Six Things You Can Do To Increase Your Shoot Price

July 17th, 2011

The following post is by Suzanne Feinberg. She and her partner Brad run Powervision360 Productions in the Phoenix area:

This is a very tough market for real estate photography right now, or is it? Some people are claiming great success. One of our vendors is claiming that he has buyers of his products that are doing 80 tours a month (too many for me), but only selling them at $79 per tour plus some add-ons that bring in a lot of extra more profitable income.  Other people claim that no one will buy from them even at $79 per tour or home. We agree, you need to be careful and recover your costs plus earn a fair wage. If your air condition goes down it costs $55-$75 for a trip visit plus parts and labor to fix it.  If your toilet goes out of order – same thing. What can you do to help you get a decent price without spending a whole lot of marketing dollars and valuable time?

Here are six suggestions:

  1. Do a set of theirs vs ours photographs on your website, on your blog, in emails and of course actually printed out for in-person presentations. Show how the average real estate photo looks vs your photo. Note: it’s best to take the “theirs” yourself rather than using someone else’s photos in your marketing piece or on your site.
  2. Find a really bad photograph by one of your lesser priced competitors. Do the same theirs vs ours and be sure to add all the extra services that you include with the price which of course don’t cost you money – i.e. pumping the house on the web, creating a pdf flyer, making a YouTube slide show.
  3. Not finding work? Then become more disciplined in how you spend your day when there is no business. Be sure to do some type of marketing, even if it’s cleaning up your website each day for about 2-3 hours. Also spend at least 2-3 hours on education. Read blogs on techniques (i.e. this blog). Your equipment and software manufacturers have blogs and free webinars. They are there for a reason – they contain great information and tips for improving your skills. Improved skills justify higher pricing. Stay off social networking sites from a point of view of fun talk, rather use the groups that are formed by vendors and the photographic or real estate community to see what is going on. I personally look at all my groups in and at least once a day no matter what, but I don’t participate much unless it is a subject that really requires my input. I don’t twitter, although if I did, I would use twitter to only tweet useful, newsworthy information (Tweeting may work better for you, I just don’t have the time right now).
  4. Practice, practice, practice those new techniques. I’m sure everyone has friends and family who would love to let you try out the newest technique to perfect your skills to earn higher $$$. I don’t know how many times Brad has shot our living room with every new piece of equipment we have bought or technique that we read about.
  5. Pictures of higher priced luxury homes look very appealing to all agents. If they perceive you as a great photographer, they will be willing to pay you more. Their homes may never be priced the way your sample portfolio portrays itself, but you should treat each listing as deserving to be presented as a showcase home.
  6. If you do have the money, then I definitely recommend taking a class from someone you admire. Brad took two classes recently that really bumped up his abilities. Scott Hargis offers books, but he also gives a class in lighting with strobes. Brad recently took this class and immediately put his new knowledge to work. Tim Griffith is a famous Australian architectural photographer who does work worldwide. Brad recently took a class from him on shooting architecture as well at the Palm Springs Photo Festival earlier this year. Again, work created in this class is now in Brad’s portfolio and looks incredible. We plan on uploading it to the website over the next couple of weeks.

These 6 items alone will move you to the next level and have a positive impact on how you do business and what you can do for the agents. There is so much more. I’m thinking of writing a business manual when my time frees up. (LOL)

Remember, its all about self-confidence. If you believe you are worth the money, others will begin to believe in you as well as long as you can back it up with education, equipment, websites and of course your great personality. Our secret weapon is that most people who meet Brad, instantly like him and want to do business with him. We are lucky that Brad has many years of successful corporate national sales in the architectural products field under his belt that gives him the confidence to know that more “NO’s” are required before a “YES” comes in.

Good luck out there and I hope that you are able to use some of these tips to improve your business.

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13 Responses to “Six Things You Can Do To Increase Your Shoot Price”

  • Each are great points, but I think points 1 and 2 may need a little clarification. While I have thought of “theirs vs ours” and other random bad examples, are you not violating copyright laws by reproducing the other photographers photo – even if taken with a cell phone. Worse, it is not for entertainment value but for a marketing piece soliciting business for personal gain which has huge legal ramifications.

    I am actually trying to do that now – but personally taking the “bad” photo that re-creates the actual. I find that to be really hard after training myself to take good photos and minimize post.My intention is to use as suggested in points 1 and 2. Developing a marketing approach after a recent “re-shoot” taking 4 additional photos what the original photographer omitted and the photos submitted were so bad the home owner, with limited photoshop skills, photoshopped to improve before posting on MLS.

    That also gave me an idea for a marketing campaign as that photographer works for a tour company that “protects” territory for the photographer, so all of their tours and photos look crappy. I know, I looked. As a Realtor, I do have the advantage of MLS for very presise searches beyond consumer level stuff like Trulia, Yahoo, etc. Others with MLS access either personally or through a spouse/friend may want to consider this. I loaded the VT field into the search criteria (not one of the default selections.) It doesn’t offer a simple “Yes/No” but broader “Equals/Contains” so I searched for “Contains” http. That brought me a very qualified list of over 200 Realtors that currently use and pay for premium services. Then I ran it again, but “Contains” a portion of the tour company name and had 87 hits.

  • Larry, I completely agree with LarryG on points 1 and 2. I never compare the quality of my work to the lesser quality of others, to me that is bad mouthing a competitor. In my metro area of 2 milliom population, I’d say 99% of the photos are made by the agents and the only reason for that is they want to keep that $175 in their own pocket.

  • That was Tim Griffith, not Griffens, teaching in Palm Springs. He splits his time between the Bay Area and Melbourne. Great photographer.

  • How many photos are you recommending be included for this price?

  • @Amanda- That’s not the biggest part of this issue. It’s important to supply what ever the number of images that your local MLS allows. Some times it’s 15 frequently it’s 25.

  • @LarryG- Yes, I agree with you completely. I would not use someone else’s photos for 1 & 2. I would use a simulated “theirs” of the same room.

  • @Larry – that’s true, and here the maximum number is 30 images (at the moment). If I shoot a condo or small town house, the agent may only want 15 images but I can’t see any of my current clients being willing to pay $189 for 15 images…especially not when they can get the number of shots from the national companies for anywhere between $69 – $115.

  • @Amanda you have to offer a service that is better then the national company. $189 is reasonable if you have the skills to deliver a better customer service experience from a national company. You want to stress that you are looking to build a long term client base that you can provide quality service too. National companies go through photographers. The photographer that shows up one shoot may not be the same the next time. The level of skill is also less at times with national companies because they end up getting newer photographers. You have to provide them with a reason for not wanting to eat at “Mc Real Estate Photographer” company.

    I can’t stress it is about providing a service that goes above and beyond. The agents I know that do well do so because they HELP their customers. Not just find them a home but help them with things like where to find a good contractor, landscaper, or even church. This keeps them realivent to their client database. People don’t look to them just to sell a house they come to them for much more advice. You have to figure out away to offer the same type of HELP to your customers. Figure out a way that is easy for you to help market the property. Get a list of good stagers so you can recommend them to agents. Finds way to make it so that if an agent has a question about photography or marketing they will want to come to you.

    I you can offer them above and beyond the cookie cutter experience that Major Companies and bottom feeders in your Industry you will be able to charge what you want and your clients will be more then pleased to pay for that.

  • Robert- Well said!

  • Oh one thing upon further reading. #5 is imporant but I want to add something to it. You should also have a run of the mill home in your portfolio to prove that it is not just the $3 million dollar house that makes a nice photograph but you have the skills to photograph any type of house. I have had many agents look at my amazing houses I shot on mercer island and go “of course those look great the house is amazing. what can you do with a “normal” house?” Be ready to have some average looking homes to show them that you can make anything look good.

    There is the report out there that talks about how houses under $300 take longer to sell with photographs.(The Redfin one) Some of that might have to do with expectations when they see an amazing HDR Image that makes a house look like a CGI Painting and they get there and see the reality they get disappointed. You have to be able to present the $300k and below houses in a flattering way that is not to over the top or anything. Once you can show them that you can photograph any price rage it opens you up to more shoots. They will not just remember you as the person who does great work with expensive houses. They will see you as the photographer that can handle anything you throw at them.

  • Excellent blog! I agree with you that confidence is the big key in keeping your prices higher. We are higher priced than most of our competitors but almost never hear objections about price.

    One way we have been able to up our price is to charge by the job and not by the picture. There are just so many pictures you can take of a smaller house but having that “unlimited” idea planted. I am the salesman, not the photographer so I got some pushback from my husband Greg, the photographer, when I started selling this way but he stopped questioning when our sales went through the roof.


  • @Paige- Your comment reminds me that to be successful in this business you need to be a salesperson first and a photographer second.

  • While I agree it is important to earn a living wage, I would be cautious about attempting to set a “standard” or “minimum” price at a particular dollar or percentage level. In the RE Industry, we have to worry about sharing that sort of information all of the time due to the Fed’s interest in protecting consumers from price fixing. One professional association I am a member of uses this disclosure for our group discussions:

    “The purpose of this ListServ will be to ask questions about property management, company operations, share a form, comment on software, discuss operations and virtually any other property management item subject to a few rules. Comments posted on this listserv are those of individuals and do not represent the opinions of this association.

    The most important rule is that it is illegal to discuss how much is charged for “any” services. You can not discuss management fees, leasing fees, rental rates, or any other charges/fees as that could lead to a federal Anti-trust investigation and possible violation. Violation of the Sherman Act is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $10 million for corporations, and a fine of up to $350,000 or 3 years imprisonment (or both) for individuals. Not only do you have to be concerned with commission discussions, but also market prices as this association does not set any rates, or fix prices, for services in the industry. This is why this association guards their listserv discussion on the side of caution as we do not want it to be perceived that members are setting fees.

    Also, speaking poorly about another member, profanity, self-promotion, blasting a vendor’s products, or other type of similar based abuse will result in the violator being removed from the ListServ. It is okay to comment or speak to specific technical issues, but keep your statements on target to the product and its operations.”

    I think it would be best to advise or teach someone how to figure out their cost of doing business and the cost of living (COL) so that they can then figure out what to charge. I know the cost of living is different across the country and $150 or $189 may price them out of the market and just may not be necessary for a company to clear a reasonable profit and remain competitive in their own unique market due to an overall lower COL.

    I think the coaching is great idea for folks new to a small business and for photographers to band together to support one another is wonderful.


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