Interview with Scott Krycia
Photography Pro, Scott Krycia, is a commercial real estate photographer in Pennsylvania. His skills range from photography, videography, web development, music, and more, which makes him a great asset to our PocketSuite Pro community. Scott talks to CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro, and Managing Editor, Sean Litteljohn, about the rule of 3 that has been the secret to his success.
What kind of photography do you do? What sort of clients do you work with?
I’m an advertising, commercial and architectural photographer located in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. I’ve been doing it since 1995. Most of my work nowadays is geared more towards commercial, residential, and real estate photography. All my business transactions, I run everything through PocketSuite.
How did you get your start? Did you always work for yourself as a photographer, or did you stumble into the industry?
I went to school and I got a degree in broadcast journalism, centered on video production. When I got out of college, I started a video production company and did that for many years, we did a whole bunch of corporate video, and then we bridged into doing some film and TV work. Eventually, I just got tired of having an office and having the corporate nine to five grind. Finally, I sold that end of the company to my business partner and then just went back to my roots, shooting photos.
Was there an epiphany moment when you decided enough’s enough, I’m going to go out and do something different and do this independently?
There was a short time in the nineties where I worked as a web developer for a little bit and the company I worked for was excellent. We started small. We were an internet service provider, we started small, and I was like the ninth employee they ever hired. Then, fast forward two years later, there are over 200 employees, they IPO’d, and then the .com bust happened. As soon as that happened, I realized I wasn’t going to work for anybody else again. I remember sitting in my car the day I got laid off, thinking, I’m done working for other people. I’ve always done side stuff and my father was the same way. I decided I was just going to work on my own and start my own thing.
I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve inherited this insanely hard work ethic from my father, a steelworker, and he messed around with photography a little bit. I think that’s where it started. I have a hard work ethic. I’m willing to get it done and I’m eager to go the extra mile for my clients.
You must have seen a lot of changes in the industry. Did you upgrade your skills? Do you do drone work?
I do the whole package. When I started shooting real estate, I was shooting it on film. Imagine that. We started doing that and then digital came around. I was a little bit of a late adopter to digital. I liked it, but I wasn’t thrilled with the quality at the time. I held out for an extra year or two and then I went all in. As soon as the drone came around, I was one of the first licensed drone pilots in my area to do it for real estate. I went through that whole process. The big thing now is Matterport and I’m a Matterport 3D tour provider. My business has really grown. I used to be the guy that took lovely photos of houses, but now I’m the guy that does video. I do drones. I do Matterport. I have another friend who works for me and covers another part of the market up north.
How did you decide to do this all in-house versus partnering with other people who specialize in these other areas?
I have a real knack for video and I think I have a pretty good knack for technology. It was natural for me to shoot houses and to get into doing drones. It was just a natural progression. As the business changes, especially now with COVID, the Matterport 3D walk-through tours are a big thing. I feel like I always have to be innovating, working ahead, and trying to offer solutions to my clients so they can sell their homes fast.
Do you think the technology will get to the point where people can tour and buy a house without actually stepping foot in it?
That’s happened to me a couple of times already. A couple of agents I’ve worked for have said they sold a house to somebody else from another part of the country, sight unseen, just from photos or from the Matterport tour that we did. It happens quite a lot with people that are doing relocation.
Earlier this year, we talked to someone who heads up the Real Estate Photography Industry Association. We talked a little bit about intellectual property concerns that have come up with some new techniques, including 3D modeling, where a real estate agent might hire a photographer or a 3D modeler to do a fantastic home model. Then that image of someone’s home, including their bedroom, is living on someone else’s site as a showpiece and an example of the kind of work they can do. It really shows the intricacies of the person’s house. There’s a whole lot of questions about who owns that IP and did someone sign their rights away. What’s happening in the privacy world around some of the digitalization of real estate?
My philosophy’s pretty simple. Technically, when you take a photo, you own the image’s copyright. I’m just transferring the copyright to the client. When I’ve finished a job, they pay for the job and they own the copyright. At that point, my hands are washed clean of it.
How is the housing market where you are?
I’m not sure where you are in the country, but the way the market is here in Pennsylvania is absolutely off the hook crazy right now with people just selling houses. The market is way up. It’s crazy and the photos don’t live on the internet that long. It’s not uncommon for me to shoot a job on Thursday, have pictures to a client on Friday, and by Sunday, the property’s got offers, sold and out the door on Monday. I’ll see the agent again on Tuesday and they’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I sold that one already.” I know there’s a big push of people from New York City moving into Lehigh Valley. I’m only an hour and 45 minutes away from New York and there’s just a big push down here right now. This market has always been healthy.
How much do you use social media in your marketing and your career in general?
For real estate photography and commercial stuff, I don’t do any marketing. I don’t do any social media stuff whatsoever. That stuff has all been just word of mouth. I’ve been doing real estate for close to 20 years now and it’s been all word of mouth. I have three mottoes. The first motto is to show up on time; the second motto is to be friendly; and the third motto is to exceed the client’s expectations and shoot good photos. I found that as long as I do those three things with every client, I’m good to go. I’ve never done any marketing for myself for real estate or commercial work. I do have a profile on one of those sites, like Alignable or Houzz. I put it up a while ago.
I also do a little bit of travel and fine art photography. I have another business where I sell that stuff. I have a social media guy that works for me. He’s running Facebook ads for me. He’s doing some Instagram stuff for me here and there. I’m a little on the fence when it comes to social media. I see the positives, but I also see a lot of negatives about it. I think with a photographer, especially on Instagram, I’ve been selective with what I’ve been putting up there because I’m concerned that I’m turning too many people onto a location that I like. Then the next thing you know, there’s some environmental consequences. I guess you could say I’m a little bit of a snob in that respect.
I’m doing a little bit of Facebook and a little bit of Instagram for my personal stuff, but not for the business stuff. Everybody knows each other in the real estate market. It’s all word of mouth. As long as I follow those three rules I have, I never have a problem. If you look at PocketSuite, I did close to 700 shoots this year. That’s full-time, three or four jobs a day.
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Can you give folks aspiring to a real estate photography career a picture of what your typical week looks like, the good, the bad, and the ugly? What does it look like, a day in the life of Scott?
An average day is usually about five to six properties a day, which I shoot during the busy season. I like to sleep in in the morning, that’s my little sin. I start my day, usually, I’m up by seven, and I’m on the phone for about an hour or two in the morning. I’m out the door by nine and at my first job by 10. I try to schedule all my shoots around the same area for the day. I have a pretty big territory I cover. I just basically go from house to house, make sure I’m on time. Go in there, shoot the job and then drive home. At night, I process all those photos and deliver them to the clients. The agents have the photos next business morning. It’s a hustle.
You’re up pretty late, aren’t you?
I’m usually a one o’clock, two o’clock kind of guy. I have some systems in place, automatically uploading from my camera throughout the day and transferring files to a server. When I come here into the basement, they’re ready to go, and I can pull them down and run lightroom on them and send them out. That’s it. It’s a hustle. I wake up, emails in the morning, shoot in the afternoon, try to catch a bite, come back, hustle, get the jobs out, and then start it again.
How do you make room for travel and leisure photography?
It depends really on what’s going on. Typically, the busy season for me starts in March and ends in November. By December, instead of five jobs a day, I’ll have five jobs a week. January and February are always downtimes. January, February I’ll do other corporate stuff or I’ll just take time off. We’ll go on vacation. We’ll go to the Midwest or go out to Yosemite or anywhere where we can get away from everything. Usually, January, February, and early March is when we can get away. Then it starts right back up in April. It’s a busy business.
What do you love most about what you do and what don’t you like?
I like my clients. I love going to people’s houses. I love seeing how people live. Maybe I’m a little bit of a voyeur in that respect. I like working for myself. The one thing I don’t like is I drive around a lot. I spend an excessive amount of money driving to jobs. I buy a car and put 50,000 miles on it in a year and wear it out in about five years.
I’ve been buying the cheapest cars I can buy brand new and running them for five years and then just buying another one. That’s the one thing I don’t like. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with it. I get to set my hours to some degrees. There are sometimes when it’s, especially in the spring, crazy busy. I think last year I worked like 28 or 29 days in a row without a single break because every day there were just jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s what I wanted to do. So, it’s okay.
It seems like everyone is a photographer these days. Do you ever have to remind people of why they should use a professional?
I encounter a little bit of that with real estate agents. Some agents will take photos on their own and don’t understand the marketing aspect of it. I have some agents that understand the marketing aspect of it and will use me. A lot of that comes down to cost. It’s a cost thing. Some agents don’t want to spend the money if there’s not much meat on the bone for them or it’s a smaller property and it’s not going to sell for a high price point. Then I have some agents with $4, $5, $6-million houses who are willing to go all out and do excellent work.
I’ve learned that the agents that want to do it themselves are typically shooting lower-end properties. I try to be in that mid to high-end property bracket. That’s where I try to work. I have a few agents that use me as a service when they just need somebody to come and take pictures and are not too concerned about it. I just walk in, the house is vacant, boom, boom, boom, and I’m out in 30 minutes, and we’re good. I have some other agents particular about the whole process and they need good shots because this house is $4 to $5 million dollars and they’ve got to sell it.
What are the two or three things that you did very early on that created the tailwinds for you in terms of just getting to the point where your call sheet is full?
There were three things. I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve inherited this insanely hard work ethic from my father, a steelworker, and he messed around with photography a little bit. I think that’s where it started. I have a hard work ethic. I’m willing to get it done and I’m eager to go the extra mile for my clients. I know some photographers, “Hey, there’s a job. It’s an hour and a half away.” They might not want to do it. I’ll take it because I’ll get another job from that agent that’ll be 20 minutes away. I’m a little … I don’t want to say cutthroat, but I’m a little aggressive.
The other thing that’s helped me out, just making sure I’m on time, doing what the client wants, and exceeding what the client wants in terms of images. Delivering stuff to them on a timeline because their time is money to them and they don’t want to wait for two, three, four days for photos. I turn everything around the next morning.
Did you learn that punctuality from your dad or did it come from somewhere else?
When I was doing the web developer job, I was late every day. I was supposed to be there at nine, and I’d show up at like 10:30, at 11:00 o’clock. I’d come rolling in. I think what clicked for me was when I started working for myself, because what I realized is that when you work for a company and you’re putting your time in, you’re getting paid for the time you’re there. I’m results-driven, so I’m always looking for the best results. When you work for yourself, that’s all that matters.
Whether it takes me 10 minutes to produce an image or an hour to create pictures, it’s all about the finished product – the results. I’ve noticed through the years, talking to a lot of other people, a lot of other agents would say, “Oh, I used to use this other guy, but he was always late.” I interviewed everybody and I figured out what the friction points were and made sure I eliminated them to offer a good service.
Were there any training programs, books, or resources that you used?
No. I don’t even have a background in photography. I went to school and I got my degree in broadcast journalism, but it was really on the video production side. I talked to my dad over the years and I had a couple of photographers who steered me in this direction. While I was in college, I was a musician, and I was doing live music for bands, live sound for bands. I was running a nightclub in Allentown for a while. I was a DJ at a techno club and then I left all that. I worked at Circuit City and then I got a job working at a commercial photography studio.
With my buddy from college, we started a company together, and then we started doing all these corporate projects, but corporate stuff is boring. We started doing film and TV stuff. We did things on the Bravo network and HBO. It was all over the place. I didn’t get out of college until I was 24. From the time I was 24 until the time I was 40 was a blur. We just worked continuously.
We had a music video TV show, and MTV stopped playing music videos, so we decided to have our own music video show locally here on cable. We had a show and we did it for 10 years. We had sponsors. I would call people up and say, “Listen, you want to be on our show? It’s X amount of dollars, and we’ll do an episode at your place.” The stuff we did was crazy.
You’re intensely creative.
It’s bizarre. I’m big into horror movies, I can remember we were doing all the horror expos and we were interviewing all these celebrities. Then three months later, we were doing interviews for Bravo. They were doing a documentary on horror movies. Then a month later, I did a stint as a production still photographer in New York on movie sets. I remember a year later I’m on the set of Law and Order and I’m shooting. Every day was something new. I was just going with the flow and just doing my thing.
When you look up and into the horizon, what do you see?
I have no idea. Stars, I have no idea. I said to my wife, “Maybe in five, ten years, maybe I’ll slow down a little bit.” That was two years ago, and nothing has slowed down at all. It’s just been going up and up and up. I don’t know. I’m looking at it like this, if I can get up every morning, keep doing what I’m doing and have fun doing it, I must be doing the right thing. That’s all that matters.
We all love technology. Where do you think this is going? Will I be able to do a walk-through of a house from the comfort of my own home with your 3D imaging? Can I tour 10 houses a day with my device?
Absolutely. Matterport does that VR immersive stuff already. I don’t think it’s 100% there yet, but I think it will probably be in the next couple of years. I just saw Amazon released a drone that flies around inside the house. I’m thinking maybe, in three years, we’ll just be flying a drone around the house and doing it that way.
A message to the PocketSuite community? We have a bunch of independent professionals. They’re all on the journey, just like you. Any message for them?
I think the biggest thing is just to keep working hard at what you’re doing. There’s been a couple of times in my life where anybody sane probably would have said I should just pack this up. I didn’t. I just kept pushing ahead. There’s been times where it’s been slow. The real estate slowdown in 2008 crushed my business. I thought, when am I going to have to get a job at Amazon? Home Depot or something? But I just kept working. I kept pushing and pushing and pushing and trying to keep it going.
It goes in waves. Up and down, up and down. The other thing I have to say is I love your software. I run my whole business through your App, typically, on the side of the road somewhere from my car. I’ve got to tell you. It’s a lifesaver because, before you, clients would mail me checks. I would physically send them a paper invoice. I would always be chasing people around for money.
Sometimes it would be a ridiculously small amount of money and it was just so much time and effort. Now with PocketSuite on my phone, all my clients pay me with PocketSuite. It is especially useful for my cash flow because I’m getting invoices paid every day, I’m getting money into my account. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have that up and down cash flow scenario, but having a payout every day, really helps me get money flowing, which is excellent.
What was the breaking point for you to say, okay, this is no longer a good use of my time? Because it’s hard to get through to people who have always been doing it that way.
The thing for me was when I was sending about 30 to 40 invoices a week to clients. I remember emailing stuff and I looked at many other services, then I heard on a podcast somewhere, it was a photography podcast. They talked about PocketSuite. I thought, “I got to get in on this!” I looked at it and thought, “This is it!” From there, it just took off. I do everything through the phone. It’s right here on my desk. I’m going to do billing as soon as I get off the call with you.
Can you imagine doing a shoot, doing your billing, and doing everything from just one device!
I do. A lot of my walk-through videos, I offer two levels of walk-through videos for clients. I offer a nicely produced video shot with sliders. I’m shooting that on a Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Then if a client’s a little cheaper and they want just a low budget walk-through, I’m throwing my iPhone 11 on a gimbal and I’m walking through the house. It’s quick, it’s easy, they want it, and it works for them. It’s all on my cell phone.
Thank you Scott!
Thank you for making such great software!