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How Much Do You Earn As a Real Estate Photographer?

Published: 01/08/2019

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I was on a podcast last week and the host asked me how much someone can make as a real estate photographer. This is sort of a loaded question and it caught me off guard at first, but it reminded me of a poll Larry took way back in 2008. Out of 1348 photographers that participated, the results of the 2008 poll were as follows:

  • Below $20k/year - 48.66% (656 votes)
  • $20k-$39k/year - 16.54% (223 votes)
  • $40k-$59k/year - 12.98% (175 votes)
  • $60k-$79k/year - 6.53% (88 votes)
  • $80k-$100k/year - 5.64% (76 votes)
  • Over $100k/year - 9.64% (130 votes)

This poll is over ten years old, so with the massive growth we've seen in our industry over the past decade, not to mention all the value adds that have become relatively mainstream, i.e. aerial, 3D, floorplans, measurements, video, etc., I am very curious to see what the numbers look like today.

So here is an updated poll that I hope everyone will participate in:

[polldaddy poll=10376313]

Brandon Cooper

18 comments on “How Much Do You Earn As a Real Estate Photographer?”

  1. While I work at this full time, I suspect there are a lot of part timers out there. So, maybe a further poll should break up those that do this full time and part time

  2. Net or gross in an important questions.

    These incomes are going to be very location dependent. Areas of high home prices will allow for higher fees, but also have a much higher cost of living. In many cases two individuals can have the same living conditions, but one has a salary 3 times larger than the other.

  3. The part-time full-time differentiation is significant. The regionalization element is important but nearly impossible to get without a complex census type questionnaire.

    Perhaps one useful qualification would be to have respondents apply adjustment factors to the range they select.
    A) Full-time equivalence. i.e. if someone is working at REP 1/4 time, then multiply their gross income by 4.

    B) US median income factor. i.e. I'm sure there is a table, probably the GSA has one, that provides a basis for a factor to compare one's locale to the US median. I use the GSA Per Diem table when determining expenses when traveling on a job. Its one way to calculate a factor.

  4. Here is a cost of living calculator. I just did a quick Google search and selected one of the first results. There are many other and they may be better. There are also several different COL indexes, some are national, some international.

    Based on this, on my areas has a COL index of 93, LA has one of 195.1. So a salary of $100,000 here is equal to $209,784 there. (195.1 / 93) * 100,000 = 209784.
    If we want to standardize the income, the best best is to select a city and have everyone report income converted to that COL index.

  5. I love how Brandon poses a light-hearted poll, and soon...and PRFE congress will be demanding tax returns.

    Where's the answer option for "not quite sure...but we're hustlin' out here".

  6. @Chibi - It's only nature for people to want to understand how they are doing with respect to their piers. As RE photographers, most of us don't have much of a yardstick to use as a comparison so we want to make sure the ones we do have are useful. The with small sample size of this poll, the items mentioned make a huge difference.

    @Brandon - I would like to see a research article on this. Something were the income is standardized as well as the part time/full time aspect.

  7. I did a quick analysis of the numbers. (a very quick one).

    It looks like a typical two bell curve distribution. Based on my quick look we clearly have 2 overlapping distributions. One looks to peak at 20 or below. I suspect that would be the part time crowd. The other peaks between 100 and 149. I expect that would be the full time group.

    Now that was a very quick look, so take that into account.

  8. Agreed, the questionnaire is worthless.

    full time or part time.
    sole proprietorship or contact shooter.
    income only from photography, if you are a coach or offer seminars, books, deduct that income.
    Employees, deduct their contribution or have a separate poll covering employees, number of, etc.

    And of course the cost of living, etc. I live where the average home value is 350K very high for some areas and dirt cheap if compared to Manhattan Beach 2.5 mil.

    The danger of what we do and say out here is the false sense of a good income for those starting or desiring to enter the field. I do very well. BUT I have 40 years of real estate experience, I have an active license even though photography is my income. I maintain it because it give me a huge advantage over my competition, I am full time so I don't have as many scheduling conflicts do to real conflicts job ( obtain good clients because I am not booked out 2 weeks (my next day off). I can shoot anywhere I feel like traveling because I am not worried about the expense or time because the client is more important than the profit from one shoot. A newby can't do that and survive.

    Unfortunately our field suffers from the same malady that Real Estate Broker suffer from, someone of the periphery taking our work to have extra beer cash. I get the stats for all of the 8500 realtors in my mls, 7000 do nothing, 2 hundred do 70 percent of the listings with the other 30 percent going to Realtors who had a Aunt king enough to ask them to sell their home.

  9. FYI - To those who missed it - the results posted on this post are from Larry's original poll in 2008. After this one runs for a bit longer, I am excited to compare the two.

    There are a few comments here ranging from "the questionnaire is worthless" to a few that point out some key data points which could separate it out into more meaningful data.

    Could the data be better? sure.

    Calling it worthless, give Brandon a break. If anyone wants to put 10k of their own money together for a professional study through a research group, Ill match the other 10k. But I am thinking that for something casual and that didnt cost this group anything: you can certainly garner some valuable insight.

    For instance:
    1) the number of folks bringing in extremely low wages has halved in 10 years. Now, that could be that there are less true "part timers" or a myriad of other things, but its good to know.
    2) Over 25% of respondents are earning over 100k. While that obviously means different things in different areas where COL shifts greatly --- its a very healthy income by most metrics.
    3) almost 5% of respondents are over 200k. For someone who's in their first year, bringing in 45k, that should be pretty encouraging.

    I would say the "second shooter" factor is true, but also not that big of a deal. Generally if you have a handful of second shooters, you are likely handling post production at your own cost, and typically only making a % off the top of your shooters. So, factor - sure --- but it doesnt take someone from 45k to 200k.

    Sure, separate out larger groups from smaller groups. that makes sense.

    Part time vs full time --- I would venture to say that's valuable, but only partially relevant - as we would need to get an answer to the distinction "are you part time by choice?" question.

    What I would ask anyone else reading this comment is: What can you learn from the numbers posted?

  10. I'd like to see more polls. How about a poll with nested(?) questions. Something like...How much do you make and what type of photography method do you use?

  11. Thanks Vince, Some really good points that need careful consideration. Maybe another question should be added to the survey - "how happy are you with your work"?

  12. I would like to see more polls. They stimulate conversation, give some insight and make you think about where you goals are.

    No poll is perfect, this poll is a good start. You don't need to spend thousands, just throw out a poll once in awhile and stimulate the conversation.

    My suggestions were meant to further the discussion and not as a hit on this poll, I really would like to see the added polls presented. I suggested the same thing with Larry back when, but did not see any follow up.

    Bottom line, you can take what you want from the polls, but that is just what they are...polls. Most polls are flawed....Anyone remember the polls claiming crooked Hillary winning by a landslide? 🙂

  13. I think that having categories for full/part time is a good idea. It would be too much to ask people to do a COL calculation on a poll like this. At that point, you get to the level that Vince it taking about with more controls and much more formality. I think it's also valid to ask if the person is a one-man operation, working for a larger company or a sub-minimum wage contract shooter for a big service provider. I don't think it matters if somebody is doing their own editing or not. It's more about gross income since everybody's CoDB is going to vary quite a bit. Those that gross more are more likely to be in higher cost of living areas. You can't have a roof over your head if you are providing 60images/job and charging $75/home in NYC. I'm skeptical about that structure anywhere, really.

  14. A multipart questionnaire would allow people to find correlations and come to some conclusions regarding the data. There simply isn’t enough information to work with.

    A table factoring cost of living would go a long way. Other factors to consider are; number of employees, outsourcing and the quality of the delivered product.

    Due to the lack of standardization there is a wide range products being promoted. Architecture, interior design and other commercial work should not be included in this category as they have different requirements.

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