Professional photographers run businesses. With their name on the metaphorical front door, they typically manage all aspects of their company from finance to marketing to business development to creative. Successful photographers are pros and can identify the market that their photography serves. At times, they get savvy enough to spot a gap in this market and get the opportunity to expand their business and branch out into new ventures. As a great example of this, New York-based photographer Donna Dotan recently announced the launch of her new company DDreps.
DDreps is a full-service creative agency that serves the needs of high-end real estate agents looking to sell homes, and other properties, and gives emerging photographers the chance to fill out their schedules. Managed by Donna’s husband, Brian Podnos, DDreps currently consists of a team of six photographers, three full-time photo editors, and provides six key services:
Donna and Brian both have extensive backgrounds in real estate, Donna began as a real estate photographer and Brian worked in commercial real estate after college. As Donna grew Donna Dotan Photography, she wanted to focus her efforts on commercial architecture photography.
Before and after image of a retouching project completed by DDreps
I knew that I wanted to be an architectural photographer but I didn’t love what I was doing because real estate agents, especially back then, did not care as much about photography. When I had the opportunity to work for my first interior designer and spent 45 minutes just doing one photo, I was so excited to get so detailed and really pay attention to the placement of every object.
In 2010, after the real estate market crashed, Brian and Donna joined forces, and he took his years of business development experience and led the charge to bulk up Donna’s business.
I kept hearing these incredible stories of agents selling buildings and making huge commissions. People were telling me the market was exploding. Turns out it was. A few months after I started working there, Lehman Brothers collapsed and the recession began. My job turned into a haze of cold-calling building owners, day in and day out, for almost three years.
An example of a lifestyle video created by DDreps
After spending months calling potential clients, dropping off portfolio books, and setting up meetings, they began expanding Donna Dotan Photography. As the business grew, so did the foundation for what would eventually become DDreps. Donna became busier and busier shooting commercial projects and when they started having kids, realized that they needed more partners to help them with the business. That’s when the duo hired their first photo editor, who could handle the sizeable overnight photo editing projects. They even trained their photo editor to edit in Donna’s style. Then, later, they brought on their first photographer to work with Donna. Over time, this roster expanded until they realized they could be an agent for real estate photographers.
A before & after sample of DDreps’ virtual staging
On a phone call with Wonderful Machine CEO Bill Cramer, Donna and Brian discussed wanting to represent real estate photographers and start a company where they would support photographers’ careers and supplement their schedules with shoots. With the desire to keep the Donna Dotan name separate from her new company, Bill came up with the name DDreps and they loved it. Once the name was set in stone, they were off to the races.
We love the energy of it, of selling homes through photography. But it’s such an undervalued market and real estate photographers get paid so little in New York City. We wanted to elevate the real estate photography game.
An example of a real estate video created by DDreps
Now that DDreps was open for business, Brian realized that they could expand their list of services and help real estate agents with other needs they might have beyond photography. They started incorporating new aspects to the business and slowly grew to be the full-service creative agency they are today. Either through hiring full-time or freelance staff, DDreps chooses the best partners they can find for every service and under Donna and Brian’s guidance, they can ensure a consistent level of quality across all their work.
Sample floor plan developed by DDreps
The reason I was so attracted to the work Donna was doing was because she was actively changing how people were marketing real estate. I always talk about how people are bombarded by imagery every day, whether it’s from Facebook or Instagram, television or advertisements. Our visual sophistication on the consumer level is elevating, and so I see it as DDreps’ mission to meet that level of sophistication. Donna knew that from the beginning, and we apply that philosophy through every service we offer.
When asked what piece of advice they can provide to other photographers who are running businesses, Donna and Brian had this to say:
Be true to your mission. Create a personal mission statement, find your passion, and whatever the business is should reflect that.
What we are accomplishing is a natural offshoot of what makes Donna special as a photographer. That’s where I will offer advice, in that photographers should be as specific as possible in what they choose to shoot and show the world. It will be the core of how they can elevate their business as a whole.
Check out DDreps at ddreps.com!
See more of Donna at donnadotan.com