So I get a notice that someone is using a few of my photos. I check a listing and, sure enough, something I shot two years ago (and it sold) is on the market again with a new agent — let’s call him Kevin — and he liked my outside pictures a lot, it seems. It happens a fair bit.
So I can either…
- Ask them to remove them.
- Just send them an invoice.
- Report them to MLS.
I chose Option 1 and fired off a quick e-mail. Next morning, no response. So I left a voice mail, too.
Later in the day I got a call while on a photo-shoot and let it go to voice-mail. It was Kevin saying they’d gotten the pictures off Zillow — “a public web site” — and I’d have to provide documentation that I owned them.
I called them back later and explained that just because you found them online didn’t make them free. I have pictures here — they’re not free to use. They’re licensed to people and I retain the copyright. And it’s they who have to prove to MLS that they have the right to use them — Kevin said they’d never heard of that. This despite “doing this for 30 years.” Whatever.
Later I get CC’d on an e-mail from Kevin to our MLS’ compliance department about a complaint against them and they said they were removing my photos.
Meanwhile, I hadn’t reported Kevin at all.
I looked at the compliance e-mail they were responding to and it was a completely different matter that some agent had ratted them out on — on pretty much every other photo in the listing. So now they’ve removed my photos (and admitted to MLS they were using photos without permission) but the original problem Kevin got dinged for still exists.
Of course, Kevin is the victim in all of this.
…at an open house where the photos were pretty horrible…
Me: Looks like you could use professional photos.
Agent: Probably. What would you charge for this?
Me: For this size place? $X.
Agent: I know someone who can do it for (50% of X).
Me: Then you should call them! That’s a great price!
Moral of the story: There’s always someone willing to do it cheaper. Maybe not better, but cheaper. And there’s always someone willing to claim they can get it cheaper. You can’t argue with them — they’re just trying to get you to drop your price. If you do, you’re stuck.
This may be a recurring theme here: getting people into the modern age. For cohorts and customers alike.
If you haven’t updated your picture since the year started with ’19,’ it might be time.
There are a number of real estate agents I’ve met after seeing only their online profile and thought, “Um…WTF?!?” I literally had one walk right up to me at the photoshoot and I thought it must be the seller because I’d never seen this person before.
One I overheard tell someone that she’d been in the business for almost 30 years and I then realized when her headshot was taken — her hair is a different color, she now wears glasses, she’s about 30 pounds lighter…. And don’t for a minute think it’s just women — one male agent I work for has significantly less hair than in his online picture. One no longer has the facial hair that’s in his profile photo.
I mentioned this phenomenon to another agent I work for a lot and she said that she updates her picture every 2-3 years. She knows a good portrait photographer and schedules a shoot right after she gets a haircut and has someone do her make-up. She then updates her business cards and website accordingly. Smart move.
Digital photography makes this easy. So you may have to throw out half a box of business cards.
I got an e-mail yesterday from someone trying to get me to use them as an editing service. Here’s the e-mail…
John am doing Real Estate images editing, with my well professional team,
In any endeavor, communication is key. If you want me to use you for anything I’ve got to be able to know that if I say A that A will get done. Not B, not F.
If you can’t even construct a simple sentence to explain, clearly, what you’re e-mailing me about, you’d better practice some more. Take a class, read a book.
And before someone gets their knickers in a twist that this is racist or geo-centric — there are plenty of idiots in the US who can’t form simple sentences. The e-mail above was from a “John Christopher” which is about as WASPy as you can get for a name.
I believe that every real estate agent has a threshold price point in mind: anything over that number and they’ll use a professional photographer; anything under it and they’re using their cell phone.
For some the number is $0 — I’ve got any number of clients who call me whether it’s an $800,000, 5br, 4ba home on 5 acres or whether it’s an 800 sq.ft. 1-bedroom condo.
In my mind these $0-threshold agents are the ones who “get it” — professional photos market both the property and themselves well no matter what kind of property. And the fact that they often call me 20-30 times a year to do photography tells me their strategy is working and they’re getting more listings.
I’ve had agents tell me to my face that their number is $350,000. And they call me for more expensive listings but not when they’re marketing and selling a $200,000 condo. Oddly enough, they don’t get very many listings that, in their mind, deserve professional photography…perhaps because sellers look at their listings and don’t want their home to get cell phone camera treatment.
And then there are some agents for whom the number is $1,000,000,000 — they’re never going to call a professional photographer no matter what. They don’t see the need.
I often hear other photographers bemoaning the fact that someone isn’t using a professional on a high-end listing. Or an above-average listing even. Those agents are in that Billion-Dollar-Threshold category and nothing will convince them. You can show them data and articles all you want but it won’t make a bit of difference.
The ranks of the $0-threshold agents are growing, and the latter are fading away as they get fewer and fewer deals. I think there will always be some of the middle group, but I think their price-threshold is getting lower and lower if they want to succeed.