FocalAgent photographer Vanessa Le Luan has taken her love for architectural photography and made a huge impact on the Derbyshire housing market.
When she became a preferred photographer for estate agents in Derbyshire almost immediately, we decided to catch up with her to hear her advice on what it takes to succeed in the industry.
Shooting with FocalAgent since: August 2016
Locations covered: Derbyshire
First camera: Pentax K1000
How did you get into photography as a career?
I was studying a course in art and design, which is where my passion for photography began. I enrolled on a darkroom and printing course and got the bug from there.
Our course tutor was inspiring and really understood my passion for photography. Little did I know, I'd be hosting the same course in two months' time!
I studied an art foundation degree, and graduated from the University of Gloucestershire in 2005 with an honours degree in photography.
After finishing uni, I decided to specialise in product photography - that was until I discovered architectural and property photography, anyway!
How did you progress that love for architectural and property photography?
One of my colleagues had a large property development company, and asked me to photograph the show home complex on one of its developments. That really launched my property photography career.
It wasn't without its difficulties, though. I'd estimate that approximately 80% of my time prior to joining FocalAgent was spent chasing new leads, building new client relationships, marketing my business and general day-to-day admin. It was frustrating not being able to focus more on photography.
We've been working together for a full year now - time flies! Let's revisit how we met...
I was introduced to FocalAgent by a friend of mine who works in the estate agency industry. She explained how the system works on her side, in terms of booking a photographer. I made some enquiries, passed the qualifying criteria and was given my first FocalAgent job in August 2016.
How has your career improved since joining FocalAgent?
I've already mentioned that I wanted to spend more time taking photographs and since joining FocalAgent, this has been possible. My admin time has been halved and thanks to the app, I can book appointments on the go. I no longer dread the end of the month invoicing, as it's already done for me!
My workload has grown continually with FocalAgent. On one of my earliest assignments, I was photographing a beautifully restored large modern townhouse in Derbyshire. I drew up the floor plans, took the images and uploaded it all to the FocalAgent portal. Two days later I got a call from my Business Coach, Thibine, to say the agency was so thrilled with the photographs that they requested me to be their preferred photographer! I was over the moon to say the least, and have never looked back. From that point onwards, I've continued to build up a portfolio of agencies across Derbyshire.
That's brilliant! What's your day-to-day like now?
Every FocalAgent job is different and I love that variety. No two days are the same and I get to meet some amazing people - both home owners and estate agents. Of course, workloads fluctuate with the housing market, so some weeks can be crazy.
What advice do you have for new FocalAgent photographers?
Through experience, the key to managing high workloads is to plan ahead. I make the majority of my appointments on the road using the app. It eliminates a huge list of phone calls to make when I arrive home after a busy day shooting. I can arrive home, edit my images upload the floorplans and relax.
As with any job, there are days that don’t go so smoothly. As an example I could have 6 properties booked in, and if I'm delayed on the first appointment or find myself stuck in traffic, it impacts the appointments for the rest of the day. The key is communication, so if I'm going to be late I call ahead. If I'm in an area with no 3G signal and need to look up a contact number on the app, I call my Business Coach at FocalAgent, Thibine, and she's always on hand to help me out whatever the problem.
I have close working relationships with all my selected agencies and it is great to feel like part of the team. There's nothing better than getting a call or a text from an agent saying they got a full asking price on a property fresh on the market or positive feedback on the images I send over.
What's the key to success, in your opinion?
You need to possess a variety of other skills - not just your ability as a professional photographer.
Communication and people skills are essential. Agents need to be kept in the loop and appointments need to be planned so you can cut down travelling time and squeeze in that extra appointment your favourite agent has pleaded with you to fit in.
Flexibility is a must. A lot of home owners work shifts or commute so are unable to take a 9-5 appointment, so the ability to work weekends and evenings is essential.
Finally, what kit do you always bring with you?
When I'm out on a FocalAgent job, I always make sure I've got...
- Nikon D750
- Sigma 12-24
- Nikon Speedlites
- Manfrotto tripod
- Bosch laser measuer
- Step ladders
- Sat nav!
I can honestly say I love my job with FocalAgent. I'm always busy, have a growing portfolio of agencies under my belt, and I love the fact that every day is different and have the support network there when I need it.
Thanks to Vanessa Le Luan for sharing her story - and her favourite FocalAgent photographs - with us! You can read the interviews with our other Photographers of the Month here.