George in Southern New Jersey asks the following question:
I'm a photographer from Southern New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. A few years ago when I first got into Real Estate Photography, I researched local real estate photographers and based my rates and pricing structure off of theirs. My current price structure starts with homes up to 2500 sq/ft and my rates increase with every additional 500 sq/ft. Once I get to about 4500 sq/ft I call it a "custom quote" and price it accordingly. In the next few months I plan on re-evaluating my cost to do business and will be increasing my rates and possibly the structure of how they increase. With that, I'm curious to know how other photographers structure their pricing. Do they base it on square footage, number of rooms, value of the home, etc.
We've talked a lot about pricing here on PFRE. I would summarize the factors involved in pricing as follows:
- Copying what others are doing: When real estate photographers start out they tend to just copy what others are doing. You have to be careful with this approach. What if the photographer's pricing you are copying is just a part time shooter that is not concerned with making a living at real estate photography? Or, your quality isn't anywhere near the photographer you are copying.
- Making sure you cover expenses and you are getting paid for your time: Especially when you are starting out, you want to be doing the arithmetic and making sure you are covering your expenses and getting paid a living wage for your time spent.
- Getting paid for the size of each job: Bigger properties can take more time to shoot and post process so how do you make sure you are getting paid for your time? Some do it by a square foot scale (shoot price goes up to shoot bigger properties) and some do it by the number of photos delivered (shoot price goes up for more photos delivered). I think the best way to do this is charge based on the number of photos you deliver. See this post for more details.
- It is not customary to charge based on the listing price: I've not heard of many photographers that do this, but I think it's a bad idea.
- You need to be increasing your price as your quality and demand increases: We talked about this in the discussion about hiring contract employees. Scott points out in the comments that some real estate photographers are focused on building a business (they are likely to keep the price the same and hire more people) and some are focused on doing photography that they love and getting better at it (they are likely to raise the shoot price to make more by doing higher quality work).
So in summary, I don't think there is one simple solution that works for everyone. Pricing is different when you are starting out and as your business/photography improves it depends on what your passion is. As Scott says, "are you an entrepreneur or are you a photographer?"