How Many Photographs Do You Deliver To Clients For A Typical Real Estate Shoot?

January 14th, 2015

Jason recently asked the following:

I have a question that may be good for a poll: How many photographs do you deliver to clients for a typical real estate shoot?

In my area, I see many delivery 40 to 50 per which I think is out of control. I’m trying to get a sense of what Realtors want and what they are willing to pay.

I can’t imagine what the point is of supplying 40 to 50 photos for a shoot! I think there are several things that influence the number of photos you deliver:
  1. What the local MLS limits are. My local MLS allows 30 photos. That is still the case in my local MLS. Although I know that some MLS allow any number of photos. Understand what the limits are if any of your local MLS.
  2. Walk through the property at the start of the shoot with the agent and discuss and agree how many and which shots they want. If they want more than 20 charge extra. This way, you are not just shooting to get some number. You are shooting to suit the specific wants of the listing agent.
  3. I’ve shot homes up to about $5Million and I’ve never seen a property that cannot be well presented with 25 photos, although I can understand that some agents may promise the home seller more or want to dazzle sellers with more. But again, if they want more charge extra.
In conclusion, I think 25 photos is a standard number of photos. Anyone that wants more than this should pay extra. What are others experiences in this area?
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64 Responses to “How Many Photographs Do You Deliver To Clients For A Typical Real Estate Shoot?”

  • Dave, I really like your artistic flare. Really. I bet you spend more time than most trying to make them beautiful. Your passion comes through.

    But, back to the conversation. I may not have this exactly as you state, but you believe that the purpose of the pictures is NOT to move the buyer to decide to BUY the house, but to just SEE the house. I think that the majority of real estate agents would agree with you. But, I’m not in that majority. I totally disagree. Getting showings isn’t the goal. Getting signed Offer to Purchase contracts is the goal. If ALL the information about the house is presented well and fairly AND the buyer looks at it and decides they don’t really like this house and do not want to see it, then that is a WIN for the agent and the seller. If they saw everything on line and didn’t like it it is highly unlikely that they when presented with LIMITED information, and then they see the real thing, that they are going to like it. What feature or information that you DIDN’T give to them are they going to see at the house that will make them sign an offer. If they make an informed decision to not see the house than seeing the house would not have a different outcome–it would just be a waste of time. Real estate agents get paid AT CLOSING, and they get the same commission whether they showed the house once or a hundred times. The real difference is how much time the wasted with all those under-informed buyers AND how much aggravation the sellers had to endure to make those showing possible. I never mind showing a house, but I LOVE it when I get an offer from someone who has not yet seen the house. If you say “That Never Happens” well I have PROOF that you are wrong, since I have done that multiple times. In may market about 10-20% of the buyers come from more than 200 miles away.

    Back to your comment about “too much information can never be good.” I am at the opposite extreme of this. More than any other agent I know. We’ve been talking about pictures and Virtual Tours and videos. But I always provide an entire, dedicated web site to a house. There, buyers will really find all the information about the house: Yes, VT Slideshows, videos, and an eMagazine. But they will also find VTs of beaches, towns, etc. They will find the Tax Records, the Listing Sheet, the Deeds, the Septic design and Septic Inspection report, School information, links to Google Maps, Floor Plans, Plot Plans, and almost always some special information relevant to only that property. Yes, they get ALL the info, and that’s why some of them make offers over the internet.

  • Bill, lets agree to disagree. You’re looking for the 1 or 2 percent, I the other 98%. You hope the pictures might sell THE house, I’m just trying to get the phone to ring, and create a new relationship that could result in (any) transaction. In my experience a minimum amount of high quality info (such as a few dazzling photos that stir emotion) is far more likely to generate that conversion than trying to picture/document, or guessing info they could just Google (or Zillow or Trulia) if they are curious… maybe your experience is that brokers’ sellers prefer otherwise? …Lots of different business models out there… who’s to say?

  • I agree. Thanks for the informed discussion.

  • The purpose of pictures is certainly NOT to help sell a house. That’s just an incredibly simplistic and rear-facing way to look at this. Houses were selling long before there were anything beyond a “drive-by” polaroid available to buyers. And we all know that there are houses on the market today, maybe even a majority of houses, with utterly horrific photos shot by a real estate agent….and those houses are selling!
    So clearly, the house is going to sell, either way. Yes, it might sell faster with professional pictures. Yes, it might fetch a higher price with professional pictures. Maybe. Maybe not.
    And selling faster is ABSOLUTELY not the goal. My real estate clients have always been unanimous on this one — a house that sells too quickly is very bad for them. They want, on average, at least 2 weekends’ worth of open houses before an offer is accepted. This (the open house) is their very best exposure to buyers and sellers. This is a great way for them to showcase how well and how thoroughly they market the property, so as to impress potential sellers.

    So with that wisdom in mind, it’s clear why my clients and so many others around the country will spend what may seem like outrageous sums of money on just a few (say 15 or 20, max) really, REALLY good photos. It’s all about attracting the next listing. ‘Cause the one we’re shooting today is more or less already in the bag. It’s gonna sell. Very basic photography is all you need to get it sold. No, the reason to do GREAT photography, and video, and Matterport 3-D, and aerials, etc. is to impress the next seller.
    The sellers (in urban markets, anyway) are interviewing multiple agents before awarding their listing. They want to know what one agent is going to do for them that other agents aren’t doing. And they’re not impressed with “100 photos” — they are all on Houzz, they’re all familiar with Architectural Digest (god help them) and they all see the shelter magazines at the supermarket. They know what a good photo looks like, and they know that scores or dozens or hundreds of photos are NOT where it’s at. Half a dozen thoughtful, slow photographs are ten times more powerful than 50 mediocre ones.

    My RE clients (who comprise the top volume, top $$, agents) are always focused FORWARD – towards the next listing, and next years’ listings. They’re always more interested in positioning themselves in the market, than in “selling houses”. Selling houses is more of a collateral effect — they are primarily branding THEMSELVES. As photographers, we have to understand that.

  • Scott – Well said! That is exactly what it looked like to me spending 10 years working with my listing agent wife… it’s all about getting the next listing.

  • I have been following this discussion with great interest. I would like to add my thoughts to this. It’s never about the number of photos.

    While I certainly agree some agents are clearly trying to brand themselves over and above all other agents in a given market others are content to just keep going as they have been. They don’t get the branding thing. Assuming commission are all the same, they need something to elevate them above the crowd. Photography is just one aspect of that successful branding campaign. Customer service, marketing research, personal image etc. all are part of ‘branding’.

    But in the end, what a listing agent want to show prospective clients is that they get homes sold! And they get the best price possible and it’s not going to take six months. That’s what a seller want to hear in a listing presentation! They want their house sold, and most could care less about anyone else’s home. It’s then up to the given agent to show how they go about that. It’s not ‘in the bag’ until the listing agreement is signed.

    We all know, or should, that most homes are never sold from “open house”. The people attending open houses are buyers and the agent sitting there with their cookies and cake are looking for buyers that also might have a home to sell. And if they do, hopefully it’s in the same area. Sellers do not attend open houses, not that I’ve ever seen. I recently sold my home, had six listing presentations and not once did I think to attend an open house! Why would I? I’m moving out of state, maybe I’ll attend an open house there, but I already secured an agent long before I traveled to my new location. How did I pick that agent? From a listing I was interested in seeing…from the photos I saw online of the house for sale.

    And, like me, if the buyer is from across the country that’s not particular good prospect for the local listing agent. Unless of course that listing agent does both, act as a buyers agent as well. Then they have a good chance of securing a new client, but on the sales side, not the listing side of the business. And most likely someone local, not from out of town. Most agents tell me that beside perhaps getting a new client, they hold open houses to make their listing client feel they are doing something. So the agent can perhaps get a good referral for the next listing presentation. Part of the branding process. Part of getting that next listing.

    So where does the photography fit in?

    It’s serves different purposes for different agents. None of which is to sell the house. For one, as stated, it shows, the agents branding, to help get that next listing. The other is to capture the interest of shoppers on the internet, where 99% of buyers today go. So while lousy images gets the house out there, good to great images attract buyers better, faster, and as all the studies have shown, perhaps secures better price. Out of town buyers, like me, like seeing the photos, like seeing good photos better, like seeing Matterport walk throughs, all designed to get me to physically see the property. Until that happens (in most cases) the house will not sell. And if the house does not sell, then the listing agent is a failure in the eyes of the seller! Regardless of the quality of the images or the number of images.

    So, to me, the balance for real estate photography (MLS) is somewhere between the highest quality images (for the agent branding) and the best quality images that can be shown on the MLS and at a reasonable price. Each agent has what they want in mind. If like Scott, you can work with only agents that are willing to pay top dollar for the best, that great’s. Most of us are not dealing with that type of agent (yet). Those agents represent maybe 1/2 of 1% of the agents in a given market. The cream of the cream! However, the majority of the active agents are not like that. If they see another agents listing and the images are better than theirs, well maybe they will think about paying for professional photos. If they can shoot down and dirty and get the house sold, they are happy. Most agents want enough images to fill up all the slots available on the MLS. That’s the majority of the clients for real estate photography.

    All and all, it’s a complicated mix and each photographer fills a market need of the agent who is their client. Agents vary between $75 run and gun types as well as the Scott’s of the world agents that God only knows what it costs for the 10-15 images. Each has their need and will find the photographer to fill it.

    At least that’s how I see it.

  • Sorry, but not all agents take the approach that it’s all about the next listing.

    Some of us are actually genuinely interested in selling our clients properties and make that our priority.

    Yes, great marketing will get you more listings but for us that is the ‘collateral effect’, not the primary one.

    I feel for these poor sellers that spend hours and hours preparing their homes in the false hope that their property may sell at an open home when the agent is there simply to get leads for more listings.

    Just because the majority of the industry takes a certain approach doesn’t make it right.

    This thread would be very informative for someone researching their next agent in terms of how the industry operates and what type of agent they should employ.

  • Wow, Lots of feedback. Thanks all for you answers and for the interesting way this question of mine evolved!

    Thanks to you also Larry. Got more of an answer to my question than expected. Appreciate it.

  • Sharon, those top performing agents I’m speaking of are actually a small minority, so I agree with you completely that not all agents think this way. However, it’s been well documented that the top 20% of agents are doing upwards of 80% of the transactions, so I think it’s well worth studying their opinions and best practices. They got to be “top” agents because they do sell houses — a LOT of houses! In fact, they’re the ones selling most of the houses!
    It seems to me that their clients are being quite well served, indeed.

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    Photography For Real Estate » How Many Photographs Do You Deliver To Clients For A Typical Real Estate Shoot?

  • I think 25 is too much enough but client is always right so whatever he/she says i do free of cost.

  • @Scott – Don’t you worry about me Scott, I’m doin’ just fine 🙂

    Another view point here on the value of open homes

  • I realize I am coming in a tad late to all of this but there have been some comments I wanted to address.

    Sharon.Davet – You are 100% correct. In all my listings I never held an open house, however many agents in my office would in the hopes of picking up clients. Open houses are never about selling that particular property. I always explained this in great detail with my clients during the listing presentation, and gave them the option if they wanted it they could have them. If they did usually by the 2nd one they were convinced and decided against having more, and usually the 2nd open house I invited them to stay and watch as invisible as possible and no contact with the lookie lou’s, basically I had them act as if they were also looking at the property as a buyer. I can honestly only remember 1 agent selling off an open house between 2003-2006 and during that span I would say I had an average of 55-95 properties at any given month (yes my listings not the office/broker). Now during that timeframe I did my own stills and hired a company to come out and shoot my V tours. I shot them because no one offered the service to professionally shoot stills that even close to being cost effective as it is now, I think the best pricing I received at that time was in the $400-$550 range, I think a lot of that due to the fact we were on the extreme North end of Phoenix and not many wanted to travel that far. The V tours were at that time costing $99-$199 depending on the # of rooms and outside areas done. I do believe they have come down in price now although I haven’t used anyone for anything like that since about 2008 when I started doing my own.

    Scott Hargis – You are correct but unless it has changed over the last 2-4 years (I honestly haven’t kept up with the market since I started phasing out of it a little over a year ago.) But I would say that a closer average would be 10% of the agents are doing about 90% of the sales volume. As for me I was in the top 10 out of 2100 agents within my Century 21 and in the Top 20 for Century 21 within their Southwest Region. The majority of my business was the 7 small custom home builders I worked with that did between of 15-35 homes per year depending on the builder and I would pick up resale homes and also did land. This kept me in the inventory I mentioned above.

    I am in the process of going back to school for 2 years and getting a degree in Digital Arts, I plan to do photography and graphic design work and hope to be able to stay in real estate photography as I enjoy it. I think the hardest part of it is trying to reeducate some of the less knowledge agents that it is worthwhile and should become a normal part of their marketing plan and costs. Most are happy to take awful looking photos with their smartphones and post away to the MLS and various other sites they use to market their homes. Which is a shame because this is the first impression they make for that property. I must say that it never seems to amaze me at the photos that some agents will post and that fact that their Brokers will allow it.

  • When I was introduced to real estate photography the package almost always included the VT and images and was price based on finished square footage. This is our current process and we start out at our base price (lowest square footage) and go up incrementally in price based on relative square footage. I have never discussed quantity with a client and delivery everything I finish usually between 25-40 images in the mid range homes. Am I missing something?

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