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Do Real Estate Photographers Use Time Trackers in Photoshop?

Joseph in Chicago asks:

Does anyone use a time tracking program for Photoshop for longer edits? and if so which ones are recommended. We sometimes spend up to an hour working on windows and item removals and want to track and send stats to client to prove the editing time.

I wasn't even aware of time trackers for Photoshop but I see by googling "time tracking program for photoshop" that there appear to be several such trackers.

To me charging by the time spent in Photoshop makes more sense for someone in a photo editing business rather than a classic real estate photographer. As a real estate photographer, you need to quote a price for a shoot and limit the time you spend photo editing to fit the price being charged.

11 comments on “Do Real Estate Photographers Use Time Trackers in Photoshop?”

  1. I agree with you Larry with the caveat of extra retouching. There are times when extra work has to be done on images such as putting a fire in the fireplace. I don't include this in my fees. Nevertheless, I have a paper time sheet where I keep track of my time the old fashion way, I write down start and stop times for each extra retouching image.

  2. It sounds like he is charging for the extra edit time so to answer his question I haven't used a time and billing as my business model is shoot, clean up and move on. I would be curious for an explanation of what his business model is and who his clientele is. If he is shooting that high end of the spectrum then I would suggest he just changes his pricing structure so it doesn't look like he is nickle and dimeing the Realtor he is just charging his flat rate for shoot, edit a couple of hours and then moving on. A successful Realtor expects you to make a good living. Interestingly I have learned that if you charge _blank and are driving an old Camry with acid etched paint they think you charge to much, Arrive in a contemporaneity SUV and they don't question your charges and if you drive up in a Jaguar XK they thank you for working for them.

    Now I will take some extra time to enhance view windows and I will remove a pair of shoes or small item, like a Glock on the dresser but otherwise give me the home is the condition you expect it to be shot or pay me twice. I'm not some Realtor's Bi$#@ and some of my best clients are the ones that I have bluntly told that to.

  3. I go "Old School" and give them a quote. They let me know what they want done, I look at it and with my experience, can give them a number of what it will take to get it done. This accomplishes a couple of concerns right out of the box.

    One, they know what they will have to invest and not some open ended time fee that they could get screwed on. Why should they pay for the learning curve of the retouch er? One example is I am always amazed at the time some spend to put a new sky in their photos (correctly). It should only take a minute or two if you know what you are doing. One must consider that if they are still inexperienced, learning the trade, etc, that they should not pass that deficit on to their clients.

    Two, it forces the client to make a decisions on what they want done and to which image. To many times they will throw you a ton of images and say do them all, even though some are very similar. They just want to see what they will all look like when done and then decide. When they see the investment involved, they realize they should narrow down their selection.

    Three, you can add the list of enhancements you do to your services and fee's list for them to have. This actually will add more income for you as most clients are unaware of what it costs to add a simple sky, fire, green grass, etc.. Once they are aware, they tend to order more. You can always have a caveat that says something like "for most image ready files, any complicated image will be quoted"

    Bottom line, charging by the minute with no cap is going to rub your clients the wrong way, give you a headache every time you have to "justify" your work and sour your reputation in the area

  4. For the programming of our virtual tours, we are using Timely (https://app.timelyapp.com/) for timetracking. Very user friendly and works on desktop as smartphone app. You can try a free account but for multiple users, you have to pay a monthly fee. You can define a job and the price per hour for each user. Then it's just clicking start and stop in the timeline. Big advantage are the custom reports with a nice overview of all the jobs per week/ month or year.

  5. Good lord....the day my clients don't trust me to tell them the truth about how long it took me to do something....I'm going to go get some new clients. Jeeeesus -- what's next? A GPS tracker so they can see how long I spent shooting their listing?

  6. Any image editing I do beyond what I provide as standard is subject to an hourly fee. I might throw in a sky replacement if it doesn't look to involved and it would make a big difference for a front exterior lead image. If the home wasn't prepped, removing items and doing digital yard work is subject to an hourly charge and might delay delivery depending on my schedule. I don't punch a time card and provide a breakdown of how much time I have spent. I think it would go against the customer if I did. I find myself running into unique challenges that take me time to try and find a tutorial on YouTube or comb through lessons I have saved on the computer to review how I might go about fixing something.

    It's a good idea to adopt an "as-presented" policy for RE sessions. That is, you are only going to photograph a property as it is when you arrive. If there are kids toys strewn about, the trash cans weren't put in the garage and the leaves racked from the lawn, that's going to show up in the photos. If the client wants those things "Photoshopped" out, it's going to cost money. You can provide them with an estimate and let them put a budget cap and priority on the editing. You may also want to quote them on a return visit to re-photograph the images they are having problems with. Many times it's faster to take a new photo than to do it in Photoshop, especially if you will be in the same area the next day.

    I often do a bunch of little things such as moving trash cans or a couple of stacked cases of water out of the way, but I don't remove magnets from the appliances or all of the cereal boxes from the top of the fridge and definitely don't do anything about the sink full of dirty dishes. I do offer an extended service where I will do a fair amount of staging, but still not dishes or windows.

  7. I kind of wonder if clients will pay for extras like that even if presented with the "evidence!" But on the other hand, maybe one should charge enough up front, to cover that time.

  8. My clients understand that I am there to photograph the property, not Clean, prep and stage. If the agent does not have the property ready, than that is on them. When I come across small stuff like Ken was saying, ok, but if the property is a mess, than everything is as is. When you get a new client, it is best to spend a little extra time going over your services, fees, terms and what each of you expect. Than you don't have to deal with these preventable issues to begin with. To charge enough up front to cover that time, penalizes all the other agents that are doing their job.

    Bottom line, there are always exceptions, but you should have a understanding of what you are there to do.

  9. re: Bill Jones comments. I agree completely. Extra charging by line item could be construed nichel and diming. Although, removing firearms from the shots should be an extra charge. Maybe $20 for a Glock and $50 for an AK47. It would be money well spent by the realtor.

  10. Seems this conversation has evolved past the question posed which essentially seems to be how to keep track of Photoshop/Processing time and is there an app for it, not whether you should or should or should not charge extra for retouching.
    And then we got into staging and declutter. Actually all good topics for conversation that can impact the original topic. I think we have had these conversations before but always a good discussion. And a lot of different opinions there are too.

    Personally all my clients fully understand that I am a photographer not a stager or declutterer and usually appologyze when I have to shoot a property that is a mess, and that is usually when there are renters who are pissed off that their rental home is about to be sold out from underneath them. Or elderly people who just don't see the clutter and photos of grand kids on the fridge. Until I make them aware of it. And even if they have a cleaned up home, that does not extend to the day glow green hoses snaking around the garden. So I do charge enough to spend a few minutes hiding things in the kitchen, bathrooms, the dog's bed and bowls, coil hoses within reason, hide gardening tools and try to minimize BBQs with faded covers and find a place for pool crawlers. Sure it adds a bit to the time but my clients really appreciate it when I do and they are usually there to help. Staged houses of course are the easiest since there is no clutter by definition. My clients know I will do this and appreciate my taking the time to make the photographs show the house at its best as long as it does not take too much of my time. Something I would not do anyway.

    But if I arrive and find the place a mess and the agent is not with me as often happens with my regular clients and I know the shots will look like s$%t, I call them and make sure they want me to shoot it as is or reschedule when the house is in better photo ready condition.

    For larger jobs, I usually do an advance walk through to identify issues. But not always possible and often not for smaller properties or last minute "try to fit it in" assignments. If during or after the shoot it is obvious that extensive retouching has to be done, I will always go over with a client what it is that needs done, how much it will probably cost and if they really want to have it done or if it is even worth it. Since most of my clients are regulars, they know what to expect and trust me to do things right. And I bill the extra work by the hour but get an OK in advance. So keeping track of the time is necessary. But I am just me, one person shop, not a team. So while I can keep track of time easily enough on a time sheet, I can see that a larger photo business would need some better method if they have multiple employees and numerous jobs coming in simultaneously. Just like all photoshoots are not created equal neither are photographers or their business models.

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