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Artist Loft – Artist Wanted


This isn’t a new idea and it has been said before, but this time I am begging. As I surf through our local MLS, I am exposed to photos (pardon the pun) that are so bad I can’t decide if I should laugh or cry.

Bad Photos Are Plentiful

Sometimes the photos are good but who ever took them focused on something weird like an open toilet, or the upper half of a room, or part of a closet. Usually becasue they don’t have a wide angle lens, which is a must have. it is OK to take some detail shots, but it is best to show entire rooms so those buyers can imagine the space.

Then there are the photos taken with the fish eye type lens that totally distorts the room, especially a small room. The counter tops look like they are going in a semi circle and the rooms kind of look like something from a fun house, that isn’t very fun.

Some Photos are Easy to Fix

Sometimes the photos are too dark, easy enough to fix with Photoshop elements, Picnik, or photofiltre, or Picasa. The last three I mentioned are free. It is easy enough to lighten them, adjust the contrast and maybe sharpen them up a bit. Most of the tweaking can be done in “auto fix” mode and no special skills are required.

Watch where you aim

Sometimes there are people in the photos, or pets, or both. Please ask everyone to leave the room when photos are being taken and either shoo the pets away or edit them out.

Pointing a camera at a window makes for a craptastic photo. As does shooting into a window when it is dark outside and letting the camera flash. What is going through a Realtors head when he or she takes such a shot. Sometimes the Realtors themselves are in the picture, reflected in a mirror or window.

You are a Realtor dammit, Not a Photographer

Not all agents are photographers. it doesn’t cost very much at all to have a home photographed. Interior shots are much harder to take than exterior shots are, and they are the shots that the buyers really want to see. If it is a matter of money, I would scrimp on the glossy brochures inside the home that no one will ever see unless the place gets some showings.

I Hang my Head in Shame

As an industry we have a lot of work to do when it comes to how we present our listings on line. I laugh when I read about how important video is. It may be important but I don’t imagine the photography is going to be any better in video than it is on the still shots.

I guess I should be thankful that the photos on our MLS are so spectacularly bad. Mine really stand out, even the shots that I think could be better. With practice they do get better, and when they are not good enough I hire a pro. On one recent listing the agent told me that it was the photos that got the buyer into the home, and it was not one of the homes she would have been interested in seeing. When I hear things like that it just reinforces what I already know. Listing photos are very important.

Thanks, I feel so much better now. Maybe if I can stay off the MLS for awhile my eyes will stop hurting. Please don’t make me have to write this post again.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Chuck G

    August 15, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Teresa,

    Amen! We make it a point to forward the unbelievably bad MLS shots (and there are many) around our office. Not only is it humorous, but it’s a sobering reminder that we are indeed Realtors, NOT professional photographers. Our office contracts a professional photographer for all listing shoots — this guy has more lenses and flashes than I have fingers and toes, but more importantly he KNOWS how to shoot homes.

    I recently purchased an LG Dare phone so I could shoot some random “fun” shots and post them via TwitPic to my blog (I know, SnapTweet is cool too!) but this is no replacement for professional photos. We’re earning some serious $$ when we sell a home — we owe it to our clients to spend a little bit of that money on good photography.

    Chuck

  2. Mike Mueller

    August 15, 2008 at 9:41 am

    There’s a whole blog segment being made out of bad MLS pictures.
    (as in Athol Kay)
    While they are fun to laugh at, they shouldn’t have ever happened.

    Poor homemade video tours? Bad idea #2.
    There’s a whole industry out there to make your home video tour better as well.
    Unless you do it right – no video is better than a poor video tour.

    Good stuff!

  3. Holly White

    August 15, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Good one Teresa! I just saw one that had the whole team laughing. The photo was of half of a beat up, rusted out pick-up truck, a massive tree and about 1/4 of the actual house…. and that was the ONLY photo.

    A great idea would be to take that daft MLS listing (once it expires) to the seller with what their listing looked like before and what it could look like after some more intuitive professional like photography was taken, along with the difference between list price to sale price and time on market of homes with 1 photo compared to homes with multiple photo’s and virtual tours…

  4. Laura Cannon

    August 15, 2008 at 10:16 am

    This is an important article. I wish it was required reading for my MLS. I just wrote a similar article on my blog a couple weeks ago (I have to admit it wasn’t as thorough, though 🙂 ).

    In my area, it only costs $100.00 to hire an excellent professional photographer who will bring in the best equipment: an excellent camera, a tripod, and good lighting. Moreover, he or she will bring in a trained eye for what looks good on camera. For example, powder rooms rarely photograph well. My photographer doesn’t shoot them; he spends extra time on the deck or patio instead.

    Frequently on tour I will come across a home that has been beautifully and expensively staged only to find out later that the pictures on the MLS are horrible. What are the agents thinking? I don’t get it. Is it ignorance, laziness, or fear of the unknown? Perhaps it is a fear of technology, i.e., “it was hard enough to learn how to use a digital camera; what if the photographer emails me the photos? How will I access and submit the them?”

    If brokers stepped in and offered more basic technology classes, I think it would mitigate the problem. I know that many agents in my office are still using Internet Explorer 6. eek!

  5. Chris de Jong

    August 15, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Great article. Every so often I will take a peek in our listings database, and it always amazes me how quickly the well shot photos stand out amongst the rest, which makes me appreciate tips and tricks like these even more.

    I have also noticed that many Agents are starting to embrace HDR photography, which really draws eyeballs when consumers are pouring over listings. However, the one drawback to this I have noticed is that HDR photography sometimes gives an inaccurate representation of a property – I have heard all to many stories of Agents spending hours on post-production of the shots, only to have prospects turning down a property because it looked nothing like the photos!

    Finally, if you are looking for a laugh I highly recommend Athol Kay’s blog Bad MLS Photo of the Day . Go for the amusing pictures, and stay for the witty commentary!

  6. sabrina Huang

    August 15, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I totally agree with you. Let me share my personal experience with all of you.

    I am a Realtor and a Photographer. I really want to help other agents to learn some basic photography knowledge. So I offer a FREE one-hour Real Estate Photography class – I blast an email to 3000+ local agents; I got my office to hold a class; I got a Title company to hold a class. Guess what? I got 3 calls from the email blast to ask about the class but no one came; I got 7 people from my office to attend the class (we have 125 agents in the office); and I got 4 people attend the title company’s class.

    I was disappointed but I don’t know why not many people care. I always feel sorry for those sellers who’s house looks better in person than online. In the down market like now, I thought it is the best time for us as agents to learn new skills and sharpen the old one to prepare when the market turn.

    If you are interested to learn a little bit about real estate photography, here is info I wrote for my class.
    https://mesh.sabrinahuang.com/2008/05/real-estate-pho.html

    To #5, about HDR, it’s not what software they use, it’s how they use. I saw some HDR real estate photos are really nicely done. Check this one https://www.atticfirearchitecture.com/main.htm

  7. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    August 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Teresa, regardless of our equipment, we’ve always hired photographers for every listing, it saves time and they’ll always do it better.

    What’s interesting about your having to regurgitate this message so frequently is that many real estate agents try to do everything themselves. The irony in this is that our entire industry is based on the “use me, I’m a professional” premise yet attempts to cut out professionals that can undoubtedly do it better. When a FSBO fails, there is a solid result- an unsold home (and how many people laugh when they drive by FSBO signs?). When an agent’s photography fails, the results may not be so evident but you’re right, bad photography harms agents, their listing success and most importantly, their clients.

    Amen, T!

  8. Jennifer in Louisville

    August 15, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I’m not overly great at taking photos, but I have practiced quite a bit over the years – and I take a LOT of a photos for any home I’m listing. So, even if the photos aren’t spectacular, I still end up with 300-400 to choose from, and at least a few of those are going to be quasi-decent.

    And if you still can’t the hang of taking photos even after a lot of practice – recruit friends/family to give their creative eye to it and give it a go.

    But, even not-so-great photos, are at least better than no photos (or 1 photo). There are many many properties that have 1 (or zero) photos – and they wonder why the property isn’t selling.

  9. Paula Henry

    August 15, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I like to take photos and like Jennifer, take a bunch. I use two wide angle lenses and have fairly good success. I haven’t yet hired it out, but would absolutely love to, only to save time and offer the very best service for my clients.

    Sometimes, though, I think bad pictures are worse than no pictures

    Thanks Sabrina for the links – I’ll check it out.

  10. Matthew Rathbun

    August 16, 2008 at 8:09 am

    “If it is a matter of money, I would scrimp on the glossy brochures inside the home that no one will ever see unless the place gets some showings.” – That’s a great point, but agents who don’t get the point of good photos aren’t putting anything other than a print out of the listing on the counter – if that.

    I do think that some folks can learn how to take photos and maybe should take at least a few, while waiting for the photographer to come out. Our area has a requirement that listings must be entered into MLS within some time frame. Agents are putting them in with no photos waiting for photographers come out….

  11. Ginger Wilcox

    August 17, 2008 at 12:44 am

    I wouldn’t dream of taking my own photographs. Buyers look online first. A bad photograph often equals a click on to the next listing. A good photograph may mean the buyer favorites it, will attend an open house, or ask their agent for a showing.

    I couldn’t agree more with lani, agents spend a lot of time defending why home sellers shouldn’t do it themselves. Perhaps we should practice what we preach and hire a professional where warranted (unless you can take photos like Teresa Boardman).

  12. Herman

    August 17, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Dear Teresa,

    Great idea, this photo you posted, whith text written trough it!
    Do you have more ideas?

    I”l love to use them, if that’s allright?

    Keep up the good work (mother)Teresa!

    Greetings,

    Herman de Jong
    RE/MAX Connect Hoorn, Amsterdam Holland/ the Netherlands

  13. Kim Wood

    August 17, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I’m still trying to convince my husband we need to hire a professional housekeeper. I am all about being a professional Real Estate Agent, and yes, I can take my listing photos (usually two different times of day for different lighting)…..

    …. but one has to learn to delegate those tasks they are not an expert in, to leave more time to be productive with those you are……………… right?

  14. Teresa Boardman

    August 17, 2008 at 10:32 am

    skip the mother part, I find it offensive. The photo was used for some posters I made. It is an artists loft and I went to an art even and used the poster to market the property.

  15. Linsey

    August 17, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    A little over 2 years I hired a professional photographer for one of my listings that I was struggling to sell. It was a low price point for my market but I knew that it needed a ‘MLS makeover’. Within 2 weeks I sold it in multiple offers. I’ve hired a professional photographer for every listing at every price point ever since.

    It’s become a critical point in my listing presentation and I am a true believer that if we are taking our job as marketers of properties seriously, we cannot be considered true professionals if we are going the cheap and easy route in this department. My clients are so ‘sold’ on the concept that we won’t list the home in the MLS until the professional work is available. ‘No photos’ or temporary shots will do the trick. You only have one chance to make a first impression, as they say.

  16. Teresa Boardman

    August 18, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Linsey – for years I hired a professional photographer for each listing no matter what the price range. I ran into trouble on some of my historic homes in that the photographer did not shoot some of the important architectural elements. Like a close up of the marble fireplace etc. I began supplementing the photos the photographers took. My clients told me that my photos were better than the photographers and that I should take my own. These days some hire me because of the photos. It doesn’t save me any money to take my own, and it does take time. So for me the cheap and easy route would be to hire someone to do it. With some of my listings, I do hire it out to save time and money but with the historic homes and the lofts I do it myself and will until I find someone who understands the real estate the way I do and can take pictures of it.

  17. Fred Kogler

    August 18, 2008 at 6:09 am

    I recently read a little essay by Larry Lohrman entitled: Photography for Real Estate. It’s a great read and is loaded with basic information and advice about “how to use photography to effectlvely market real estate.” Its substance and attitude are both features that would enhance T. Boardman’s perspective.

    Two other matters that are triggered by big “T” in her comments and articles include spelling and grammar. If one can’t sppell, or foloow the ruoles of grammar, how can she/he be trusted to read the many-paged contracts required to conduct business! So I implore you all, please, oh, please, use your spelol checker and reread your copy before submitting your comments.

  18. Linsey

    August 18, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Teresa,
    I think you are certainly the exception to the rule. The vast majority of agents have no business shooting their own. But I think you are great for recognizing that it’s often in the details. In Socal there is no such thing as ‘historic home’. The latest construction we have is circa 1968. 🙂

  19. Caitlin Mulhern

    August 18, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    To all of you,

    Thank you so much for such great comments and suggestions. I am comforted to know that I am not the only one mystified by so much real estate photography. You really do begin to wonder about people….

    I am just getting into real estate sales and I have been researching digital cameras that are ideal for real estate photography. Another website suggested the fuji finepix E500 or the Kodak EasyShare P880. Do any of you have any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    Caitlin Mulhern
    Mark David NY Realty

  20. Susie Blackmon

    August 31, 2008 at 6:42 am

    I love photography and most anything T does. This is a great post (duh). I am embarrassed by many of the MLS photos I see, and I’d love to forward it to many!

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Business Marketing

6 tips to easily market your side hustle

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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side hustle marketing

Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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Business Marketing

Video is necessary for your marketing strategy

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As technology and social media move forward, so do marketing opportunities. Now is the time for video content social media marketing!

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video content

As an entrepreneur, you’ve surely heard the phrase “pivot to video” countless times over the last few years. It’s the path a lot of media companies are on, but even brands that aren’t directly talking about this pivot have increased their video production. This shift stems in part from studies showing users spend more time on pages featuring video content. Social media has also played a significant role, and recently, new social platforms have made the pivot to video even more important.

Snapchat and TikTok are leading the social video sector as emerging social media platforms, but the audiences for these platforms skew especially young. The content on these platforms also tends toward the meme-worthy and entertaining, raising the question: are these platforms a good use of your time and resources? The answer depends on your industry, but whatever your field, you can certainly learn from the pros dominating these new platforms.

The promotional angle

One of the primary ways that businesses use video content across platforms is by creating promotional content, which range widely in style, cost, and content, but there are a few strategies that can really help a promotional video succeed.

First, a great promotional video hooks the viewer within the first few seconds. Social media has shrunk everyone’s attention span, so even if your video is on a longer form platform, the beginning has to be powerful. Having a strong start also means that your video will be more flexible, allowing it to gain traction across different platforms.

Audience matters

What you’re promoting – what your business does and who it serves – plays a critical role in what kinds of video content you make and what platforms you use. TikTok is a lot of fun, and it’s playing a growing role in business, but if your entire audience is age 30 and up, there’s not much point in trying to master the form and build a viewership there. You need a sufficient youth-heavy market to make TikTok a worthwhile investment, but Snapchat, which also serves a youth-heavy market, might be a different story.

Even if you don’t intend to make heavy use of Snapchat, the platform recently made a big splash in the video sector by opening up its story tools to other platforms. That means businesses will be able to use Snapchat’s tools on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where they may already have an audience. It will also make crossover content easier, allowing you to maintain consistent branding across all platforms. You may never download Snapchat proper, but you may soon be using their tools.

It’s all about strategy

However you choose to approach video content, the fact is that today video is a necessary part of your content marketing strategy. In part this is because, while blogs aren’t going anywhere, and short-form social media is definitely ascendant, both make use of video, but that’s not the only reason. Video is so powerful because it’s deeply personal. It makes your audience feel that much more closely connected with you and your brand, and that alone is enough to change buying patterns.

Another key advantage of video is that, consumers genuinely enjoy well-made videos. Unlike blogs, which most users will typically only seek out if they need information, there are brands out there who are known for their video content. They’ve found a way to hook viewers and make them feel like they have two products: entertainment and whatever it is they actually sell. You, too, can do this with enough creativity and today’s social media tools.

It’s critical that you don’t let your brand fall behind on video right now, because if you even stop for breath, you will be left behind. As TikTok and Snapchat have made clear, video doesn’t stop for anyone. At this point, video isn’t the future of social media or ecommerce – it’s the present.

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Business Marketing

Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.

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Open business sign being held by business owner for marketing purposes.

The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.

As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?

Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020

When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.

How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.

Think Brick And Mortar

As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.

Reach Customers With PPC

Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.

While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.

It’s All About The Platforms

When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.

One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.

The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.

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