Selling farm and ranch real estate is a very specialized profession. Not only do the brokers and agents manage some of the largest monetary transactions that a client will ever execute, to serve their buyers, those agents and brokers must also understand the unique aspects of owning and operating a rural property: tax implications, wildlife management, livestock operations, equine sciences, agricultural exemptions, homestead exemptions, irrigation, road construction, and the list goes on and on. The broker also must be an expert in marketing. There are thousands of active farm and ranch listings at any one time in the state of Texas, and a good broker has to understand the various advertising channels and marketing strategies to make sure his or her listing is visible to the right buyers at the right time.

With all the expertise that ranch brokers command, one aspect of the industry that most do not understand completely is photography and videography.

Quality photography is required for every major marketing effort that a broker will pursue, including online listings, newspaper and magazine ads, and printed brochures. The highest-grossing brokers in the state of Texas all employ professional photographers to help market their listings. Just take a look at the photographs featured on the listings of the top 10 ranch brokers on Lands of Texas. The top brokers understand and value professional photography, despite its high cost to implement for ranch listings.

And in today’s digital world, the photographs are the new “curb appeal.” Thanks to the ability to search and sort listings online, a buyer may be presented with dozens of listings that meet his price criteria. What causes a buyer to click on one listing versus another listing that is similar? Quality photographs. According to the National Association of Realtors, about 44 percent of buyers start their property search online. And professional photography pays for itself. According to a study by Redfin, professional photographs positively impact the selling price of a property, how quickly it sells, and whether it sells at all.

No matter how nice your new iPhone’s photos look, they’re no substitute for a professional photographer. Not only does the photographer bring better equipment, but he also brings his trained eye to help establish the right compositions, and can help set the scene for the best end results. And while iPhones might take a pretty nice picture in the middle of a sunny day, they struggle with interiors, sunrises, sunsets, and other challenging lighting environments. A true professional photographer will have the right gear and know-how to capture an amazing image in the harshest of lighting conditions, and those images will be magazine-cover-ready, sized and formatted appropriately to meet the demanding specifications of the largest national publications.

If a picture can say a thousand words, how many words are spoken on a three minute real estate video, running at 30 pictures per second? Video marketing for ranch real estate is an even more impressive method to showcase your property. Instead of simply presenting a stream of photographs, quality ranch videography immerses the buyer in the experience of owning a piece of Texas land. Compelling, cinematic imagery is presented in high definition, and a narrator’s voice, reading a professionally-drafted script, guides the buyer through the highlights of the property, describes the improvements, and tells the story of the property. The ranch becomes the main character in its very own movie. Professionally recorded licensed music enriches the experience and elicits strong emotions as the buyer becomes familiar with the listing.

Video is an often overlooked tool that can be in the broker’s tool bag. Most folks in the real estate industry forget that YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet. Buyers, like the rest of our connected society, consume massive quantities of digital video every week, and more and more buyers are expecting to find video elements on all kinds of consumer websites, including real estate sites. YouTube alone serves over one billion hours of content every single day! Are you reaching these potential buyers (and sellers)?

Too often, ranch brokers think that an unedited drone flight over the property is all they need to create a video, when this couldn’t be further from the truth. The novelty of the drone video has started to wear off. Without creative framing, stable footage, correct exposure and colors, and good editing, drone flight video can be repetitive, predictable, and boring. In this day in age of extremely short attention spans, no one wants to watch you fly your drone for ten minutes over that 100-acre south Texas brush country at 200 feet altitude. A good videographer can create interesting angles, beautiful imagery, and can combine that raw footage into a spectacular cinematic experience that tells a story, rather than “droning” on and on endlessly without a narrative.

The drone flight video is often the backbone of a good ranch video, but ground-level elements really make a video shine. Timelapse video, gimbal-stabilized walking video, animals on the hoof, and other shots are only achievable using professional-grade ground-level videography equipment that can’t be captured with the drone you got for Christmas. These more traditional shots break up the monotony of your drone video and provide a much-needed variety that keeps viewers’ attention longer.

In addition to the creative elements that a professional can bring to the table, when it comes to aerial photo and video, he or she will also bring their commercial certificate from the FAA. You see, it’s illegal to use drone photo or video without employing an FAA-certificated operator. In addition to the licensing, most professional drone pilots also carry liability insurance in case that drone crashes down on a vehicle, an animal, or a person. Until now, have you thought about your potential liability if you, as an unlicensed drone operator, were to crash your aircraft on your client’s valuable property? Avoid those situations and the potential fines from unauthorized flights by hiring a professional operator.

But shooting ranches is not your typical photographer’s area of expertise. While many photographers wear several hats, a ranch photographer is a special breed of creative. Out here in the sticks, you don’t want a photographer that shows up in flip flops driving a Prius. The best photographers and videographers for this type of work are avid outdoorsmen with a keen awareness of their surroundings and the workings of a Texas ranch. Four-wheel drive and navigation skills are a must. And you don’t want a photographer that doesn’t know the first commandment of traveling through the ranch… you better hire one that will leave that gate like he found it!

If your broker already uses professional photography and videography, you’re ahead of the game. But if not, why not? Most often it’s the expense. Good creative work is expensive and time-consuming. Also, availability is extremely tight during certain times of the year. An experienced ranch broker will have an established relationship with a photo/video team that he trusts and can rely on, and he or she can have your farm or ranch listing photographed at the right time, with the right equipment, for the best results. If your broker isn’t using professional photography and videography, are you really with the right broker?

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About the Author: Aaron Yates is a professional photographer and videographer with over ten years of experience specializing in rural real estate marketing. Based in Kerrville, Texas, and serving the entire state for a select group of clients, Yates’ photos and videos have been featured on all of the best statewide and national real estate publications. He can be reached by visiting

Categories: Real Estate