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Two Important Facts about Real Estate Photography

July 1st, 2018

Last week, there was an article at SmartPhotoEditors.com about all the challenges in mastering real estate photography. It has a lot of great information but because their income statistics were about professional photographers in general, as a result, I felt their data about income potential was weak.

Two important facts about real estate photography:

  1. 39% of PFRE readers report a net income of above $60k per year (see poll below, summarized in the chart above).
  2. Real estate photography is one of the few types of professional photography that is growing. (see Tony and Chelsea Northrup’s review of the status of professional photography, Jan 2017).

So yes, being successful as an independent real estate photographer is hard work but the two important facts above suggest that it can be a very lucrative opportunity!

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13 Responses to “Two Important Facts about Real Estate Photography”

  • I couldn’t agree more. Marketing technology in the real estate industry is advancing very quickly these days. We are at a point that professional photos will are now the minimum for an acceptable MLS listing. Video, property web pages are becoming standard in some area. 3D virtual tours are also becoming popular but I feel they will just be a fad, just my opinion.

  • Yeah but, how many real estate photographers are making a living at just shooting real estate? It is a great part time business. I was coming out of a big hardware store the other day and saw a guy loading up his truck that was covered in real estate photography lettering, so I asked him about his fees. $100 for a house 2000 square feet or less. I asked him how is he making any money, he said he made $80,000 last year and it is a part time job. Many of the shooters on this site have another job or spouses that are working full time to support their hobby. I believe this is why fees for real estate photography are so low.

  • @rohnn I’m one of those guys that makes a living solely on RE photography, but because of the limits to what can be billed out, I do have to put in long hours to achieve an income over $100K, and it’s a physically taxing proposition, and it could be taxing on personal relationships if there was a spouse that insisted on equal time. Luckily (?), mine is pretty laid back and has plenty of things to do to keep her busy. But, that’s the way real estate is at the higher earnings level, both for the photographers and the RE agents. It’s both exhausting and addicting.

    To get to that income, I just did simple math. IF the goal is for example $100k, and you can charge $200 a house, you have to do 500 homes. I do about 600 homes a year now. Pretty much maxed out on what one person can do given the 24hr day limitation. 🙂

  • I agree that shooting MLS listings for agents is a part time gig. Most won’t pay more than $100 per shoot (25 photos) unless we include something like pole aerials and they’ll pay $150. But, it’s a very sporadic business. At best, we may keep a client for one year before they move on. We’re also in competition with companies like HomeJab who have everything in-house including Matterport Tours. So, it’s difficult at best to be a small-time operator and make a decent income. Fortunately, for us, we’re both semi-retired but the added income definitely helps. So, we keep on marketing.

  • If you market yourself well, you can be shooting 3-4 or more homes a day for 150-300 a home.

    Anyway, what insterest me more is amount of money able to be made per hour in the field. That has always been the focus for me. And if you look at it like that, you can make as much as almost any skilled professional I can think of if you’re efficient and charging correctly.

  • @ Andrew – Yes this is true, if you live in a good market. Where I live, it’s slow, seems more move out than in which means agencies want the cheapest work, $50 or less for most homes. Some will pay $100 or so for big homes and want 50 – 75 photos or more plus a video too.

  • @Jerry
    where are you from? 100$ for 50 photos? Can not believe this.

    I started almost 4 years ago. At beginning I took around 200$ per house and now 290$ + taxes for 20 pics.

    I stopped acquisition around 1 year ago. (I live in Berlin)

    @Kelvin

    How can you shoot 600 homes a year? 😀
    I feel quite busy with around 300 (flats and houses)

    What about travel time? Mostly I have to drive 30 to 60min for one job. When I am lucky I shoot 2-4 at the same area on the same day.

  • @Jerry, 50-75 images is silly in 99% of cases for RE. Couple that with the low rates in your area and unless you are a run and gun photographer that is delivering images straight out of the camera, a job at a fast food joint is better money.

    I get agents that want 30 images for $30 and I have to politely let them know that it isn’t worth showing up for $30 to make one image. My area is large and it might cost me 3 gallons of gas to get to a job and back. Once The Man® has extracted his pound of flesh from what’s left and I haven’t made enough for a nice lunch. There is a persistent myth that the more images an agent posts, the higher they rank. It isn’t true for any customer facing website such as Zillow, Trulia or Realtor. If it is for an MLS, that isn’t helping them market the home.

    I don’t let customers set my prices. I also don’t pay much attention to what my competitors are charging. I’m not too greedy either so what I charge is a fair rate for what I provide. I’ve done the work to know what it costs to do the work and when I see somebody charging substantially less or an agent tells me they have somebody that charges less, I know that the person won’t be in business for very long.

  • Agree w/Ken.. shooting 50-75 images for what? The MLS only allows 25 photos per listing. So, why would an agent want that many?
    Also, our MLS is now Trend-Bright which means they provide all the tools agents need to edit their own photos prior to uploading. So agents can shoot, edit and upload their photos, put together a tour, and manage client communication via the portal.
    We still get occasional calls for shoots but it’s cut way back from a year ago and will eventually get to the point they no longer need us.

  • 600 homes in a year is pretty intense. We’ve continued to increase our revenue every year, but while doing fewer shoots per year. Doing more services at a single property really helps shorten the day. If I can do a video tour with aerial at a property, odds are they’ll have me do the photography as well. Realtors just prefer to get all the services done in one appointment so the photo only guys have faded away in our area of the past 3-4 years. The only exceptions I see are the really high end (8-10 images for $2000) shoots being done for builders so in those cases I’ll only do video work.

  • Nick,

    I strongly disagree with you. It’s companies like yours that are destroying photographers like me…I hope you’re happy.

  • I have been shooting real estate listings full time for @ 10 years in a major metropolitan area. My net income has not been less than 150K for the last 5 constitutive years.

    I am not sure what so many in this group are doing wrong to make such a meager living, but being broke is not a forgone conclusion people!

  • 500-600 shoots is the approximate limit for moderately processed photography as a single photographer. Even so, it is not conducive to work/life balance and has taken a toll on my physical and emotional well-being. Unless one outsources some form of labor, delegates tasks to partners, reduces processing to the barest minimum or specializes in premium photography (moving away from volume).

    I continue to grow and initially I didn’t factor all the overhead in running my business. I eventually raised my prices thereby eliminating some of the demographic I service. I also diversify my photographic services to even out productivity when things slow down towards winter. Do so also protects against monotony.

    I will say this. Although outsourcing may be a logical way of growing ones business but it creates an arms-race between others and a “race to the bottom” devaluing the craft of photography. Of course, this market may always lean toward the pragmatic with some exceptions.

    I predict that guilds and liscensure will create a divide between amateurs and professionals. Similarly to handymen vs specialized skilled labor. I don’t know when this will happen, but standardization will be the future of this field.

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