A benefit of running your own real estate photography business is being able to have control over how much money you make. Through setting your schedule and choosing your real estate photography pricing, you determine how much income you will bring in. But it’s not as easy as one might think, and there are mistakes that should be avoided when first pricing out your services.
Real Estate Photography Pricing – What Are You Worth?
At the end of the day, your pricing will be determined by how valuable you and your clients think you are. Your knowledge, your time, your experience, your customer service… these factors all play in to how you price your product. It’s important to understand how much you are worth, or rather how much you value your time and experience. This will determine where you can price your products so you can maintain a successful real estate photography business.
Do NOT Price Compete
It’s extremely easy to do, and I fell into the same trap when I first started my business. The majority of companies in my area, my competitors, had their real estate photography pricing posted on their website. I created a spreadsheet and listed each company with their website, pricing, and what they were marketing as their advantages over the competition.
I quickly found out that not only does pricing vary greatly between companies, but there are some companies that are charging basically nothing for a photo shoot! $49 for a photo shoot – are you serious?! The problem with basing your real estate photography pricing off what other companies are offering is that you aren’t finding what price point works for you and your business. They may have started their business at the low end just to get clients, but most likely if they are growing they may quickly have trouble maintaining that low-end price point.
When you look at a competitor’s real estate photography pricing, it’s very difficult to understand some of the things you need to know to determine why they are pricing the way they are. For example:
- What type of service do they provide?
- What types of edits do they do to the photos?
- How much are the real estate photographers on the team being paid?
- Is the photographer retired and just doing this for fun and for play money?
- How much is the photographer’s time worth to them?
You can quickly see how it is a bad idea to base your real estate photography pricing off what your competitors are charging. You have no idea what their lifestyle is like, what types of payments they are expecting their photography business to cover, how much they are setting aside for retirement/savings (if they even need it!), what type of work/life balance they deem as acceptable… Your competition won’t care if your real estate photography pricing is incorrect and causes you to fail as a business. Make sure you do it right from the start.
Don’t take my word for it! Head on over to the Small Business Big Marketing podcast #154. Hit play in the audio widget and advance to 23:00 to hear a successful pizza shop owner talk about what happens when you get involved in a price war and base your decisions off what your competitors are doing.
What Clients Do You Want To Attract
Remember, your real estate photography pricing will often attract a certain client base. If you offer the lowest price, you’ll attract budget clients who want something for nothing and it might create more work for you. The clients that do not value you and your services are usually the ones that are the most needy!
Factors To Consider When Figuring Your Real Estate Photography Pricing
You need to be able to cover your fixed costs, your costs of doing business everyday, costs associated with supporting yourself from your business and the cost of paying yourself a decent wage.
- FIXED COSTS
Your camera gear, your computer, editing software, website hosting fees, internet, Realtor board membership fees, car payment, insurance… These are all costs that you have to cover whether it’s the first time you are purchasing these items or if you need to make a repair. We work with electronics that are bound to fail. You need to make sure your real estate photography pricing makes you enough money so you can set some aside to get your computer fixed or repair a lens that was just broken.
- COSTS OF DOING BUSINESS
Depending on where you live and what areas you service, these costs can vary greatly. How far you have to drive to your photo shoots will determine how much gas you will need. Are you out shooting all day and need to stop and get a quick bite to eat? Don’t forget to feed yourself! As our job relies on our vehicles to transport us from shoot to shoot, you have to set aside funds to maintain your car and service it regularly.
- SUPPORT YOURSELF
You need to stay healthy in order to keep the business running. There will be times when you get sick and have to rearrange some scheduling, but you need to be sure your business is able to afford you adequate health care coverage for in times of need, and also to support a healthy lifestyle through routine maintenance. Did you have a gym membership through your other job and want to stay in shape? Make sure your real estate photography pricing allows you to pay for a gym membership to stay healthy, which in turn keeps you working and keeps your clients happy. And don’t forget life insurance and retirement/savings. I don’t know about you, but my goal isn’t to be a real estate photographer for the rest of my life. Figure out what you need to set aside for retirement and work that into your real estate photography pricing.
- COVER YOUR WAGE
You still have to live life! You need to pay your bills, pay your mortgage if you have one, enjoy times with friends. Everyone has a different idea on what their lifestyle should be and what they expect to receive from a wage/salary. Whatever you decide as your take-home pay, make it a figure that you are comfortable and happy with so you don’t have any stress about not getting paid enough for the services you are providing.
- LEAVE ROOM FOR DOWN TIME
There will be busy times throughout the year, but there will also be slow times. Don’t forget that as a small business, we are only paid when we are working. If you were working at a 9-5 position before, you had a very reliable source of income. You may have had paid vacation even! It’s important when you are figuring out your pricing structure that you allow for down time as well as time off. Assume you’ll work about 44 weeks out of the year. This will help offset down time, vacation and busy periods.
Don’t Give Up
Don’t look at your extremely low competitor’s pricing and be let down. Respect yourself, your time and your work and adjust your real estate photography pricing accordingly. If you live in a big area like myself there is plenty of work for anybody who wants to be a real estate photographer at every price point. Decide who you want as your client: the higher-end client that appreciates the value you are bringing them, or the low hanging fruit who is always looking for a deal. Make your decision when you start your business and focus on attracting clientele that will keep your business running for years to come.
55 thoughts on “Real Estate Photography Pricing Guide and Tips”
I’m very surprised that this post doesn’t have a ton of comments, as this seems to be a topic that many of us real estate photographers struggle with.
When I got into real estate photography, I researched how most of the notable real estate photographers priced their services, and I used those as a baseline for setting mine. I did not want to undercut them, as I have been in sales my entire career and have never sold anything based on price alone.
Ultimately, I decided to tier my pricing based on the listing price of the home. As you might imagine, sometimes that works to my advantage, and other times it does not. For example, if I shoot a small loft (with amazing views) in the expensive downtown area, it takes less time to shoot and because it has a high listing price, I charge more. However, if I shoot a huge McMansion way out in the suburbs, it takes me longer and my fees are less because the house is less expensive.
I’ve considered shifting over to a tiered model that’s based on the size of the properties, but I haven’t done that yet. I struggle with the pricing thing because at the end of the day, if I’m delivering 25 photos, it really shouldn’t matter how big or small the property is. 25 photos is 25 photos…right?!
I spend a lot of time on various sites and blogs that cater to the real estate photography industry, and the pricing topic is one of the most popular ones being discussed. Many notable photographers have shifted to a “per image” pricing strategy, and I must admit I like that idea….I’m just not sure my market would support it.
Right or wrong, many agents don’t place a ton of importance on listing photographs. It’s my experience that they care less about your technique and more about how much you charge and how quickly you can take the photos and get them turned-around to them.
I started out using HDR or “bracketing” for all of my listing photographs…it’s quick and painless in terms of being on-site and behind the camera. But I found myself spending an insane amount of time in post using Photomatix, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc. to edit and process my photos. I wasn’t happy with the results on many occasions, especially in terms of inaccurate colors, color casts, etc. that can be the result of using HDR/Tonemapping.
So I invested a great deal of money in speedlights, modifiers, light stands, etc. and shifted my technique away from HDR and towards using strobes. The result? I do think my images are much better…accurate colors, impressive window exposures, crisper and less surreal, etc. BUT…my time on-site increased dramatically. Whereas I could get in and out of a house in less than an hour using HDR, sometimes it would take me 2-3 hours using strobes (depending on the size of the home). Part of that extra time was the learning curve…it does take a lot of practice until you can really walk into a home and after a quick walk-thru, pretty much know exactly how you’ll light each room or shot.
But at the end of the day, I really wasn’t getting the feedback that I either wanted or expected…the agents either didn’t seem to care or didn’t notice the difference…much to my disappointment. Again, they really seem to be more concerned with “good” images taken quickly and turned-around as soon as possible.
I thought investing in better equipment and employing better techniques would differentiate me from my competition. And maybe it has in some ways. But at this point, I don’t think those agents will pay more for “better” images. Maybe they’ll pay extra for specialty shots like twilights and aerial photos…perhaps even videos…but I haven’t started offering those types of services yet…at least to the masses.
Thanks to you, Lance, I’ve now incorporated your techniques…both in terms of workflow, post-production and behind the camera…and I still feel really good about my business. And all is not lost in terms of my strobe technique…I still use that technique, although it’s reserved for more commercial, higher end projects. I’ve found that interior designers, architects and the like expect that type of technique and knowledge, and I’ve started picking-up more of those types of projects.
But I digress…
Pricing is and always will be an important topic, and maybe it does vary by market. I do find it almost unbelievable that a photographer can charge $150/image. Heck, even if you charge a third of that…$50/image…that’s $1250 for 25 images or $750 for 15 images. If he/she can, then my hat is off to him/her.
Until then, I’m going to stick to what’s working for me now. If my business grows to the point that I’m turning business away, I suppose I’ll adjust my pricing accordingly and hope that my clients will stick with me.
@Jake. I can totally relate to the two conflicting workflows. I did the opposite to you. Started with flash, then converted to multiple exposures (however I used Lightroom/Enfuse plugin) and used Enfused/Natural setting. I found that setting up flashes did give me a crisper image, but was not something realtors really were concerned with. Flash workflow took awhile to set up, and when the umbrella came out, there were a few raised eyebrows. I did find that the Enfuse did produce a surprisingly natural looking image(instead of tone mapping)…and I could always mask in the window, in photoshop, if I felt it was necessary. Pricing is all over the board in my neighborhood, but I found that when realtors were shown my portfolio, they were willing to pay my price ($200-$300) depending on house size. I think that using the flash technique for higher end jobs is the way to go, and use the multiple exposures for RE. It’s the age old triangle: value, price, and time. You can have the best 2 of 3, not all 3. RE photography wants the best price and the best time, value only needs to be o.k. Whereas your other clients prefer the best value for the best price, even though you may take more time for these results. I have thought of per image pricing…….jury’s still out. Until then, I’m holding to my pricing….my motto is, it’s always a nice surprise to reduce your prices (for deals etc.), but putting them up tends to get negative feedback.
The best formula I’ve come across is charging a percentage of the listed value of the home. Higher end photographers I know go with 0.001%. This fee would normally cover xtras as well, such as travel, aerial shots, etc.
Ex – A 500,000.00 dollar home would be a charge of 500.00.
If you are starting out, find a rate that is both realistic for you and the realtor and build good relationships that will eventually lead to higher rates. You may want to start out at 0.0005%. So you would do that home for 250.00. You may even be willing to do that job for 0.0006% or 0.0007%, just to land your first few jobs.
For me personally, it really alleviates a lot headaches as compared to other pricing methods.
Thanks Jake, for this information. I’m still not sure how much to charge though. I live on Long Island, NY, high and low end re photography needs exist here. I could really use a standard pricing guide. It would help me to determine my own pricing.
First of all, thank you Lance. I have been watching your videos as well as reading your posts at the website. It’s been a very much help for me. I am just starting out in wanting to do Real Estate photography. What I would like to know is whats the best way to deliver the photos to the client. On disc, prints, or both. Do I send them through email, or do I have to set up a website so they can view them? I have all these questions on my mind:) But I take my hat off to you for your very clear and comprehensible tutorials that have made me understand the workflow of this field. It’s exciting:)
Hi Ruben, glad you are finding the info helpful!
The only time I delivered photos on a CD was when an agent requested “all previous photo shoots” on a CD so they could have them as a backup. I think putting them on a CD is more work than required, as a simple downloadable zip file of the photos is usually sufficient. I definitely wouldn’t do any printing. The agent will make prints for marketing, etc, but leave that up to them (unless you want to offer that as an add-on, design service for brochures, etc).
For delivery I would upload to a storage service like dropbox, or because web hosting is so cheap these days and you usually get unlimited space, you could just upload them to your website and send the link to your client.
For viewing purposes, you could create a gallery on your website if you have WordPress installed so your clients can view the photos, but that’s probably not too important of a feature. I think just focusing on a way to get them the final photos easily is a good place to start.
Thank you Lance, will be focusing on your advise and tips. Also I will continue to view your tutorials in this field. Again thanks for your time and patience in answering my questions:)
I am soooo glad that I have found your website and Your You Tube site !
I have recently shoot photographs for a local campsite that needed photographs for their website, but I am hoping to get into Real estate photography as a business here in the U.K.
I am also looking at restaurants, hotels etc, a lot of restaurants in my area have terrible photos on their websites..
We have a slightly different way of buying and selling property over here, we have Estate Agents that deal with taking the photos, marketing the property and selling it. I have not heard of anyone staging homes over here. I have approached a few of these agencies but have been told that their staff take the photos which is good enough for their needs, it appears difficult to break into this market !
But thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise, it was a breath of fresh air to stumble upon your sites !!!
Glad you found the site useful so far Andy!
A lot of agents think their photos are “good enough”. But it’s not until you show them direct comparisons of before/afters, or start working with agents who see the results, that they jump on board. If you are able to get just a couple and help build their business/brand, others will take notice!
I have found your website to be helpful, over and over again…and as you are also in the state of TX, I thought I would ask you a silly question. Are you required to obtain a Sales Tax permit? This seems to be kind of a grey area…as likely I would not be selling a “tangible” product, but am still sending over images to a client. I have registered my business with the tax office (I think that is what it was) in my county (Harris County)…but I haven’t done anything about sales tax. I am assuming I have to collect it and pay it to the state, but I am not 100% positive. I have joined up with a mentor from a local SCORE chapter….but he wasn’t sure either.
Thanks again for all of your great tips! I am still in the process of building up my site…but getting closer!
I don’t personally have a Sales Tax permit yet but it will most likely depend on how your taxes are filed. I would find a local CPA and talk to them,and figure out not only sales tax but what other things you need to tract for the best write offs when tax season comes around. My CPA has been invaluable in helping me take advantage of anything I can to help lower my income.
Yes. All photography in Texas requires you to pay sales tax to the state. I have had a sales tax permit for many years.
Great comments and observations Jake!
Here are my issues that I recently just started facing and not sure how to handle. I started my real estate photography business about 5-6 months ago and after much leg work, my name and work is finally starting to get around to the Agent community. I just had my first 5 shoot week last week! Big deal for me! I felt a little overwhelmed at first, concerned with the scheduling and then the processing of the images, where I still feel I’m bit slow slow.
Before starting the business I did a lot of competitor research to find the best way for pricing my work and so I ended up settling on pricing based on the square footage of the home. I broke the packages down into 2000 sq ft increments after the first3000 sq ft. For example, the first package is up to 2,999, 20 photos at $175. The second package is 3000-4999, 25 photos at $250.
Now the issue I’m having is obviously self-inflicted and it involves providing more photos for each package then there supposed to get because there’s seems to be no way to photograph some of these larger homes in just 25 photos. And because of that, I find myself slipping the agents 2 or 3 extra images here, 10 more there and on and on. And as you know, more images equal more processing time on the computer. I feel like this is getting out of hand and I’m not sure how I address it. Do I clarify to the agent before each shoot that they get only 25 photos, deal with it (joking). or what?
Lance I see that you charge one price for 25 photos. Does that mean no matter how small or big the house is, you only provide 25 photos? Do you take often take more if the house needs in and then try to sell the agent the other photos. If so how is that interaction handled when dealing with the realtor? I guess I feel like I’m doubting how I set up my pricing structure and then feeling like a sucker by creating more uncompensated work for myself and giving away extra photos.
Any ideas on this would be helpful and welcomed! Thx
Yes I charge one set fee for 25 photos. I don’t want to have to figure out the square footage of a home, and then have an agent tell me it’s 2,500sqft when really it’s 3,200sqft but they were just avoiding the upper tier of pricing. For me, the difference in time in photographing a large home vs a small one is not significant. I would rather have it easier on the client and myself and charge a single rate, and spend 10 more minutes at a larger property than a small one… does that make sense?
Because the local MLS here only allows 25 photos, that’s what I base my pricing on. I do deliver up to 30 if the home is larger. If the agent thinks 30 isn’t enough, they can request ahead of time for additional photos and I will bill them on 5 photo increments. So for example, they can get 35, 40, 45, 50 photos…. 35 photos is an additional $25, 40 is an additional $50, etc…based off $5/photo. Obviously you would need to figure out what suits you and your business.
I think you can keep your pricing as-is, but you need to draw a firm line as to the number of photos they get. So offer them 20 photos, with 3 extras at no-cost. But if they WANT more, then they need to pay for more, and they decide how many up front. I wouldn’t get into the situation where you take them all, then they choose which ones they want….because they probably won’t want to pay for them at that point. Get them to confirm on a total number ahead of time so they know the expense that will be involved.
I just stumbled on this site. Very interesting…
I have done RE photography as a part time thing for several years now. I think you have to enjoy architecture, touring houses and the photography challenges in equal amounts to be happy and successful.
I think too many RE photographers get hung up on creating that “perfect” pricing structure with complicated price packages that cater to every possible shot count, home price, square footage, number of floors, etc, etc. Busy RE agents want it simple.
I think you are better off with a basic price. You can let the agent/client know that complicated, larger homes might take more time and pictures to market the property correctly. You then discuss the extra fee before you shoot anything. If you are faced with a simple house that gets done in short time then inform your agent/client that he/she will be receiving a discount. They will appreciate the gesture.
Some agents/clients want 50 or more images. Most buyers will be zooming through web galleries very quickly. If you have not raised their interest with 25 photos then presetting 50 will not make that much difference.
It is natural to want to move into the arena where you are shooting much nicer homes. A 2$M mansion can be a welcome break from shooting cookie cutter ramblers. But the sad truth is that fancy homes take more time to shoot and process. Bigger rooms can be challenging with the different light levels you face. So, while nice houses can be fun they can cost you a lot of extra time and aggravation. They are great for the portfolio though.
My main hassle is the travel time to each location. I work in Seattle and there are floating bridges, drawbridges, highways and lakes to navigate around. Its complicated. Driving time really eats into your bottom line. I am pretty upfront about expecting more money if I have to spend more time in the car.
Bottom line is that time management is the most critical thing in this business. Even if you love the work you will soon become aggravated with spending a ton of time on the actual shoot and post computer work.
There is the shoot time and the post time. The better you are at both the easier the work becomes. What I see is a lot of RE shooters who become consumed by HDR techniques and the fancy software. They are convinced that this will save them time and make them look good. I prefer to spend more time on the shoot if it saves me time in front of the computer. I like to use several Nikon SB-80DX and SB-800 strobes, even though I use Canon cameras. These Nikon strobes have built in optical slaves and PC outlets for Pocket Wizard radio slaves if the distance is too much for the built in slave function. Using strobes bounced off the ceiling makes the room light levels match the exterior and cleans up the color temperature. Most HDR photos have gray dingy ceilings.
I have tried to fall in like with HDR software but I keep coming back to using strobes and then using basic Photoshop mask techniques. Setting up the strobes takes very little time once you know how to use them. The benefit is cleaner ceilings, better color, and less time in front of the computer. But this is not a one size fits all arena. Each location will require a variation on basic technical approaches.
Great insight Max. I agree, travel can be a major part of the business that is often overlooked. I have had to limit my coverage area and refer work out to other photographers because I simply can’t be pulled in all directions and expect to keep my level of service up. It’s very important to me that I am on-time to all shoots, and traveling all around with unexpected delays due to traffic can hinder the level of service my clients and I expect.
Multiple strobes is definitely the optimal route to take when quality is of utmost importance. The sharpness, clarity and accurate colors are unmistakeable when comparing to other methods like HDR/Enfuse. I think it can also depend on your market and what agents expect. Here in the Dallas market, everyone does HDR/Enfuse so agents expect fast shoots with little time spent on-site. Does that mean someone can’t break in to this market and offer better quality using strobes, with longer time on-site? Absolutely not. But it’s obviously a lot easier to Enfuse multiple brackets and have an OK product, than it is to learn and use multiple strobes correctly. So I think a lot of photographers (myself included) get stuck on going the “easy” route and don’t take the time to learn other methods like strobes to produce a higher quality product.
I have yet to explore the HDR/Enfuse technique. I will be experimenting this week. I have tried some of the other popular HDR software titles and my results have been mixed at best. The file management and merging process seems to take time. I find there are unwanted color issues, an overall gray “smoke damage” appearance and dark ceilings to contend with.
I think about 80% of my RE images are shot with strobes. I used to use umbrellas and light stands but have drifted away from that. I use multiple strobes, all set on manual power, to punch extra light onto the ceilings. Sometimes I will hold two strobes in one hand with the strobe heads pointed differently. I can then change the positions of the strobe direction just be changing my arm position. Shooting rapidly gives me different lighting “looks” with very little fuss. I usually place a strobe on the top of bedroom doors and closets. You have to be inventive and try different things. Using strobes this way can cause unwanted issues like hot spots on the ceilings, and reflections in the windows. I also will sometimes put a strobe in the bathtub or shower stall to add some drama and help balance the bright vanity lights you have in small bathrooms most of the time. Sometimes I will bounce a strobe on the floor to add some effect.
I am still using bracketed image exposures and masking techniques. But my goal is to use lighting carefully and effectively so as to save computer time. Reducing the time investment overall is a huge component in making this venture worthwhile as an income source.
Some RE photographers are either 100% committed to HDR or to using added lighting. To me this does not make sense. You can mix the two in creative ways that helps produce quality work in a reasonable time…
Thank you Lance for sharing. Just stumbled onto this thread and have started the exploration.
I have used strobes and I have done the HDR/Enfuse. I am less than a year into architectural/RE photography and have some great mentors in my state. Our market isn’t saturated…yet. It seems that our real estate companies either contract a photographer or have someone in-house. The in-house companies seem to be ok with ok images whereas the contracting companies seem to have a higher standard. I was contacted this week by a broker who has recently gone out on her own. So we are working out the details as we go. Our first shoot is next week. I have already gathered she is expecting an hour long shoot due to her past experiences. She also told me she tried to do her own pictures but they “just didn’t look right”. I’m looking forward to showing her what I can do.
Keep up the great work and sharing. Love the comments above.
By the way. I’ll be using strobes and remote triggers. With masking in PS to fine tune. Well, at least, that’s the plan for now. It may take a little longer than she initially wanted but I know the seller and I know that they’ll both be very happy with the results.
Yup strobes are ultimately the way to go! Your end result will definitely be of utmost quality. Thanks for stopping by!
Lance, I am just starting to look into the possibility of doing Real Estate Photography, I have mostly been a hobby photographer and I love going out to shoot. I have been trying to figure out how to move this love into an income and have done some work for different friends Senior pictures, baby pictures that type of thing and I know I could do this but where do you start? I have a Nikon D3200 and have the basic lenses the stardard and at 70-200 m as well as I picked up a wide angel lens and a tripod. I Have been taking a lot of nature shots which is just fun to do however I am wondering how do you find clients for this type of photography. Do I just start calling Realtor’s ? And do I need some classes or at least a bit of instruction on the how to’s of this type of photography. I work now in a very high pressure job and I work from home, I need this change but how do I really get it started?
Hi Kimberly, make sure you read through all of the articles here on the site as I share basically everything you need to get started in this industry. You’ll find recommended equipment, how I process photos, etc.
I would find an agent that you know either personally, or through a friend. Ask them to shoot some properties for free to build up your portfolio. Make sure you provide excellent customer service and ask them if they would mind referring their co-workers to you. That’s a way to start building a client-base over time and get more work. I receive a lot of interest from my website, so make sure you have a real-estate specific website and perhaps blog about the shoots that you do in the towns you want to service. That way eventually when people are looking up a real estate photographer in your area, they will find your blogs and content.
You can also browse online listings and find those that don’t have professional photos taken. Contact those agents and see if they would be interested having updated photos professionally, as the majority of buyers start online and the first impression matters.
Good luck! It usually doesn’t happen over night, but over time you can definitely make this a business and build a good strong clientele!
Thank you. I will keep reading your site and see who I know who is in real estate, I use to know people years ago.
Thank you all for sharing, this really helps guide me to set my pricing up right for photo’s. My challenge is what am I going to charge for video walkthroughs.
Just remember video is more valuable than photos. It sets agents apart, it’s usually more difficult to do, etc. I have gotten to the point where my walkthroughs are lightening fast and they are really quick to edit. They can actually take quite a bit less time than still photos! But the price is much higher for the product because the perceived value is higher.
Thanks for this great article. Working as an IT consultant, photography is more like hobby turned part-time business. I have been shifting my focus to real estate photography for about a year now. BTW I never liked HDR quality. The photos just looked like they were edited in photoshop by a 6 year old. Strobes is the way to go either off camera or on. Pricing was a bit of a challenge for me as well. Flat fee for x number of photos and for example $10 for each additional photo works for me. I absolutely agree with not under pricing. I have seen other businesses go out of business by lowering prices each year to kill the competition. I would rather become friendly with the competition, help each other out, but do not kill your competitors’ business. Remember we are all in business to support our families. Don’t shoot yourselves in the foot. More experienced photographers (20_30 yrs in business) have told me never to post your prices on your page. I am still not 100 sold on that idea. Any tips..please reply and share. Peace~
What was there reasoning for not sharing their pricing? “Afraid” the competition will see it? You have two options.
1) Post your pricing so clients can see it. If you are “too expensive” for some clients, they won’t call you, thus not wasting your time when they complain about being too high.
2) Withhold your pricing allowing you to give different rates to different clients if needed. Just remember as a one-man-shop, this will potentially bring in more leads/requests that you have to take time to handle. (Or perhaps people won’t call at all, because they are frustrated that they can’t just see the price? I’m not sure.)
I don’t think it really matters to be honest. I just like being outright so there aren’t any questions about what I offer.
Exactly Lance! Well said!
I was scanning in my area and have found only 2(!!!) websites with prices, another 10 websites-not even one word about pricing, just short info ‘call us or send email’
I’ll start soon with my RE photgraphy i hope and will show my pricing without any hestitation.
I’m just getting back into photography with real estate photography and thinking about where I’d like to price myself. I do have a background in the industry, and I have plenty of lighting, etc.. but with 25 or so shots to take, I feel like I have only about 2-3 minutes per shot, any more and I’d have to charge a higher rate which I don’t think most agents will pay. This makes an average shoot about 1.5-2 hours. For me, I only bring a speedlight on a lightstand, an available on-camera flash, and some reflectors/cards as necessary. Most shots are bracketed using Enfuse with a single off camera flash to fill shadows.
I read the comments above with regards to pricing. For me, also as an agent, I know small properties have smaller commissions, and large houses pay higher commissions, so agents with larger properties have more spendable money for marketing their larger priced homes. I’m assuming most agents pay for the photography themselves, before receiving a commission, but I’m sure others probably move the cost on to the seller possibly paid out of closing. In either case, it’s difficult to ask for $125-$150 for photographs if the total commission to the agent may only be $1000-$1500 (after splitting with their broker, in some offices the agent may only receive 1-1.2% of the sale price as commission). Especially if there are cheaper options. In this case, it seems to make sense to price lower for smaller and higher for bigger homes, but with different products delivered.
My competition is using handheld, on-camera flash, seemingly no corrections in post, and charging $45. I could do this, be in and out in 30 minutes, spend very little time in post, and book more jobs, but I absolutely hate the end result and don’t want my name associated with this type of imagery, BUT it would be sooo easy and could very well be more profitable… And agents, like the article said, seem to not understand or are not aware of the difference in this kind of photography vs. higher quality, well processed photography, simply wanting you in and out as quickly as possible. If I choose in this case to charge say $100, I’m still more than double, and this can be hard sell, especially for lower priced homes. I am considering a low-quality, low-cost option, just to get some additional business, but I’m having a very difficult time with how to implement this option for less expensive homes. My thought – low qual, low cost – very little corrections in post, nothing delivered beyond 800×600; med-qual, med cost – my normal package; high-qual, high cost – for magazine/print advertising, extra lighting, maybe bringing a stager/stylist… Any advice is appreciated!
I think for someone that needs to just bring income in because you don’t have a steady client-base yet, this could be a feasible option. But at the same time you are going to be branding yourself, and the agents that hire you. Keep in mind that the ones that are looking for someone cheap, will continue to look for the cheapest person and they will dump you in a heart beat when they find another option for $5 less. You will eventually have to get rid of them anyway because you will build up a client-base hopefully that values your work, regardless of how expensive an home is and how much it takes out of their commission.
A lot of agents work with a client both on the selling and buying side. So I don’t think it’s accurate to justify your pricing based off the sale of a home. Did they also help that client buy their next home? If so, add that into the mix. Odds are they did – so at least double that commission you are assuming they are making.
I’m not just 100% sold on offering a lower service because I’m afraid it could do more damage than good. Sure it will bring in quick business, but then you will be known as the cheap guy along with everyone else. Why not set yourself apart and do something different and offer service/quality that is worth your value?
I have clients who on a $100k home, they will pay for a cleaning service, a staging consultation, and then me. They do that because it’s more about the level of service they are offering their client, getting repeat business, getting referrals, etc. It’s not just about the commission to them. These are the successful agents that continue to come back to me, week after week.
I would also be careful with offering too many options. If you offer low quality/low cost, and medium, and high, that’s so much for agents to think about! They are going to come hammering you with questions as to why they can’t just have bigger images (because after all, you DID already take them) and they aren’t going to have a clue what package they need. If you do end up going with different packages, I would recommend basing it on number of photos. Give them an option of 10-20-30 or something along those lines. Make your deliverable the same, but just the quantity of photos different. You need to make it easy for clients to understand what they are getting, or else they may be afraid to even ask in the first place.
I agree in the sense that we as RE photographers should make this as painless and easy as possible for our clients. I’m brand new at this business but have been taking photos for over 20 years as a hobby. So far I’ve done only two listings and working on a third (if they ever respond to my email…) Any way, I price at .1% of the listing price for unlimited pics, post processing and twilight shots. I know the price is a bit steep but I agree with Lance. I want to build a reputation of fast service WITHOUT sacrificing quality. I really want my images to look great and want my name associated with high end RE photography. It’s tough right now because the “fish aren’t biting” much but I remain patient and hopeful.
Any comments regarding my pricing strategy are more than welcome and appreciated.
“They did what soldiers always do. They improvised.”
― Geoffrey Norman
This industry is very referral/relationship based. Stick with it and clients will come. I wasn’t able to flip a switch and be busy. It took me two years before I left my day job to do this full-time. Some people are a lot more aggressive and can build a client base much faster, but keep providing outstanding service and your name will start to get around to other agents!
Thanks for the post and comments. When you approach an agent, do you offer a percentage like 10% for giving you the job ?
No, I don’t discount my rates. Discounting means you aren’t comfortable in the value you are providing. I get asked all the time by agents to discount my rate to be competitive with John Doe Photographer who shoots properties for $75 less than I do. If you (the agent) found someone cheaper to do what you need, why are you calling me? They are calling me because my quality is better, they’ve heard about how I always show up on time, etc. If they want to go the cheap route, and have a lower quality overall experience, have at it. My rates aren’t high as it is – there are plenty of other agents who are paying full price without hesitation.
Does your pricing/turnaround vary depending on if it’s commercial real estate or residential?
Yes Commercial should carry a higher rate Rachel. They have a higher budget, and the usage will be greater. They’ll use your photos longer and to obtain more customers than an agent does on a single sale.
For timeline I think it depends on quantity of photos delivered. If it’s a lot, then sure set your timeline greater. If it’s just 10 photos keep a quick turnaround to get it off your plate so you can focus on other jobs.
Great article and input, Lance! Thanks! As you said, there is definitely a market out there and there are definitely people that value professional quality photos.
As a commercial food and beverage photographer, I often show clients side by side comparisons of poorly photographed food and beverages shot by amateurs, and then I’ll show them mine. They usually go, “oh wow, I see.” I think the same method could work well with real estate photography.
It’s ALL in the light. I think if a photographer can control and manipulate light to do what they/client wants, they can attract clients that will purchase their style!
Yes, before/afters are great! I like to have someone (an agent perhaps) take a photo, then I follow up with my own version from the same angle. That way it’s a direct comparison
I am a landscape photographer and am only interested in shooting landscape shots of large ranches and farms. I am finding information about this type of real estate photography hard to come by. Are there photographers that specialize in this type of real estate photography only?
Your guess is as good as mine! 🙂 But because you are interested in doing it, surely there are others who have the same interest! The problem is that it’s such a specialized niche, that it may be difficult to find anyone talking about it online, as the majority of us are shooting in in the city – urban/suburban type settings. Maybe someone will chime in if they read this.
I’m currently working for a company that specializes in floor plans, interior and exterior photography. They base there pricing on listing price not sq footage. Im starting to pick up clientele on my own and building relationships. I’m getting a better response based on sq footage pricing as opposed to realtors asking why selling price matters. Do you find this happening out in the field. Also I just had some one inquire for a commercial building which I have never priced on my own. Should I be asking whether its for leasing or purchase? And if a purchase should I be asking for listing price? Can you give me some feed back based on your experience with commercial listings. Thank you
I only do residential so I unfortunately can’t comment on commercial. But it most likely will be selling/leasing for more dollars than residential, so in general your work is more valuable. You’ll have to figure that portion out on what you feel comfortable with charging.
I charge a flat rate regardless of size of property. I don’t want to have to ask people for square footage or the list price, because there is always going to be someone right on the line between two price points and they won’t understand why they have to pay more when it’s “only 100 more square feet” or something. I “bite the bullet” on my end and just keep it simple and easy, both for myself and my clients, so everyone understands how much they are going to pay regardless of the property size/price.
On commercial, you would probably want to get into a percentage of the property, plus have an air tight contract drawn up, in one of those “Just in case” scenarios. I mean, I’m a novice at this, but that’s what I think I would do. Right now, I’m still cutting my teeth on residential properties, but I learn so much day by day by LISTENING to the customers and the RE agents, and also by coming to sites like these. I have actually given myself a “free” education in this line of “Fun” (I flat out REFUSE to say line of work, because if I ever start thinking this is work, I’m going to have to find another hobby. I got into this because there is no way on earth you can call this work). But back to topic at hand. I would say a percentage on commercial, because as even the common man on the streets knows, commercial sells at far higher prices than does residential. So if you are pricing low enough to just write your fun off on taxes, then when you pick up that odd commercial shoot, it will more than make up for the “lean” days. Or so says the novice…LOL
I went through this entire thread, and found it VERY helpful. However, one thing I kept reading over and over was about the quality of HDR processed images, and I never heard anyone mentioned using the HDR function now in LR 6 and CC. (It may have been in LR-5 too, not sure) This function is actually why I decided to pursue RE photography, because of the simple, natural result it gives! It allows for an almost totally LR-based workflow. I rarely have to take an image into PS. The big bonus is that the resulting HDR is placed right next to the last image used in the HDR as a DNG file! That allows you to wait until the end of the HDR processing to do color correction and all the other things you may need to do with HSL or lens corrections! I’ve heard criticism from some that LR HDR processing is a slow process, but it’s only slow if you haven’t already converted your imports into DNG (which I do for ALL my images). Otherwise, it’s just as fast as Photomatix or Enfuse. If you haven’t tried this, IMO you’re missing out.
I forgot to mention that if you uncheck the box in the pre-merge dialog box that says “auto align”, it cuts the processing time down even more dramatically! You can do that assuming you’re using a tripod and some method to eliminate camera shake like the 2-sec timer or a remote of some kind.
Totally agree.. ..I think many people don’t understand what HDR actually is. . .and only see it used poorly to make images look “surreal”. . .or what I like to refer to as “candy-fied” . . .but the true value of HDR is the beauty of dealing with 32 bit raw files and the tremendous amount of digital color information it portents. . . it has nothing to do with looking “surreal” and everything to do with rendering a photo that displays light and shadow nearer to the dynamic range of how the eye sees. In terms of the complaint of longer post-production time frames. . the answer, as you have suggested, is to learn you software’s capability. . especially in the area of creating custom recipes. . and batch processing workflows such as you mentioned that can be done even when photos are first being imported. HDR used properly is head and shoulders above what can be done with artificial lighting. . which, by definition. . .looks flat and. . well. . .artificial. . . .don’t get me wrong. . there is a time and place for every trick in our bags. . . .I’ll pop a flash at my windows and mask them in on top of my HDR composite to get my windows crisp. . .when there is a nice window view to highlight. . . but other than that. . .my umbrellas, lightstands and speedlites pretty much stay in the bag.
This article is okay and I’ve read some of the comments but I have to say that having been a professional photographer for 30 years that your pricing will generally have to fit in with the market expectations and if these prices don’t add up to what you want to earn I would say the business is not for you. There are always exceptions that allow one or two operators to charge way more than what the average price is but these are not what you can base your prices on unless you too have some exceptional circumstance that will allow you to price and get work at much higher prices than the average. In my experience, real estate photography is one of the cheapest forms of commercial photography. It can work okay with volume work but even so, it still is cheap photography compared to other professional photography services. Not sure why the business is like this because we are generally working to help sell products worth hundreds of thousands of dollars at least. In comparison, a commercial photography shoot to help advertise a luxury car will be worth several thousand dollars at least to the photographer. So keep all this in mind if you think real estate photography will make you rich. Its a lot of work for moderate to low income for most.
Thanks for your insight John!
This is a great thread of comments! I’m getting frustrated with RE photography pricing and am actively seeking out blogs like this for help. Thank you Lance!
I’m a graphic designer and marketing expert of 20+ years and a commercial drone pilot of 2 years. I wanted to make money flying a drone and didn’t realize I would become a real estate photographer. I am now experiencing first hand the pricing obstacles you all are facing too, and couldn’t agree with you all more! I want to keep my pricing fair and simple. I’ve recently photographed some high end homes and can’t justify that I would charge the same for a $100K listing as I would for a $1M listing (based on square footage). Keep in mind not all high-end listings have large square footage and square footage is not always the driving factor in higher priced homes. So I’m developing a different pricing structure and would like to get everyone’s feedback (especially your’s Lance).
Charge .001% of asking (listing) price. Homes under $300K would require a $99 set-up fee. Homes over $300K the set-up fee would be waved. For example: $100K home would be $99 + $100 = $199. A $1M home would be $1,000. Yes, they both only receive 25 MLS photos but a million dollar home DOES require more work! They often require more photos to select from due to more rooms, more square footage, more acreage, in more desirable location with more commons areas, more amenities, etc. etc! I can knock out a $100K home in about an hour with an hour of post and followup. A $1M home might take 2hrs to shoot and 2hrs post (by the way these times include drone work of which I should probably be charging more for ~ like .0015%).
After becoming immersed in the real estate photography industry I feel that RE agents have been driving down the price while photographers have been undervaluing their services for far too long. The invention of the smart phone didn’t help matters much. RE agents are familiar with the % commission based pricing model so possibly they would be receptive to this idea? However I’ve found most are not. And like most of you have stated they want “just ok” photos for quick and cheap. I find the ones that use me on a consistent basis is more because of the boost in marketing I provide them and the kudos the sellers give them on my service, and less on the absolutely beautiful photos I provide.
Then maybe for video charge .002%?
I look forward to your pros and cons to this idea and your overall thoughts!
You are absolutely right in that RE Agents probably are the main reason for lower RE Photography pricing. However, another big reason is because everyone can go to BestBuy and buy a dSLR, google RE Photography Tips, and find some stupid blog giving all of the info away for free and they can start their own business! haha! (But let’s be real, you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make them drink!)
Because the field is so oversaturated, I feel that’s the main driver in low cost. And because agents can get “good enough” photos for low cost, they will.
You are correct in that a higher priced home will probably take more work. But I don’t think it will take as much work as you are assuming, and therefore your price increase won’t be justified. A big problem with bigger homes is they are usually harder to sell. So it can be harder for agents to dump more marketing dollars into them, knowing they may never see a single penny in a return. So I would be very cautious about that pricing model.
I think I have shared before, but I personally like simple and easy. My fixed-rate pricing is off the average $250-$450k home I shoot. I probably deserve a bit more for the bigger homes, but because they are rare to hit my schedule, I don’t want to make it more difficult and offer a varying rate. I was looking at a photographer’s price list just the other day and I counted 30 different prices on their pricing page. To me as an agent, I would be overloaded with info, not know what I’m supposed to choose, what I’m paying for, or how much it will cost.
Perhaps something more reasonable would be 2 basic tiers… $350k or less is tier 1. $350-$750k is tier 2. Anything else, call for a quote? Something to just minimize the amount of info you are giving out, and get a quicker “YES” from an agent instead of “I’m confused, how does your pricing work?”
Good things to think about and something we all have to work through to do what works best for us!
Thank you so much Lance – great advice (as always)!!!
Thank you so much Lance – great advice (as always)!!!
Hi Lance! My fiancé Jared and I are looking to make a career in real estate photography together. We’ve called around to about 7 local real estate companies asking if they’re in need of real estate photographers. 2 of them said they were satisfied with their photographer, but the other 5 each gave us their email address to send them a sample of our photos along with our introduction and brief summary of service(s) offered with fee(s). We live in Saint Augustine, FL. We definitely like your system of keeping things simple, but we’re not entirely sure what a reasonable fee would be without selling ourselves short or being too unreasonable either. My fiancé had an idea last night on our walk that we wanted to ask for your opinion on: $150 for houses under 2000 sq ft- 25 to 30 photos minimum, $200 for houses up to 3500 sq ft- 35 to 40 photos minimum, and $250 for houses over 3500 sq ft- 50 photos minimum. Of course they could request additional photos if they want more than the minimum. Would $5 per additional photo be reasonable? For example, if they requested 5 more photos, then it would be an additional $25, 6 would be $30, etc etc. What do you think? What is your opinion on an additional $50 for photographing neighborhood amenities upon request? We haven’t created our own website for this yet, but we will once we have more of a portfolio to display. Thank you very much in advance Lance! Your advice, tips, guidance will be tremendously appreciated! Oh, and we recently started the Zillow Photography Program too! 🙂
Sorry I missed your comment – I see it’s a month old! Some folks do price based off square footage and are really successful with that model so I say go for it! You are still keeping it simple by offering only 3 options. Some companies will break it down into 500sqft increments and it just gets ridiculous in my opinion. So keeping it to 3 I think is perfect! I would maybe scale back the number of photos however, just slightly. Maybe “25” for the first tier, “36” for the second tier, then “45” for the last tier. I have never had to shoot that many so I’m not sure if agents will want that many to be honest. In my area it’s either 25 or 36, which is why I am stating 36. So maybe you can survey some agents to ask how many they typically want.
$5 per extra photo is perfect. It’s not overly expensive, but at the same time pays you for a bit of the extra time it will take to get the additional photos.
I normally include amenities as part of the original photos. So if they wanted 5 shots of amenities, I would include that in the base 25 or whatever package they have. If they want the amenities photos beyond the initial home photos, then it would fall into your $5/photo pricing. You’ll need to keep in mind that other agents will probably want to use them eventually too. If you shoot a house in the same community for a different agent, they will probably want the same photos. So your agents need to understand that the amenity photos aren’t exclusive to them. And at the same time, you need to let agents know you already have amenity photos, and you would love to sell them some. Some photographers even go around to the big communities and take amenity photos on their own time. Then whenever they shoot homes in those communities, they have a stash of photos to offer to agents for an upcharge.
Thank you so so very much for all your helpful insight and (as always 🙂 ) excellent advice! We will definitely be sure to follow everything and change the number of photos for each package to your recommendations. Our current obstacle is that we haven’t found any agents willing to give us a chance, they’re satisfied with their current service. From what we were told, we would be more appealing if we had a drone, etc despite that we recently began the Zillow Photography Program and offer their Zillow video walkthrough, which Zillow states would sort their listing to the top of search results. Do you have any more advice and suggestions on how to actually get hired by any local agents? When we decided to do this we didn’t realize it would take so long to get hired and start bringing money in. Right now, it’s looking like we’ll have to go back to regular jobs and do this on the side til it actually takes off…
I maintained a day job for almost 2 years while building my business up so I don’t have much advice for “quick” starting. My business was built slow and steady. The Real Estate Industry is very referral driven. Agents talk to each other and like to use folks who come recommended to them. Not everyone is going to want to switch, especially if they have someone they like that does work. It’s not worth it for them to break out of their comfort zone.
I would focus on agents who aren’t using anybody. You want to help an agent improve their business, and not come across as being negative by suggesting their current photographer isn’t as good as you (even though that may be true)! I had to work for free for a bit and then agents started sharing my name after I requested they tell people. Another possibility is after you do a couple shoots for some agents, offer a referral discount. Something like if they give your name to another agent and that agent completes a full shoot with you, you’ll return back to the original agent and their next shoot will be 20% off. Something to motivate them to share your name.
There are many factors that go into it. Size of your area, how much work is available, etc. It can be difficult but don’t give up! Keep putting in the hard work and stay focused.