Tips for Starting a Real Estate Photography Business

Attempting to break into the professional scene is the same for most aspiring photographers, and any advice is welcomed by the novice. But, anyone who's more interested in photographing large inanimate objects than people might want to watch this.

Serge Ramelli is an old hat at this game, and a very successful hat at that. Having solidified his photographic career in real estate, he has since branched out into the fine art cityscape and landscape photography, while also offering workshops and tutorials. In his latest video, he gives some solid advice on how to start making money in real estate and hotel photography. His advice is well presented and logical, but I did get a knot in my stomach at the thought of one particular piece of advice: cold calling. I'm not being critical here, it's just that as an introvert with anxiety the idea of calling a business and trying to sell myself makes me feel a little dizzy.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can feel some of our readers tut-tutting: "Jeez, man. Suck it up. It's a business, so just get on with it." And, they would be right. Just to clarify; I'm not saying it's OK to tell someone with mental health issues to "suck it up." I'm speaking in a broad sense, here. If it's just a case that you're nervous or you're afraid that people will judge you, then let me offer you some words of wisdom that my dad offers me when I'm apprehensive about making myself a little vulnerable: "F*** 'em." It may sound crass and a little over-simplified but sometimes things need to be simplified. If you want to succeed, you need to put yourself out there. Your head is either going to be on the block or it's not going to be anywhere. People at the other end of the phone will forget about you very quickly unless, of course, you can offer them some value. And, if they do judge you, then that's their problem.

While I have contacted many a business in this manner, I haven't gone to quite the lengths that Ramelli suggests in the video. He has, however, certainly convinced me to give it a go, no matter how much I feel like running off into a forest for the rest of my life. What about our readers? Forest or phone?

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6 Comments

Forest. I like nature photography! ;-)

dale clark's picture

I started doing RE and Architecture 10 years ago. Cold Calling and personal visits were key to my success. A big mistake I see from many new photographers is thinking they can just shoot emails and show up on Facebook. There are benefits for such...but nothing gets the attention like one on one.

Michael Yearout's picture

God. Another "how to get started in real estate photography" advertisement. It seems like everyone that gets a few years experience in real estate photography then turns to selling something to teach others how to do it. Maybe I'm missing the boat!

Johnny Rico's picture

I always question if there is more money in them being an "educator" rather than in their business. Also thats not directed at this guy, I didnt even watch his video.

Michael McCray's picture

First paid position in the late 70's the owner of the business grew a million dollar business providing services to the real estate industry. One thing I learned was to be able to shoot 35 mm B&W film with out ever needing a light meter. Moved to 4x5 photography from there then medical, photojournalist and variety.

Michael Jin's picture

In the process of getting out of this business, actually, but at least in NYC, it's really not all that great unless you can get exclusive contracts with high volume brokerages. Architectural photography is one thing, but real estate agents are cheap as hell and you're either going to be stuck doing $100-$150 HDR jobs in inhabited apartments (hoarder junk and all) or you're going to pray to God that you'll find some agents that will actually let you do things properly with flash, gels, etc. and not mind paying you over $200. There are relatively few of them and competition is pretty rough.

As for the job itself, I'm actually pretty impressed that I've managed to do this job this long without getting bed bugs, fleas, some skin disease, or stepping on a syringe or something. Also given some of the neighborhoods that I've been sent to at certain times of the day, I'm surprised that I haven't gotten shot or mugged. You know you're in a bad place when the entire front porch is caged with steel bars and the KFC served food through a revolving bulletproof glass door. LOL!

Anyway, if you want to make money, just go into architectural photography instead (there's not really much cross over). If you want insane stories that make you want to drink when you get home at night, get into real estate photography. :P