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How Many Property Shoots A Year Do You Do?

Published: 03/06/2016
 Robert in Virginia asks:

I have been shooting real estate photos part-time for a couple of years and have 5 or 6 realtors who use me for all/most of their work. I've shot about 75 properties a year, mostly on the weekends.

I'm considering pursuing real estate photography as a full-time job and wondered how many properties an above average photographer in a large metro area working on his own to shoot and process can expect to shoot in a normal year. And while I know spring is the crazy season, how steady is the work throughout the year? Are there months when I wouldn't have any work or is there still work in Nov-Jan, albeit at a much slower pace?

I'm trying to figure out if I can earn enough income to justify doing this full time.

Based on what real estate photographers from all over the world tell me in most large metro areas you can build a single person business to the level of business that you want. You continue to market yourself until you get to the level of work you want.

Since most people don't want to have their home on the market during the year-end holidays business between thanksgiving and new years is very quiet. Here is how the Seattle area market looks like throughout the year. Most other areas are similarly cyclical.

How much business does everyone do a year? Please take the poll.

[polldaddy poll=9433580]
Larry Lohrman

11 comments on “How Many Property Shoots A Year Do You Do?”

  1. A lot has to do with your location where the weather can curtail business for months, say the North East, compared to So Cal that is year round business.

    Then you have the demographics of your area, is it a large metropolitan area that is affluent or is the area small and/or struggling with the economy? This product we offer is not a necessity and is one of the first things that is cut with agents struggling.

    There are times of the year that are slow across the board, like Christmas. Those time should be valued as a opportunity to take some time off for vacations, family, etc. That said, we should plan for those down times so we are not stressed about the lack of income.

    Bottom line, have more than one product you offer as a pro photog, you will have less risk to the effects of the economy

  2. I've had 1 day off so far this year. I try to shoot only 2 a day. My busiest month in the last 12 was December (mostly builders). Could be smart before you quit your job to wait until 30 days or so after the rate hike happening this month - It might slow things down a bit... But who knows...

  3. The number of properties depends on the number of services. If you upsell and offer additional services such as a floor plan, twilight photos or a video tour you can triple the money and shoot fewer homes. Myself and my partner shoot 20-25 houses per week with half of those homes requiring videos and/or floor plans.

    An easy way to stay busy at least in Los Angeles is by not being afraid to drive. If I'm willing to drive 30 minutes I open the door to more jobs. You'll find a lot of people not willing to leave their niche area for instance many here stick to Hollywood and won't make the drive to Orange County. By covering multiple areas you don't feel the pain when certain markets slow. We've found spreading the risk like this keeps revenue constant year round. The driving does suck, but making a great living shooting ridiculous homes is a fun time.

  4. It has everything to do with how busy you want to me, that's the best part about being a photographer, the flexible schedule! I wanted a very successful business so I worked extremely hard building my business/contacts/relationships for 2 years, now i'm reaping the benefits. hard work always pays off!

  5. In addition to listings, I shoot for a couple of property management companies and they bring me reasonably steady work year 'round. These are rentals people live in, not vacation condos in exotic locations, so while there is a wide range of sizes and styles, typically the units are smaller, sometimes empty, sometimes not; sometimes neat and tidy, sometimes not so much. I charge less than full ticket, which will bring a large chorus of boos from this crowd, but I do so because it provides a great chance to stay busy and practice my craft and, quite simply, I want the work. The margin for a property management company is quite a bit different than a for sale listing and sometimes they only help the client find a renter and don't actually manage the property beyond that. Simply put, charging full ticket would result in no income because it wouldn't make economical sense to them. That said, one unanticipated bonus that it has resulted in me getting all of the full listing business from the agents that work for these companies and, of course, those get billed normal rates.

  6. I'm not lying when I say I will have shot in 1600 to 1900 houses this year. I am already at 825 this year alone. My record is 52 houses in one week and I'm not necessarily proud that I'm killing myself, but it does feed the children…

  7. I shot 1100 last year and expect to do more than that this year. Since I'm in New York City and I use a scooter, unable to get around and work very efficiently. If the space is perfect I can make 30 images in an hour.

  8. @Nick Marshall, If somebody is already booked pretty solid, driving from LA to OC or the other way around can be a waste of time for all but the most expensive properties. I've had inquiries about taking a couple of jobs in Pasadena, but I'd have to charge an arm and a leg since I could do three jobs in the Antelope Valley vs. one if I had to drive to Pasadena. My pricing would get better if an agent could book me for 2 or 3 jobs while I'm in the area, but I'd still have to add a heavy trip charge. One accident on the 210, 5 or 14 and the working day can get very long.

    I try to limit myself to only 2 full shoots per day. I have a large service area and it's common for me to travel an hour each way. I have some good customers that I touch base with when I have jobs in their area to see if they have anything coming up so I can shoot exteriors while work is still being done inside. I have also had days where I did one full shoot and several minis (10ish images) of smaller or less expensive homes without much of a marketing budget.

    @Robert in VA, run the numbers and see how many homes you need to shoot per week, month, year (about 9 months) to earn the amount of money you need to make it worthwhile. Don't forget that The Man® expects a bigger percentage of your income for letting you work for yourself. 75 homes per year won't pay the bills if it's your sole source of income. If it will, let me know how you get customers to pay $1,000/session! Get some honest figures on how long it takes you to complete an average job from start to delivery so you can see how many jobs you can reasonably do in a day. Or, how many images you can make and finish if you are doing smaller jobs like I do as filler work. BTW, I charge more per photo for the small jobs, but the lower bottom line helps my clients use professional photos across all of their listings.

    Thanksgiving through Super Bowl is the slow season and you will want to work on developing business that can be done during those times. Commercial/Industrial/Retail properties can be moderately consistent all year-round. I fill in with small product photography (tabletop) for local artisans that sell on Etsy, fairs and craft shows. It's a nice break from buildings and I can work in Very casual clothing.

  9. I've determined (after shooting real estate in the area for 5 - 6 years now) that the market seems to hold steady with an average listing size of 2000 sq ft priced at around $100 before tax. While I would love to boost rates to around $150 or $200 for the same size listing, when I've tried in the past, business dropped dramatically (around 1/5th of what I was shooting.) To combat this, I'm retaining my original pricing for my steady, original clients, and introducing higher rates for new agents that I bring on board.

    That being said, I have photographed around 1,100 homes each of the past two years, and looks like this year is on par for the same. Its about 5 houses a day with 2 weeks off per year, time in the houses is about 30 minutes and post processing takes 15 minutes. Higher end homes get better treatment (off camera flash, window masking, etc).

  10. I'd like to thank all the commentators for their great insights. This is extremely useful for those just getting into real estate photography full time.

    The big surprise for me in this poll is the number of people doing over 800 shoots a year. I knew there were some out there because I've talked to some of you. But I didn't realize there were 20% shooting over 800/year.

  11. For me, I'm still shooting part time as I need to keep my full time job for my family health insurance. Even doing this part time, I'm easily doing 200-250 homes a year... and that pays as much or more than my full time job! I've been struggling with dropping my day job to pursue photography as my main job. I know that the extra time would yield more shoots. Plus I would have time to really market my business, as I have tons of ideas, but no time to implement them. The issue of paying huge payments for insurance is what's holding me back.

    In my market, a suburb outside of Philadelphia, we are flooded with real estate agencies. There are dozens of real estate agencies in my town alone. I'm only working with about 5-6 right now. At the same time there are PLENTY of bottom-dwelling photographers offering 50-60 shots with video for $90!... some even cheaper. Even with that, there's plenty of work.

    Due to the weather here, January is the slowest month (like most places). March thru November are BUSY! the only time it slows done is around holidays. Last week and this week were slower due to the Memorial day holiday. As slow as it was, I still had 8 shoots. But next week we are right back into it... I already have 8 booked and more will come. In the slow months, I pick up extra portrait work to make up the difference.

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