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How to choose a real estate photographer in Southern Maryland

Real estate agents in Southern Maryland know that they need key people around them to complete a sale. They normally have a great loan officer, a settlement attorney, termite company, and many others - together they work as a team to provide a high quality service.

But when it comes to creating the best visual presentation of the property, what happens - they choose to photograph the home with their iPhone, or hire a buddy who just brought a SLR camera. Some agents will say, "well if the property sells, then I've done my job. So why spend the extra money." Sure, the ultimate objective is the settlement table and if every house sold and settled that easy then, sure, why put forth the effort. The reality is not all properties are that easy to sale.

One could also say, just list the property, put on the MLS, hope that another agent sells it, and never keep the owners up to date on progress or process. In other words, just take the listing and hope of the best. Now that's a quality service.

So, why is the photographer important?

Many people start their home buying or selling research online. They are looking at property listings where the photography dominates. A buyer is browsing the various listing services and if a great property does not catch their eyes and doesn't have the "WOW" effect, they'll move on to another home or another agent. Choosing a real estate agent is a little like choosing a home. The photography is important in whether the home or agent gets a second look.

Think of it this way, is your headshot on your website, Facebook or whereever, a profressional image or is it like a mug shot? How you present yourself is critical, and how you present your listing is critical as well.

Given that photography is an important factor, how does a real estate agent find the right real estate photographer? A person who will help them gain more listings and make more sales.

Here is a list of questions an agent needs to be asking when considering their current photographer or when choosing a new one?

Question 1. How well can you work with them?

Sure, you need a photographer who knows their craft and provides excellent photographs - that's the starting point. But if they are hard to work with, have poor communication skills, or simply arrogant, then obviously you need to move on - it's not worth it. To avoid these problems, make sure the person is flexible or attempts to meet your schedule, keeps you up to date on issues, delays or any topic you need to know about. Will they go the extra mile for you? If they do, they're a keeper!

Question 2. Does their work enhance your brand?

Not all agents provide the same level of service; just like not all photographers produce the same quality of photographs.

Some photographers are very amateurish while still charging premium prices. Others are highly professional producing magazine quality images. The better judge is the quality of the images and not the price point. Think about whether the images match up to the brand you want your clients to think about when hiring you. If the agent is working towards being a high-end agent that provides a high-end service with results to match, then premium quality photography will support that objective.

Question 3. Does the photographer charge more than other photographers?

A low price photographer, below the going rate for Southern Maryland, is there for a reason. Could be they are just starting out and learning their craft; they don't know their business very well or understand the cost of equipment and sales. Typically, they won't last long. Hiring a photographer that is priced a little higher, you are more likely to get quality images, deal with someone who has experience, and knows how to handle difficult situations, or special requests. That the type of person you want on your team.

Question 4. Are they a local business?

There are some very large real estate photography companies that operate nationwide. Typically, they pay their staff very low wages, and they have very high turnover. Every property shoot has a different person showing up, doing a cookie cutter approach. The button line is they have very little incentive to produce a high quality product to you. Since they aren't paid very much, they move in and out as quickly as they can, and on to the next job. You don't want them!

Question 5. Can they deal with difficult situations?

Sometimes, a photo shoot just like a real estate sale that doesn't go as planned. A homeowner is not ready, or the weather is bad, the home is poorly arranged or filled with clutter. An experienced photographer can handle most of these situations, but when the sun is shining through the dining room window, there's a dark area around the corner or a stunning view outside, not all photographers can cope with these kind of problems. The results - the real estate agent is left with less quality images. Ensure your photographer is able to handle difficult situations, and they will go the extra mile to make it right.

That doesn't mean the answer is to fix everything in Photoshop. Sure Photoshop is a major help to produce a great image, but not everything can be fixed, like removing all the clutter in a room. Having the professional version of Photoshop available will enable the photographer to do certain things that other amateur photographers can not do. The professional version of Photoshop is fairly expensive. If you need a cloudy overcast sky replaced with a great sunset, or if you need to combine several images together to show off the height or width of a room, a professional photographer should be able to do this and more. Ask them what software that use and if they have the professional version of Photoshop.

Question 6. Do they respond promptly?

Sometimes the owner may be going out of town, or only available at certain times - how does your photographer respond? Certainly there are limits to what can be done, but does the photographer, at least, make an effort to be as accommodating as possible? When you inquire about a booking, how responsive is your photographer? Does it take days before you hear anything? Does he/she give you one or two available times, and it feels like take it or leave it?

Photographers are people too, with other clients, families, and they even sleep, so be understanding as well. The way to evaluate their responsiveness is if they are trying to be helpful and doing the best they can.

Communication goes two ways

As an agent, it's very important that you let the photographer know if there are special features that you want to emphasize about the property.

You cannot assume that the photogrpaher will know this. Open communications goes both ways.

According to Matthew Busher from PLACESTER: "Tell your photographer exactly what you want for your photos." He further says "For example, if there are specific area of the interior and exterior, or amenities in and around the property you want highlighted, provide those details to your photographer. This will prevent you from getting a final product you're unhappy with and give your photographer a clear notion of what you want for your photo style."

One real estate agent I have worked with was very good at this. He knew what features he wanted to emphasize about the property as best he could. Like, the living room, kitchen and dining room was a wide open space. He wanted several photos that showed the wide area. No problem, I took several images and combined them in a way to highlighted that feature.

In summary, choosing the right photographer is like everything else - put a little effort into finding and selecting them. Once you find someone you like and who is compatible with you, ensure you share your special requests. In the end, you have a great partner.

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