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What To Charge For Real Estate Photography?

February 28th, 2008

The answer to the what to charge question has two parts:

  1. How much on the average does it cost you to show-up to any property in your territory?
  2. How much should you charge as an hourly rate?

How much to show-up? Anyone in the business of driving around to properties in these days of rising transportation costs needs to be keeping track of vehicle costs and reviewing them frequently. Figure more than just fuel costs. You need to include auto insurance and vehicle replacement costs.

What is your hourly rate? This is a tougher question. But you know what hourly rate you’ve been paid in other jobs. The difference when you are working for yourself is you need to figure out what accountants call a “burdened” rate. That is, a rate that includes paying for marketing, health insurance, camera equipment, retirement and all the other costs of making this a long term sustainable job.

What’s the competition charging? It goes without saying that knowing what the competition is doing is always an important part of the what to charge question. Take care when doing this. You have to also compare the competition’s services. Studying the competition’s prices and offerings needs to be a regular exercise.

The recent what do you charge poll: The graphic above shows the results of a poll I did recently on what real estate photographers charge. This is a 100,000 foot level view of prices because the people voting were from 110 different countries, 67% US, 7% CA, 6% AU etc. All presumably converted to USD before they voted, this only gives a general feel of what the range of prices are. It’s more important to make sure you are recovering your expenses and making a fair wage.

The big city effect: Since I spend time in Seattle, WA and Salem, OR I’ve become keenly aware of the difference of what services between Seattle and Salem. Everything in Seattle cost twice as much as it does in Salem. This location factor effects what real estate photographers can charge as well. In big metropolitan areas real estate photographers need to charge more because it’s more expensive to operate whereas in sleepy rural areas you’ll need to charge less.

The effect of marketing: I think the effectiveness of your marketing is an important factor that is over looked because photographers like to photograph better than they like to market. If you do effective marketing and keep your name in front of your potential customers you’ll get more business at a given price than if you just sit back and wait for the phone to ring. This factor, I think is more important than keeping your price low.

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46 Responses to “What To Charge For Real Estate Photography?”

  • I’m learning the pro photography thing slowly here. Primarily I’m using it as my advance marketing for my realtor work, trying to position myself as “teh guy”.

    Now I’m not a stellar shooter, but leaps and bounds ahead of the other agents and 99.5% of what is on the MLS. I thought when I offered myself to do listing shoots at $60 I would have been besieged by excited realtors. Frankly, I’m shocked at the lack of interest. Even those that used me and loved the results, and got sales, forgot about me the next time they get a listing.

    It’s becoming obvious that I just have to tell them… sell them… over and over again with some kind of marketing piece/platform. And that is going to cost money, and so rates will have to go up.

  • I’ve been looking into this lately and find these numbers a bit startling. It’s tough to decipher the “real” $$$ numbers here. What does a 3000 sqft home mean? Does that mean Hargis quality shots of –
    1. Living room
    2. Kitchen
    3. Dining room
    4. Bath 1
    5. Bath 2
    6. Bedroom 1
    7. Bedroom 2
    8. Bedroom 3
    9. Family room
    10. Exterior shot

    And then to take these into post and adjust and make them look pretty. I’m no pro here but this takes time. Time is valuable. And taking into all the other factors, gas, equipment, insurance, on and on, how do you justify these low numbers. These are some great images I see. I’m shocked that you’re only charging $100 – $300 = 53%. This can’t be real. I know one can work fast with a digital camera these days but setting up multiple flash shots for 10 shots. What’s an average hourly fee? Maybe that should be the questions. These numbers seem so low. I don’t get it. And this is coming from a realtor. What are the real rates . . . Scott, Mark, Aaron, James . . . ? You all deserve more.

  • I would like to know what other RE photogs are making on a yearly basis….can you do a Poll on that?

  • […] To Charge For Real Estate Photography? Brian Martinez wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe answer to the what to charge […]

  • I went on an assignment with a Commercial Photographer as his assistant for the day to shoot a 3 million dollar house for an Realtor. I was shocked to know he only charges him $400 per day (one or two houses), and even shocker to know that only multi-million dollar houses’ listing agent would “consider” to hire a photographer. I am an Realtor who also love photography. I never understand why so little people (agents and sellers) notice how important a good real estate photo can have effect on a sale. I think that photography just as important as staging. If you spent 5 hours on site shooting and you then spent another 5 hours on Photoshop, I think you deserve more than $100-$300 per house (at least you should get more than $10-30 per hour).

  • Rates are currently a big issue for me right now. There is such a great range in what I shoot. I have a basic rate and then it goes up based on square footage but that doesn’t always work. Trouble is, I’m torn between the security of fairly steady work and concern about not being paid what I’m worth. Especially as my skill level increases. I’m definitely undercharging right now and that’s about to change.

  • This pricing question is always a paradox – charge more and invite competition or charge less and discourage competition?

    This is an issue that I’m excited about seeing on this Forum because it needs more discussion. As I’ve said before, I find it more difficult and time consuming to shoot a 1,200 sq ft older house than it is for a 4,000 sq ft pool home.

    The questions about our hourly rates and annual rates are good and hopefully we’ll see them in a poll soon. Maybe we can have a more in-depth study and create a scale to score or value the submitted tours.

    And Athol, wait till a Realtor says “Remember that house you did on SMITH St? Well, a Buyer from California, after seeing the virtual tour, called me and flew here (FL) the next day and bought it. Good job.” Guess that was my tip. 🙂

  • I had a realtor tell me that the house that I shot for her was sold and she wanted a CD of photos for the sellers. ‘Yeah, they paid me almost $100, 000. ( She got the full commission ) I felt so bad because of how little I charged her.

    I also have houses that are smaller to shoot that are much more difficult than the large ones. Generally the 1500′ to 2500’ range take plenty of time.

  • @Mark – Jeez, I hope you charged extra for the CD 8-0

  • @Mike,
    The poll summarized in the graphic on this effectively shows hourly rate because you can assume that it takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to shoot a 3000 SF home. I’ve never heard anyone claim that it takes them more than two hours and most would take ~1.5 hours. So if you assume one hour post for every hour of shoot a 3000 SF shoot would be show-up cost+3 to 4 hours if you assume 3.5 hours the poll effectively shows show-up-cost+3.5 hrs.

    However, the problem with talking specifically about show-up-cost and hourly rate this with people from such a wide geographic distribution is both vary with geographic location. You cannot expect the same hourly rate in Topeka, Kansas as you get in San Francisco or Seattle. Same with show-up-cost. There just isn’t one fixed fair hourly rate that applies everywhere.

  • I think the answer here comes straight from the article above….I’m a newbie at this and have poured over 100’s of great shots on the associated websites. All of you ‘deserve’ to make more and should be paid ‘…what you’re worth.’ However, Economics 101 comes in to play here…what the market will bear comes to mind. You must do your research to charge a competitive fee, and you must market yourself properly. Remember, unfortunately, we aren’t just photographers, we are business men and women.

  • @ John, I agree, unfortunately. It’s finding that fine line that’s difficult, especially when we’re working with customers with such a broad range of expectations (or understanding of photography). I’ve had agents balk at our pricing & look elsewhere, while some drop their jaw and wonder why we don’t charge 4x what we do. *shrug*

  • You just have to realize a few things:

    1) 95% of Realtors are cheap. They don’t want to spend a dime to market a home if they don’t have to. They have no problem buying their Mercedes, but they do have a problem spending money to market a home to make their 5-6% commission. They’d rather do it for free. They all have cameras. They all know how to push the button, therefore… they do not need a photographer.

    2) 95% of Realtors are technological morons. They just don’t “get it” when it comes to the internet and how it relates to real estate. Many are still ‘teasing’ buyers by putting up a few photos to entire (aka TRAP) a buyer into calling them and retaining control over the process. They still don’t understand that what buyers ARE doing is clicking the NEXT button.

    3) 95% of realtors have no idea how to “market” a house. Their concept of marketing is plugging a sign in the front yard, entering it into the MLS and hoping someone will call.

    That’s the reality EVERYWHERE. No matter who you speak with, they will tell you the same stories.

    Moral of the story: You need to market towards that 5% who DO get it. Don’t waste your time with the others – they don’t understand the value, the concept. They just don’t. They ‘take” good photos.

    It’s not about the cost of the property either, it’s about marketing your services towards those realtors who see the value for their BUSINESS. They know the value of good photography on a little ranch as well as a million dollar property. They know most buyers ELIMINATE properties based on the internet presentation. Period. And they must make that presentation count.

  • haha… well said Paul. I’ve tried to eloquently approach some of your points in conversations w/ agents, and it often doesn’t work. I did a job for a realtor earlier this week who spends upwards of $1000 per listing for marketing. If he can make $3000 from a sale, it’s worth his effort. He does well, but he shells out a lot of cash upfront to do so. Most agents don’t like to take that “risk,” plain and simple.

  • Frankly, I’m not all that surprised with the results. I wish the majority was more in the upper ranges – at least $300-400, but it was not. Realtors are, for the most part, cheap (as has been said).

    The emphasis on marketing yourself in a manner that helps the Realtor move the propety is paramount. But it also helps to let the Realtor know you have other talents – things that are second nature to you. Help the Realtor who can’t take a good photo – give them a little advice. Tell the Realtor who doesn’t know what to do with the photos you give them on a disk how to get them off the disk and into their compter. Show the Realtor that doesn’t know how to view the photos you gave them on their computer how to do so. And help the Realtor who doesn’t know how to get them on the MLS. These are pretty simple and usually quick things you can do for no charge that will build your reputation among the local community of Realtors. Help them with these easy tasks and it will lead to a word of mouth campaign that might just get your telephone ringing. Realtors do talk to each other, and if you can please a few of them. . .

    It’s also not a bad idea to become an “affiliate member” of your local association of Realtors. It usually costs $200 or less (in my experience) and the local association does push on Realtors to use the services of their affiliate members.

    That’s my .02 worth.

  • Paul – You make a good point. There’s a lot of reality in your argument. Might not be 95% – it all depend on that area. That being said, the real estate market these days is tough and only getting tougher. We’re going from a sellers market to a buyers market. Many places in the states it’s been a buyers market for a long time. Marketing homes well is paramount in buyers market. And great pictures is 80% of marketing (seeing that 80% of buyers look online prior to buying). Remind me of a study I saw a while ago that drew a strong correlation between the amount of pictures in the MLS and the days on market and sales price. More pictures = fast sale and more $.
    Educate a seller. Educate an agent. Go after good agents. Show them the difference. “Oh the times they are a changin’ ”

  • There’s an idea I’ve kicked around but wonder if anyone has or is considering a percentage based fee.

    For example, only charge $25 or $30 per house but get .1% of the sold price; a $200k house = $200 virtual fee & a $400k house sells and you get $400 – after they close. If they don’t sell, you only get gas money. This would share the risk vs. reward trade-off between you and the Realtor. One tenth of a percent really is a small amount.

    Is anyone doing or done this? How did or does it work?

  • Larry,

    I agree with you about the geographic diversity which is why I was suggesting a “Price is Right” kind of study. What I’m picturing (no pun intended) is Forum members submitting links to their virtual tours and other members deciding a value for it based on quality of the photos, number of shots, panoramas or not, etc.

    Say there would be 3+ categories like (1) less than 20 photos, no panoramas (2) less than 20 photos, 1 – 2 panoramas, (3) less than 30 photos, no panoramas, () etc. or some criteria like these. Possibly a real nuisance but not different than companies “shopping” the competition to compare products and prices. And have the evaluators identify themselves by geographic area, Realtor, photographer or both, etc. to put their scores into perspective.

    Just an idea.

  • There’s also other aspects at work here… location, location and what the RE market is doing.
    In my local area (semi-rural/near metro Australia) real estate sales are through the roof and many listings sell before they even hit the web.
    I agree totally with Paul’s first point (Realtors are cheap) so why would they spend money on *decent* photographs when they can make their commission from crappy images taken on their cell phone camera. If they want *good* images they’ll walk back to their car and get their compact camera!
    OK maybe I’m being a little facetious, but having said that, the going rate here is around au$150 for up to 10 shots over a 1 hour period. Extra for twilight shots etc etc.
    There probably is a living to be made from it here – I did look into it a while back – but the way the market is, I’m yet to give up my day job!

  • @Suzanne, I’ll do an annual income poll next.

    @Mike, I think your tour evaluation idea is a good one. I’ll do a post and layout some ground rules for doing that.

    @John W – Well said.

    @Paul- You are right on.. there is a social and economic principle that predicts this behavior we all see in real estate agents, it’s called the Pareto principle (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto%27s_law). Clearly there’s only 20% or less of the agents you want to bother with as clients.

  • […] Tips and Techniques for Real Estate Photography « What To Charge For Real Estate Photography? […]

  • Well here goes..my first blog, I love reading the info here and finally feel like trying to giive a little input myself (so please bear with me)
    All Realtors/Agents are not created equal-I have seen the virtual tour business prospective from two point of views- both as an agent myself (for more than 14 years)…and now as a full time photographer/tour provider for other agents.
    I think its important to remember that many really good agents are NOT computer savvy, they don’t even know how to open an email attachment (I am serious) and they would really like to work with professionals who can increase their business but may not want to admit that they have no idea what to do with a virtual tour link when they get it!
    By nature most agents are very people oriented and they need a total marketing package…not just photos and a virtual tour link.
    You have to educate and inform them of the importance of staying ahead of the game and assist them with many marketing ideas in order to prove your service is valuable…I think we need to consider that this is all still very new to many agents who have not HAD to do this kind of marketing before.

    The good news is that as photograpers we are becoming an integral part of their (agents) business (like it or not) as more and more sellers demand more professional services from their agents!
    As for me, I am in the process of incorporating a new pricing method that will offer a “photo only” package, and an optional combination “marketing package” that will differentiate the difference in services and hpefull allow me to charge for all of the services I actually perform and help me to get more $ for my services. Otherwise what is the point of being in business!
    It’s definetly not just about the photography!
    Sorry to be so lengthy but hope this helps some of you.

  • The adding of services seems logical to me. I have my own Vflyer account ( I am an agent as well), and set up another nonbranded free account for photography clients. Unfortunately the way it is set up you would have to make an individual account for each Agent in Vflyer. The idea being that you can add-on the flyer itself, Craigslist, Zillow and Trulia listings with a click of a button. Another 15 min. on the computer and perhaps another $50 to $75. This theoritical as the set up of an entire profile for each photo does not work. I have wanted to call VFlyer and ask them if they would consider another Professionals version of the subscription where Members can be added to the account? Now for repeating clients The $75 add-on can be done in 15 min. $99 and you can add-in the vanity domain. I spend too much time trying to figure out what I can not have.

  • Greetings,
    I am an architectural shooter who has recently (last 6 months) been asked to shoot higher end properties for sale. I think this pricing question really revolves around two key aspects of business. What market do you really want to go after? How do you sell yourself?
    My answers to the two questions are: I want to go after the top 5 to 10 percent of the market — thats my goal. The answer to the second question is do you have the confidence and experience to go after that market segment. You are really selling yourself when you are looking for that next photo job. There are more shooters out there than ever before. What makes you the better choice? Can you present the $400, $500 plus packages with confidence, convincing the client that this is really the best VALUE for the investment they are making in their marketing/sales campaign?
    These are the questions we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis. In my professional journey I am at the point that I want to shoot the $500 job rather than 5 of the $100 jobs (relative to the real estate business).
    Set some goals, put together a thoughtful marketing campaign and target the market segment you want to go after. Educate your clients as you meet them and show them the very best you have to offer. —— Just Do It !!

    Very Best Regards,
    Ron

  • Realtors are cheap or at least most of them. The top 10% however do a vast majority of the sales and better understand the need for help in marketing. I take a lot of photos and glad I stumbled on this site. Its like having some knowledge makes your realize what you do not know.

    Being in New Orleans we have the luxury of watching the trends in the other markets as far as the internet, blogging, and al the things you guys out west try. We missed most of the sub prime mess as it did not have time to get here, lol.

  • Just to add the the comments and info – here is what I am doing…

    Photography is a small side business for me, and part of that includes Real Estate Photography. I am in a smaller Canadian City – about 50,000 people. I started chatting with my realtor when I bought my home here about a year ago. Photography came up – and she mentioned that she had a cuple of rooms in a house that she was having trouble getting photos of – dark furniture, dark walls, etc. She wanted to know if I thought I could get a good shot – I did, and it went from there.

    I have shot about 15 houses for her over the last year (not all her listings – but the nicer ones), and am just getting around to doing some marketing in office she works from. Because she is all my business, and she started out with me I give her a significant discount. Here is the way I price: $75 gets you 1-3 photos per room for up to 10 rooms (outside front is a room, and so is the back yard) I am usually generous on bathrooms and basements. Add $10 per room over 10 rooms. The web size files are e-mailed, and a DVD of full res files costs $15. I estimate it takes me about 1.5 hours to shoot the average house and about 1 hour to process the photos – basic lighten shadows, resize and sharpen. I give her $35 off the base rate. So for her, a typical 12 room house would be $40+$20+$15 = $75. Cheap I know – but this is a small town, and it is part time work for me.

    What does she get from it? Well, 1. I call the home owners and organize a time, after I know the house has been staged, and then go shoot – no involvement from the realtor. 2. I usually shoot the above average houses, and she can tout that she hired a photographer to take the photos – it impresses the clients. 3. My photos are better than hers (she uses a Canon Digital Rebel – I have a Canon 20D, so it is not the camera), for a few reasons; wide angle lens, external flash, tripod, photoshop, and knowledge. I also have had a police check done – so they are comfortable leaving me alone in a house to shoot and then lockup.

    A half decent house (14 rooms) at full rate would net me $130. Travel is negligible, the most has been about 10km – small city.

  • @Andre,
    Yes, I think the size of the city makes a BIG difference in what you charge. I live most of my time in Salem, OR (Population 147,000) and part time in Seattle, WA (population ~3.2 million). The difference in the real estate photography market is huge. In the Seattle area the demand is such that $250/shoot is routine. In Salem I doubt you could get more than ~$100/shoot.

  • I am just starting out, in fact my first shoot will be next week. I am try to figure out how much to charge. The woman hiring me is just starting out also. I don’t want to over charge so she won’t hire me again, but I don’t want to be unfair to myself either. I will be working in the SC area. Can anyone help me figure out what is fair to charge?

  • I am just getting into it . I’ve been a realtor for almost 14 years and i’ve always hated the photos. I’m into blogs and designing my own web site and recognize the value of a good quality shots.

    I’m going out on a limb and being in the shoes of real estate agent I’m going to shoot and charge a good dollar and bill the client only if the home sells. Submit a bill to the real estate company so they will pay when it closes.

    I figure it’s the only way.

  • @Paul,
    I’ve heard others suggest this payment scheme but I’ve never heard of anyone actually using it. My concern about this approach is that it makes collecting more difficult. It puts the burden of tracking sales an verifying that people are paying on the photographer. There are just too may agents out there that will “forget about it”. Accounts receivable are tough enough without a huge delay. There are homes in our market that don’t sell for 400+ days!

    I would never recommend anyone defer payment until closing.

  • […] the discussion of the post this week on the subject of What to charge as a real estate photographer some readers requested that I do a poll on what real estate photographers make. As usual the poll […]

  • Paul,

    That comes across as a marketing model of desperation.

    And it’s not the only way.

  • Wow Paul

    Thats very brave and I might add a little foolhardy. You will be chasing sellers who move interstate/inter country and as has been mentioned properties that they may have vacated several months after the photoshoot–how are you going to collect money.In my experience the only way is to bill the agent and give them a 15 day account is they are unknown to you and perhaps 30 days if a regular client

    I think to work out what to charge you need to prepare a spreadsheet–how much will your overheads be? How much do you want to earn a year? Work backwards with an estimation of how many jobs you predict to do

    Regards

  • I will mull this over. Perhaps it will be harder to collect once the agent’s listing expires. In my market – sales are usually 30-90 days but what if it slows down? Good point!

  • I hear all of you, and I understand your various approaches with regard to compensation. It would be nice if there was a standard and adequate cost that all agents understood and assume when contracting a photographer. I find more effort (hours) in post-processing than the actual shoot. Tweaking a digital image can be time consuming and it is usally a tedious excersize that most agents dont recognize as being a valuable part of the process. Also, agents dont realize the investment in camera equipment.

    The problem I see is technology. I’m not a professional, but with the equipment I own, I can make a damn good shot. In many cases, I can make a shot that ranks with many shots I’ve seen “the pros” make. It depends on the circumstances. The difference is: the pros have 3-4 times the investment in their equipment as I do.

    Photo Technology has advanced in the last few years, and now, it doesn’t take near the skill-level and knowledge as it used to. This is why many agents believe they can take their own photos. If they have enough knowledge to get their photos from their camera to the internet, then it seems all to easy to them, and the quality of point-and-shoot cameras is far beyond those of just a few years ago. Why spend the money when its a DIY project for most agents?

    Todays photographers need to dive into the 21st century and take the next step. Virtual tours, 360 degree views, HD video, etc. Build your own website and offer those technologies at a premium price. It is no longer a technology that can rely on a still frame film camera. It is an ever-changing technology. Most agents believe that they can create still frame images. But virtual tours, 360 degree views, and HD video is well beyong their comprehension.

    So bite the bullet, and learn.

  • Hi Larry,
    You mention photography pricing in Salem and Seattle, and I was wondered if you had any experience with the Portland market. I’ve been in the Portland real estate photography business for over a year now, and am wondering if I’ve been charging too little. Nobody here lists any of their rates on their websites.

    Cheers

  • I use a different strategy.

    I actually visit the house and shoot for free – so that there is no risk for the home owner or the real estate agent – , and post miniatures on a secured Internet page, then people can purchase the pics by paypal, then are re-directed to another page with the full size TIFF pics…

    I usually charge the home owner, and not the real estate, and I give a commission back to the real estate guy. Why is that ?

    Because i know now about 40 different real estate companies, and all the sellers can talk about me to all their new customers as they may make some extra bucks eventhough the house is not sold yet. Not much money of course, but that pays for their lunch that day they visit the customer.

    Real estate agents are also interested as they will use these pics on their advertising, so it is a good deal for them.

    I target only 1 million dollars + houses so that I do not waste time convincing the owners. They already know.

    I charge zero if the home owner does not like my pics, 100 dollars if the home owner only purchases one picture, and 220 dollars if the home owner purchases 5 pictures.

    I can turn the pics into postcards, or into a nice 3 feet frame on demand.

    Also, think about new condos builders. They need brillant shots for their advertising, and they know that a good shot is worth lots of money.

    Only my 2 cents.

    Phil

  • Phil,
    I like the aspect of selling to homeowners because they always want great photography. The only tricky part of your approach is that it seams you would have to do more mass advertising (less focused than if you are selling to agents where you can get a list of names easily).

    On what scale do you have this approach working? I.e. how many shoots a month?

    What area of the country are you working in?

    How do you find homeowners that are ready to buy?

    Others have tried selling directly to homeowners with mixed success. It seems to work best in AU.

    Send me an e-mail at larry @ lohrman.com, I’d like to understand more about how your business model is working.

  • I know revenue generating and price points are very important but out of curiosity, in terms of expenses, where do most of you see your expenses going towards? Aside from the obvious of buying equipment, is it required that Real Estate Photographers have insurance or licenses? If so, what kind and any recommendations?

  • I recently started doing property photos. I charge $50 per house that is within 10 minute radius/my city. Anything over 20 minute drive I charge mileage. I spend 30 minutes taking photos. I already know what are the good angles to shoot and what lighting will look like. It seems like little, but when you think about it you’re getting paid $50 bucks an hour. I once shot 3 houses in one afternoon that took me 90 minutes, plus 10 minutes drive in between, plus 10 to edit if needed. I shoot in raw. I email or post then in my gallery by mac. That’s $150 in 1 day for 3 houses. I shoot maximum 50 photos per house. Condos are half of that but I still charge 1x $50 fee/ house.

  • @kat- I seriously doubt you are recovering your costs of doing business if you are charging $50/shoot. I don’t believe 10 min editing per shoot is realistic. I’d like to see your work… the blog address you gave has nothing there.

  • @ Kat — those are preposterously optimistic numbers. It will take 5 minutes minimum just to download your images from the card. 50 images edited in 10 minutes is 12 seconds per image. That’s pure fantasy.
    Also missing is any accounting for overhead. Camera, computer, internet, vehicle — the loss of any of those puts you out of business. Can your model cover replacement? What about the time you spend booking shoots? Billing your clients? Depositing the checks?

    If you’re spending 30 minutes shooting, and doing essentially zero post, then you’re really not doing anything your clients couldn’t do with a point-and-shoot. You’ll find yourself being replaced by a professional photographer pretty quickly, unless you get realistic.

  • After reading all the comments I decided I put in my 2 cents. I’ve been shooting properties for 5 years and I understand what many of you have said. The typical real estate agent is basically cheap. This is because the typical agent has little if any business experience and do not understand marketing. Agents are given zero business training. Few are incorporated and most work for a brokerage that take 50% or more of their commission checks. Many agents use real estate as a part time job to earn a little extra money or for something to do. Given this reality they spend as little money as possible and the vast majority take their own photos.

    If you want to make money in this business you need to go where the money is. Target the top producers. A top producing agent will list 50 or more houses a year and will pay you for your services. All you need is 5 or 6 top agents and shoot exclusively for them. You’ll stay busy and make $75 to $100 per hour or more.

    If you are just starting out you will need to get some experience and some jobs under your belt before you can market your services to a top producer. My suggestion is to print up a flyer and business cards and leave them at as many brokerages as you can. Advertise on your flyer a cheap price for 6 to 10 photos. By cheap I mean $29 to $49 dollars. Your goal is not to make a lot of money initially. Your initial goal is to get a lot of clients, the money will follow.

    My market area is Washington DC , Northern Virginia, East, North & Southern Maryland. Travel consumes most of my production time. I shoot most homes in 30 minutes or less but I may spend an hour or more traveling to and from a job. Post processing in Photoshop takes up to an hour. Because of the total time involved I only shoot 2 properties a day, 10 or 12 a week.

    The market rate in my area is $99.00 per job. I charge $79.00 per job ( this price is ultra low, I make up the difference with add-ons, flyers-brochures,uploading to mls,etc) and give superior service. My business philosophy is to create loyal customers by offering lower prices and superior service. I spend zero dollars on marketing. My clients market for me through word of mouth.

    Finally, I noticed some of you are shooting up to 50 photos per house. The maximum amount of photos I shoot is 35 and this is usually for homes priced over $400,000.00. Everything else I keep between 5 and 25. Realistically a the average house can be showcased with 12 to 15 well composed and well exposed photos. The less time you spend in post production the more money you make.

  • Kat, where are you located and what is your market like?

  • Hello Every one, I do agree with Paul and his theory about 95%. But question is HOW TO FIND THOSE 5% Realtors?

  • Re. Scott’s comments, around $50 per shoot, before expenses, is apparently what a lot of photographers are making working for the major national “virtual tour” companies which now seem to dominate the mainstream pfre market in many areas. I have to wonder whether a lot of these photographers simply do not account for their expenses the way a full-time, serious professional photographer would. Perhaps they are mainly hobbyist photographers looking to make some money on the side. Or, perhaps the present economy has forced them to suffer a loss just to stay in business and try to develop it through the tough times. Perhaps others who are just starting out view what they are doing as a kind of paid internship. I am sure Scott know’s a lot more about this than I do, but there seems to be an awful lot of pfre being done these days at rates which are unsustainable for normal business purposes; and I think it bears remembering that a great many real-estate photographers who are now well-established and are actually making a living from their photography, achieved this success, or were on their way to achieving it, before the hard times hit.

    So, since Kat is an independent and doesn’t have to share her fee with the likes of Obeo and TourFactory, why doesn’t she price herself competitively with these companies and thereby generate more income for herself? My feeling is that the major VT providers have by now established such strong brand identities that many realtors feel compelled to use them, and would only be tempted away from them by a very large price difference. And I don’t think the higher-quality-for-a-higher-price argument carries any weight with the vast majority of realtors who are using the mass market pfre services. Good enough is good enough for most of them; and anyway, by now these companies are name brands which homeowners have come to recognize, so all a realtor has to do is tell a prospect “I will market your home with a Brand XX virtual tour, which everyone recognizes as industry standard, so you can be assured that this end of the marketing is taken care of.” Where the major VT companies have come to dominate, there are only two choices in my opinion: be ultracheap, or ultra-high quality and expensive.

    By the way, in the San Francisco Bay Area at least, I have lately been seeing photo quality in some Obeo tours that rivals the best to be found in the pfre forums. Perhaps some of these photos were by independent photographers hired directly by the realtors, who then just used these photos with an Obeo VT template; but I believe at least some of what I have seen is by Obeo’s own photographers. I don’t know, perhaps Obeo has been cutting some exceptional deals with some higher end photographers in order upgrade its image, but I rather doubt it.

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