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What Should You Charge For Real Estate Photography?

February 23rd, 2012

Everyone starting out in real estate photography wants to know, “what should I charge for real estate photography in my geographic location?” There isn’t a simple answer that works everywhere. Over the years I’ve done several posts that address real estate photography pricing from several different angles but recently while talking to someone about pricing I realized that I’ve but never summarized a complete pricing process. So here is my attempt at doing that:

  1. Determine your cost to show up: This is basically figuring out your expenses and distributing those expenses over the number of estimated shoot you do in a year. Take care that you are including all your expenses in your pricing estimates. Here’s a post on determining your cost to show up.
  2. Determine what your time is worth:  The US dept of labor statistics says the average hourly rate in the US has been about $23 per hour for several years so it’s not unreasonable to be in this range.
  3. Determine the average time you spend on a shoot: You’ve got to include driving time, shooting time and time spent on post-processing and delivery. Your total time is likely to be about 3 hours.
  4. Compute your ideal shoot price: Your shoot price is equal to your cost to show up plus your time charge. Ideal here means to cover all of your expenses and make a decent per hour wage.
  5. Research your local service market: This step is just a verification you are in the right ballpark. Compare your ideal shoot price to what other service people charge in your area. Other service people in your area are doing similar services to real estate photography in your area and have been in business for a long time. For example, routine furnace people have to show up, and spend slightly less time than you will spend doing a shoot so compare there charges to your ideal shoot price. So your shoot price shouldn’t be less than the furnace maintenance guy! Here’s a post on this kind of research I did several years ago.
  6. Research your competition: Check out what other real estate photographers in your area charge and compare your quality to theirs. Researching pricing can be difficult because not all real estate photographers list their prices on their web site. Find others in your area by checking the PFRE real estate photographer directory.  There’s a tendency to do nothing but pay attention to what the competition is charging. The fact is far too many beginning real estate photographers don’t charge enough to cover their cost to show up and their time.
  7. Determine your competitive shoot price: Be aware that the photographer with the lowest shoot price is not always the “winner”. The problem with the real estate photography business is there are a lot of folks out there that haven’t gone through the process in #1 through #6 above. They are in the business part time to just make a few extra bucks and so they tend to not include all their expenses like you need to to stay in business for the long haul. So if you just lower your price to their’s you are going to be sucked into taking a big cut in what you are being paid for your time or if you go too far you won’t even cover your expenses. Don’t try to compete just on price!

One thing you need to understand is that a low price doesn’t always get you more business. I have seen several cases where when photographers RAISED their price they got more business because the became more attractive to upper-end agents. Here are two specific cases:

Both Peggy and Robert have raised their prices over the last year or so and are doing much better as a result.

Update Feb 29, 2012: My goal in this post was to review ALL the factors you should consider in doing your pricing. I realize there is geographic variation in pricing. But what I run into time and time again in talking to people that charge $60 per shoot or $75 or $99 per shoot is they are only considering what others are charging. Many times they don’t even know what they are making per shoot or what they make per hour. My whole motivation here is to help people take care of themselves! It tears me up when I run across someone getting $36/shoot from a large national company with no milage and is supplying their own equipment. I think the first step in looking out for yourself is being independent and the next step is doing the 7 analysis steps above.

 

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84 Responses to “What Should You Charge For Real Estate Photography?”

  • There seems to be a lot left out of these posts. Everyone keeps talking about a flat rate for a shoot, or “I charge $100 a shoot”, but no one has talked about what they are doing after the shoot. Are you comment posters using HDR photography, in which case retouching is mandatory and is often a longer process than the shoot itself, or are you just taking a single shot of each room in which case exposures are never that great and windows are blown out? Also, how many shots per shoot? Don’t you break it down a bit? More shots equals more time and more work. Hand retouching in photoshop (most HDR compostiing software sucks unless you know what you’re doing and have a good eye for what looks natural) is a labor intensive process and, to me, is the majority of the work in these type of jobs.

  • Just to give you guys a laugh. I did some PFRE for a short time. The experienced I gained was great and I ended up transitioning to web design but I realized that this quote was very true.

    “Doing a good job around here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit; you get a warm feeling, but nobody notices.”

    Here’s an email I got from one of the top producing agents in our area:

    Hi Dan,
    Would you be interested in doing photos again for me? I can’t pay more than 30.00 per house and if I do virtual tour 40.00. Let me know please.

  • A friend of mine and her father own an Appraisal Company in Middlesex NJ. She recently asked me if I would take the pictures they need of homes. So far she has sent me around Middlesex County and Somerset County. I live in Middlesex County. She pays me $25 for a job. If she sends me on 3 or more jobs a day then she will pay me for gas which is an extra $25. If she send me to take comp pictures she only pays me $25 and that could be for 5-6 houses and over a 1/2 hour or more away from my home. Today for example, she is only paying me for comp pics. I drove from my home all the way to Somerset County to take pics of 5 homes, so that’s only $25. Then she sent me to Middlesex County to take more comp pics of another 5 homes, so that’s only $25. The whole trip took me 2 hours and 45 minutes. My question is am I getting screwed? Should I be getting more money? Should I get gas money each time? I use my own car, my own camera and my laptop.

  • @Danielle – 86% of PFRE readers that are real estate photographers charge $100 or over per shoot. See the third poll from the bottom on the PFRE poll page. The primary reason such a large percentage of RE photographers charge $100 or over is that if you take the time to add up what it costs to show up a any given property shoot the photo and then spend any time in post and delivering the photos you’ll probably find you are hardly making any money at all. Do the math. To look out for yourself in the business world you need to be able to track and estimate your expenses and figure out what doing the work is costing you and then building your costs into your price… don’t let someone else set the price.

  • 3% Commission of a $400,000= $12,000 x2(if you list and sold)=$24,000.

    So what’s wrong with .1% fee?

  • @Manny- First of all it is extremely rare to get both the listing and selling side of the commission, secondly 90% of agents you meet do just a handful of transactions a year and have substantial expenses that need to be covered. There is no way you could run a business in real estate photography by charging a commission based on price of the property.

  • Photographers talk so often about how difficult it is for others to understand exactly what we do and the amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes and I feel the same can be said for Agents.

  • […] What should you charge? […]

  • I’ve been a professional photographer since the early 60’s and can tell you this topic has been on the minds of photographers for far longer than I’ve been around.

    Having started as a photojournalist, I switched to advertising as the magazines began to cut costs, starting with photographers. It didn’t take me long to figure out that expenses alone were a subject that needed close monitoring, let alone my time, and in response to the comment earlier, yes, I spent many years on my education, an tens of thousands of dollars as well.

    As the years passed, I discovered that many photographers had no real grip on what their costs were, let alone any feeling for what their time was worth. When I transitioned into RE, I found that agents don’t have any idea of what the value of their time is either, let alone someone else’s.

    Get real, people, cars now cost well over 20K, and you’re donating that and all your equipment, your knowledge and experience and much more. Working for $100 to $200 per shoot just doesn’t cut it, and you’re losing your shirts.

    Keep up the dialog, we’ll all gain from the realization that our abililties are worth far more than most are getting, and the additional respect you will garner can’t be priced.

  • Larry, I just red your ideas and advices and all the comments and reactions from others.
    According to a Realtor who also has a real estate law degree, above subject is a dangerous subject and lawyers can make it their business, because it might leads to price fixing.
    I am not a lawyer and do not know if he is right, but I just want to give you and evrybody else a hint what that person had told me.

    In person, I have learned a lot from all the writing.

  • I live in Houston, one of the hottest real estat areas in the country, if not the world. The number of ‘run and gun’ low quality RE Photographers has increased substantially over the last year and a half. At least once a week I am told by a realtor that my prices are too high. I’d like the group’s opinion. I use social media for quite a bit of my advertising. Should I try to justify my prices online? For example, should I mention during my advertising why I charge more for what I do and the services I provide?

  • I’m shocked at how little people are charging for property photos. I’m assuming you all must be using cheap equipment and not doing HDR, etc? The least I’ll shoot a house for (high end market overall) is $400 for a small condo, $500 for a house, and $800 for a house with light staging. And I’m undercutting my competition by 1/2 or more on price. I suppose I’m doing a higher quality job than others here who are charging $100 or so, but I don’t see how you can justify prices like that. Of course, it costs more to live where I do (mountain town) than a lot of other places, but nevertheless, with a $6k DC flash setup, a $3k two light studio strobe kit (use on big homes sometimes) and several other smaller strobes and wireless transmitters, I must have $13k in lighting equipment. And then there’s my Nikon D3, D800, tilt/shift and other lenses (about $20k or more in camera gear), and the Mac Pro, monitors, website, etc etc… How the hell can anyone be doing this for so little? Add my time to process HDR and strobe shots, and well… it’s a LOT of expense. Not to mention car, food, gas, etc.

    I transitioned into professional architectural photography in the past year (from part time, shooting for realtor, architect and builder friends), and my aim is to be publishing my work in magazines like architectural digest and others. The only reason I’m pricing things cheaply at the moment is to get more business from realtors in order to bulk up my high end portfolio. With that done, I expect to be charging $2k-$4k per shoot, or shooting inexpensively and selling to high end magazines (this happens with architecture firms and magazines, where the mags will basically foot the bill). I’m curious, though, what the other people in the upper echelon are charging? I know photogs who shoot for snowmobile manufacturers who make $300k a year just doing those sorts of things. I’m not fully apprised of what true high calibre professionals are making in real estate (via various avenues – builders, architects, magazines, commercial, hardware makers, and realtors), so if any of you are reading, I’d be curious to hear your input…

  • Sam, you’re living in a fantasy world. Everyone else lives and shoots in the world of budget shooters. Your $400 for a small condo? In most markets photogs get $99. And you’re charging half of your competition? All your fancy equipment wouldn’t mean squat to brokers in any other town. Sorry, your post reminds me of what photogs might have said 8 years ago before everyone, I mean everyone, owned a camera or an iPhone and could take pics “decent” enough for the average broker to be thrilled with paying $59 for 15 shots.

  • Hi guys, I`m kinda new in RE (and in photography in general), was wondering – how do you proceed with the copyrights? I guess as you are taking the picture you retain the copyrights, but then – do you offer (or not) copyright transfer (at the appropriate price of course)?
    Do you ask for property releases in order to license the images to magazines, agencies etc.? In case you haven`t obtained property releases, do you still use the images for extra benefits, like uploading on micro or macro agencies, as some of them wouldn`t care of releases or would be still able to sell them with editorial licenses? Can you use the images for self-promotional purposes, do you make an agreement on how you could possibly use the images further(written on paper and signed?) with the contractor every time you are hired?
    I could use some light in here, thank you in advance :]

  • @photurist- I have many posts on this subject. Just search for “copyright” in the search box at the upper left of the blog or use this link: http://photographyforrealestate.net/?s=copyright

  • Hello all,
    I consider myself as a amateur photographer with a artsy eye that loves a challenging angle shot. As far as presentation from the start it is in the eye of the camera to draw a interest to a buyer.
    I would target myself to a upscale housing primarily and forget the haggling once your repution has been proven and established.
    So paint with the camera and bring it to life like a piece of art!
    And don’t forget have fun!

    Charlie

  • Hi Guys,

    I am a part-time agent at Memorial Houston Real Estate. I just bought a Canon 650D to start off real estate photography as well. This article has been a good read for me as I am a newbie in this. I love to shoot houses and the texture and edges of the house. So I decided to put my passion into work.

    I will be visiting more often to this blog!

    Cheers!

  • Dear PFRE,

    I am an experienced magazine photographer here in the St.Louis Area. On the side, I take BPO Pics for an Agent for $10 a house, $15 a house outside the county. Let me know; am I getting the short end of the stick?

    I would really like to know how much the industry standard pay rate is for taking Broker Pricing Opinion Pictures.

    This money doesn’t ad up and I think I’m getting Mad
    – Johnny B

  • I think as a rule you should be charging more than your highest competitor and spend your time over marketing your value. If you are as good as that competitor.

    If not, charge what your worth.

  • Apparently comments here are screened and scensored.Pretty sad…..

  • @John – I try hard to keep comment screening to a minimum, but I’ve found over 7 years of doing this if I don’t screen comments the discussion on controversial subjects like pricing can get out of hand very quickly. My general guidelines are that I don’t allow personal attacks, and I allow much more “in-your-face” comments if the commenter supplies a URL for their personal website so everyone can see that persons work, prices etc. The idea is if you want to remain anonymous I let you get by with less. And further, if you don’t agree with my screening, I’m happy to discuss it with you. I’ve been known to change my mind.

  • Pricing has always been a struggle for me. Thanks for the article!

  • Larry,the reason for not putting a URL in is because I started a business in this field that I think is different from what others do and until I have a good client base I do not want others to get the same idea.
    That’s another part of protecting your business rather than protecting your pricing.I think pricing is related to your area,the competition and what you offer. Many photographers do real estate on the side. Then it’s much easier to ask $300 for a shoot against someone who only does real estate in an area with lots of competition. Again,when you start out and need to put bread on the table you are prepared to sell your soul to the devil. Once you become a household name you can up your prices. It works like that around the world….

  • This has been very helpful to read all these posts. After much research and time in tjis business of photography, I feel comfortable that my rates are in the middle of the.going rate. I set
    all my commercial rates the same. RE, food and
    product photography is $200 hr with a 2 hr minimum.
    After taking into consideration the time I have learned this
    trade, Cost of my equipment, travel and mileage, time of photograph y
    Almost more importantly, time dedicated to post editing and
    delivery, its a gift to clients when these images sell their products well!
    Too many times prospectiive clients try
    To devalue my service or ask me to lower my rate. Those are not the clients
    I wish to have. Plumbers, engineers, dentist s arent asked to reduce their rate for their trade.
    I dont either.

  • I am in CA and like the idea of %
    of home listing price.sounds great!
    As well as a referral discount for next listing.
    I also give 30 photos to the agent

  • Just wondering if anyone is willing to share what their payment terms are? Upon receipt? 10 days? 30 days? Thanks!!

  • @Jake, As both a long time Realtor and real estate photographer, I highly recommend you collect payment either at the shoot or when you deliver the photos. Real estate agents are notoriously difficult to collect from… many are just barely getting by. A very popular technique for collecting payment is Squareup.com which allows you to take credit cards on your smart phone… See: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2011/11/16/are-you-taking-credit-card-payments-for-shoots-on-site/ and a payment on delivery system is described at: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2012/07/22/paymenttab-com-a-way-to-get-paid-when-your-client-downloads-photos/

  • Wow! Thank you all. I’m the new kid on the block, and all your feeds absolutely grabbed my attention. Specially, last but not least, Lani’s post. He’s sooo right. After all, a car mechanic’s rate in Chicago approaches $125. per hour for labor alone. Union laborers here earn about $40 per hour. These are very limited skill sets, so why are photographers treated so shabbily? After all, we’re educated, skilled and spend tons on cameras, computers, software, etc.

    gotta run,
    Jack

  • @Jack, how photographers are treated has less to do with how educated they are and more to do with how educated our clients are…

  • As of today, I just sent notice out to some of my clients as to the raise in my pricing. Hope it goes over well. Not the the price raise is outlandish.

  • Hi guys, I´m from europe and like to read those price discussions. I´m very suprised how little you charge on a professional real estate photogrpahy (talking about houses more than 800.000€) ?
    100-150€ (or $) per final photo should be the MINIMUM!
    How can you survive if you sell your work for just a few bucks?
    We have to tell and show our customers, that they get something special. Something that has its price. Sell the Quality, sell your professionalism…
    Most of my customers did not hasitate to hire me….For me the first contact is the most important part. If you get a professional look, get a high end presentation folder, talk a little bit about your technique and spend talking what the customers will get and how he can profit, it should be okay….. get the deal for a good price.

    I only make business if I can close the door at the end of a day and leave the room with a smile…but for 30-70 bucks per hour… this cannot be okay.

    (can I say bucks… ? sorry my english is not perfect…. 🙂 )

  • Really enjoy this site! Thanks all.

  • These are some good comments, back and forth about how you should price your shoots. I start charging at $100 per shoot (Flat Fee). If I have to travel outside of my stated area, I charge for that as well. One of my clients is a builder and I occasionally travel 45 minutes to an hour, which I charge $150 per house. Keep in mind these are empty homes. I generally will look at price and SQFT of a house as well and then go off of the $100 Flat fee. If I am shooting a $500,000-$1,000,000 home or even higher, I will charge accordingly.
    Keep in mind, where you live has a a lot to do with you pricing your shoots. I get the whole “price what your worth” thing, but you can price reasonably and agents are usually very loyal to their photographers, at lest that is what I have found. I would rather $150-$200 and shoot 10-20 homes a week, than try and price $500+ and have no success. So you need to find out what others are changing for your area. If someone is charging $75, start at $100-$125. If you shoot homes and they like the final product, you’re in and your name will get tossed around to other agents.

    ….Again, depends on your area.

  • EKP Rate Chart

    0-1500 $ 75
    1501-2500 $100
    2501-3500 $125
    3501-4500 $150
    4501-5500 $175
    5501-6500 $200
    6501-7500 $225
    7501-8500 $250
    8501-9500 $275
    This is my second year in business as a real estate photographer… As of the end of June I photographed my 500th property I photograph a property every two hours and take as many as five in one day… I do HDR photography using light room efuse… My editing takes about 20 minutes per property…. I do sky replacements and fill in TV screens with black and a gradient…
    I will be raising my prices as soon as I get the amount of clients that I would like and I am too busy to handle all the work…. My goal is a minimum of $100 per property and then five cents per square foot over 2,000 sq ft… My goal is $10k per month… $500 per day 5 days per week… $2.5k per week x 52 weeks $130k…

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