I don’t think anyone has aspired to solely be a real estate photographer. The industry is seen to be less glamorous and fun than the other kinds of photography, mainly because you don’t get to interact with live subjects. Most people start out doing other photography work and gradually fall into real estate photography to supplement their income, and find they receive regular work so they continue to do it on the side, or find it worth their time to focus on it full time. It's a photography niche that is booming at the moment, so it's definitely a practical choice if you want to do photography for a living. Here are a few tips to get started:
1) Do your research
Find out how the real estate industry is doing in your area and if there is a need for real estate photographers. Buy the Sunday paper, gather fliers, search online and go to open houses. The last one is especially important because it gives you a chance to talk to realtors and introduce yourself as a photographer. Ask them questions about the market and about the demand for real estate photographers in the area. Some real estate agencies opt to do high quality 3D renders of the properties they are managing (rather than photos) because this saves them time and money, so it is important to price yourself competitively and to be able to hand them the photos quickly.
2) Play to your strengths
Once you’ve done your research, you can now begin to figure out the best way to package yourself. The idea is to play to your strengths, so think carefully about what else can you offer your client that will help them sell the property. Do you have a background in sales, marketing, copywriting, video or styling? What added value can you offer your client that your competition can’t?
Once you figure out the answer to that question, it’s time to package your services. Are you able to offer photography video services as well as stills? Can you give them a layout? Or perhaps as well as the photos you can help them boost their SEO through Google Adwords? Combining your existing skills and acquiring new ones is always a plus.
3) Invest in wide angle lenses
Starting a real estate photography business is a relatively easier endeavour than getting into other types of photography because the necessity to invest in equipment and studio space is very minimal. What you will need to start with is a DSLR camera, a wide lens, a tripod and two flashes. Wide angle lenses (with a focal length of 10-22mm or 12-24mm) are very important because they have the ability to make spaces look larger than they actually are. A tripod will allow you to be flexible with your exposure settings while still maintaining sharpness in your images.
Finally, having more than one flash allows you to light dark areas in your frame (like corners, fireplaces or closets) resulting in a more evenly exposed final image.
4) Checklist. Checklist. Checklist.
Photographing real estate is no easy task for both the client and the photographer. Real estate shoots are always expansive, and the last thing you want to happen is to forget to shoot something that the client really wanted an image of. Checklists are important both for preparation and the actual shoot itself.
For clients, come up with a checklist of things they will need to do to the property before the actual shoot to make the photos look as nice as possible. This list should include clearing clutter, adding flowers, moving cars out of the driveway, hiding electrical leads, mowing the lawn, etc.
For the photographer, it is important to have a discussion with the client about what he or she wants to highlight about the property. What characteristics will help sell the property best? Take notes about what they say and add that to your own checklist of shots which should include: exterior shots, kitchen and dining areas, living and family rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms.
5) Edit quickly
If the three buzzwords in real estate are: location, location, location; the three buzzwords in real estate photography should be: 24 hour turnaround. It should not take more than 24 hours for your photos to be saved, edited and sent to the client. This means that the listing can hit the market right away, which translates to a faster sale. The thing to understand about real estate photography is that you are a part of a chain of events that leads to sales, so if you lag behind your agent will be lagging behind with their client as well, which may affect their willingness to hire you again. When your main competition is companies who do realistic 3D renders of properties, it's really important to be able to handover the final images to your client quickly.
Before taking on any clients, play around with your editing software and come up with a set of presets to help you edit your images quickly so that when things get into full swing, you can meet deadlines quickly. To be successful in the real estate photography industry, develop a reputation for being reliable, consistent and on time.