How Do You Compete With Real Estate Photographers Charging Low Prices?

March 24th, 2015

iStock_000006627709XSmallKirt in Connecticut asks:

I am based out of Connecticut and competitive pricing is always an issue with every one of us. I can’t seem to get over the hump of other locals. Simply said; the one competior here charges $75 a listing. This is based off a 300,000 listing price. I can’t wrap my head around how he continues to do this as well as profit for himself. He delivers 40 images, same day. I need assistance on this one. If anyone experienced this, I need advice as well!

Very likely your competitor that charges $75 is arithmetic impaired so he doesn’t realize he is losing money. The reason real estate photographers get into this price competition is they don’t understand that you don’t want to even be doing business with the lower 90% of Realtors. You must find and target the top agents because they understand why good photography matters (see # 3 below) and they will pay for it. On the other hand the lower 80% to 90% of listing agents are losing money and they whine and don’t want to pay what it cost to do good marketing.

Here are some recent posts here on the PFRE that go into more detail on your question:

Read the comments on these post, they contain a lot of good advice and personal experiences in this area. I write about this issue every few months because it is so central to real estate photography success.


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56 Responses to “How Do You Compete With Real Estate Photographers Charging Low Prices?”

  • Just make sure that if you’re advertising a Ferrari, that’s actually what you’re selling. 😉

  • I wholeheartedly agree with everything Matt said. Spot on. Business decisions need to be as much and probably more of your focus than “artistic” decisions. Why people are so obsessed with the competition is beyond me – spend your time upping your game and offering the most value and doing the best job for your clients and you will be busier than ever. It’s such a simple formula. One of my major competitors here is roughly half of my price – and I couldn’t be any busier than I am right now. They are not even a blip on my radar screen. Who cares? (BTW, one of my clients saw an ad on Craigs List that the owner of this company was also looking for a weekend bartending job, so… go figure!)

  • Thanks Fred. Sad that certain opinions which disagree with certain people result in your opinion being removed from a post. Seems pretty one sided…

  • @Matt

    That was one of the best, longest and detailed responses I’ve seen on a PFRE post. I too, have told many photographers that there is more than one way to skin a rabbit. The car market seems to be a great comparison. Not everyone and every market can, should or will support a Bentley dealership.

  • @Travis, some (or many) agents ARE cheapskates and want to collect every penny of a commission that they aren’t required to spend. Others might be risk adverse and don’t believe the studies that show better sales performance with professional images. I run across these agents all of the time and try to get them to put my card where they can find it so when a seller insists on professional photography before they will sign an agreement, they know who to call right away. Also, if they are in a meeting with a prospective client with a nice home and they don’t feel that they’re going to be able to close the deal, they can use bringing in a professional photographer as a kicker to get the listing. It’s akin to buying the listing and could be a cheap hook. I have asked agents if there have been times when they would have offered $150-$200 cash to a seller to get the listing and nearly all of them have, though they don’t due to ethics issues and that the offer would also seem rather strange to the seller.

    @Matt, I agree that many people won’t notice the difference between “good” and “excellent” photos, but it can still be worth the effort to push for excellence. Those that can tell the difference might be willing to pay for it. If your market area has a luxury zone, it’s a good marketing move to aim for clients that represent the higher end properties where you can charge more on fewer shoots. Getting noticed and having a good portfolio will be worth the time invested. Take Los Angeles for example; a large portion of the LA area is middle class homes, but then there is Beverly Hills, The Hollywood Hills, Pasadena and other communities with homes valued in the millions of dollars. While you might not get one of those homes to photograph every day, you want to be the go to photographer for the agents that work that crowd. Those agents will be looking at duPont Registry, Distinctive Homes, Robb Report RE, etc and will see the difference.

    If you’re in a suburban market that doesn’t have enclaves of million dollar homes, your approach of hitting the quality level past which there isn’t any return is not a bad idea. I would say to keep practicing going the extra mile when you have the time. Personally, I always spend extra time on a job on slow days trying out different things. Multiple small flashes, strobes, EF/hybrid and tethering are some of the things I will work on. I could practice at home, but part of the RE challenge is to evaluate and compose quickly in an environment you are seeing for the first time. At this point, I can photograph my cave using any workflow one cares to name and I’m bored with it.

    Every time I try a new technique that I have seen demonstrated, I always find that the presenter has left out a crucial bit of information and I need to try it a few times before I learn what those missing bits are.

    I like challenges and I’m always pushing myself to improve. There is a certain level of professional satisfaction I get when I really nail a job. That said, there are days when I don’t have the time to pull out every stop and the client hasn’t been willing to spend a bit more; “good enough” is the highest mark I can offer. Most of the homes I wind up photographing need more cleaner/stager work to make the biggest difference. Another 5% improvement in the photos wouldn’t be noticed.

  • @Greg Tilley

    I have been in talks with Abdul at Outsource Images.

    Can you tell me what their prices are? If you don’t want to tell me here, I’ll give my email to Larry and
    maybe he can put the two of us together via email?

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