What Is The Best Way For Real Estate Photographers Determine Their Pricing?

May 5th, 2016

150unitshootLarry on the Eastcoast asks:

I have the opportunity to photograph an entire hotel and conference center with large convention space, multiple meeting rooms, executive suites, hospitality suites, restaurants, private dining areas, outdoor reception areas, etc. Rooms range from approximately 100’x100′ to 28’x15′ and smaller. I need suggestions as to how to price this. I will need to come out there probably two or three times based on when they set up rooms for photography. I need to submit a proposal to my prospective client asap. I had done a nice job on this person’s luxury condo and now she’s asking me to do a much bigger job. I have Canon pro equipment, including 17-40mm, 24-105mm, 70-210mm and 300mm lenses, 5D Mark III, and 580 EX IIs. I usually post-edit using LR Enfuse. Any advice greatly appreciated.

We have discussed pricing a lot because it is an important subject and opinions on the subject are diverse. In recent discussions, many have advocated the approach of charging primarily based on the number of finished images you deliver. I’ve become a convert. I think the logic of charging based on the number of delivered photos is very compelling. I the case Larry describes above his price doesn’t have much to do with the square footage of the rooms or what kind of gear he uses. It has to do with what level of work he does and how many images he needs to deliver.

Scott Hargis made the case in the last discussion on this subject: “…You can charge any amount you like, but the basic formula would be that the more photos you deliver, the more money you make. Your clients are perfectly able to specify quantities in every other area of their lives – they know that every candy bar they buy, every gallon of gas, every dozen eggs, is a little “cha-ching” at the cashier. They even know that every kilowatt of electricity they use will be billed, even though hardly anyone really calculates their electric usage that carefully. They’ll be able to handle the notion of each photograph being worth a set dollar amount.”

Rosh Sillers over at makes the same argument for charging by delivered image for photography in general. He has a very detailed approach of how to do this. Rosh makes the case that there are a number of different levels of photographers selling their work. Hobbyists, amateurs, students, semi-pros, professionals and top professionals.

So my advice to Larry is as follows:

  1. Establish what you charge per image based on your assessment of the level of work you do and historically what you have been charging. See Rosh Sillers article for some detailed suggestions on how to do this.
  2. Bid the shoot based on how many images your client wants you to deliver.
  3. Make sure unusual travel costs are covered.

I’m sure others will have advice for Larry.


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8 Responses to “What Is The Best Way For Real Estate Photographers Determine Their Pricing?”

  • Easiest way for me to figure out a quote would be to base it off your hourly rate. Give them an approx time frame of how many hours you think you can get all the work done in (taking photos + post process). Add another 1-2 hours as a buffer. GOOD LUCK! sounds like a great project and will be great for your portfolio.

  • Based on the premise that the first person to mention price loses, I would ask them what their budget is, if it is a national chain they have had this done before at another location and have an idea of what they would be willing to pay.

  • Also, check out Wonderful Machine for examples of commercial pricing.

  • I base mine on time and image count, whichever is higher. I charge by time, or by count. That way I can have any size job take any amount of time and include any image count and I will be paid the same rate. I do not provide a firm bid in advance for large jobs like you have, just a set of clear guidelines and an estimate. Also a trip charge if multiple trips are required. Good luck to you. Contact me by email if you want details.

    Paul Gjording

  • There are only a few general methods of determining price, but a large number of variations on how each is implemented. But in general they are cost plus, ROI based, value based, market based and psychological pricing.

    Cost plus pricing is the standard, take your cost and add an amount to it for profit. Generally this is used for retail and commodity. Pros: It is simple to implement. Cons: you may end up with a price that is either too high or too low.

    ROI: Determine how much return you want on your investment and price accordingly. In our case, if you were to invest $100 in time and materials on a shoot, and wanted a 20% return you would charge $120. Not much different than cost plus and has the same pros and cons.

    Value Based: This amounts to pricing your product based on the value provided to the customer. So if your product provided $1000 in value to the customer you would charge a portion of that value. Pro: Likely the most profitable method of pricing, Cons: You have to know how much value is provided to your clients in monetary terms. This would be challenging for RE photography because the value is not easily converted into monetary values.

    Market Based: This is a method used by many professionals. You determine what the market rate is for similar products of similar quality and charge accordingly. It will likely produce the maximum amount of revenue for your business. Note that revenue is not the same as profits. One of the cons is that the market rate might be less than your costs. It which case you need to lower costs, find a different market or a different job.

    psychological pricing is based on break points and emotions. It is the reason that you see so many prices ending in .99. Do you want to be a cost leader or follower. Do you want to price high and try to promote yourself as a premium service or price low and market as good value…..

    No matter what method you choose, it must do 2 things for you to stay in business. The first is cover your costs including your salary, the second is to have customers willing to pay that amount. Yes, I know those are very obvious statements. But you would be surprised how many times they are forgotten when people discuss money.

  • @Neal – Great summary!

  • I charge in tiers of 2000 sq. ft. increments. I used to do 3000 sq. ft. tiers, but my average listing size is 2500 sq. ft. so I changed it up to fairly It takes all of the math out of it and makes it easy for them as well. I can’t justify going the charge per photo model for Real Estate photography – I’m going to get as many photogenic angles as I can and on average that is about 25 per listing. Again, I am not interested in doing math. I want to get in and out as quickly as possible for myself and for the agent.

  • This type of job is often called “commercial” to differentiate it from real estate images and there are many ways to determine your pricing.

    I give my customer a two part quote. The first part of the quotation is my “Creative” or “Production” fee. This includes my time, travel, expenses and profit margin on my labor. I consider myself an employee of my own company and get paid a salary/hourly and the company charges are there to cover business and equipment expenses. It’s easy to calculate this first part. I know what I want to gross on an hourly basis. I can closely estimate my travel costs. I can make estimates on materials I might use like gaff tape and special items I might need to rent such as a cherry picker or scissor lift.

    The second part of my quote is the usage fees (licensing fees) that are based on the usages the customer wants, how many images they take delivery of and how long they want the license to last. This is the trickiest section to calculate. There are forms that have check boxes for the types of usages that are paid for as separate line items on the internet (Basic Usage Rates or B.U.R.). Ashley Morrison links to these forms frequently in the Flickr group discussions.

    If you have ever seen what hotels charge for conference space, hospitality, catering, etc., you should realize that there is very good money in theses services. Don’t be afraid about your quote being too high. Most photographers doing theses sorts of jobs for the first time will nearly always charge too little. You might have your quote rejected if they believe that you are in over your head with a lowball price. Check online for what hotels charge and what types of services they provide. Give one a call posing as a somebody getting quotes for their boss when you have an idea what to ask for.

    Before you are able to generate a quote, you need to know what the customer wants, needs and how they plan to use the images. It’s useless to show up to shoot with just a vague “Let’s just take some pictures and see what we get”. An onsite visit and tour with the person in charge of the conference center should let you leave with a shot list (which will change) and an idea of the features that they want to show. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took many trips to capture images of different configurations as they are set up for different customers. It would be expensive for them to have a crew changing around the space just for photos.

    If you do a good job, you may earn favor with the conference manager and get referrals to photograph events that get booked at the hotel.

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