank you for your question Patrick. I used to shoot for Real Estate and I must say that it was occasionally a frustrating process. Pictures do sell, there is no doubt about that. Yet, I don't believe in images that show the property to be three times the size that it actually is. That is plain deceitful. But images do have to show the house in its best light in order to attract potential buyers. We've all seen the horrible quality of most MLS pics online, they are usually shot by the listing agent with a good camera but no technical or compositional knowledge.

I don't believe that adding light is necessary for a real estate shoot anymore. You can get great results in ambient light and, if you expose properly, windows should not be blown out. If they are a bit overexposed, it's usually a quick fix in Lightroom. Although quality is very important. A Real Estate shoot doesn't require the amount time and care to detail you would put into a traditional interior shoot for a builder, a designer or an architect for example. Those shoots are intended to showcase a space for a long period of time in an online gallery or for print advertising. Whereas real estate pics will only be used and seen for a few days or weeks.  A real estate shoot does not require as much attention to details as an interior shoot. Only 2 or 3 pics of each room, at most, will ever be featured. It is also for that reason that you cannot charge the same rates for a real estate shoot like you would if you were commissioned by a designer or an architect.  In most real estate jobs you need to get the work done fast. 

A professional stager is also a key element to enhance the highlights of any property and the real estate photographer should always make sure the house is staged before taking the job. 

Smaller properties do benefit the most from professional photography because they are more difficult to showcase. That said, you may find it easier to sell your services to real estate professionals who specialize in big ticket listings. They will be used to dealing with professional photographers and will see the value you can add to their team. I hope this helps, good luck!" Valerie 

If you found this post useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Conversation #2 With Frederick Van Johnson About Marketing For Photographers



I'm excited to share my conversation with photographer, TWiP podcast host and marketer extraordinaire Frederick Van Johnson.

Frederick is not only the familiar voice behind the microphone on TWiP, he is a busy photographer and the founder of Mediabytes.



During this fun conversation Frederick shares some nuggets of information about social media marketing, blogging, branding, etc. I hope you enjoy it as much I did!

Follow Frederick on Google+ and Twitter




Question #17: About Organizing Photo Tours

Q: "Hi Valerie, I think it's great that you do the informal walking tours and have such a relaxed style about it....wish I was closer I would join you for sure! However you are successful and make your living (I assume) from photography. I'm going into photography - have been an amateur for about 4 years now (selling a few here and there) but now want to take it up a level and try to make a living at it. So I would love to travel more, and understand that cruise ships take speakers on several subjects (I have a half a dozen subjects including how to take better travel photo's) and take small group walking tours for photographers. Any suggestions on how to organize/market these and how much should I charge?" Carol K

A: "Thank you for your question Carol. First let me clarify that there is a difference between photo walks and photo workshops/tours. I lead casual photo walks in my area during my time off, they are free and everyone can join. The photo walks are strictly a social time for photographers to hang out together and shoot, there is no teaching involved at that time. Everyone who joins is respectful of that as they know that I make a living as an educator. 

The photo workshops, on the other hand, involve a lot of work and research. The week long international photo tours are extremely demanding as I make sure they are as much a cultural experience as a photographic one. If you plan on going that route, you need to build an international audience. Of course, your photographic skills are of the utmost importance but you also need to love teaching and have solid business and marketing skills. 

The price will vary with your fixed costs and the number of participants. Fixed cost may be higher than you think, don't forget tour operator liability insurance which can be costly but a must have! The best way to promote your workshops is via social media, hence the importance of a large audience. It's like any other business: If people are happy, they will become repeat customers, and they will talk to their friends about their adventures

It's a demanding business but extremely gratifying. As a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than witnessing those 'Aha' moments. Just remember not to get into this business only for your love of travels, but for your love of teaching first." - Valérie


Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you! 

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you! 


Question #16: About Real Estate Photography


Q: "I'm trying to expand my photography to commercial and residential real estate photography and I was wondering what your advice for diving into this area might be? Should I network with real estate agents or just approach businesses and individuals directly, or a little of both? Thanks! P.S. I LOVE your street and travel photography!" Melissa M.



A: "Thank you for your question Melissa! I shot interiors for the real estate industry for a number of years and I quite enjoyed it. If this is a new field you are trying the brake into, I suggest treating it in a similar way you would portraiture for example. By that, I mean the you may have to do a few freebies to build a portfolio. You probably have relatives, friends or co-workers who are planning to put their house on the market. Offer your skills to photograph their property and use your best images to showcase your work. Once you can produce consistent quality work, start by approaching real estate professionals in your area. You'd think that, with the poor quality of images we see on the MLS, selling your service would be easy. Well, it isn't so. Real estate has suffered a great deal in the past few years and most agents don't want to spend the extra money to hire a photographer. Many also think that they know what they are doing because they have a decent camera... Fortunately, things are slowly changing and many recognize the value of quality images and are ready to hand that responsibly to a real professional. The higher the selling price, the more likely the agents will hire a pro photographer. The best way to price your service is to base it according to the property square footage. The bigger the property, the higher your fee.

You may also consider teaming up with interior stagers and offer both services as a package. Most real estate professionals will appreciate the time he or she will save by not having to deal with several subcontractors to get the property on the market in a timely manner. Be aware that this is a fast pace job. Many times, your real estate client will expect the shoot, the processed images and the virtual tour to be completed in 24 hours or even 'yesterday'! Make sure that you make it clear before taking the job if you cannot deliver it within an unrealistic timeframe. I hope this helps. Good luck!"


Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you! If you receive this via email, click on the title to be redirected to the actual blog post and have access to the comment section.

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you! 


Question #13: About Going Pro

A: "Big fan, love your work. I am an enthusiast photographer but would like to begin to go pro. How would you suggest that I go about getting my work out there? I've been a photographer for a long time and need something else to do other than my "day job". I've been taking some online courses and just want to get out of the humdrum and into the mix of living what I feel. And that, of course is photography.
Any input that you can give would be greatly appreciated.

George W. A.

A: "Hi George. Thank you for reaching out!  I'm sure you've already done your homework about what turning pro entails and you've heard many times that it's tough out there. Well, it's ten times tougher than that. Yet, do not get discouraged, if your work is consistently good and you know how to sell your skills, you have a good chance of making it! 

First of all, it is imperative to keep your day job while you start making money with your photography. Also, unless you have a spouse or partner with a good income to support you as well as medical coverage, you should really save enough money to live on for at least a year. Being self employed is both nerve racking at times and extremely rewarding. I often say that I work 60+ hours a week so that I don't have to work 40 hours for someone else. I wouldn't want it any other way. If you are used to a good steady income, making the jump can be really scary. You have to trim the fat in your expenses and not plan on buying a new car for a few years... If you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices and you can't keep up with the demand while working a full time job, then maybe you're ready!

You probably heard that being a working photographer is 80% marketing and 20% shooting... That's on a good week! No matter what field you choose, it takes a few years and a lot of happy customers before you can breathe easier. Persistence is key! Although you don't need to attend any formal schooling for photography (your portfolio is your CV), you do need some solid business skills. That said, you don't need to be good at everything. I hate numbers and I give that part to an accountant. It's important to know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with the right people. It is also important to have a plan and be honest with yourself as to why you want to be a pro photographer.

As a working photographer, you will soon learn that you need to derive your income from several different streams. Unless you are a busy wedding photographer and you make enough money with one market (many do), you will have to tap into several different genres for a while and take whatever comes your way. This may also help you determine what you are good at and what you love to do. Many photographers are under the impression that they will make a living selling prints. Well... That is not happening! Yet, fine art or stock photography may be a nice way to make extra money as a passive income.

One more thing to consider, that very few people who turn their hobby into a profession do, is how not to lose the passion when your hobby becomes a regular day job. The answer is: Keep the personal projects going all the time. Shoot for yourself, often, and you will keep the passion for the craft alive. If you don't, trust me, there will be a time when you start leaving your camera at home on your days off. Don't let that happen.

I could write 10 more pages about turning pro regarding portfolio, renting vs. buying, style development, people skills, etc.  but I already wrote several articles on the subject that you can read by visiting my publications page.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck. Surround yourself with people who support you 100%. It's tough enough to make the leap without having to deal with naysayers on a daily basis!


Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you! If you receive this via email, click on the title to be redirected to the actual blog post and have access to the comment section.

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you! 







Question #7: About Feeling Discouraged

Q: "Ok, so I live in boring Copley, Ohio. I'm aspiring to be a photographer, but every time I look at photography websites where Im putting up my stuff, I cant help from thinking this jealousy feeling of seeing people with the best micro or tele photo cameras, and people that live in countries or near seas that just have the best scenes and subjects handed to them and on top of it they have the nicest camera in there lap. so I guess to wrap this up, until I get to where I want to go, should I just avoid looking at other peoples work? And/or to just pay attention to what I have in-front of me and what I can work with on my low travel budget. I like to think or know I have an eye and talent but the masses of people that seem to have it handed to them is discouraging. Any advice for a guy going to community college for photography to maybe create some sort of ladder of goals or important things to do to establish myself?" Eric S.

A: "Thank you for your question Eric. Many photographers experience the same feelings at one point or another, but few come out and admit that they are feeling discouraged or envious of others. You touched several good points in your question so I will do my best and try to answer them one by one.

- About gear lust... That's a common ailment among photographers. The cure doesn't have to be buying more gear. Feeling empowered by challenging yourself with what you have may just be what you need! I'm not going to dwell on the fact that the camera doesn't make the photographer. You're a photographer, so you already know that. Work with what you have and make killer images with simple gear, that will show your true talent. I see photographers every day who can't tell a story with the most expensive camera and lenses money can buy, while others demonstrate an amazing vision with their camera phone. No matter what you own, it's far better than any pro camera from 10 years ago. Gear should never be an excuse for lack of vision or creativity.

- Tired of your own surroundings? That happens to all of us if we allow it. Start looking at your own town as if you saw it for the first time. It may be boring to you but others would see plenty of great photo opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone! For example, if you shoot landscapes, get out and do street photography for a change. New stories happen in your streets every day, be out there to record them with your camera. Start a 365 or 52 photo project. Join a photo walk group or start your own! Be a mentor for someone.  Make the ordinary look extraordinary and it won't matter where you live or what camera you shoot with. Still dreaming of new horizons? Instead of saving for new gear, spend your money on a trip or a photo workshop. It will be much more rewarding than a new lens!

Envious of the work of others? Good, use that as a motivator! Get inspiration from the web but shoot for you. Shoot what moves you, pick subjects that you are passionate about and your passion will come through. Don't try to fit in a genre that is not who you are. A style is defined by technical skills and life experiences and it constantly evolves. You will develop a style of your own, but that takes time. Just like it takes time to find your niche. No matter what you do with your photography, make sure you always leave room for personal projects. It's the personal projects that will feed your creativity and keep things fresh.

- No one in this business 'has it handed to them' as you say. Starting out with the most expensive gear or living on a tropical island will not make anyone a successful photographer. It's hard work, it takes a lot of sweat and determination to make it and it's relentless. Someone said it's 80% marketing, 20% shooting, I'd say that's on a good week! But, if you're in it for the right reasons, it's SO worth it!

I wrote a few articles about the different points mentioned above. They are linked in the Publications page of this website. Good luck! 


Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your own experience. 

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!  


Question #6: About Not Selling Yourself Short

Q: "A friend of mine and I enjoy photography as a hobby of sorts. We both enjoy it immensely and taking our cameras with us whenever we can. Recently, he was approached by a friend of his who asked if we would be interested in shooting a wedding. Long story short, we'd be paid only about $100. I told my friend that while the experience is valuable, we can't sell ourselves short and shoot a wedding for a total of $100. With the possibility of equipment to rent and travel costs, I felt like $100 was far too low of compensation. Instead, I told him to tell them we're interested and to ask for more -- around $500-600 -- which is still a deal, given they'd be getting two photographers. And while we obviously aren't as experienced as a professional wedding photographer, we're no beginners to photography. How do you advise going about this situation? Sorry for the long winded message, but your help is greatly appreciated!"  Sincerely, Eric

A: 1. My short answer: "DON'T DO IT!!!!"

2. My longer answer: "First, I thought the number was a typo and was missing a 0... Even then, I thought the amount was very low!

Since I don't know the situation, I'll assume the bride and groom have an average budget for their wedding. Now look at it this way: They will likely spend ten times more on flowers that will end up in the dumpster the next day. Why should they expect two photographers to capture memories that will last a lifetime for almost nothing?? In my opinion they might as well ask you to do it for free. 

First, let me say that teaming up with a fellow photographer friend is a terrific idea. That said, it sounds like they are his friends, not yours, so you can still run! There is nothing more stressful than shooting a wedding, especially your first one! Shooting for family and friends makes it even more stressful. Being expected to give 110% for nothing is demotivating.

 The only time photographers should offer their service for free is to help a charity or for a cause that is important to them and they use their skills and talent as a way of contributing to that cause. Also, every situation should be evaluated in a case by case basis. For example, if this family is in real need and wants a few images to remember their special day, then it's a different story and that's your call. 

Okay, let's say you want to do it for the experience and to build a portfolio, it sounds like you guys know a thing or two about photography. Let's assume that you agree to split $1,000 for your time. It's your first gig, they get a super great deal and you have images for your portfolio. Remember, only process and show them your best work, don't process 2,000+ pics! 100 or 200 final images will do. Set up an online gallery with an e-store so that family and friends can purchase prints. Try to sell the bride and groom and their parents each a nice book of their wedding day. You need to make money on print and book sales. Please don't hand them a CD with the High Res. If you do, they should expect a big price tag attached to it.

You are using your own expensive gear (think wear and tear) and they are benefiting from years of experience. There is value attached to that. It doesn't matter that it's your first wedding shoot, everyone has to start somewhere. Don't sell yourself short. It would not only be a disservice to you and your friend but also to the whole industry.  

Best of luck!

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your own experience. 

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you! 



Question #5: About Selling Fine Art At Craft Fairs & Online

Q: "I have photos of what I think would be good to sell as fine art but don't know what is the least and yet best way to mat them for a craft fair and on-line sites as well as possible coffee shops. What would you suggest and where would one get the mats since I don't have a mat maker? Do I and if so, how do I leave a blank border around the picture itself before matting? Is black and white best for everything or color with color? So glad you are having a blog for our questions and open to helping out. Thanks much. Thanks." Cathy L


A: "Matting pictures that are printed in standard sizes is relatively inexpensive. In the United States you can purchase beautiful mats in a variety of sizes, styles and colors at discount craft stores such as Michaels or JoAnn. On the other hand, if your images are cropped in an unconventional size, custom matting can get very pricey. I would then opt for a canvas wrap instead of a custom mat. Unless you learn to do it yourself and buy all the equipment and raw material...

I also recommend keeping it simple and stay away from color mats. If a customer sees a print they like but the mat is in a color that doesn't match their decor, you will most likely lose a sale. White mats tend to be most universal and also cheaper. You don't need to leave a white border around your prints. The mat will fit very close to the edge.

About selling at art or craft fairs... They are often expensive to join and photography is not a hot seller. If you want to give it a try, make sure you have plenty of inexpensive ‘cash and carry’ items such as greeting cards, small matted prints, etc.  Be prepared for a long day of sitting around and not selling much (when you could be out there taking more pictures). Instead of selling at a craft fair, why not have your own show at your house! Team up with two or three other friends who are also artists (jewelry artists, painters, etc) for an evening. Share the cost of hosting the party, combine your contact lists and have your own art show. Home shows are great because the competition is minimal and people come to shop and have a good time. It's a fun way to make good money in a short period of time!

 About selling online... Put some of your best work online in a gallery with an e-store option. Fine Art America is free but there are many more options available. Once your work is uploaded and the prices are set, use social media to spread the word. If your work is good, you will probably sell a few prints.

Too many photographers think they can make a living with fine art photography. Let's be honest, that just doesn't happen. Even photographers with amazing talent need to have various revenue streams to survive in the industry. Should that stop you? Absolutely not! You won't make a living at selling fine art but you'll have the satisfaction of an occasional sale and some extra cash in your pocket. Give it a shot, no pun intended! ;) 

Best of luck!

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your own experience. 

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!






Question #2: About Sharing Knowledge

Q: "What are your suggestions for finding people locally with photographic interests who will share knowledge rather than be threatened by our interest?" V. Tiffany

A: "Great question! Since I am not sure whether you are talking about photography as a hobby or a profession, I'll do my best to answer it generically. I do believe that the photography community at large is very generous at sharing knowledge. Yet, when I was breaking into the business of commercial photography years ago, I also noticed that local photographers were not particularly keen on sharing. I also thought that it was probably because they were threatened by new competition entering the market place. What they failed to realize is that if they were not responsive when I approached them, I was certainly not going to send work their way if I turned down a client for one reason or another... This business is about sharing. As a pro photographer you give 80%, you receive 20%, that's how it works.

Why not share knowledge? There is no secret to photography, every possible piece of marketing advice or technical information is out there on the web and free! Also, although every one thinks they are a photographer, your work will stand out and your personality will shine in the end. If you're a pro, the client buys your talents, your expertise and your personality. 

Okay, now back to the question... If you are thinking of joining a photo club to meet like-minded people and share ideas, there are some really great ones out there. Unfortunately, there are also many whose members seem to be more interested in the gear and the pixels than the craft and the story, those have been a turn off for me. Check your area for photo walk groups or clubs. Attend a meeting or two to get a feel for the community.  If all else fails, start your own!  That's what I did when I started my Passion & Vision photo walk group. As photographers, we NEED to hang out with like-minded people. For me, it's a necessity and part of the reason why I love traveling the world teaching photo workshops so much! When I'm not traveling, I lead photo walks during my time off. They are not workshops and everyone is very respectful of that. We get together to shoot and talk, and sometimes share a drink along the way. We learn from each other. We all have different levels of expertise and experience. Some members show up with $10,000 worth of gear, others show up with an iPhone. No one cares, because it's all about vision and passion.

We all have something to bring to the table as we continue to learn this beautiful craft. Attending photo workshops is also a great way to meet other photographers and share ideas. If you still feel like there is tension among pros locally and a certain fear to share knowledge, then social media may be the answer. I often do Google Hang-outs with colleagues to share tips about marketing, etc.  I hope this helps, good luck!

I wrote quite a few articles on the subject which are all linked on the publications page of my website.

If you have a question, please use the contact form to send it.

I would love to read about your experience on this topic, please leave a comment below. Thank you!