As a mother of four who's studying for a degree in Photography, FocalAgent photographer Michelle Phelan is one of our busiest photographers.
We caught up with her to hear more about her journey from high-flying estate agent to FocalAgent photographer.
Shooting with FocalAgent since: May 2016
Locations covered: Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford
First camera: Nikon 5300
Hi Michelle! Your Business Coach, Annie, tells us that your background is perfect for property photography. How did you get started?
I started my career in an estate agency; initially starting as a receptionist and working may way up to Property Valuer. Winning new instructions and listing the properties was under my remit, and I had a lot of success there.
I’d always had a personal passion for interior design and architecture, and would help my clients to stage their properties to get better photos. I found I was able to instinctively see a room’s best angle, so was able to improve our photos that way.
Helping home owners get the best out of the photoshoot and creating beautiful images very quickly became my favourite part of the role.
After falling ill and taking some time off work, I reevaluated my priorities. I realised that I wanted to focus my attention on starting a photography business to help estate agents.
After that realisation, how did you meet the team at FocalAgent?
There’s a successful estate agent blogger and businesswoman called Sam Ashdown. On one of her tutorials, she was discussing the importance of quality professional photography, and used FocalAgent as an example of a company who helps agents with this.
After hearing this, I Googled FocalAgent and thought the website looked exactly like my vision. I got in touch with FocalAgent and haven’t looked back!
What was it like in your early days?
FocalAgent was able to offer me work straight away.
The market in Leeds was booming at the time, and I knew all of the clients I’d be working with. I’d actually competed with them when I was a valuation manager, which did make me a smile a lot!
I remember my first job well. It felt amazing – I’d had some time off work and come back to focus on what I loved. I couldn’t wait to get started.
When the vendor answered the door, it felt like I was in a career I loved already. From that moment, I knew that working with FocalAgent would be a success.
How did you approach your jobs back then?
I treated the whole appointment like I would have if I was the estate agent. I sat with the vendor for a few minutes so I could explain exactly what I’d do, and what would happen to the photos after I’d taken them.
And has any of that changed?
I follow this process to this day. It may be my 1000th shoot, but it’s their first so I approach my work with that attitude every day.
One thing has changed, actually: I now share the work with my very good friend Curtis Young. He’s an incredible photographer and works with the same passion I do.
We’d love to hear more about why you chose to work in partnership with Curtis.
For me, it’s a bit of a juggling act.
I returned to university last September to study a degree in Photography. I love the academic side of it, and the briefs we’re set keep my artistic and creative ideas flowing. It really helps me stay fresh and inspired in my day-to-day work.
As a mother of 4 who’s studying at university while also working with FocalAgent, you must be one of the busiest property photographers around! How do you cope with everything that’s on your plate?
When it comes to my FocalAgent jobs, I try to respond to each order as soon as it comes through on the app. Working closely with my branches means we can be flexible – communication is key.
That’s true. What aspects about FocalAgent photography help you out with the workload?
The self-billing invoice system saves me so much time! I’m always so busy – looking after my four children as well as completing university work – so time is definitely something I value.
I love the fact that this is all taken care of for me by my Business Coach, Annie, and the team.
Annie has always been incredible in the support that she offers. I see her as a friend who’s always there whenever I need help.
It’s great to know that there’s a good level of trust and assistance when completing photography jobs with FocalAgent – it really helps me stay motivated.
What are your equipment essentials for a FocalAgent job?
- Nikon D750
- Speed lights
- Pencil with a rubber!
- Sat nav
- And my business partner Curtis. He’s definitely an essential piece of my kit!
What’s the most important part of being a property photographer?
Having passion and pride in what you do is so important. It’s easy to forget how important our role is.
For the home owners, the photographs will help get more viewings and hopefully let them sell their house for the best price.
For the agents, they rely on us to provide a seamless service, so we benefit their brand and maintain their reputation within their local market. I always keep that in mind every time I turn up to an appointment.
Thanks to Michelle Phelan for sharing her story - and her favourite FocalAgent photographs - with us! You can read the interviews with our other Photographers of the Month here.