September 6th, 2016
A Los Angeles area real estate photographer asked the following:
I’ve been photographing real estate for three years now, supplementing with a part-time office job. I’d say my rates are average for the Los Angeles area (starting price of $200 for 10-15 images with estimated 60-90 minutes on set, and $50 for each 5 additional images), and that the quality I deliver is commensurate with rates a little higher than what I currently charge. I’m using the method of multiple hand-blended flash and ambient frames and have begun brushing in color corrections and placing dark gray gradients on TV screens when necessary, so I spend a lot of time in post (up to 5+ hours for 30 images). Of course, I can’t currently afford to lose the clients that are used to that price point, so I’ve retained that as I strive to get more busy.
Recently, I developed a business relationship with an agent who concentrates mainly on the high-end market, but gives the best of marketing efforts even to properties in the low price range. He prefers to manually approve all compositions on my iPad and there’s a lot of styling involved for each shot. As an example, for a recent 15-image shoot, I spent 3 hours on site. This agent is willing to pay for the additional time involved, and we both feel that what I billed him was fair, but I’d like to figure out a pricing formula or method that allows both myself and my clients to predict with some accuracy what the final price would be including additional time on site. I’m also not sure how to best have that conversation with new agent clients who inquire about my work—some will want me in and out as quickly as possible, but I know there are other agents out there like this one, and while I don’t want to turn down new business from agents with a tighter budget, or scare away those wanting higher-end work by quoting an unrealistically low number. I believe Scott Hargis once said in the forums that you should shoot the kind of photos you want, so that you will attract the kind of clients who appreciate those photos (paraphrased, of course). But right now I feel stuck in between price tiers, so to speak.
Here is my advice:
- I’ve looked at your work and it looks upper-end to me.
- Your price has to take into account how long you spending on-site per image and how long you are spending doing post processing. I agree with Scott – do the kind of work you like to do, and you’ll attract the clients that appreciate that level of work.
- You could easily charge an extra fixed fee when the client is onsite reviewing and giving you input on each image to make sure your extra time on site is covered. This would make your shoot price predictable for both agents that want to give you onsite input and those that don’t.
I’m sure others will have ideas as well.