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How Do You Compete With Real Estate Photographers Charging Low Prices?

Published: 25/03/2015

iStock_000006627709XSmallKirt in Connecticut asks:

I am based out of Connecticut and competitive pricing is always an issue with every one of us. I can't seem to get over the hump of other locals. Simply said; the one competior here charges $75 a listing. This is based off a 300,000 listing price. I can't wrap my head around how he continues to do this as well as profit for himself. He delivers 40 images, same day. I need assistance on this one. If anyone experienced this, I need advice as well!

Very likely your competitor that charges $75 is arithmetic impaired so he doesn't realize he is losing money. The reason real estate photographers get into this price competition is they don't understand that you don't want to even be doing business with the lower 90% of Realtors. You must find and target the top agents because they understand why good photography matters (see # 3 below) and they will pay for it. On the other hand the lower 80% to 90% of listing agents are losing money and they whine and don't want to pay what it cost to do good marketing.

Here are some recent posts here on the PFRE that go into more detail on your question:

Read the comments on these post, they contain a lot of good advice and personal experiences in this area. I write about this issue every few months because it is so central to real estate photography success.

Larry Lohrman

56 comments on “How Do You Compete With Real Estate Photographers Charging Low Prices?”

  1. How do you compete? Simple! You Don't!! Larry is right, target the top Agents (contractors, architects,etc...) in the area who VALUE photography and they'll pay your price! The guy charging $75 a pop won't last long in this biz! Stay strong & be confident!

  2. You mentioned competitive pricing as an issue with "every one of us". You also spoke about getting over the hump of "other locals".

    So, I'm not sure you really only have "one competitor here" that charges $75.

    If you could give us a little more info about your market and competition, I'm sure we'd be happy to offer our best suggestions and appropriate recommendations.

    Lastly, I'd like to see the level of work being delivered by a 40 photo, 1 day, $75 dollar shooter.

  3. Trying to compete on price is a losing race to the bottom. At some point you are attempting to edge out a teenager living at home with no bills and shooting with their cell phone.

    40 shots, same day delivery for $75? Easy. Point and Shoot camera, global processing adjustments (just apply an "Instagram" look) and upload the photos to drop box. All you have to do is book and shoot 5-7 jobs a day and worry about somebody putting an ad on Craigslist offering 50 photos for $50.

    If you have worked through Larry's (and other's) worksheets to find out what you must charge to be a viable business, you know where your price needs to be to earn a living. It is a distinct possibility that you can't earn a living in RE photography in your circumstances, so while you can offer your services at a higher price point than local competitors and see what happens, you may need to concentrate on genres of photography that have a higher return rate or just shoot photos for your own enjoyment.

    Basing your fees on listing price can lead to losing out on jobs where you will come back with portfolio quality images. 15 finished photos of a $250K will cost you about the same amount as 15 finished images of an $800K home. Your time is worth a certain amount per hour and you have certain costs. With some note keeping you will be able to estimate how long it takes you to create and deliver each image on average. Put the two together, add your travel costs and you know how much each image costs you including your time. Pricing by the photo with a minimum to amortize load in/out, prep, bookeeping and a travel charge (don't itemize on your quote or bill) will let you control your profit margin fairly closely. If you offer a package of 15 images, you can give an immediate price if the agent wants more if you know what your price/finished image is.

    In a land of $100 packages you can carve out a business charging $200 if you can demonstrate better quality and superior service. A better goal is to try for is half as many jobs at $400 each.

    I'm finding that 12-16 images is the sweet spot for middle of the road, middle class homes. When I look through listings with 30-45 images, the effective number, throwing out junk, is around 14 and sometimes less. I photographed a nicely upgraded home last month that ended up with 20 finished images including detail photos. It sold in one day. Another home in the same tract a couple of streets away has 36 images and 73 days on the market. After I apply my criteria and throw out the junk photos, they have 7 unique and useful images. Funny, I haven't been able to sell that agent.

  4. This post couldn't be more timely for me. Just yesterday, I came across a client's new listing with someone ELSE'S photos. She'd been dodging my calls for the past 3 months, but my impassioned voicemail asking, "How did I lose your business?" yielded a return call this time.

    "I'll be honest with you," she said. Turns out she found someone who would take the average home + virtual tour I had been providing for $250 and was charging her nearly HALF ($129). I explained at that price along with my investments in my gear, education, transportation and editing software, I would no longer be able to feed my family.

    Here's the thing that also bugs me about our conversation.... She complained that I often didn't reach the 25 images allowed by the local MLS. Her contention is that by showing LESS than the maximum number of images allowed, potential buyers will assume that the Realtor is hiding something. WHAT?!?!?

    Anyway... I totally agree that we ought to be avoiding the bottom 90% of listing agents. My high-end/luxury clients never bat an eye at my pricing. My now-former client deals in high-volume and low-price deals and $129 photography is all she needs.

    James O
    St Petersburg, FL

  5. Here is the problem with nearly all agents and agencies, they are numbers people, most can not see the difference between a good photo and a bad photo. A little over a month ago, I was called into the office to pick up a key the seller dropped off. I told them I'm on my way and I'll be there in 20 mins. When I got there I was told it had been cancelled. A few days later, I noticed someone else photographed it. I asked the agent to pull up the images and take a look at the images and what she thought about them. She said they were beautiful! Not a single one of them had verticals that were straight, some at 60 degree angles, loaded with lens distortions, snapper and cameras in bathroom mirrors, counter tops viewed from 2 feet and 6 feet, etc. No matter what I said, she and all the agents could not see anything wrong with them!

    I'm very tired of fighting a loosing battle, I closed down my business yesterday, it's time to retire.

  6. I hope you don't walk away feeling all self righteous that this agent wasn't high end enough to appreciate you. If you can't find 25 good shots then something's wrong. As a potential buyer, or buyer's agent I would want to see as many perspectives as possible. Anything less is just plain lazy. Even if i's a vacant house with nothing to show there may be photos of local attractions that can fill the space. Also if the guy that can do it for half the price's family isn't starving then maybe they run their business more efficiently than you? Or maybe they are happy with a lower standard of living than you? Everyone would like to drive a big car and have a big house and feed a bunch of children but if you think you can finance that taking photos for Realtors I think you're fighting an uphill battle.

  7. Well said Cat!

    I couldn't agree more about the 25 picture thing. I promise at least 16, but gone to explain that I will do my best to provide as many as I can to tell the story. In most cases I get more than 25 and I'll lose the bad ones and send the rest. I NEVER count pictures... "click, 16 that's it I'm done". I do always ask myself "Did I tell the whole story to the potential buyer?"

  8. @ Cat M... That's an interesting viewpoint. I think it would inform the conversation even better if you shared some of your work via your website.

    @ Jerry Kelley... Sorry to hear your bad news and good luck in your future endeavors.

  9. I have had nasty emails from real estate photographers in my area (assuming because they were afraid or threatened...) saying that I should not be praying on clients who already have real estate photographers. The funny thing is, I am more expensive than this real estate photographer. The bottom line is, I charge more, but I provide better quality and I make sure that I am a peach to work with. 😉 That's why my clients keep coming back. If I loose a client over the fact that someone is cheaper, more than likely they aren't better quality, so in that situation, I just have to remind myself that there will be more clients. I work hard, provide excellent photos at a decent price and I will continue to do it. Don't look to the right or to the left, people...just work hard and do well and you will be rewarded.

  10. If you know your cost of living and/or doing business and the prevailing market rate for real estate photography in your area is less than that, then you have to move on to some other photography market. I would add that if you couldnt make it without your spouse's income you are not charging enough for your photography. Scott has said you if you want to do real estate photography you shouldnt live in the suburbs, have kids or drive a newer car.
    Going after the top 10% is no guarantee of success. The top 5 listing agents in my area do not use “professional” photography. Lets assume the top 10% are all using professional photography, are you suggesting the rest of the photographers should just give up?
    Offering professional photography is a part of my listing presentation, it is not the main part. I demonstrate my knowledge of the market, pricing and competition, staging suggestions, contract and inspection negotiations, possible title company issues, and etc. A sellers main concern is price and net proceeds as well as days on the market so they can plan their next move and photography doesnt have anything to do with either of those issues.
    A buyer really doesnt care about plumb verticals, blown windows or color cast. They are smart enough to figure out if the house has the features they are looking for and will bring that listing to a buyers agent 95% of the time to schedule a showing, not the listing agent.
    You need to do your best and be your best and sites like this one and the PFRE site offer a ton of resources to raise your photography to the next level.

  11. For those of you who say that the cheap guy cant last at $75 a house forget a simple fact...That person may not be the breadwinner in the family. If their SO carries the health insurance, brings in most of the money etc...then yeah, they can last at that price, since it becomes pocket change, spending's no different than any other genre of photography (think MWC)...

    "Also if the guy that can do it for half the price’s family isn’t starving then maybe they run their business more efficiently than you?"

    See my comment above..

    "If you can’t find 25 good shots then something’s wrong"

    Key word here being "GOOD"...anybody with a camera/iphone etc..can give 25 or more photos...the MLS's are full of realtor supplied images where numbers reign's all in your definition of what constitutes "Good"

    How about 40 or 50...or 100...some MLS's allow that not providing that many also considered lazy...just wondering..

  12. Getting back to the original question...

    I suggest you deliver a service and product that the competition just can't compete with. I'm not advocating feeding off the bottom or charging back breaking rates.

    Here's an example... I have a couple RE photographers in my area, but I don't shoot, work, charge or advertise like them. Nor would I ever steal their business intentionally.

    Instead, I concentrate on my service skill and flexibility. I concentrate on the quality. I don't advertise my rates, either. I do everything by word of mouth.

    Besides, I like most of the work that the other photographers in my market create!

  13. @Cat M...

    Self-righteous? Not at all. Proud of my work? VERY and I have the repeat clientele to show for it.

    Lazy? I spend between 2-3 hours for EVERY home I photograph. Making a photo is more than just clicking the shutter. It's finding the right angle, the right height.... And, because I do NOT use HDR, it means taking the time to light each room correctly. Quality trumps quantity. Period.

    As Tim asked, if the MLS allows 50, 75, 100 photos, would it be lazy to shoot less, too? Having a background in marketing I can tell you that sometimes less is more. Even so, I always deliver 20 or more photos. To have a Realtor gripe about 22 or 23 photos just seems silly.

    Inefficient? Perhaps. I could use one light and do everything in HDR, but photography started as (and still is) a passion for me and my goal is to improve each time I make a photograph.

    As for my lifestyle... 2 children, a 1500sf home and my 10 year old Honda hardly constitute the "high life". Shooting real estate is meant to augment my other photography work, but that doesn't mean I should give it away.

    Are you a working photographer? As Dean suggested, we'd love to see some of your work.


  14. Rhonn,
    It would be much better if you could find ways to express yourself using your own words, instead of mine.

    But, if you're going to quote me, at least get the quote right, and try to understand what point I was making (which is very nearly the exact opposite of what you're implying above).

  15. Good topic, one that I constantly struggle with.

    I've developed a pricing scheme that basically offers two services. First, the $100 - HDR only - Ambient only (up to 30 images) - to compete with the low end shooters (pop, pop, pop, pop....).

    Second, I offer high quality (using lighting and more time) photos starting $160 for 15 all the way to $300 for 35. I have yet to have any takers on the HDR as people naturally want quality.

    I think it was Kicking Wing (Joe Dirt 2001) who said about a flower pot he was selling, "some people will pay $5 and some will pay $10". Don't quote me on that : )

    This is new a few weeks ago, so I'll see how it goes.

  16. If you're in a large enough market, developing a niche or specialty is a great way to distance yourself from competition. Every agent/broker I contact is targeted because of their relation to my niche and even if they can't afford it, they respect that I targeted them for a specific reason and are much more open to discussion (which has lead to future business). Not understanding your own brand and being a generalist places you in direct competition with the 'drive-by shooters' and you'll have a harder time with market penetration and retention because of it. As with all great photography, know your angle 😉

  17. I have a low end pricing strategy to appeal to with the low end agent and higher prices for the people who insist in quality. I have yet to have anyone take me up on the low end price as psychologically, people will justify that they will pay for quality.

  18. @ Tim 🙂 We could, however, say that the guy who charges $75 is probably retarded, and hell-bent on killing a great industry.

    The commissions that agents make, even on the low-end listings, are more then ample to pay for good photography, which is a good marketing strategy for energetic forward thinking realtors. It really doesn't matter whether or not they are in the top 10% now, or if that is their goal for the future... Great Marketing will be the vehicle that gets them there.

    Just like food, one could say that a steady diet of McCheeseBurgers isn't a healthy plan. Neither is a steadfast commitment to low-end cheap photography. Commit yourself to be the best, and charge accordingly. If that doesn't work, find a different occupation.

  19. @cat - You are proving my point that the average agent is not the best client for real estate photography... it's the top agents that are.

  20. "Not understanding your own brand and being a generalist places you in direct competition with the ‘drive-by shooters’ "

    Speaking of drive-by shooters I remember not so long ago the MLS would automatically send out a photographer and take one image of the house for free. If you wanted more you could pay extra. Back then most Realtors weren't willing to pay extra and didn't have them means to put their own photos on the MLS. So they relied on a good written description. And BTW their listings always sold as long as they were properly priced.

    Now they can finally crow-bar open their wallets and buy a $100 point and shoot and snap away without even having to buy film. Even better, they already have a phone they can use! To them this is heaven. And BTW their listings STILL always sell as long as they are properly priced. Now professional photographers come along and can't figure why a Realtor doesn't what to pay them what they think they deserve to be paid.

    To some of the primadonnas: Rather than being insulted and trying challenge me by asking to see my work, if some of you were smart you'd thank me for giving you a true glimpse into the mind of a Realtor. If you could learn to understand them maybe you could find more who are willing to pay you for what they can't afford and don't appreciate.

  21. "I photographed a nicely upgraded home last month that ended up with 20 finished images including detail photos. It sold in one day. "

    You're operating under a delusion. PRICE sells. The lower the price the more MLS matches. The more exposure the greater the chance of a qualified buyer. Do you really think a buyer is going to pay more for a home, and a bank is going to finance it because of your pretty pictures?

    BTW if a home sells in one day the seller got royally screwed by their Realtor.

  22. Wasn't there just an article about this a few weeks ago--the REAL reason to use professional photography. We all know professional photography will not make or break whether the home sells or not (though some of my best clients tell me it helps them sell homes FASTER). Cat is right, price is the number factor. But we all know the smartest agents use pro photography to brand their image and separate themselves from the other 90% of agents. And that's where the real money is--more listings.

  23. "Key word here being “GOOD”…anybody with a camera/iphone etc..can give 25 or more photos…the MLS’s are full of realtor supplied images where numbers reign supreme…it’s all in your definition of what constitutes “Good”"

    IMO good is, "accurate." You should fully document the home and leave no stone unturned. As a buyer the artsy-fartsy won't make me want to buy any house. Also keep in mind the photos are syndicated to many other websites with differing photo limits. Some only allow one. So you put your most important first, then "tell your story (LOL)," then leave the rest for last. When I'm looking for a house, especially one far away I'm glad to see as much as they can give me. I don't care how good or bad. I often ask the Agent to send me the rejects. Be it a missed closet, an extra attic access door or a garage window, sometimes the rejects tell me more than the ones that were published.

  24. Cat M -- interesting discussion.

    There is always going to be a fight between quality and value, conservative and liberal, democrat and republican. Usually when the discussion degenerates to whether a provider is lazy, sometimes knowledge is lacking in what goes into this job.

    I am a REALTOR and a photographer. My income as a photographer long surpassed what I earned as a REALTOR because I liked being a REALTOR, but LOVE being a photographer.

    When I am confronted with pricing as an issue, I thank the prospect for contacting me and move on. Just as I did when price or fees were a point of discussion as a REALTOR. I know that I am more comfortable being a high value provider rather than a FSBO type of photographer, if you will. Not to say that you shouldn't keep an eye on the value proposition. you just have to find the like minded customers that believe in the same things you do. Hopefully there are enough of them around to make a living.

  25. "most can not see the difference between a good photo and a bad photo."

    Exactly. If an agent can't see the difference and the public can't see the difference you might as well be selling HDTV to the blind. If I were marketing my houses to photographers I'd hire a high end photographer in a heartbeat.

  26. So, Cat M., how many listings did you have over the past 12 months, and, of those, how many did you sell and what was their average listing price? If you are going to speak so authoritatively, it would seem to make sense that you should have the experience and capabilities to back it up.

    I am not a real estate agent, but I supply photos to a wide variety of agents, including some who are among the top listing agents in the country (among all brokerages, not just their own), and I can tell you that these agents put great value on high quality photos. Furthermore, most of these agents do not necessarily use the maximum number the mls permits, or even anywhere close to that amount. The average price of the homes I shoot for these agents is well over $1,000,000 and it is rare that my clients do not sell their listings. This is even the case in a hot market, where homes may sell in a matter of weeks or even days, rather than months or years.

    As Larry and others have mentioned over and over again, top listing agents do not just use the photos to help market the homes. They also use the photos to help market themselves. Furthermore, the fact that many homes will sell with minimal marketing if they are priced well relative to the market does not necessarily mean that the seller got the most money they could have out of the deal. I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that prepping a property so that it shows well, including staging it, and then presenting the property well with high quality photos, persuasive marketing copy, well designed brochures and websites, etc., can help a home sell more quickly and for more money than might have been the case without such a presentation. Perhaps this doesn't necessarily apply in all markets, but it certainly seems to apply in mine.

  27. @Cat M., That home that sold in one day went for 20% over asking in a buyer's market. The broker told me explicitly that my "pretty pictures" were a big factor in getting the buyer to pick up the phone and call about the listing. The asking price was over the recent comps and the seller was very pleased. I don't know all of the reasons for the sale, but the home was largely empty and I'm guessing that a quick sale was a major factor. He could have priced higher and stayed on the market longer, but at what cost? Once a property is to be sold, every 30 days is another round of bills and holding out for more money can backfire.

    Homes sell with horrible cell phone pictures all of the time; no argument there. But, RE photographers are not selling homes, we're selling the agent/broker/office. The local toy store could take photos of a plastic shovel and bucket set with a cell phone for their advertising, but they don't. They have to compete with the toy store across town (or online) and if their inventory looks cheap, so do they. Sloppy and cheap marketing makes an agent/broker/office look sloppy and cheap. Should sellers not worry about cleaning up their home because the pricing can be lowered to match the level of cleanliness/repair? I think that a RE agent that said that is doing more of a disservice to their customer.

    Value sells a home, not just price. Price is a component of the value chain, but isn't the sole factor. Banks are financing the borrower, not the home. Your attempt at making some sort of connection is weak. It's obvious that your background is not in marketing. And yes, I do have a background in marketing.

    You do NOT want to be sending prospects pictures of garage windows, water heaters and attic access doors. You want them to schedule a showing in person. The inside of closet is not going to be a factor unless it a "palace for clothes" more than a "closet". now has a "zap" button. If a shopper is unimpressed with a property, they can click the zapper and never see that property again. Better make a darn good impression immediately or be eliminated from any further consideration. I wouldn't be surprised of the other major listing sites start adding that feature to their tools. The number of photos isn't going to impress, it will be the quality. Count on it!

  28. "We could, however, say that the guy who charges $75 is probably retarded, and hell-bent on killing a great industry"

    Did McDonalds kill the burger industry? Did the Amazon kill retail? Did Blockbuster or Netflix kill the theater industry? Yet the creators of Netflix, Amazon and McDonalds got rich. The $15 burger guys are eating at McDonalds.

  29. "Banks are financing the borrower, not the home. Your attempt at making some sort of connection is weak. It’s obvious that your background is not in marketing. And yes, I do have a background in marketing."

    The appraiser for the bank does not care squat about your magical photos. I've sold and been involved in the financing over 1500 homes. You're spouting the kind of stale self-serving mythology that costs sellers dearly if they listen to you.

  30. @Larry, When I talk to many of "top" agents in my area, I'm finding that most of them that don't already use pro photography aren't interested. They are older and have been in RE for many years and this new-fangled internet thing is more of a bother to some of them than a useful tool. One local agent told me that she "only" needs photos for the MLS and brochures making it sound like she only took them since they were required by the RE assoc. but not important for marketing. It certainly helps to show prospective clients a long list of sold properties over the last 12 months and I get the feeling that this is what keeps many agents attracting new homes to represent. It's a momentum and a positive feedback situation more than good marketing on their part.

    I learn a lot about the market and get a chance to see how aggressive agents are by spending some time on the weekends visiting open houses. If the top 10%ers that I talk to seem to be resting on their laurels, I'll keep them on my mailing list (with permission), but not spend too much effort on them. I'm searching for the agents that are looking for ways to knock the 10%ers from the top of the heap. I might even offer some discounts if they impress me enough and can be flexible with scheduling so I can fill holes. I can also scratch agents from my marketing list if they will not pay for photography or think that their photos are very good (which if I'm visiting them, they are not).

  31. "Price is a component of the value chain"

    The "value chain?" Or are you just yanking my chain? ROFL. How many years of college did you take to learn that one? I love it. Like handcrafted cocktails. Artisanal pizza. Greek yogurt. Organic toilet paper. Ergonomically designed toothpicks.

    Can't wait to try it out. I hope you didn't copyright it yet! "I'm going to optimize all the components of the value chain so your house will sell for double it's value in one day flat." Sign here...

  32. "The appraiser for the bank does not care squat about your magical photos." And why should they? Again, you are trying to make some sort of connection between a mortgage lender and photography that doesn't exist.

    So how exactly, in polite terms, does quality photography cost a seller dearly? How do visually appealing marketing materials turn into a "self-serving mythology". Why are you afraid to provide a link like most others?

    You style yourself as a Realtor and the National Association of Realtors produces reports that show the value of good photos for marketing a home along with other industry organizations and financial news companies. The research clearly shows a very strong correlation between quality photos and faster home sales at better prices than those without. If you want to buck the research, that's fine, but you are not going to convert many readers here to your point of view.

  33. Don't Feed The Trolls.

    When someone:

    A) Won't put their real name (much less a link to something meaningful) above the things they say, you can safely assume they're not to be taken seriously.
    B) Throws up "Straw Man" arguments (e.g. "photos won't help sell a house!") that no one else is really espousing, you can be sure they have some sort of weird agenda that has little to do with whatever topic is actually being discussed by everyone else.
    C) Starts making multiple posts, rapid-fire, you're dealing with someone who has WAY too much time on their hands. Back away, go do something interesting.

  34. "presenting the property well with high quality photos, persuasive marketing copy, well designed brochures and websites, etc., can help a home sell more quickly and for more money than might have been the case without such a presentation."

    That's the same BS Realtors BS their clients with so your ideas will go unopposed. If the property is priced too low other offers will come in if the agent doesn't advise the seller to take the first offer (which of course they will). A property priced way too high will result in too few matches and will result in no traffic. A property priced a moderately high will result in some showings but no serious offers (tire kickers). When it's priced right there will be showings and offers. This will happen even if there are no photos. Everything you said above is useful for a listing presentation but it's not what I've seen in my experience (1500 homes sold. Prices ranging from 100mil to 15k).

    For example, I've sold multi million dollar homes of celebrities and athletes where they didn't want me to use ANY photos for security reasons. At first I was skeptical too. But to my surprise those homes sold just as well as the ones I had in the glossy magazines, with brochures and dozens of them magical pro photos. How do you explain that?

  35. "I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that prepping a property so that it shows well, including staging it, and then presenting the property well "

    I never pushed people who were already stressed by the prospect of moving to clean up. I got many listings because I didn't have the anal attitude of the previous brainwashed selfish agent they previously interviewed. I even had a Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale chart in my presentation book that showed the stressors involved in moving had a higher score than even the death of a spouse. I discovered the idea that selling their house need not be stressful and difficult really appeals to people. Maybe you've heard of the 5 d's of why people need to sell; debt, death, disability, divorce, and downsizing. All very stressful.

    All most agents care about is getting paid before the listing expires so unless they're trying to "buy a listing" they will push the seller to break their back cleaning up and push for the lowest price the seller will go along with. Not much skin off their nose doing it that way. And so the myths get perpetuated.

    I once listed three cookie cutter homes on the same block at the same time. They were all related to each other and were all moving out of state. The three homes were structurally identical. One had nasty deer, tiger heads displayed on the walls. They had three kids so it was a mess and smelled funny. The second one was immaculate but had this macabre holocaust art all over the house. The third showed like a dream. Of course the show house sold first but to my surprise the stinky house sold for the same price not long after. The holocaust house took another two months and 20k less to sell.

  36. You don't have your sellers clean up?!?!

    I think it's pretty clear that none of the photographers here are going to waste their time vying for "Cat M"'s business. Let's just move on.

  37. Ken Brown - the point Cat M. is making is the Appraiser probably doesn't even see the photos, but sees the actual house and bases HIS price on that. SO, if the photos are SO GREAT and they help to sell the house for MORE $$ than the Appraiser is willing to say the house is worth, either the Seller drops the price, the Buyer pays more out of their pocket, or the deal falls thru. Hope that clears up the "connection", because there is one.

    I tried to get my lil'brother to get into R/E Photography a few years back as he had taken courses from well-known instructors and had published photos. His exact words - "Realtors are cheapskates", and as a Realtor, I agree, WE ARE! I really wish there was a local R/E Photographer here that I could use. The last one I tried, who worked for the Agency I was with at that time, was TERRIBLE. I could try to "train" wedding photographers in the area, but then they would go work for my competitors, so not gonna mess with that.....well, I probably will if I can find the right one, but honestly, just haven't been that impressed.
    I've tried to teach myself, but too old and not enuff patience. HUGE respect for much of the work that I've seen on this site (and links to other sites). As a Professional Musician, I know the time and hours of practice that goes into perfecting ANY Art Form!

    As one person mentioned, best thing is to give several price options - budget thru hi-end. Let THEM choose. I've done some of that with my sales commissions as well. Some will pay for the best....PERIOD. Others want as cheap as they can get....PERIOD. Give'em a choice and get their $$ either way. Some may have to start budget priced, but as they make more money and grow to appreciate the DIFFERENCE in better photos, they will move up the pay scale, and YOU still have them as a Client. Win-win for both. I used to own a music store, sold beginner instruments, provided lessons, sold them better, and better, and better instruments as they improved. MANY of the same Customers for 20 to 30 years - i.e. cheaper to have repeat customers than try to get new ones - Business 101.

    Many "Artists" get so wrapped up in their work, they dismiss the Business side of things. Some of the very best Musicians I have known get the Attitude "MY Music, or I don't play". Others say, "What kind of Music do YOU want to pay me to play?". Guess who actually lasts longer and who burns out quicker (except for a few exceptions of course). Balance & Common Sense. Don't mean to sound "Preachy" as most comments here show that Balance.
    Again, I've seen some AWESOME work here, LOVE IT and keep it up!!

  38. ". Usually when the discussion degenerates to whether a provider is lazy, sometimes knowledge is lacking in what goes into this job. "

    I see. My, "knowledge is lacking." Come out and say it. "I'm ignorant." As ignorant as I am I know what takes some people two hours to do can be done by someone more efficient, skillful and intelligent in half the time.

    Look, every room is a square which means it has at least four ways of viewing it. A yard, a garage, a pool etc. To say, "I can't come up with 25 photos for an entire house" is lazy. If not physically lazy then lazy in the mind. I don't know what other kinder nondegenerative word to use. Ok I'll mince words. Misguided? Unimaginative? Wack? Can be done by someone else for half the price?

  39. "@cat – You are proving my point that the average agent is not the best client for real estate photography… it’s the top agents that are."

    Of course. Go where the money is. But isn't everyone else? I'm not sure what you mean by "top agents." Before I train an agent I look up all their listings in the MLS. Most agents who call themselves "top producers" really aren't. Then I trained a truly top agent in a REMAX office of 200 and you'd never know it. He was young. Wore jeans. Left his expensive car at home. This is a business of posers extraordinair. The top of the top in the country have high end listings because they have connections and learned to use free press/publicity. A couple I train have TV shows now. Another group of Realtors that have money to burn who aren't top agents per-se are ones who have wealthy husbands and they're doing it just to keep busy. LOTS of those in affluent areas like Miami. Just go to Linkedin and search through the photos. Some hot mamacitas to be found! 🙂

  40. FYI to all: My general feeling is that everyone that comments in this kind of discussion should always supply a website URL to give your comments credibility. WordPress doesn't have a way to enforce this automatically or I'd have the feature turned on.

    I've advised Cat M. that I need a website URL for She/He will be barred from further discussions.

  41. Bravo, Larry, bravo!

    The trolling started a couple posts ago with the cryptic "following" comments. I'm sure others noticed it at the time, too.

    Again, thanks for moderating.

  42. @ scott
    for the record:
    "sell your children", "get out of the suburbs", "live cheaply" all in an effort to undercut photographers that live in the suburbs with kids.
    I have never sold or shot a million dollar listing in the past 20+ years and I doubt many agents in my market have. 250k+ will get you a very nice home in the suburbs. I am wondering if there isnt a bit of an elitist attitude by some of the contributors/moderators to this site. Never forget where you came from.
    What does not providing a website have to do with whether a persons point of view is valid or not?

  43. Came in late on this one.

    OK, who is the Cat you are all referring to? I don't see any posts with anyone with that name. Was it deleted?

    @Scott, the more famous you get the more you will be misquoted! Run for President, see how awful it can really get. Let it be water off the ducks back. You have better things to do than get into this piss pond.

  44. There a few RE photographers who charge as low as $49! I don't really know how it works out for them. They are mostly new RE photographers looking to acquire new clientele, but it'll be very difficult to maintain that in the long run. The main factors to consider before fixing a price is whether you'll be able to cover your fixed costs, your everyday business costs, "the support yourself" costs and covering your wages.
    We photographers rely a lot on electronic equipment which may fail/just stop working at any point of time, so we need to keep that covered as well.
    Tip - To increase my revenue I decided to do more shoots and no more post-processing work, outsourced the editing part to While they take care of the post-processing part, I do more shoots which increases my revenue on a daily basis.

  45. @Larry, In my area, I've worked for three of the top five agent/brokers. All they want is the lowest price they can get which means $69 to $99 or less, no matter the size of the house. They literally cannot see any difference between good and bad photography. As for the other two of the top five, their photography is even worse. What gets me is I've read over one hundred of the professional statements by agents and they all say the same thing about how they give very professional service in every way. Except for, the quality of photography they use.

  46. I was following this post and I’m sad to see Cat M's comments are all gone and Larry I hope they weren’t removed due to some of the comments sent her way from others? As much as her comments weren’t well received, they weren’t insulting and they were her opinions whether or not she wanted to post a website to validate herself. What happened to freedom of speech? So someone makes a comment and doesn’t post a link to images and we chastise them? I sure hope that’s not the case and maybe she doesn’t have a website? Even if she does and we don’t like her photos, does that make her opinion less valid?

    Back to the post…How Do You Compete With Real Estate Photographers Charging Low Prices?

    Well this is my two cents on this subject starting with a little background. I’m not a $50-75 shooter. My prices range from $130-$250 and I do 3-5 houses per day on average, 5 days a week (sometimes including 1 or 2 videos which don’t get completed until the weekend). I’m passionate about Photography and Videography especially shooting nature, landscapes, beauty and love that I can use my skills and passion to make a living photographing homes. I’m also a long time graphic designer which really helps in this industry. I built my real estate photography business from the ground up starting part time shooting after my day job as a graphic designer at the time back in 2007.

    For years I was a (single flash with diffuser on camera shooter) and doing a pretty darned good job at that and last year started to shoot with multiple strobes as I am always looking to learn more and further my career and one day get into larger and higher paying jobs so I can slow down eventually. I am used to shooting an entire house in under 30 minutes for stills only. That’s inside and outside delivering 25+/- images and I’m very busy.

    A couple months ago during a shoot I went as quickly as I could without being silly and shot a 3,000 square foot house with 4 strobes in some set ups and the home took me nearly 2 hours to shoot. The only reason I could afford this time was because it was a slow day. I noticed a big difference in the quality of the images but the agent did not. I eventually asked her what she thought and she said she didn’t notice a difference and this is coming from a top 10% agent that spends a lot on marketing. I now shoot a sort of hybrid method using two flashes, sometimes 3 and never shoot with on camera flash anymore. My shoot time has increased only slightly and the photo quality has increased significantly and for new clients I’ve up’d my price by 20% which I think is realistic.

    Every area is different but for the most part there are VERY few agents that will notice or even care about the difference from a “bad to a “good” photo or a “good” to a “great” photo which is totally subjective depending on who’s looking but most importantly…who’s paying for them. I think this was Cat’s point, she just wasn’t getting to it effectively and ruffled some ego feathers here.

    It’s fine to put your all into every shoot and if you’re mostly shooting for interior designers, builders, architects or very high end agents in a huge city that’s great, but when you’re shooting in smaller rural areas or small cities for realtors and only realtors it’s misleading to the start up companies on this blog to say they should be spending 2+ hours on a shoot whether it’s a $150K s**t box or 2M house, charging $500+ and eventually the clients will come to them.

    In real estate a large percentage of old school agents come from a time where pictures didn't sell the home, so some are not going to part with the money…period. You either move away from those agents or if you have time and like beating your head against hard surfaces, you have to convince them that good photos can “help” to sell the home in todays age. New school agents know how important the photography and videography is and aren’t afraid to spend the money from their marketing budget…question is, how much are they willing to spend in your area. This is an important factor that Cat’s opinion was missing.

    Also a lot of realtors can’t afford to have professional photos taken as they themselves may be start up realtors undergoing a lot of stress and start up costs associated with this venture in a very competitive and saturated market, or maybe they are trying to support a family and may only have a couple of listings or don’t have a lot of connections, so to say they are "bottom feeders” because they only spend $50 or $75 on a photo shoot is pretty closed minded. These agents will figure it out eventually when they see their peers photos and they themselves start making more money and upping their marketing budget and as long as they know you’re there and willing to shoot for them, that’s all you can do and let time and quality prove itself. The photographers shooting for that little are no threat as they are either a hobbyist, retired or will burn out trying to keep up with demand and will not threaten your business in the long run. If your area is so small with low house prices and that's all realtors are paying, it may possibly be the wrong career choice or require a move to another busier area? Hard to say.

    Real estate is fast paced and Realtors want and need the photos yesterday and in most cases can’t wait for a photographer that can only do 2 listings a day. I personally shoot for over 70 agents of whom 10-15 of them are the top 10% and give me the most work. That being said, if I all of a sudden took the advice given by some on this site and told them that I am going to start spending more time in their listings to give them better pictures but I’m going to be charging them twice, no 3 times as much, I would lose all of them eventually, not to mention the entire batch of other agents below them. It’s so easy to make these statements when you’re at the top of your game outside of real estate, but in reality there are way too many variables involved and steering newcomers in this direction can be very misleading and harmful to their business.

    My advice, be creative in your marketing and make sure you take “good” photos and price them realistically for your quality offered and your area and don’t waver. Don’t offer a price that’s too good to be true like $50 because you will burn out and end up working for less than minimum wage. Price is not up for negotiation once you’ve set it so be sure you’re pricing it right. You will be approached many times by agents asking for a better deal with a promise of bulk listings. The listings will likely never come and you’ve just cut your price for nothing and when other agents find out you’re giving different prices, your business is done as the word will spread like a bad venereal disease. Those are usually the same agents that cut their commissions to get listings…they too won’t last long in most cases and you want solid relationships with agents that value your work and work ethic.

    If you really want to attract a LOT of new clients, you need to diversify your business. For example learn how to make stunning videos, 3D floor plans or whatever your aptitude allows for. Always keep one step ahead and never be comfortable, be fast, polite to the home owners, answer the phone and return messages quickly, deliver images quickly and most importantly, it’s the little things you do above and beyond to make the realtors happy that goes a long way. Realtors won’t want to share you and that’s when you know you’re running a great business, so don’t expect word of mouth to spread fast, this is something you’ll need to do on your own. Advertise locally on Facebook and Twitter, post regularly and tag offices, even agents you’re trying to attract in your area and post watermarked images to their walls so they will see your work. Take lifestyle shots in your area and sell them as well, this will get you in the door with agents that need these for their sites especially now with “Lifestyle” being a key word in marketing real estate. Buy a mobile studio and offer head shot days at broker offices, this too is a great way to meet agents and get chatting with them about the work you offer. Create a brand and stick to it and hammer it to them so they don’t forget you.

    This is the key to being a successful Real Estate Photographer and how I compete with those offering lower prices

  47. That was, I think, the longest run-on sentence I've ever read!

    It's interesting to hear all the different viewpoints on the topic. Bottom line, there's a market for Kia, and a market for Mercedes/Ferrari/etc. Decide which market you want to be in, and set your sites. There ARE agents who appreciate high caliber photographs and are willing to pay for them.

    Also to note, there's plenty of competition in both markets. In the "Mercedes" market however, it's more about the quality of your product, vs how much you charge. Clients with the money, are highly invested in how good you make THEM look, because their next client will be looking at your photos.

  48. I wholeheartedly agree with everything Matt said. Spot on. Business decisions need to be as much and probably more of your focus than "artistic" decisions. Why people are so obsessed with the competition is beyond me - spend your time upping your game and offering the most value and doing the best job for your clients and you will be busier than ever. It's such a simple formula. One of my major competitors here is roughly half of my price - and I couldn't be any busier than I am right now. They are not even a blip on my radar screen. Who cares? (BTW, one of my clients saw an ad on Craigs List that the owner of this company was also looking for a weekend bartending job, so... go figure!)

  49. Thanks Fred. Sad that certain opinions which disagree with certain people result in your opinion being removed from a post. Seems pretty one sided...

  50. @Matt

    That was one of the best, longest and detailed responses I've seen on a PFRE post. I too, have told many photographers that there is more than one way to skin a rabbit. The car market seems to be a great comparison. Not everyone and every market can, should or will support a Bentley dealership.

  51. @Travis, some (or many) agents ARE cheapskates and want to collect every penny of a commission that they aren't required to spend. Others might be risk adverse and don't believe the studies that show better sales performance with professional images. I run across these agents all of the time and try to get them to put my card where they can find it so when a seller insists on professional photography before they will sign an agreement, they know who to call right away. Also, if they are in a meeting with a prospective client with a nice home and they don't feel that they're going to be able to close the deal, they can use bringing in a professional photographer as a kicker to get the listing. It's akin to buying the listing and could be a cheap hook. I have asked agents if there have been times when they would have offered $150-$200 cash to a seller to get the listing and nearly all of them have, though they don't due to ethics issues and that the offer would also seem rather strange to the seller.

    @Matt, I agree that many people won't notice the difference between "good" and "excellent" photos, but it can still be worth the effort to push for excellence. Those that can tell the difference might be willing to pay for it. If your market area has a luxury zone, it's a good marketing move to aim for clients that represent the higher end properties where you can charge more on fewer shoots. Getting noticed and having a good portfolio will be worth the time invested. Take Los Angeles for example; a large portion of the LA area is middle class homes, but then there is Beverly Hills, The Hollywood Hills, Pasadena and other communities with homes valued in the millions of dollars. While you might not get one of those homes to photograph every day, you want to be the go to photographer for the agents that work that crowd. Those agents will be looking at duPont Registry, Distinctive Homes, Robb Report RE, etc and will see the difference.

    If you're in a suburban market that doesn't have enclaves of million dollar homes, your approach of hitting the quality level past which there isn't any return is not a bad idea. I would say to keep practicing going the extra mile when you have the time. Personally, I always spend extra time on a job on slow days trying out different things. Multiple small flashes, strobes, EF/hybrid and tethering are some of the things I will work on. I could practice at home, but part of the RE challenge is to evaluate and compose quickly in an environment you are seeing for the first time. At this point, I can photograph my cave using any workflow one cares to name and I'm bored with it.

    Every time I try a new technique that I have seen demonstrated, I always find that the presenter has left out a crucial bit of information and I need to try it a few times before I learn what those missing bits are.

    I like challenges and I'm always pushing myself to improve. There is a certain level of professional satisfaction I get when I really nail a job. That said, there are days when I don't have the time to pull out every stop and the client hasn't been willing to spend a bit more; "good enough" is the highest mark I can offer. Most of the homes I wind up photographing need more cleaner/stager work to make the biggest difference. Another 5% improvement in the photos wouldn't be noticed.

  52. @Greg Tilley

    I have been in talks with Abdul at Outsource Images.

    Can you tell me what their prices are? If you don't want to tell me here, I'll give my email to Larry and
    maybe he can put the two of us together via email?

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