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Meet Michael McNamara of Shooting LA & ListingZen in Altadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael McNamara.

Michael, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I began my career as a real estate photographer a dozen years ago, shooting some of the most amazing properties in Southern California like the estates of Elon Musk, Madonna, and the world-famous Spelling Manor. I set out to be the best. I wanted to be the next Julius Shulman. Every home I photographed was an opportunity to hone my craft and to prove myself. For twelve years, I’ve been driving all over LA taking hundreds of thousands of photos of every kind of house imaginable.

A few years ago, I photographed a house for a client of mine, Boni. I was working all weekend editing the photos, taking my time to make this house another one of my masterpieces. I’ll never forget, She called me Monday and she said “Michael, I don’t care what they look like, if I don’t get these photos asap I’m going to lose it. If have to go back to the house and shoot it with my phone, we are done”

That’s when it hit me. My art wasn’t as important as her deadline, and I needed to change my angle.

I struggled for years, through thousands of houses, thousands of phone calls like hers, to meet all the needs of my clients, my friends. But without a reliable system to support the process. It was too much for me. I was getting to the point close to even selling my gear and walking away from photography.

That’s when, through a stroke of luck, Arthur Grigio, who is now my partner at ListingZen, walked through my door and assured me he could handle all of my problems with automation. His software has helped me build a team of twenty photographers, videographers, drone pilots, 3D scanners, and floor plan designers to create all of the imagery used in marketing real estate listings. We realized that what we were doing with Shooting LA, could be done at scale. Our new creation, ListingZen, was born out of the need to consistently and effortlessly book and deliver thousands of jobs and websites every year.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
From the moment I went out on my own in 2008, I quickly fell into the same trap as many first-time business owners and entrepreneurs. I solely focused on my craft, and before I knew it, the business was running (and ruining) my life. Work just kept coming in and I hopped on for the ride. The problem was, by the time I realized that I didn’t like the ride, I couldn’t get off, there were too many people dependent on me. As the years went on, and I got more clients, the pace of growth began to outpace my ability to plan. I was working 6 am to midnight, 5-6 days a week. 90 hours, week after week, month after month. Edit, drive, shoot, drive, edit, repeat. 12 hour days were the easy ones. I was lucky if I had a 12 hour day every two weeks. As a photographer, my job is an integral part of the listing process. A listing can’t be done without photos. Agents are under a lot of pressure to get everything right, and they would then put that pressure and stress on me. There was a terrible amount of stress on me to get it right. I always had to be there, I could never say, no. Ever.

I was physically unhealthy, mentally unhealthy, and I had lost relationships with friends and family. Eventually, Karoshi started to permeate my thinking. Karoshi is the Japanese word for ‘working to death.’ There was a point in 2013, that I began to get a distinct feeling that his job was literally killing me and Karoshi was imminent. I could see myself driving down the 405 and I would have a stroke or something. My body was just going to crack.

It was around that my wife became pregnant with our first baby. I was forced to reassess my life and my business because there was no way I could continue down that the road I was on. It was either pack up and run, just leave the country and start over. Or, dig my way out. Stopping the momentum of that train, of all the choices I had made that got me to 90-100hrs of intense work, was excruciating. Somehow, I had to take a business that was solely dependent on me – Michael McNamara Photography, and turn it into something that would run without my constant presence. Thanks to books like “The 4-Hour Work Week” and “The E-Myth” I was able to summon the willpower to move forward and begin to work on something that was seemingly impossible. I took a leap of faith to automate and delegate my art, renamed the business “Shooting LA,” and began the long and painful process of reinvention.

Shooting LA & ListingZen – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Shooting LA is a real estate marketing company specializing in photography, property websites, floor plans, 3D, drone, and videography. We are known for being a one-stop shop for an agent’s real estate marketing materials. In addition to running the company, I photograph for some of LA’s top agents. Shooting LA serves all of Los Angeles and offers multiple pricing options so that everyone can find what they are looking for. No matter how large or small the property, how quickly the photos are needed, we have someone to do the job. This was really important to me when I began to hire our team. I wanted to have impeccable quality and quick turnaround and we have both, which makes our clients very happy!

ListingZen was spun off of Shooting LA as a platform for real estate agents to find service providers, and have all of their properties and marketing collateral in once place for seamless distribution to social, print, etc. They can easily search for real estate specific vendors, book, and have those assets delivered to their property dashboard. ListingZen unifies today’s patchwork of real estate apps and services by turning the single property website into a collaborative database that uses AI to maximize effectiveness and minimize effort.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Breaking free of the relentless gravitational pull of being a one-man show and building something that can operate without my direct involvement.


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Image Credit:

Michael McNamara

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