Drew Beach won’t be joining his fellow undergraduates on a job hunt when he graduates from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in a few weeks. Rather, he intends to continue doing the only work he’s ever done: Real estate photography.
“Being behind the camera has always paid the bills,’’ the 22-year-old says by phone.
Beach’s work has likely played a part in helping his clients pay their bills, as well, as his photographs, 3D walkthroughs and drone videos are often the first images of a home a potential buyer sees. As such, he strives to make a good first impression.
“I’m super big on the composition of each shot,” says Beach, a self-taught photographer. “I want your eyes to move through a picture, not gravitate toward a window or door I cut off.”
Beach says good equipment helps. His Nikon D850 camera, for example, boasts a 45.7-megapixel sensor and can record 4K Ultra HD video. “It’s a beast,” he explains, translating his technical jargon into something the technically challenged can understand.
Beach has paired his camera with a Tamron 15-30 MM lens for capturing wide angle shots of small spaces. “It can show everything a room has to offer,” he says.
Once Beach has captured the pixels he needs, he uses a host of software to turn the images into gallery showpieces. From making slight adjustments to the natural lighting in a photograph to combining more than a dozen versions of the same shot into a single image that could confidently grace the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, he can cast a variety of digital spells at his computer.
In the end, Beach’s goal is to help an agent sell a listing. While he doesn’t explicitly say his photographs succeed in doing so, he infers it.
“Last week, I shot a $700,000 house. The agent ordered the super nice lighting package, a 3D walkthrough and a drone video,” he says. “Despite everything that’s going on, she was able to get it under contract in six days.”
Beach has been shooting photos since he was 11, giving him more than a decade to develop the skills he now employs. After snapping his first photograph using his father’s digital camera, he quickly became passionate about the craft, and in time, he began to wonder if there was a way for him to turn his abilities into a paycheck.
“My parents have always been big on doing what you enjoy and finding a way to make money at it,” he says. “I remember taking pictures of a waterfall and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I could make a living doing this.’”
That opportunity came when the land developer for which Beach’s mother works asked him to take pictures of a house in the Wild Ridge neighborhood in Signal Mountain. Beach, who had just graduated from Notre Dame High School, gave it a shot.
“By my current standards, the pictures were awful,” he says with a laugh. “But that prompted me to get better.”
After improving his skills through practice and looking into the possibility of starting a business, Beach realized he had already fallen into the opportunity for which he had hoped and launched Drew Beach Photography.
Since then, Beach has built his business into a full-time endeavor, partly by aligning himself with busy Realtors. Keller Williams agent Lori Montieth, whose team ranked in the top ten in sales in Chattanooga in 2019, was the listing agent on the first Wild Ridge property Beach shot and still uses him for several listings a week.
Montieth applauds not just Beach’s abilities with a camera but also his business sense.
“One thing that makes Drew special is his willingness to learn. It’s nice to be able to say, ‘The lighting here could be better,’ and he’ll change it,” she says. “He doesn’t want to put out a subpar product; he wants to be the best at what he’s doing.”
“I learn something new during every shoot,” Beach acknowledges. “I’m always looking for ways to do things better and more efficiently.”
Montieth says Beach’s solid grasp of customer service will be one of the keys to his success.
“At a young age, he’s come to understand the importance of pleasing his customers. If your customers aren’t happy, then you won’t get repeat business, and for a photographer, repeat business is where it’s at.”
As Beach has grown his business, he’s expanded his services. In addition to photographing houses, he also provides headshots and team photos, pictures for commercial builders and developers (he’s snapped photos of Dunkin’ Donuts and Tire Discounters, for example) and even does event photography.
Houses, however, remain Beach’s bread and butter. It’s where he started, and he says it provides an essential service to professionals who already have a lot on their plates.
“It’s worth their money to hire someone to take pictures of their listings so they can spend their time doing other things,” Beach says.
When Beach graduates in a few weeks, he’ll leave UTC clutching a business degree. His says the school has provided him with a well-rounded education and equipped him to move his business forward.
UTC has also sparked a passion for entrepreneurship in Beach, who’s working with other investors to get additional ideas off the ground. Although he’s keeping these ideas close to his chest, he does say they won’t take him away from his first love.
“I’ve always gravitated toward artistic stuff like sketching and taking photographs,” he says. “And when you mix that with the ability to run a business, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.
“It’s nice when your business expenses line up with your passions and hobbies.”