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October 29, 2007

As virtual tours drop off, photographer gets the picture

With so many homes on the market, one might think it's a good time to be in the business of shooting homes for virtual tours online.

Think again, says Marla Giddings, 49. The business she works for, CirclePix, has seen a marked drop-off since the height of the real estate boom two years ago.

Giddings, who lives in Escalon, joined CirclePix in 2004. She shoots homes for virtual tours and for real estate agents.

"Back then, I didn't market, I just did referrals," Giddings said. Now she'll do cold calls and arrange sales meetings to tout her skills. On an average week a few years ago, she'd shoot 20 houses in an area that includes parts of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties and all of Tuolumne County.

Now, her area is just as big, but the number of shoots has been cut in half -- eight to 10 houses is a good week now, she said. She and her husband get by on his salary, she said, so what she makes is extra spending money.

A former loan officer, Giddings joined CirclePix so that she could spend more time with her two boys. Because she's less busy, she said, she makes her schedule efficient by scheduling shoots in the same area on the same day.

"Now, I have to go out and do sales meetings. That's just the way it is, and I have to go with it," she said.

Despite her struggles, Giddings doesn't want to get out of real estate, though she's exploring options to shoot commercial buildings.

"I'm not going to do a different job," she said. "I hope I just make it through, and I'm hoping it turns around in a year."

-- Ben van der Meer

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