Success Guide

Getting Started

The Workday

On Location

Other Info

Hello and welcome to the team!  My name is Jake Howard and I am the founder & operator of Pro House Photos.  You could choose to work anywhere and I will be forever grateful you decided to team up with me!  One of my biggest desires in life is to watch and assist others in their success.  If you ever need anything, I am just a phone call away. 

I launched this company in 2010 after finding out that I was a much better real estate photographer than being a real estate agent --- and I was tired of the stress that caused my right eye to twitch.  When I started shooting I have a few other agents approach me to request I shoot their listings.  It was awesome.  As I started shooting for a couple more agents in the office I dreamed of being able to shoot 10 houses a month.  Well, after lots of hard work and teaming up with the right photographers, editors, and administrators plus having a passion to always be on the go --- we now far surpass that number first thing in the morning!  It's absolutely awesome and I love it.  One thing that has helped keep us moving upwards I believe is this one thought --- every shot we take is a job interview and we want to get hired again and again.

Please review each of these items - even if you think you may already know the answer.  It really helps keep everything flowing and everyone happy.  Let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns.  Thank you again for joining us!

Equipment Needs

 

While there is some flexibility in what your specific equipment should be there are some requirements. 

Lens

It is preferred that you have a 14mm lens.  However, a 15mm can get the job done.  If all you have is a 16mm then you will need to be a little bit more creative so you can capture the frame correctly. 

Camera Body

A full frame camera is preferred - specifically Nikon or Canon.  However, as long as you can produce a quality on-camera HDR photo that meet the requirements, then you're good to go!

Tripod & Ball Head

You need a very sturdy tripod and ball head.  Since we are shooting in HDR, you do not want any movement happening with your shot.  Photos that are delivered do not meet the standard must be reshot and on your own dime.  We know this sounds harsh but don't worry - this has only happened once in our history.

Camera Settings

 

Your cameras settings will stay constant with exception to its shutter speed. Here is what's best:

ISO: 320 to 400

Aperture: 9 to 11

Shutter Speed:  Variable

Timer Requirement: 2 seconds

Photos must be resized to 3032x2008 prior to send the photos to the editor.

Tripod Height

 

If your tripod has 4 sections, you'll mainly keep the thinnest leg in as you want the sturdiest legs supporting the camera.  Overall, you want the lens of your camera to sit at about 4 feet high.  There are exceptions to this which we will discuss in details in the Angles section.  Always make sure your tripod is properly balanced and never turn your back to your camera.  They do fall over and there are kids that will break your Canon 14mm L lens.  Yes.  It happened to one photographer.  $1,700 gone. 

SD Card Care

You should always have at least (2) SD Cards on you at all times. Just in case one fails, you'll have a backup  Also, it's super easy to lose them when on the road a lot-  going to shoot after shoot.  Be especially careful with micro SD cards.  Never format or erase your card while in the field.  Sometimes photo transfers do not go through or a file gets corrupted and you do not know this until the editor informs you later in that day or even the next day.  Also, you don't want to leave your cards in the heat and never in direct sunlight.  Most photographers usually keep photos from their shoots for about a week.

 

Camera Care

Pretty simple buuuut we got to say it --- be careful with your camera.  Hard travel cases are a great idea. Plus, keep them out of the heat. This is not only your livelihood but there are also editors and administrators that depend on us getting the shots done. 

 

Computer Care

Again - a simple thing but worth noting.  Not only do you need to care for your computer you also need to make sure you secure it safely when traveling and hide it if you leave it in your car during a shoot. 

 

Photo Storage

Most photographers usually keep photos from their shoots for about a week.  There is no need to store your photos indefinitely.

 

Google Drive

This is where you'll transfer your photos to the editor assigned to your shoot.  We will email you the login credentials prior to your first shoot.  You may not change the password as the editors may need access in case there are any issues or they did not receive the notification. 

 

Google Calendar

While we do have a paid subscription for a scheduling platform through our main software, we have found that Google Calendar just works better.  You will be assigned an email address and password.  You cannot change the password as admin may need access to your account.  CAUTION:  Shoots can be accidentally deleted if you're not careful.  No worry as long as you notice.  Just contact the office and someone can recover the shoot for you, if needed.  Also, always check the notes on the scheduled shoot.  There may be entry info or other important information there.

 

Google Email

Text and email are going to be the two best ways to communicate with the office.  You will be assigned an email account and password.  The password must not be changed as management may need access to your account to retrieve photos or such if issues arise.  Do not use this account for anything personal, please. 

 

Cancellations

Unfortunately, cancellations and reschedules happen.  Sometimes they're not cancelled until you arrive.  However, if you are enroute or have already arrived at the shoot location you still get paid $40.  Please note - we only cancel shoots when there is a safety hazard. 

 

client care

We like to think we are super awesome customer service providers who happen to be really, really, really great at photography.  You matter and so do our clients.  Everyone should always be treated with respect - almost no matter the situation.  Plus great service brings more clients since referrals!  Referrals have always been our best source of growth.  We will cover how to handle difficult clients later in the guide.  Just remember that we are beings of respect and are always at service to our clients, each other, our family, and our community.  Side note - always act as though you are being watched.  Chances are, with as many in home cameras there are and camera doorbells, you are.

 

Bad Weather

Ohhhhhh rain, dust storms, fog, cold, wind, heat how we loathe thee.  However, we can't delay our shoots.  For rain you'll need to learn how to hold an umbrella, keep it out of the shot, and get exterior photos.  Dust storm - well, be patient and get the shots quickly and correct.  Fog - generally the hardest to combat.  If you arrive at a sessions and it's foggy then shoot the interior first.  Hopefully, when you're done with the interior the fog will have lifted.  If not then get the shots and hopefully the editors will do their best.  This may be a situation where we have to return.  Another aspect of fog is a foggy lens when you go from cold to humid.  Carry a cloth at all times in your car and make sure you wipe your lens clear.  Blowing hot breathe on your lens can expedite the balancing of temperature.  Never send a photo that has been taken with fog on your lens.  When windy outside, never leave your camera unattended on the tripod.  You should never leave your camera on a tripod unattended anyway.  Accidents happen.  When it's super hot outside make sure you stay hydrated and carry sunscreen.  If you ever feel dizzy then take a break and contact someone, if needed.  Overall, bad weather is the pitts.  We must push on and not get backed up.  However, if there is ever a safety hazard then stop.  You are way more important than anything.

 

Difficult Shoots

There's a type of house that we call a bright/dark house.  This is where there is lots of light coming in through the windows and the house is painted with dark colors.  Take your time and change your setting in order to get great shots.  Although we shoot HDR, you may need to turn that off and shoot ambient.  If you are not "pulling the window" you will need to layer your shots.  We will discuss this more later. Just take your time at difficult and you can always call Jake at 832-247-6643 to talk it though.

 

Uncomfortable shoots

Creeps are out there.  There are jerks.  There are things you may come across in a house that concern you. Some places are sometimes intimidating.  Always know that you are in control and can make the call needed if you feel you need to get out quickly.  Your safety is our top concern.  Call Jake at 832-247-6643 with any issues and he will help you out.

 

Speed expectations

One of the many reasons for our growth is our speed at which we get out to a shoot and how quickly we get photos back to the client.  Therefore, it is super important that you send your photos to the assigned editor as soon as you get back in your vehicle.  There are going to be times when you have bad internet and that is understood.  As soon as you have good coverage then send them.  Never wait until you're home to send your photos as often times this results in "I forgot to send em".  Safety note - never operate your computer or phone while driving.  This could result in immediate separation.  That's how serious this subject is for us. We would rather you run a little late to your next shoot than get hurt or hurt someone else. 

 

Travel Time

The schedulers always try to give appropriate travel time.  However, mistakes happen.  We never want you to speed to your next shoot!  We do want you to let the office know that you are going to be delayed more than 7 minutes.  This needs to be done as soon as you know that you will be delayed.  You may use hands-free texting or calling if your area allows for this or just notify admin prior to driving.  If all else, pull off the road  to safety and contact them.  This is another topic that can result in disciplinary action --- you must notify us if you're running late.  Most agents understand and do not have any issue as long as they're informed.  During the Cattle Drive prior to the Houston Rodeo, the Houston peeps are sometimes heavily delayed by this.  #ithappens

 

Travel Time& Running Late

The schedulers always try to give appropriate travel time.  However, mistakes happen.  We never want you to speed to your next shoot!  We do want you to let the office know that you are going to be delayed more than 7 minutes.  This needs to be done as soon as you know that you will be delayed.  You may use hands-free texting or calling if your area allows for this or just notify admin prior to driving.  If all else, pull off the road  to safety and contact them.  This is another topic that can result in disciplinary action --- you must notify us if you're running late.  Most agents understand and do not have any issue as long as they're informed.  During the Cattle Drive prior to the Houston Rodeo, the Houston peeps are sometimes heavily delayed by this.  #ithappens  If you are running wayyyy early, contact the schedulers to see if you can go early.  Depending on how busy they are they may be able to get your there early.  Never, ever, ever arrive at a shoot more than 5 minutes early.  If an agent is meeting you you must wait until the scheduled appointment time unless advised otherwise.  Generally, we always want to be right on time. 

 

Scheduling overview

Scheduling is challenging and the Schedulers always try to make it flow appropriately.  However, sometimes things just don't work out smoothly.  Photographers may ping pong from one place to the other.  Annoying, we know.  Just know that the intention is always to make it easy for you. 

You should check your schedule before you go to bed to see if anything has changed and when you wake up.  If a shoot order comes in late for early the next day or if something cancels in the current shoot day then you will be notified via text. 

 

Number of photos

We don't count the number of photos we take.  We take the photos that count.  While there are the standard photos we take we are never limited from what we take.  If you find a cool closet - take it.  Pantry big - shoot it.  Don't feel comfortable choosing what angles to get of the living room -- take four photos.  Cute lil dog --- please don't get distracted ;-) We always need to over deliver rather than not deliver enough.  It takes a smidgen more time and has a huge impact on the level of service we provide. 

 

shot order

We always want to try to shoot in the following order.  It really helps out Transaction Coordinators who have a hard time what room is what, it helps out our admin when they're composing Virtual Tours, it helps the agents when they're loading their photos into the MLS, and it helps you so you never miss a room. However, there are times when you cannot shoot in this order due to stuff being moved around and still worked on and we understand this. 

You may always take more than this.  This is just the minimum.

Front of House - 3 Photos

Entry Way - 1 Photo

Living Room - 2 Photos

Kitchen/Breakfast Nook (if applicable) - 1 Photo

Kitchen - 5 photos

Study - 2 photos

Formal Living Room - 2 Photos

Half Bath - Possibly 2 Photos - 1 horizontal and 1 vertical, if needed

Master Bedroom - 2 Photos

Master Bathroom - 3 if there's a separate shower/tub combo - 2 otherwise

Mater Closet - 1 (if it's cleaned up and not being used as storage)

Secondary Bedroom Downstairs - 2 Photos - if applicable

Laundry Room - 1

Stairs - 1 Photos

Game Room - 2 Photos

Media Room - 2 Photos

Secondary Bedroom - 2 Photos

Secondary Bathroom - 1 Photo IF sink and shower can be seen in 1 shot.  Otherwise, 2 photos

(repeat for more secondary bedrooms and bathrooms, if needed)

Backyard - 2 Photos if no pool.  5 photos if pool. 

For vacant lot or exterior only  shoots:

Vacant Lot and Exterior Only shoots must receive a minimum of 6 photos.  This is due to general MLS requirements.

 

Shooting into the nothing

If there is nothing behind the property, even if power lines are present, you must get a shot from the corner of the house towards the back fence.

 

Items of Value

There are some things that are not standard inside and outside a property.  For example, a wet or dry bar from the 1970's may seem a bit too James Bondish for us nowadays but there is still a unique value in it.  And to clarify, value can be monetary or emotional.  Other items of value may be a cedar closet, a wine cooler, cool stairs, unique light fixture.  Sometimes the item of value can be seen from the living room.  Make sure you layer your shot to insure a proper window pull look.  You can always call Jake to talk it out if needed.  832-247-6643

 

Angles

This is a challenging one to cover in print so we will focus on it more in the video.  One important thing to note is that 3 walls should be visible in each shot and not be wall heavy.  Remember that at all times. 

 

Additional Photo Requests from agents & homeowners

If it's within reason, go for it.  If they decide they want to add on Community Shots and you have time, get em.  Just let the office know so we can update their invoice and so you can get paid.  Note: Community Shots at a standard apartment, condo or town home complex are just part of the shoot and we do not charge extra for this.  Most of these houses only take 30 minutes to shoot and we consider these amenities as part of the property --- within reason.

 

Special Editing requests

In our standard edits we make the property pop and layer on blue sky.  If an agent requests something additional, please have them contact the office as there may be an additional fee.  If a homeowner has a special request, please ask them to inform their agent so the editors can recieve the pertinent information.

 

Photo Transfers

As mentioned before, we use Google Drive to transfer our photos.  Photos must be sent to the assigned editor right after the session.  You'll be given the login credientials.

 

Sunset Shoots

The time we start sunset shoots vary by the time of the year.  In the summer the sunset shoot portion of a shoot may start as late as 8:00.  In the winter months, as early as 4:30.  You will learn more about sunset shoots in the video guide.

 

New Construction Shoots

New construction shoots are generally awesome!  Easy breezy and sometimes there multiple to do in the same community and sometimes even on the same street!  The company doesn't charge as much for these as we want to encourage builders to hire us.  They've been great at keeping the photographers and editors paid in the off season :-)  The downside:  sometimes they're not ready when we arrive.  Sometimes we have to track down a foreman or sales person.  Sometimes we get there and we cannot get in touch with anyone.  It doesn't happen that often but it does happen.  Just take a deep breathe and carry on.  If you do run into issues, contact your administrator to see how they can help.  In regards to accessing new construction properties - sometimes you need to go to the sales office, sometimes they're unlocked, and sometimes there's a combo.  You'll know how to access via the calendar notes.

 

Dress Code

Jeans are fine.  Shorts - needed in the heat.  Slacks - yup. Awesome Pantera heavy metal t-shirts are not fine ;-(  Plain t-shirts are fine.  Polo's - fine.  Purple hair - no problem.  Mohawk - go for it.  Short skirts - nope.  Short-shorts - nah. 

 

We're artist at heart and we are different from the norm.  Go for business casual or above.  Think: would my grandma make a remark on my get up.  If so, then don't wear it.  Now, if your grandma is hella cool then this doesn't work.  Just ask Jake for clarification at 832-247-6643.

 

Cell Phone usage

While a cell phone is essential to performing parts of your job, taking personal calls during a shoot should only be done in emergencies. 

 

Important phone numbers & Emails

Jake Howard, Founder

832-247-6643

 

prices

Our pricing varies due to location, size, service and a few other factors.  Please visit our website and visit the prices page for your area.  If you are shooting for a real estate agent and the homeowner asks you how much we charge, just say that it varies by job and that billing is done through the office. 

 

missed shots

Oh missed a shot, oh missed a shot, this kind of thing can happen.  It's never fun and kinda embarassing to have to go back and get that single shot or room.  It is important to go by the shot order so this probably won't happen.  If a shot is missed you will have to go back on your own dime. 

 

turnaround time

Photos are back within 12 hours in most cases and when the session is completed by 4PM on weekdays.

Photos taken on a Saturday and after hours are returned the following business day.  If you are shooting for an agent and a homeowner asks when the photos will be online, respond that the editing times vary and you aren't too sure. 

 

liability insurance

Please consult with an insurance specialist to find out how best to protect yourself. 

 

taxes

As an independent contractor you will not have any taxes removed from your paycheck.  Please, please, please consult with a tax professional on this so you do not end up on the bad side of the IRS.

 

Delayed on a shoot

As soon as you realize you're going to be delayed on a shoot and you'll be late to your next shoot, please let the office know.

 

payyyyday!

 

We love getting paid to do what we love :-)   Pay day is every other Friday.   Your pay sheet must be updated by 9pm the Friday prior to pay day.  Pay is done via Direct Deposit for everyone.