A Real Estate Photographer Start-Up Success Story

May 8th, 2011

Just recently Robert Barr, a relatively new real estate photographer, that works on the Eastside of Seattle told me that, “my business is doing GREAT!  I had 4 gigs so far this week and may have one more before the week is over.  I am officially making more money now then I was at my previous job.” Robert is charging $189 per shoot.

Robert’s deceleration of success was particularly significant because back in November of 2010 when I first talked to Robert, he was still working for a big name national tour provider and getting getting $30 for 2 to 3 hours work when shooting 15 photo and getting no compensation for travel costs. Robert graduated from University of Washington with a BFA degree in 2009 and was working at starting his own real estate photography business and charging $99 per shoot. He gave a bunch of reasons for picking $99 for a shoot price one of which was that, “it was a lot more than he been getting working for the national tour provider”.

I gave Robert my “Cost of Showing Up” lecture and encouraged Robert to charge in the $165-$250 range. I felt fairly confident in my advice to Robert because I know the real estate market and real estate photography business on Seattle’s Eastside pretty intimately having spent 10 years in the Issaquah John L Scott office with my wife Levi and helped several other real estate photographers get started on the Eastside.

I’m glad I challenged his initial $99 shoot price. Robert recounts some of his experiences building his business as follows:

“I’ve wanted to be a photographer for about 7 years. 1-2 years of that was just figuring out what type of photographer I was going to be. Then the rest of that time was spent working on improving my skills to the point I am at now. I think my main goal started with being the guy who shoots for magazines like better homes and gardens. That sort of morphed in to this Real Estate Stuff.

It was not till I had my BFA in summer of 2009 did I really try to start the business. I started first with Robert Barr Photography. I found that marketing my own name was to hard though. Rejection was too personal when they are turning down YOUR name. It was not till September of last year that I decided to make the LLC and market myself that way. I started it in October and now I am just starting to worry about how many clients i can take on and how much work everyday I can accomplish. The speed at which the company name has grown is astounding.

Funny thing I have had clients offer to pay me more. One client wanted to do the selection of the photographs. I usually edit it down to 15 for them but he wanted to see them all and pick. He offered to pay me more money for this “Privilege” as he called it. I can’t believe people are charging $50 a shoot. How is the quality of work for some of those people? Frankly sometimes I find some people that can’t increase the price because they just don’t have the skills. Even at $99 a tour I would have told you charging $50 a tour is suicide…. very, very slow suicide.”

Great to hear your real estate photography business is doing so well! I hope that sharing your success and insights here will help others to achieve similar success.

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4 Responses to “A Real Estate Photographer Start-Up Success Story”

  • Good job Robert. It’s nice to hear more success stories. I did notice an issue on Roberts web site though that he may not be aware of. When I looked at his gallery page, the pictures that are being displayed are zoomed in on the upper left corner of the original picture. The thumbnails along the bottom of the page look normal though. I recently had another member of this site point out a couple of flaws with my own site and was very grateful so I wanted to pass it on. Keep up the good work Robert.

  • Congratulations on your success Robert! All those years of preparation are paying off. Sometimes all it takes is a step of faith. Keep up the good work.

  • @larry thanks for the kind words. That conversation we had when I was first starting the pricing structure of my current LLC was very helpful. For anyone starting I found the hardest part was getting to a point where you feel confident talking about your business and everything YOU have to offer. Charge what you need to charge to feel comfortable in life, don’t starve yourself. You have to get to a point where you can look anyone in the eye and explain to them why you are worth what you are charging. I noticed once I could do that it was smooth sailing.

    Also even thought I just started I am still thinking of ways to reinvent myself and what I am doing. It is my goal in life as a photographer to take what I have learned and continue to build and evolve on top of that ever growing foundation.

    Thanks for the tip Mark I will have to look into it. I actually net to update the site and redo some of the sections. It never ends LOL.

    Good luck to everyone out there.

  • I took on real estate photography fairly recently as a hopefully more productive direction for my professional photography. Going from advice here, I worked out prices based on real expenses and hours spent on the job. A client now tells me my prices are so enormous they will not use me again.
    Here are examples of the enormous prices: Approx 6000sq ft, near 30 photos including carefully layered ones to show a huge front window from inside in proper exposure with outside view, some shots of the surrounding acreage, listed just under $1million,my charges about $220. Second property was close to the same sq. ft. but included all furnished rooms and 100 acres with “out buildings”, pond, etc, mountain views. It is listed at $2.5 million. I charged using the same method and that came to about $350. There were 54 photos, shot raw and nicely edited.

    I know I am beginning to learn to work with the agencies and to set better terms up front than when I first started.I did start a bit dumbly considering I knew better. Still, I do not believe the above charges were out of line and I may be just as well off without that sort of client. They had not hired professional work previously.

    So..where do I stand? Overpriced? Lay it on me as you must! Considering the time, I needed all that was charged to meet expenses and plan a reasonable labor value. The client was given base pricing to begin and told how time on the actual job would dictate the final price, which would be obviously more than base prices for 14 photos and 2500 sq. ft properties.

    Yikes..this is a tough time to start up a new business direction but I do want this one to succeed. I like doing the work and see potential in it.

    BYW: Finding this website is a blessing indeed.

    Tom.

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