August 23rd, 2016
There are beginning real estate photographers that don’t know what the lower limit is for what they can work for. $99/shoot may make sense in rural Iowa but it may not make sense for New York or Southern California.
Over the years I’ve talked to photographers are doing shoots for $30, $50 and $99. The cases where the photographers were making $30 and $50 a shoot were for large nationwide companies. So they didn’t have marketing expenses or post-processing expenses but still, everyone should keep track of their expenses and do the arithmetic or they could actually be losing money.
Beware there are nationwide companies that will try to contact real estate photographers to shoot for them for prices that the photographer makes little or nothing. My experience suggests that there is not enough profit margin in real estate photography to allow a national company to be making money on a shoot AND the photographer doing the shooting is making a decent wage. Real estate photography works the best when the photographer gets all the proceeds from the shoot.
An essential part of being in business (for yourself or as a contract photographer for a company) is understanding what it’s your expenses are. That is, you’ve got a bunch of fixed costs that are the same no matter how many shoots you do. Costs like:
- Car payments, maintenance and insurance costs for the vehicle you use to go to shoots.
- Marketing costs: Your portfolio website and money you spend on marketing clients.
- Taxes: State and local taxes, federal taxes
- Business insurance that covers your equipment and liability insurance that covers you if you inadvertently break some homeowners priceless artwork.
- Health Insurance: Yea, this is a cost of showing up, in the old day’s employers used to pay for this but most don’t anymore. It’s up to you nowadays.
- Computer hardware costs: you are going to have to replace it every three or four years.
- Computer software costs: you are going to upgrade Lightroom and Photoshop.
- Personal development costs – this is training costs for publications and workshops that keep you current and help you improve your craft.
I don’t claim that this an exhaustive list, you may have more or less. These are just typical examples of expenses that are applicable for most real estate photographers.
My point is any business person needs to carefully track ALL their expenses and understand what they have to do to break even and make money. At first, of course, you won’t make money but understand what you need to do to make money.