What Should I Charge To Photography A 13,000 SF Apt In Manhattan?

March 25th, 2015

WhatPriceManuel in New Jersey asks:

I am a real estate photographer working and living in NJ. I’ve been in business since 2013. I am now trying to get jobs in NY.  A Realtor in Manhattan just asked me what are my fees for an 13,000, $7M apartment in Manhattan?  I am in puzzled because I have no idea how to charge for this huge price and apt. Can you give me an idea what I should charge?

First of all, for real estate photography the shoot price is not typically a function of the listing price of the property. The more conventional way to price real estate photography is:

  1. How much time is it going to take you to shoot the property? This can be estimated from the number of square feet of the home.
  2. How far outside your standard service area is the property? That is, you need to cover you travel time and expenses.
  3. What kind of quality do you deliver compared to your competition? This a more a long term consideration. As your skill increases and the quality of the work you deliver gets better your price should increase. I can’t see your website or portfolio so I can’t judge where you are on the scale of beginner to accomplished interior photographer.

So, given the above, if you charge $150 to shoot a 3000 SF home in your standard service area, I would charge 4.5 x $150 + A Milage-Charge + Milage-Time-Charge. 4.5 times your normal shoot, because a 13,000 SF apt is likely to take you 4.5 times your normal shoot. Milage-charge should be at least $.60/mile (some charge $1 a mile) and Milage-Time-Charge is at least $15/hour. These charges should recover travel costs.

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19 Responses to “What Should I Charge To Photography A 13,000 SF Apt In Manhattan?”

  • I’d do it for free. And I’d make sure it was the best I’d ever done x2.

  • Don’t fret about the square footage or the price of the apartment. Find out what is important to the Realtor. They may want a certain number of photos. They may want a certain level of service. They will certainly want a very high quality level and probably all three factors.

    If you have the opportunity, set up a meeting with the agent to visit the apartment and tour the home with a pen and paper noting what they want and what it will take you to make that happen. Manhattan can be a huge logistical nightmare, so make sure that you also factor in how tough it will be to park, get to the apartment and move your gear in and out. If the apartment is very open, you may also need to figure out if you will need to rent additional and/or specialized gear to light the spaces.

    Does the agent expect you to complete the photos in a couple of hours or is there a budget and availability to shoot for an entire day to take into account where the sun will be as the day progresses? Will the apartment be shadowed by neighboring buildings at certain times of the day? Will the agent be with you during the shoot or a stager/stylist? That can slow you down.

    If you get the job, will it be the only job you can take that day due to travel and time?

    Don’t go cheap. The agent will be making a handsome commission on the sale and the pool of potential buyers is going to be worldwide making the images much more valuable since many buyers will not want to make the effort to view the property in person unless they are already impressed by the photos.

    Larry’s price calculation is going to be pretty close and very competitive. Going even higher is not out of the question if you are contemplating bringing an assistant to help you meet the agent’s goals. If you want to quote a lower price, write it up at the full price and show a discount in exchange for a Property Release to use images of the apartment in your portfolio, advertising and secondary licensing. You don’t need the release, but you would be justifying the discount with something that might be considered valuable. You can also call the discount and “Introductory Discount” or some such. The point being that if you decide to do a job for less than the going rate, you aren’t creating the impression that you will always work for the cheaper price. If the agent comes to you next time saying that you did the last one for $XX, you can point out that there was a discount for ____.

    How many of this level of property does this agent handle? If they do multi-million dollar properties all of the time, you want on that team.

  • Flight from Australia to Manhattan and return plus accommodation will do.

  • …at 0.60 cents per mile, that would be close to $7,000 please. 24 hours travel x 2 return x $15/hr plus 4.5 times my rate comes to the grand total of $8,400.

  • Ken Brown-your comment is one of the best I’ve seen on this blog. It’s good solid advice for photographer who posed the question instead of the all-to-common, “In my market I do this….,” which often fails to help answer the original question and often smacks of a, “I really don’t care about your problem in your market, but just look at how cool I am in my market,” attitude. Would love to see more comments like yours.

  • Ditto what John said! Great response, Ken!

  • I shoot this type of property almost daily in NYC. Short answer: charge a lot. Any where between $600 to $1200. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me through my website.

  • I tend to be a little bearish on photography times when it comes to large properties. In my experience, a 5,000 sq. ft. home doesn’t take twice as long to photograph as a 2,500 sq. ft. home. The photography time is more of a function of the number of rooms. Yes, larger home have more rooms, but probably not twice as many.

    In my market in Omaha, Nebraska, I charge a flat rate regardless of the size of the property. My pricing and quality is best aligned with homes in the 2,500 sq. ft. range. I might have an agent hire me for a 1,100 sq. ft. home one week and a 4,000 sq. ft. home the next week. Over time, it averages out. I come out a little ahead on the small properties, but I also come out a little ahead on the large properties because it improves my portfolio and will probably open me up to better opportunities down the road. We don’t have a large amount of multi-million dollar homes here, so I don’t bother with figuring out how to price them.

    If I were in your part of the country, I would probably have simplified tiered pricing. Anything less than 2,500 sq. ft. would be price A. 2,500 to 6,000 would be something like 1.5 x price A. 6,000 and above would be something like 2 x price A. That would strike a balance between simplicity of pricing (agents like this) and covering your costs/time.

    As far as travel, I recommend flat rates there as well. Determine the average time/costs to get to a property in Manhattan and create a flat rate for Manhattan. Another flat rate for any other areas where you want to work. The point is, don’t goof around with trying to get down to the exact mileage/time for an exact property. If your client can easily figure out how much you are going to charge, they’ll be more likely to hire you. If they have to request a quote and wait for you to calculate mileage, square footage, etc., they may move on to other photographers.

  • I would agree with all comments above. I would just add that the square footage alone in my experience is not a good rule of thumb since often I shoot large square footage properties that are still 3 bedroom 3.5 bathroom houses, just with large rooms which result in no more time or number of photos out the end. But I would also agree, on these larger properties at high sales cost, really need a walk through with the agent so you have a well informed basis on which to quote a price. Expensive properties often have custom and interesting architectural details that are part of the marketing and call for extra shots.

  • Manuel, this could be a great portfolio piece for your website, or your worst nightmare ever!

    If you think you even want to take on this huge endeavor, I would first make sure you have the experience and equipment to shoot in this kind of environment. as Ken mentioned, Definitely meet with the Agent at the property and get a feel for what the agent wants and what you are getting into. Do not ever be afraid to turn down an assignment you do not feel comfortable with. The agent will appreciate your honesty and use you for assignments that you can handle comfortable and produce hi-quality professional results. (I would bring a small point and shoot camera to document the property and any problematic angles you might encounter, then you can view them when you get home). Also, look up the agent on line to see what properties he reps and his background. if has an arrogance to him or his ego is as big as the prices he gets for his listings, turn the assignment down.

    But, if you want to get involved shooting in NYC, you might contact local NY realtors and approach them with an offer to shoot for free or cost, so you can gain the experience. They might appreciate your honesty and start using you as their regular photographer.

    I was a commercial photographer in midtown Manhattan, and getting around, parking and access to buildings can be very challenging, expensive and frustrating.
    What ever time you think it will take you to shoot an assignment in NYC, triple that and you might be close.
    Good Luck, you have a lot of support from this group.

  • Architectural quality still photography. Two days @ $1,500 = $3,000.00. Totally within reason at the price point of this home. Stills and lifestyle video package combined $5,000.00 If they ask for a discount $4,900.00. Commissions on this sale will be over $400,000. Would I spend 5K for visuals to market this property…..hell yes!

  • How far are you from Manhattan? Is this a market you *want* to be working? If so set your rates to include the travel (don’t charge xx +travel). Maybe this is obvious but just in case it’s not I thought it was worth pointing out.

  • It’s worth pointing out that in the market you’ll be traveling to, $7M is not an unusually expensive listing. Upper-end, certainly, but nowhere near the top.
    And, for the square footage, the price is suspiciously low….so there might be some unpleasant surprises waiting. (Full disclaimer: I’m not intimately familiar with the Manhattan market, but that seems like a good interpretation of the numbers.)

    With that in mind, it’s not at all a given that the agent is prepared to go all-out on photography. And in fact, at the very tip-top of the market (e.g. $15M and up, roughly speaking) the photos can be LESS important….the upper echelon of houses just don’t get sold via MLS-browsing.

    So this could be a great opportunity, and could be an excellent portfolio-and-experience builder, but might or might not be a big payday. Either way, if I were you I’d go shoot it! There’s nothing to lose, lots to gain.

  • A BOATLOAD of cash. It’s silly to do it for free as someone suggested.

    I’d counter Scott’s argument and maybe suggest that if an agent listing such a property is not prepared to market it well via great photography, there isn’t any reason to pursue it at all. Save your talent for somebody more deserving.

    13,000 sq ft is quite a lot, but can easily be done in 1/2 a day, with another 1/2 day in editing. Folks who live in Manhattan can easily afford whatever you would charge, and so can the agents who list for them. Neither party is there by accident. They have means.

  • A THIRTEEN THOUSAND sqft apartment in Manhattan for only $7 million?? That’s crazy inexpensive – about a third of the average price per square foot for the city. I’d expect it to be a pretty run down co-op apartment. Definitely do a walk through with the agent to make sure.

  • Here’s an interesting question…

    Did you approach this agent first by offering your services?

    Either way, this very well could be an agent quizzing you, seeing if you have a clue.

    Price per foot seems odd to me, too.

  • Doing business is doing business. The price of the property is irrelevant. The only way to shoot any property needs to be based on T&M also fondly known as time and materials.

    How much time in man-hours is going to be required? This includes anyone working with or for you involved in the shoot.

    What materials are going to be required? Lighting, camera, lenses, etc. What is the cost to use or rent the equipment?

    What are the logistics of the shoot? This includes travel and equipment movement.

    What post processing is going to be required and how many images will they be looking for?

    What are your overhead costs? Do you know what your cost of doing business is? You Better know it!

    What is the deadline? Are you going to have to meet an unreasonable deadline causing you to work longer hours or outsource some of the work?

    Also in your logistics, you don’t want to forget travel cost, parking, and meals for you and your crew as well as how are you going to get all the gear up to the xx th floor. How many trips are going to be required or basically what is your ingress and setup and strike and egress costs? These are just a few of your considerations.

    Just like a general contractor biding on building anything from a two car garage to a 10 story highrise with underground parking, he has to see the plans and specs to work up an estimate. So too as a photographer you need to know the plans and specs. You need to do a walk through with the realtor and create a shot list and even take preliminary snapshots and sketch a general floor plan to plan out or storyboard the shoot so you are not running helter skelter. During the walk through what are the special features that need to be covered or not shown? Is there going to be a professional stagger involved or is it wysiwyg? Can you arrange to collaborate with the stagger on the walk through and during their staging to input your photography expertise? Can the stagger be on site during the shoot to make last minutes adjustments as the images come up on your computer? If the realtor is not hiring a professional stagger then will they allow you to include a line item for hiring one?

    Lastly, what is the intended use of the images? Obviously it’s not just for the MLS as there will be a special marketing campaign. Who is going to do the advertising for this property and what is their input? What is the distribution of your images. What licensing are you including in your bid?

    As a former general contractor now retired, I spent an uncountable number of hours going over plans and specification and sub-bids while costing out every man hour, stud, nut and bolt or pipe fitting that was going to be used in a project. Only after completing the estimate was I able to look at it and decide what markup I would have to have to stay in business and make a fair and reasonable profit so the business could continue to grow. In the end, my bid was my bid. If I was asked by the owner to cut my price I was always ready to sit down and discuss what they would like to cut from the project and what creative project management I could offer to meet the cost cutting requirements, and I never intentionally left money on the table.

    As a real estate photographer, regardless if the property is 1,000 SF or 100,000 SF and four stories it’s all the same. Your job is nothing less than Time and materials plus overhead and profit, period.

    So, get out the pencil and your estimating pad and get to work.

    Good Luck!

  • I’ve been working in Manhattan shooting real estate for 6 years and a 13,000 Sqf apartment for $7 Million is a bargain! Try $70 Million, thats more in line with todays residential market in the city.

    Regardless, I would take the time to do a thorough walkthrough and meet the marketing team who will be selling this property. They should have a very clear strategy in place and know exactly what they need from the photos.

    Price your job by day rate. This is very common in NYC and you will probably be shooting over a few days to get the perfect light for each shot. Theres a good chance that you will be facing a 10,000Sf living room and 3,000sqf of other rooms.

    In any case, I would not quote on this project sight unseen…

    Just my $0.02

  • I wish I could call anything priced at $7mil “cheap”. Maybe it’s a stripped shell or the former owners were using it as a mink farm and it’s a bit smelly.

    Hopefully, it’s nice portfolio fodder and not a rock-star trashed mess.

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