Comparison of Your Photos to Typical Real Estate Photos

February 29th, 2012

Last weekend Lance Hames at HomeSnappers.com in the Dallas, TX area signed up for the PFRE real estate photographers directory. When people sign up for the directory I like to check out their site. I enjoy seeing what people are up to in various parts of the world an how they are marketing themselves.

I noticed that Lance’s site has a particularly effective Typical vs Pro page that illustrates the difference between typical real estate photos and professional real estate photos (his photos). I’ve seen a lot of attempts at illustrating the difference between typical real estate listing photos and professional real estate photos but Lance’s page is one of the best illustrations I’ve seen. The comparison is striking and the mouse over approach is a great approach to showing the difference. Lance wanted to make sure that I give Mike Kelley credit for the  javascript code that makes the mouse-over effect work. I see that Mike uses this same approach to illustrate standard single exposure shots compared to his approach to lighting and processing. Very effective!

The main thing I wanted to point out was the effectiveness of showing potential clients the difference between what others do and the results you provide. This of course, works best if the comparison shows two different approaches to shooting the same room. A few of these shots can really drive home visually the importance of your approach and the results that clients get by hiring you. This approach could be used on a webpage like Lance and Mike havs done and in a client presentation.

33 Responses to “Comparison of Your Photos to Typical Real Estate Photos”

  • Maybe no additional light but definitely some HDR

  • @Russ

    Yessir, realistic HDR is what we specialize in.

    @Everyone

    Bring on the comments on my prices, I am more than happy to let you know why they are where they are :)

  • Just a note, the typical vs pro sample did not work on the iPad.
    After all the discussions on PFRE about pricing, your pricing seems low. I will bite…why so low? How many hours do you spend on 30 photos shooting and processing to delivery?

  • @Stephen

    The bug on iOS is that you cannot click a single image repeatedly to toggle back and forth, you must click on a different image to have the previous revert back; looking into solving this though.

    Here in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex the industry is changing. I am not alone in offering what I am, and I am not the cheapest either. There are about 6-7 companies in the DFW area offering services simliar to ours, and they all are slightly cheaper or slightly more expensive. All of the cats only shooting for $300+ are seeing their business slowly dwindle. We are in an age where real estate advertising is turning almost purely online, and at least in our area, real estate photography is becoming more and more the norm (thankfully). This ushers in a very large amount of Realtors looking for professional photographers, we have about 25,000 registered agents in the metroplex. When they see others in their office getting 90% of the quality for 30% of the price they, unless extreme, EXTREME relationships have been built, will no longer pay $250-300 for 15 photographs. Professional real estate photographers only used to be brought in when the margins were much higher on higher end properties where the photos would be used in publications, and various other print media. Now-a-days the typical use is strictly online, and the average listing price that we shoot for is $140K.

    I will be honest, I wish I could charge $300, make the money I am now, have the client appreciate the perfect white balance, verticals, lack of any distortion, and color accuracy, but the fact of the matter is that untrained eyes very rarely see these things. I have conducted multiple tests on multiple subjects, and the preferences were completely split down the middle and the price difference was never even mentioned (quality was the only factor tested).

    I am not trying to steal your million dollar listing shoots, your clientele, or put you out of business. I am simply targeting a previously unreached market. So for all of those claiming that I, and others like me, ‘are ruining the industry’, we’re growing it. There is more pressure on you to push the quality of your work than ever before, yes, but I believe there will ALWAYS, in every market be individuals willing to pay heavy premiums for the absolute best; you’re jobs are not going anywhere if you accept it and adapt. Change your sales pitch, marketing, experiment with trying new things to streamline your workflow, you can still make good money even with teams like us here.

    Love us or hate us, but at the end of the day we have mouths to feed just like you do, and right now this is getting the job done.

    PS. I have our system down to 45 minutes on the job, and all post processing and virtual tour work is 20-30 minutes max per 25 photos.

  • Which HDR software do you use?
    Your photos are very nice and what is very important to me… very realistic. What I use, it takes my Mac about 30 minutes just process 25 photos and then probably 30-45 minutes to work on them, create gallery, etc.
    Also, do you take 3, 5, 7, 9 images for the HDR and I can only guess that you work with RAW images???
    Thanks for your help.

  • I just looked at your site and noticed your 360° Interactive Virtual Tours and… surprisingly liked them (I normally can’t stand 360° panoramas).
    How do you shot those and which system do you use for viewing them?
    Thanks,

  • How much do you pay the photographer to shoot and produce the tour? Thank you.

  • Great comparisons! I’d like to know more about your HDR process as well. Please share if you don’t mind. The photos look very realistic.

  • “…right now this is getting the job done.” The key words there are “right now”. Your business model (or lack of) is not sustainable, but your effect of destroying the value of professional photography for your future and that of everyone else is permanent.

  • Funny, I just made a video blog yesterday on “how to select a real estate agent” and the main ideas was the quality of pictures. Watch this video here: http://youtu.be/a-9tGTWdNsY

  • I agree with Michelle, and as you said Lance, the “untrained eye” rarely notices the differences in what we bring to the table. What this does is open the door for hacks to enter the market…your market, charge ridiculously low prices, and offer poor quality. The “untrained eyes” will hire these people over you and the rest of us out here. What you’ve done beautifully on your site is show the “untrained eyes” the difference between accepted real estate photography and quality real estate photography. Kudos to you for that. But, then it’s importance is diminished by the price.

  • @Charlie. Nice job. I was just working on my Spring marketing and trying to articulate to agents the importance quality photos. Quality photos is a reflection of marketing efforts and branding.

  • Well done! I will refer my prospects, clients and associates to your page.

  • @Michelle

    I very much disagree with you. I have been operating this way for about a year now with very solid results. And as I said, there will always be a place for high end professional photographers. No longer will unskilled real estate photographers find work, but those who push their skill to the limit on a daily limit will always have a well paying career. People like Scott Hargis and Mike Kelley be not be out of a job anytime in the foreseeable future. They are individuals who are constantly striving to push their craft to the next level, and people are willing to pay a pretty penny for that. I think everyone who strives to have that sort of business model should strive to push out the work that these guys do. I would love to see some of work and website though, shoot me a link!

    @Charlie

    Awesome job on the video!

    @Mark

    Please see my comment above to Michelle, and I seem to be confused; on your website your prices are nearly identical to mine..?

    @Rochelle

    Thanks! That would be awesome!

    @EVERYONE

    Have a blessed day :)

  • the cost of living in TX must be really low – 35 photos for 125.00.

    great website and some great images

  • Sure it might cost less to live in TX than location B, but I think it’s hard to compare all of our price points to one another because nobody knows the situation of your peers/competition. To have a successful business, you have to know all of your expenses like Larry preaches, and Larry even offers documents to help you out. The issue comes in when we have no idea what the background of Company X is. Are they a business with 10 photographers, and all of the photographers are in college and they are fine with a $40 payout per home? $60 coming back to the owner simply for making a phone call to a photographer is quite a nice amount. We never know the living situations of our peers either. Do you live in house where you have a mortgage that costs more than a one bedroom apartment, and you have to maintain your home with costs someone in an apartment wouldn’t have to pay? Are you retired and you simply don’t have anything to do, and don’t have a care in the world and therefore this is just your morning McDonalds coffee money?

    It’s so difficult comparing prices between companies. Those of us paying for mortgages, paying for car maintenance, paying for retirement/401k, paying for health insurance, we see those all as costs that we need to cover and we need to make enough in our business to successfully fulfill those needs. A lower pricing structure, therefore, is simply out of the question. However you can’t let a low cost provider get in your way. There are LOADS of realtors out there that need our services, and your value and service should support your price point and successfully land you clients.

    I received a call from a client yesterday who was using what I call the Wal-Marts of RE Photography… the companies that have a bazillion photographers in the area, charge nothing for photos, and the results amongst their photographers vary so much that it’s uncomfortable to look at knowing they are paying for a product that isn’t consistent. She called them wanting a specific product but they refused to do it. So what did she do? She set out to Google and gave me a ring and I now have a project scheduled with her. So don’t let someone that’s lower than you distract from your own goals. Differentiate yourself and find the clients that appreciate your service and product and you’ll be just fine.

  • I just visit your site and no doubt only good professional photographer can take such photo. I too love to take photos but your photos are awesome!.

  • Lance – Congratulations! I looked at your website and was impressed. Keep up the good work. As far as your pricing goes…..if you are earning a decent living and still have the time for quality home/family life, who am I or anybody else to question your pricing. I am just now trying to break into this business and you have me re-thinking my pricing. Again, congratulations on a great image.

  • you hit right on the target with this one. If you show some facts then they’ll have no arguments.

  • Charging less is the EASY way out. It just “trains” people to think that professional photography can be had at bargain prices and is photography prostitution.

  • @Lance, I completely understand your outlook on the Dallas market. I have all but quit shooting for agents and moved on to other commercial photography ventures because of the price drops. However, the biggest problem with our market IS that outlook. As you well know its a backstabbing fight to the bottom around here because of the price cutting. If everyone who has the talent you do stuck to their guns/pricing, we could keep this market viable. There will always be the bottom feeders shooting for agents who have never had a listing above $200k, but there is no reason ANY agent here with million dollar listings should expect lots of photos and a tour for under $250, much less the $125-ish range. If I had a dollar for everyone of my former RE agent clients that forwarded me an email from another RE photographer asking to match prices etc, I would have more money than actual RE photography made me! I even succumbed to it and tried some “introductory specials” and other gimmicks to get more business. All it did was drive my whole price base down even further and set my future business up to expect MUCH more for less. I just walked away from aggressively marketing it to just taking what came without effort. And your observation is correct – eventually my phone quit ringing with RE work because I wouldnt budge on pricing or freebies. I cant say I am heartbroken over it.

    I dont mind an honest days work whatsoever, but I see no reason to have to take all the business risks of being self employed and providing gear + talent, yet still have to work a 60+ hour week, driving to multiple locations a day, to make the median income for our state. I can get a 9-5 with health insurance and little to no risk other than getting caught snagging a free lunch out of the breakroom fridge for $40k a year.

    Good luck, and if you can make that work here in Dallas, I am happy for you. I just dont see it ending well based on my years of shooting RE here.

  • Russ – Is what your talking about price fixing? Anybody can charge what they want. Its up to you to sell your product and if your price point is higher – so be it. Everyone has a different situation, skill-set when editing. Not all of us have the latest cameras, computers, software …Therefore we don’t have to charge what others dictate, but what fits our situation.

  • These comments are too funny….

    “Charging less is the EASY way out. It just “trains” people to think that professional photography can be had at bargain prices and is photography prostitution.” – Nicholas Allen (charges $155 for 20 images and a CD)

    “…when , as a professional group, do we stand up for this amazing profession and charge accordingly?” – Russ Tresoor (charges $150 for 15 images)

    “…the “untrained eye” rarely notices the differences in what we bring to the table. What this does is open the door for hacks to enter the market…your market, charge ridiculously low prices, and offer poor quality.” – Mark Miranda (charges $110 for a still image virtual tour of a 3,000sq ft house)

    Sheesh people. Call the kettle black much? If you’re so worried about this “industry” maybe it’s time to sac up and raise your own prices instead of lecturing someone else on their’s…..

  • @Lance You say “I am not trying to steal…. your clientele, or put you out of business.” Yet you admit “When they see others in their office getting 90% of the quality for 30% of the price they, unless extreme, EXTREME relationships have been built, will no longer pay $250-300 for 15 photographs.”

    @Jason, Ditto! I have done the same because I refuse to destroy the value of professional photography, and have no desire to be a bottom feeding robot churning out mass produced RE pictures.

    @LULZ, Calling the kettle black??? When they are only able to get $150 for 15 pictures, but that is still 2 or 3 times the $40 to $75 the others are charging? Your statements actually help illustrate the issue.

  • I would be interested in what SUCCESSFUL real estate photographers are charging. “Successful” meaning working full time, making over $100K a year. I feel many people on this board, although they have loft goals (but not for real estate work), are the ones that are constantly crying about lack of business, etc.

    The vast majority of agents will not pay super high prices for real estate photography. They’re NOT pixel peepers.They can’t see the difference between someone who spends 1 hour shooting or 3 hours shooting. They can’t see the difference, and they won’t PAY the difference. Architectural, magazine shoots are a different ballgame, but in the real estate agent world, you have to match your product and services with the price the majority will be willing to pay.

    If you’re catering to that very small percentage who will pay $300++ for a shoot for a house, you’re probably not going to be working often. At least most photogs in most markets. Of course their are exceptions, but they ARE exceptions.

  • The amount of ability needed to perform the job of taking pictures of a home is minimal.

    Break down what a fair wage would be in a real world scenario. It takes no college degree, no specified training. All one has to do is go buy the equipment, spend a little time getting to know how to use it, get a business license and website and then you declare yourself a real estate photographer. The amount of money some of you think you should charge isn’t realistic. What other job out there where you can say I should make x amount because that’s what I should make.

    The thought that you should look at what a service person charges and go from there doesn’t work. Did these people just go to the hardware store, get a truck, and say “I’m a plumber!” No. They received special training, passes examination, then where granted a license.

    My wife is a RN nurse with 9 years experience making around $25 per hour. She paid for 4 years of college and two years on nursing school for the job she has.

    We all want to make more. To suggest that others are less than because they charge less of to preach that you should make a set amount doesn’t work. People that are new to the job market without college degrees or trade school training do not make anything near $30 /hr. My guess this would be closer to $12 – $13 per hour. To call people bottom feeders’ for charging $75 for a shoot, and editing is ridiculous. Say the amount of time is three hours. That’s $25 per hour. The same as my experienced wife makes with college degrees. Yes there are other expenses to be considered, but this is far better than making $12 -$13 per hour.

    Charging a realistic amount will get you more work. I know there have been examples of photogs who’ve raised their prices and had some success. How are they as salespeople and people themselves. I bet their likable and organized. Agents realize the amount of effort to do our job (for the most part) is minimal. They want the best price for pictures that look good. They don’t have the means or time (to wait) to pay for Architectural Digest level work. They want good pictures and immediately. If you can shoot a picture and it loaded automatically to their computer that is what they want.

    Bottom line: You’ve chosen an occupation that requires little skill, a small investment in equipment, and a smaller investment in education. Agents see this. It is then your job to sell yourself and convince those that you should get more premium wages. They want a easy to work with relationship. Your not going to form a relationship without selling them on a realistic price for your services. Then you can feel out what you can charge. Shooting two homes a day for $75.00 each is $39,000 per year. Pretty good compared to those need with a similar education requirement make $13 per hour (if even that much). $13 x 40 x 52 = $27,040. Yes, you want insurance and retirement. So do these people. The so called “bottom feeders” are seemingly charging a realistic price per the skills their offering. To declare that as Real Estate Photographers we should charge x amount and passing that message on to newbies will break newbies back and doom them to failure. You need to make a realistic decision for yourself about the costs involved in your life and what is important to you. Then you need to look at the world around you and decide if you deserve to make hundreds per photo shoot. Check out http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274021.htm.

    Be a salesperson, then a photographer.

  • Russ – Sorry if I touched a nerve my friend. All I’m saying is when you start out and look to form relationships to make a viable business, you need to price accordingly. When you’ve mastered your craft and mastered relationships, then you can demand a more reasonable price. Newbies in mind.

    And no, I think Mark Zuckerberg ripped off the idea for Facebook. I think he shows that if you cheat and steal you can get ahead.

  • Again I think all of you have missed the point !! What happened when the Big stores came into business and Killed all the little Photolabs off !!
    These lttle labs worked hard for years they understood the industry and the photographers. Im afraid thats life I was told by an accountant.
    If you have the price at a point where another can make a $ by selling himself for less then that will happen not because he may or may not be any better either !! Price my no means reflect the quality of the job just how much profit they make each year.
    Sorry guys but I could do a job in the morning for half price yes I will pay the bills but cant afford a new camera this year, you may find lots of self employed in the same boat as well,

  • I can’t resist pointing out the fact that if an agent sells my lowly home they get over $3000 for marketing it, and the photos are a very important part of the marketing. Homeowners should expect their agent to give them high-quality marketing for the fee they pay (note I said ‘should’ not ‘do’).

    As for the education questions, inspections are $75 and appraisals aren’t $75 and title work isn’t $75 and none of that requires a college degree or a huge level of education either. Becoming a real estate agent doesn’t require a college degree or a huge time investment either :) I could become a paralegal in 12 weeks and start out $15/hr and be to $25 in several years…no college required. So the argument that anyone can start and there is no education required, doesn’t necessarily resonate with me.

    I think educating the homeowners to demand/expect quality photography as part of the listing is just as important as educating the agent. The agent wants to maximize profit (like us :), the homeowner wants the house to sell!

  • This is an interesting discussion. Especially for me, since I found this site because I saw so many bad photos of homes for sale in my city, that I got it into my head that I could make a “quick” buck charging a low fee to take better pictures. Now I know there is much more to this than I thought. I will say this though, as I freelance writer I can tell you similar conversations have been raging between writers for a long time; with most siding with the “charge for the quality of your work and time crowd.” As a person that has been in sales most of my life, when I started writing freelance, I felt these writers suffered from being great at their craft, but not realizing that if you’re doing it to make money, marketing is more important. One thing I love about Lance’s site is that it is functional and set up to be a marketing tool, whereas all the RE photographers in my city, their websites are not good at all. BUT their photo’s are amazing. Which reminded me of fellow freelance writers that could write, but not sell, and felt strongly about not selling to the lowest bidder. Any market is made up of two levels; those that will pay high rates for quality or for marketing that gives the illusion of great quality, and those that will not pay high prices no matter what. There is a market for photographers that want to sell to these people. If anyone thinks that is wrong, all that happens is the people in that category, take their own pictures. But they are not going to all of a sudden pay $300 just because all the photographers in town start charging higher rates. Besides, why should a newbie like me get paid the rate that you make? The cook at Micky-Dee’s does not make what the chefs in a 5 star restaurant make. I wouldn’t even feel right charging someone the same rate that a seasoned photographer makes.

  • Jarvik — BRAVO!

  • Homesnappers.com seems to be down, but I did find an interesting before/after gallery on Mike Kelley’s site which uses the javascript rollover technique: http://mpkelley.com/beforeafter/

  • they’ve done a top job at proving the value they provide on this website. good work there!

    cheers Grant

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