The Arithmetic Of Real Estate Photography Pricing

June 10th, 2012

I’ve talked about this before but it’s super important so it is useful to keeping coming at the subject from different angles. It’s clear a lot of folks don’t understand this. Back in Feb I did a high level discussion of all the pricing factors you should consider. Here I want to look closer at making sure your shoot price is recovering all your costs of being in business.

First of all your shoot price has several components:

  • Your fixed costs: These are all fixed costs of being in business. It’s called fixed because it doesn’t depend on how many shoots you do a year. Fixed costs are things like your gear, replacing your gear periodically, Insurance, your vehicle, your computer and software etc.
  • Your variable costs: These are the costs like gas and vehicle maintenance. They are called variable because the more shoots you do the bigger this cost is.
  • Your profit: Not much explanation needed here. You probably want to look at this from the point of view of how many hours you are putting into a shoot on the average so you know what you are getting paid per hour so you can compare it to what you may get doing something else.

So with this terminology here is the arithmetic:

Shoot price = (Fixed costs)/(average shoots per year) + Variable cost per shoot + Shoot Profit

In real estate photography the variable costs and profit are easy to understand. Everybody understands gas and oil costs. The fixed costs are where everyone seems to have difficulty and people get confused! If you are running a sustainable business (one that will support yourself and your family with over a time frame of years) you have to recover all your fixed costs of being in business or over time you will actually loose money and perhaps you’d better find a different job. When I calculate (Fixed costs)/(average shoots per year) + Variable cost per shoot for me personally the number comes out to $60.86. In past posts and in my Business of Real Estate Photography eBook I call this the cost of showing up because that’s pretty much what it is, your cost to show up at the property before you start doing anything.

When I see some one with a shoot price near what it just costs me to just show up at a property, it sets off alarms in my head. Sure there are variations in cost of living but I live in Salem, OR and even though it’s the capital of OR it’s a pretty rural, backward little town and the cost of living here is literally half of what it is in Seattle where I’ve spent most of my life. I now go out of my way to talk to real estate photographers who have what appear to me to be crazy low prices. Here are the situations I always find:

  1. They are not recovering all their fixed costs. The don’t include costs like gear replacement every 3 or 4 years or vehicle replacement or professional insurance etc. This means that the longer they stay in business the bigger an economic hole they are getting into. So being in business is actually hurting them economically in the long run.
  2. They are for, various reasons, not including all or any of the fixed costs of doing business. So they are behaving like they have low or no fixed costs. Reasons I hear are things like a) their spouse has a real job and is paying all the fixed costs, b) they are retired and don’t have to include all their fixed costs or c) they have another real job and are only doing real estate photography part time and don’t have to recover all the costs. In these cases they are picking up some extra money and are able to make their phone ring by just keeping their price unrealistically low.

Even though #2 is not hurting the photographers that do it is hurting all the other full time real estate photographers in their local market both now and in the future. They are effectively breaking the local real estate photography market because a) they are competing with unrealistic fixed costs and b) they are establishing unrealistic price expectations in their market. Sometimes you can spot photographers that are engaging in item 2 above because their quality is low, but not always. Once a few photographers using low prices like to make a few easy bucks it doesn’t take long before it becomes difficult or impossible for a full time real estate photographer to recover all their costs in this broken market.

 

33 Responses to “The Arithmetic Of Real Estate Photography Pricing”

  • As a former attorney who had some familiarity with antitrust law, I wonder whether anyone here has ever considered the antitrust implications of potential competitors discussing price as openly as they do here.

    Back in the day I would have sternly warned any client not to participate in the discussion that’s likely to ensue on this post.

  • How sad that it may be necessary to think how Joe points out.

    No one on here is plotting to rip anyone off, just to make a reasonable living and to cover costs.

  • I wonder if discussing the minimum wage rate is considered an antitrust violation. Just kidding, but really this is sort of like discussing the minimum wage of real estate photography, don’t you think?

  • While reading the article, I was thinking the same thing. Though there has been no discussion on what this group of photographers must or should charge, it is getting very close to the issue. Being a real estate broker for many years, I am aware of the potential risks involved with such discussions, but not being a lawyer, I will not give legal advice.

    Much like new real estate agents, those getting into the business of real estate photography either don’t understand the true cost of showing up to a shoot, or they don’t care because they consider it a hobby for the reasons pointed out in #2. I would suspect that those in this category don’t, in the long run, hurt those who depend on this business for a living because, a) typically, their quality of work cannot match the professional, b) they won’t last unless there is another source of income feeding this money pit and it will become work at some point causing them to eventually give up, and/or c) their volume of work is low because they are developing their skills and don’t have the client base. Top producing real estate brokers continue to thrive in a sea of new agents who cut their fees to obtain listing because the true professional produces results the new guy can’t match.

  • We can talk all we want about how to run a successful business and how to cover our cost. We should never discuss all of us having a minimum price per shoot, such as $60.
    On the other hand, I don’t see how the DOJ could prosecute unless there was 2 or more of us in the same town charging the same minimum per shoot. That’s just my opinion, since I’m not an attorney I’ll have to defer to Joe.

  • Ian and Peggy, as an employee, I can discuss all day how I don’t get paid enough. As an owner of a business, it’s not a good idea to suggest to other business owners in my field of work that we all charge any particular rate. Price fixing is what Joe is alluding to and it’s against federal law. Did I mention I’m not a lawyer and am not giving legal advice?

  • He’s not saying we need to charge $xx amount of dollars for a shoot, what is being discussed is to be realistic about what it costs you to be in business and charge accordingly. The numbers shared are what his costs are for doing business and only serve as an example. Many people don’t consider all the costs they are incurring in setting a price. They are undervaluing the market and essentially destroying the industry because they have the time and the funds to purchase a camera. It takes so much more than that, and they have no idea how expensive it is to be in business for themselves.

    I see this as a discussion to open their eyes to see they aren’t making a little cash on the side like they think they are, but that they are actually paying people to hire them as a photographer, not getting paid to do work. I don’t see this as price fixing or violating anti-trust laws. If we can’t have an open discussion as to what all the variables exist in operating a business no wonder kids come out of college with a degree in business or photography or whatever and don’t have a clue as how to run a business – profitably.

  • I worked hard in this post to NOT talk about what a shoot prices should be like I did for some earlier posts where I talked about a specific number… that was a bad idea and I deleted those posts. There’s no where here I talk about a specific shoot price…the $60 is my estimated cost to show up not a shoot price. I believe that all I’m talking about here is to be careful to recover your expenses and not about establishing a minimum shoot price.

  • All of you are wrong and Larry is correct. This discussion is an educational discussion to help those photographers who do not understand how to price out the cost of doing business – that is opening the door and walking out to do a shoot. Any and all forums and professional associations are there to help members, readers and participants improve themselves through education and shared experiences. If you follow PPA or ASMP – the two biggest professional organizations in photography, you will note that they devote thousands in resources in teaching photographers how to run a business – not how to shoot, but what is involved in the cost of doing business. Yes, the ultimate goal may be to raise the prices you are charging for personal satisfaction and gain, but the overriding goal and direction is to teach people who have no experience in project management, in budgeting and in other aspects of running a business the skills to be successful – ie. stay in business and sustain yourself for years. When Larry estimates $60 to walk into the shooting location – that is not price fixing but a fact of life – no different than saying it takes $850 to wake up every day in your home due to mortgage, insurance, electricity, etc. From that point everyone can then create a budget and see where they can save money in the case of maintaining a home – i.e. landscape yourself or hire a landscaper. The same is true for what Larry is saying. It takes $60 to accept a job. Now, from there – you Mr./Ms photographer decide how much money you would like to earn today or in the future.
    It was in Larry’s previous posts that I took on some photographers to mentor in learning how to budget and raise prices -not to fix prices but to earn a decent living in their market. Today, those photographers are earning more than I am. One of them however, earns more and charges very little – we worked around what he needed to charge to get business and what he needed to earn. In his case, he has to do many shoots a day and a week and stays up to 2:00am posting. We are not in the process of learning about not raising prices, but rather getting help with the little daily things to free up time. So, once again – it is not about Price Fixing – but How can I run my business profitably. How can I be in business for myself and sustain myself. How can I fund my family’s lifestyle. Good luck out there and don’t be afraid to price yourself at what you are worth.

  • Can you imagine trying to price fix in this business? Just the idea of coming up with a unified pricing scheme given different techniques, experience, markets, locales, etc… is laughable and likely impossible.

    Thanks Larry for this article on business expenses. :)

  • Larry, I have been following your post for well over a year and have gained a wealth of information and education from it. I truely appreciate your input and those who also provide comment (good and bad). Wanting to get into the business one of the hardest decisions has been what to charge for my services. This post and your other post on this subject have shed light on the many factors needed so I don’t fail before I get started. I also understand by charging an unrealistic low price not only hurts fellow photographers it creates an uphill challange to bring my prices up to cover my cost after I relize all my true cost of doing business. Thanks to you and all that submit to this site for all your input and education.

  • acusing Larry of price fixing is ridiculous. This article is more like an advice or a business tip that every RE photographer should follow if wants to be successeful.
    But this is interesting because I don’t known how it is in USA but in many places the comission of the agents is quite fixed by many if not all. And even that is not considered price fixing.

  • Thanks Pedro Silva! I couldn’t agree more: this discussion is truly ridiculous and doesn’t belong here.

  • Nothing personal, Joe, as I don’t know you or anything about you beyond what you’ve written here, but I am VERY skeptical about “former attorney” status, and what is happening here is so far from the concerns of antitrust legislation that it’s laughable to try to equate the two. The discussion is about doing an adequate analysis (“due diligence”) of your expenses in order to stay in business and not undermine your current or future self or others by virtue of your own ignorance about the costs of doing business.

    The opposite includes anti-competitive behavior including offering your product or service at a price below the cost of doing business. Doing so forces others out of the market because they don’t have deep enough pockets to keep up for very long (nor should they want to).

    THAT is antitrust, or at least one example of the concerns involved in that complex matter. What Larry is doing here is so completely the opposite that it undermines the credibility you attempted to assert through mention of a job title which you, for no reason you chose to share, no longer hold.

    It’s a matter of integrity toward your market, which includes other photographers and clients. Running others out of business isn’t good business. Running yourself or others out of business (with the exception of those who offer terrible quality and/or service by doing a better job yourself) isn’t good for your clients.

    I would assert that attempting to dissuade people from having such important discussions about price and sustainability and integrity is the very nature of anti-competitive behavior, and would be a much greater concern to the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

    Seriously, get real. Discussing the lowest realistic price at which someone can do business (or an example of a price so low it is not even possible to sustain a legal business and living wage) isn’t anti-competitive; it is the very core of healthy competition. Ignoring such wisdom would result in eliminating yourself from the competitive field, unless you are able to do so long enough to eliminate others.

  • By the way, for the sake of anyone looking to understand sustainable business practices, the true cost of doing business, etc. I HIGHLY recommend “The Goal”, “It’s Not Luck”, and basically anything else by Eliyahu Goldratt (sometimes credited as Eli Goldratt). He’s an Israeli Physicist who applied the scientific method to business, and his books are almost all in the form of easy to digest (and relate to) novels. In the 30 years since The Goal was written it has become required reading for nearly every business course in any university, and countless corporations as well.

  • actually this whole thing is not even just about the PRICE. it’s also about the service provided. Just imagine someone with a point and shoot with no experience or knowlage doing some RE photography work and charging 100$ because it’s a supposed fixed lower limit with someone that have lot’s of experience does HDR, 360º, homestaging, aerial photography etc etc that also charges 100$. doesn’t make sense. it’s also about the service and quality of the work

    this specific areas like photography are like art and are very abstract and can’t be analysed just buy fixed numbers. It’s not like you are hiring someone to fix a washing machine or something that the process, service and results are always the same.

    That’s why I always insist that prices shouldn’t be fixed but very variable according to the service offered. Of course with a lower limit in price but also in quality.

  • While I appreciate the continued education on sustainable business practices & pricing, I do get tired of hearing the chant “you are hurting the industry” / “breaking the market”.

    Put simply — no, they are not. They are changing the market. Maybe to your detriment. Many people complain when big box stores come in to a small town — but they still do. It’s the reality, and we have to deal with it.

    The market changed when camera companies introduced digital cameras.
    It changed again when we started getting digital SLRs.
    Its changing more now that phones have pretty decent cameras on them & advanced features.
    It keeps changing as educational resources, training, and videos become cheaper & easier to obtain.

    As the technology gets better/cheaper and the training becomes more available, we’re going to continue to see amateurs or under-priced professionals join the market. Business education for them is admirable, but if your business depends winning on price alone, you will lose. There will always be someone cheaper — someone with a supportive spouse, additional income, or just poor business practices that will be gone in a year or two (only to be replaced by some other poor schmuck).

    Build your business on something other than price differentiation, and now you are talking.

    (Full disclosure: I am building a RE photog business, and I am NOT the lowest-price photographer in my area.)

  • @David- I think what you are talking about is different. You are talking about lowering prices by getting more efficient. That is indeed going on in real estate photography. That is what the big box stores like Walmart are doing. They are reducing their overhead and becoming more efficient.

    What I’m talking about here specifically is a photographer that’s charging $45-$75 per real estate shoot, doing a handful of shoots a week and when I asked him about what overhead costs he was including. He said, “zero”, his wedding photography business was covering his costs. I think this is different than becoming more efficient.

  • Larry, your comment above reminds me of a chat I had a while back
    I understand exactly what you mean in regards to the underpriced competition showing up that has some kind of spousal subsidy or something, and a complete disregard for their costs. It seems that there is an almost overwhelming number of portrait and wedding photographers out there these days, and several of them have tried to put their fingers into the real estate pie; at least, this is how things are in my area. The point of interest is that it has so far been unsuccessful for them because I built my system around a database template, which brings me to the same point I keep harping on in these forums. In Canada at least, a great buffer against competition is to establish a local area listing site that works as a supplement to MLS. We have found it to be a great way (after a couple of years) to discourage competition in the area as our system has become popular enough at the local level that homeowners are requesting placement on it, which we control access to. So even if a part time wedding photographer with so called ‘zero’ operating cost wants to undercut our pricing, which has happened, our clients prefer our service and all of the peripheral benefits in addition to the images that come with it. We designed it this way to be a bit of a safety net. In addition, the local area site allows for advertising revenue, which will ideally cover your fixed costs. I’m always biased toward the local area site, but the point you make is well taken no matter what kind of service you provide.

  • Fully agree with what Larry said. “Business 101″ is developing a business plan of which fixed costs is a component, likewise is market analysis including competitve pricing survey. That is the reason you develop a business plan with a statement of cash flows and for initial investment and drawdown and projected profitability on paper ultimately determining the go-nogo for the business. I think I just described my entire MBA program in two sentences. To describe market analysis – which is far beyond the scope of the original post – as anti-trust issue is absurd and to a large extent, self serving business development for lawyers.

    Have similar on the real estate side where people talk about commission and if you mention a specific percentage in a public area, some clueless loudmouth that likes to hear themself speak starts blabbering about price fixing,anti-trust, etc. Worse, the public latches onto it and you are always on the defensive about commissions. I am about to create a video that takes it head-on, and some brokers I have spoken with have cautioned me not to say x%, which I didn’t intend to anyway. Rather, the storyline is going to take a different twist. Note that “how much is your commission?” is the wrong question to ask. Abolish th word ‘commission’ and call it what it is ‘seller’s marketing expense’ and risk free when assumed by the Realtor. That leads to the better question – “what am I getting for my marketing dollars.” I’ll let you know when I get it done.

  • I would love to hear how Suzanne “mentors” people on how to price their product and do business. I recall in previous blogs, Suzanne being one of the people saying that you MUST charge at least xxxx. If I am not mistaken, are you not just 1/2 of your partnership Suzanne? Now…..I would guess that whatever YOU charge would need to be more or less split no? I fail to understand how you can give ANY advice to people who are fully capable of shooting AND processing all on their own? If I charge $80 (or whatever) for a product, you would need to AT LEAST charge 2x that just to make what I make (as an individual). The point being that each business model is different and Suzanne has no idea what you should be charging in your area or for your particular workflow.

    Next we will have Suzanne trying to tell us what we should be charging for video…something she has ZERO idea about.

    Its great to see that Larry has stopped the “YOU MUST CHARGE THIS” crap, but in all honesty if you are listening to anyone in these blogs advice without doing your own research for your OWN AREA…you will fail.

    If I took the advice a year ago when I started that i should be charging $150 i would be out of business right now in my area (toronto, hamilton and in between)….and that is a 100% fact. If you tried to charge $150 + in this area you would be laughed at. Now that doesnt mean there are not some photographers charging that, but they already hold the 5-10% of agents who would be willing to pay that. I did my research, although I knew alot already from working for a competitor for 7 years, and I priced my services based on the following:

    1. decide of the type of business you plan of doing. Is it the high end stuff? Is it the average house in your area that probably sells in a week? (i chose the average listings). this is very important because if you are targeting the highend stuff and plan of charging more, you are basically deciding up front that you are only going to work with 5-10% of agents willing to pay more. And remember that the 5-10% you will be after is already working with another company and there are probably 3-4 other companies all after that 5-10%.

    2. decided on services that people want and that others are not currently doing. Nobody was doing walkthrough video within 100kms of me and almost nobody was doing HDR (or doing it someone decent)

    3. came up with a workflow and streamlined EVERYTHING, I shoot a full package (photos and video) in 1 hour and edit to the final product including website in 40 mins. For photos and slideshow I shoot in 30 mins, edit to final including website in 20 mins.

    4. only AFTER figuring out my workflow and streamlining it did I decide on pricing. Full package is $199 (for under 2 hours on work) and photos/slideshow is $79 (for about 45 mins of work).

    Right now I am shooting 3-5 full shoots (at least 2 full packages) every day, 5 days a week and I generally put in 6-8 hours a day.

    One think I quickly learned is that you can always raise your prices but if you start our too high you will have a hell of a time trying to convince agent to use you after a price drop. If agents are happy with your work they have no problem with a small price increase ($10-$20).

    I think it was Scott Hargis that said that if you are trying to compete with the big box places like obeo solely on price you will probably fail and that you have to offer more than just a price angle, you need products that set you apart from the competition. In Scotts case he provides photography that is second to none and someone like me wouldnt even be after the kind of client he has because I have no chance.

    The days of charging a set fee just because you call yourself a “professional photographer” are long gone. You need to streamline a workflow and put out a product that agents want at a price that is reasonable and based on your workflow. If you cant get your workflow time down and think you can charge crazy fees you will fail.

    Talking to Larry I commented that I would bet that 60-70% of the people who comment on these price blogs, giving advice are not even making 40k a year…yet they feel they are in a position to give advice on how to run YOUR business? Larry agreed and said I was right and that there is a poll somewhere on this site showing this.

  • By the way, someone to look at as far as business sense in real estate photography/video is Fred Light. I dont think he “mentors” people but he is always quick to give some advice or point you in the right direction, leaving you to actually do the proper research for your local area.

  • @ Ryan,

    How would you know if other companies are doing well? I check out the competition and on average we are shooting 5 videos for every 1 they are. Because of our price point and quick turn around, agents using us are doing video on every listing they do, not just the 1.2 mil listings they get 2-3 times a year. We can shoot and turn around 2-3 video packages in the time most of the competition takes to do one. Again, it all comes down to workflow, if you are spending 2 hours shooting and 1-2 hours editing, by all means you should be charging more! that is just common sense….

    The same applies to photography, there are some photographers spending 1.5 hours on location and another 1 hour editing for a total 2.5 total hours….if you are spending this kind of time you must charge more!

    You need to have constant repeat business to make a living at this. When 20 of your agents/clients are in their slow period, you need to have 20 more that are in their hot period. Speeding up your workflow, allows you to keep your prices lower so you attract 80% of agents…if you overprice you are simply trying to attract business from 5-10% because the other 80% wont even look at you.

    Several of the key agents we work with are doing 2-3 listing per week… and using video for them all.

    Its not rocket science Ryan, my cost per hour is the same as almost all of the competition. I spend just under 2 hours to make $199, they might spend 3 hours to make $300….either way we are making approx $100/hour but I can turn out more per day if I want.

    For someone who seems to know so much about my area, what is your website/company?

  • Jon,

    I spent 5 years at a major Chicago law firm – Jenner & Block. I quit the practice of law in 1979 to go full-time into the home building business. The basics of antitrust law haven’t changed in the interim.

    With all due respect, you’re clueless as to the legal issues involved, and apparently unaware that states also have antitrust laws and attorneys general who are sometimes more aggressive about enforcing them than the feds are able to be with their limited resources.

    Any public discussion of prices among competitors, or in a public forum available to competitors, is fraught with legal risk. I simply wanted everyone here to be aware of the issue.

  • Joe, got any actual precedents you can cite for what you are warning about?

  • @ Chris, you seem very eager to justify your own business model and therein perhaps you are missing the point. It’s not about what we all specifically charge, but rather what it actually takes to stay in business long term. So jumping on Suzanne about having to charge for two people etc, please. I know them both, and I can assure you that they do not belong in your “less than $40K/year group” and neither do I.

    I see, and appreciate, that you are very gungho, assertive, and probably relatively new to actually operating your own business although you’ve worked in the business for several years. There is nothing wrong with that, I’d just like you to consider a couple of points from somebody that have done this pretty sucessfully, and for a VERY long time.

    I read how you can travel to, shoot, travel from, edit and deliver both stills, and video, and a website, all in just under two hours. That’s amazing! I mean – truly amazing.
    But then you say “Several of the key agents WE work with…”. We? Unless you are speaking about yourself in third person, I would venture to guess that you actually have some help perhaps?

    Regardless, if I was able to deliver to my clients what they expect from me in less than two hours (start to finish), I would actually raise my pricing, as I would be able to offer something nobody else possible could compete with! Seriously, if you have that ability, why would you stay in the middle of the pack? Sounds to me like you are the true market leader, and as such you are worth a real premium. It wouldn’t be hard to justify, right? I think you should ask for a serious raise from your clients.

    As for me, I’m so old that I would never be able to get through an entire shoot delivered to anybody in less than two hours. Sad to say, my “workflow” just isn’t that good.

    I chose a whole different approach. I priced myself way up there. My thinking was that, – nobody is going to pay me what I want, unless I ask for it!

    I never really cared what everybody else charged. Funny enough, I still usually shoot 5-6 days a week. Why? Because I like what I do. I rarely shoot more than 1 assignment a day (two at the most) because I want to deliver quality, because it makes me feel good. My clients like what I do, and they don’t mind paying my silly prices. Besides, with my lifestyle…….never mind, you wouldn’t beleive it.

    Bottom line, you can price according to what you think is the market… or, you can price yourself where you want/need to be, and let the market follow you. For almost 40 years that has worked for me, and I firmly believe that it works in any market (I’ve been in serveral over the years) provided that you have the ability to show your clients that you are in fact worth it. That they are getting what they pay for.

    People pay for talent, and service. If they don’t, find the ones that do. Never give away more than you need to….in the long run, you can’t afford it. Charge enough to sustain yourself through tough times. Yeah, it’s been a bit tough over the past few years, but what would happen if your business fell by say anopther 50 percent? Would you still be in business 6 months later? Leaving your “margins” too thin, limits your ability to grow, and seriously handicaps your business’ ability to weather a storm. And, “storms” come on a regular basis, that you can count on.

    I opened my first photography studio in 1977, and it was just as competitive then, and I very quickly learned that I did not want to be in a race towards the bottom, as there are no winners expect for the people that owe you money for the work you do for them. My feeling is, that you can’t afford the clients that aren’t willing to pay you what you are worth.

    my 2 cents

  • Great information and thread Larry. Maybe your blog should have ended like, “shoot, profit?”

  • @ George

    I am a one man operation, when i refer to “we” i more or less mean what My wife and I along with help from my father, who was very successful in business for 30 years before retiring…. decided when the company started over a year ago. Profits are all to me, no partners.

    Also, I totally understand your position and respect that. But, you have built a business over a very long time and gained clients over that time. Things have changed big time for people starting out these days, with the cameras available for photography and video now anyone can self teach (Larry provides much of the training on this site)

    I put you in that category that most of us newcomers wouldnt even compete with, why?….because you have built and earned your client over many years and someone like me would be stupid to thing I could take your client regardless of what I offer. again, when someone started in this industry they need to decide what clients they want to go after to maintain REGULAR business, the chances that your clients will leave you are slim to none.

    I see some regulars on this site that are up in the elite in what they do, Scott Hargis for photography, Brett Clements for video (just as an example, there are many others). Like you they hold a % of their market that a new company starting in this business would be a fool to think they could take away.

  • I’m fairly new to the site so I thought I would add some value…check out this true cost of driving calculator.

    http://commutesolutions.org/external/calc.html

  • I look at the samples on Chris’s site, and they are quite a pleasant offering: clean, consistent editing and lighting.

    I do think the 2 hours per shoot seems unlikely . . . as if driving time isn’t factored in. Even really close-by listings should requires at least 20 minutes RT of driving, since some things like parking and getting in/out of the car still take a few minutes, even for a short drive. Things farther out . . . 45 minutes RT, or even an hour+.

    Then again, really really knowing your workflow goes super-long way in determining how much time anything takes. If you can nail the workflow and technique, then a pricing model will be much more reliable.

  • @Alison

    I set aside certain days of the week for certain areas and book accordingly to reduce drive time…booking 3-5 shoots per day all within that same area. Most of the agents I work with know their areas set day(s) and will book in advance. Of course it doesnt always work out as planned, but for the most part is has.

    My point is if you take 2 companies from my area, mine charging $200 for photos and video…. and someone charging $300 for the same. We both have the same approx drive time to the shoot. I shoot the entire house, photos and video in 1 hour and edit everything to completion in 1 hour, the other company takes 1.5 hours to shoot photos and video and 1.5 hours to edit….we are both at $100 an hour on location.

    I read countless posts in the forum where photographers say they are on location for 2 hours for an average shoot (just photos) and there is editing on top of that…probably 1 hour at least, so 3+ hours total shooting and editing. Of course they must charge substantially more then someone who is in and out in 30 mins and fully edited in 30 mins….1 hour total.

    That of course raises the argument of difference in quality of work. There is no question that “most” of the photographers shooting 2-3 hours are putting out outstanding work that is alot more polished than what I do….but I decided to concentrate on what the average agent in my area would pay regularly for. There is enough work for everybody, the high end photographers have their clients people like me have my clients.

    “High end” agents that pay big bucks regularly for photos (and/or video) make up probably just 5-10% of agents. I decided it would be foolish to try and compete with the photographers who already have these agents as they are generally the photographers with years of experience and provide a certain quality of product I just couldnt match with a a regular workflow. I decided instead to design a workflow that allowed me to put out a product that the other 90-95% of agents would want, and more importantly at a price they would pay regularly.

  • great post here it’s an important factor in real estate photography which in australia is such a competitive industy. I dont think a lot of companies are putting all these factors into consideration when undercutting each other to make the sale. I also believe undercutting prices is the worst pricing strategy to lead to an unprofitable photography business. It leads to bad customers and bad quality photography in general. not a happy business to run.

    cheers

  • Personally I think you’re all blowing this out of proportion and honestly,none of it makes sense to me. I just started a business in real estate photography (and just that) and I do handle fixed prices but offer different packages (more shots,more editing,twilight shots,etc.). It all depends on where you live,how big the area is you want to cover,mpg on your vehicle and if you’re able to pay your bills with it. If you’re good at what you do and are busy most of the days and your prices are reasonable, you will do good and stay in business. If you can’t cut it you may have to start thinking about doing something else. And killing the market by undercutting prices is ridiculous. It’s a dog eat dog world these days (has been for a while in case nobody noticed). I have been a pro tattoo artist for many years in the Netherlands and made a decent living there. Then I moved to the San Antonio area in Texas and oh boy,was it a different game there. People bargaining prices and tons of kitchen table artists who would mess up your whole back for some used Playstation games. It’s just reality. If you have the priviledge to be one of the very few real estate photographers in a very rich and thriving community, consider yourself lucky and sleep good every night. Until there’s a new kid in town…..