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How Soon Can You Schedule a Real Estate Shoot and How Long Does It Take You to Deliver Results?

Published: 26/11/2018

Taylor in West Michigan asks:

I'm wondering if you have any information on average lead times and media turnaround times for real estate photographers working full time.

This question reminds me of sitting at a home seller's kitchen table with my wife after the listing clients signed a listing agreement. The first thing out of the listing clients' mouths is always, "When can we have this on the market?" And my wife's question to me was always, "When can you photograph this property?" There was only ever one acceptable answer: ASAP! For real estate photographers who work for many different clients, the answer is the same: ASAP! Of course, there are two components:

  1. When can the shoot be scheduled? Of course, the answer is highly dependent on your workload but my guess is that if you can't schedule a shoot within a few days (2 or 3), your clients are going to start calling another photographer.
  2. How soon after the shoot can the results be delivered? Most real estate photographers will commit to deliver results within 24 hours but actually deliver sooner.

What are your scheduling and delivery times?

Larry Lohrman

22 comments on “How Soon Can You Schedule a Real Estate Shoot and How Long Does It Take You to Deliver Results?”

  1. The other question is, how many hours to POST-produce 15 photos on a high-end shoot? Assuming properties costing over $3,000,000 ?

    I usually get photos to clients within 48 hours after shoot. 24 is too tight (for me).

  2. We use an online scheduling tool from Square. it's pretty good although it has some limitations so my clients are able to see our schedule right away when they are sitting with a client. Sometimes things need to be rushed due to a Hubbard and I have a standing policy that if they don't see something that fits, give us a call and we will try to accommodate them. Our lead time is about 1 - 2 days. Very rarely do we miss an opportunity.

    As for delivery time, we are usually delivering between 24 - 48 hours. We try to get them out as fast as we can but some of higher end listings take a little bit longer due to the sheer size of the package - up to 60 images, videos, and tours.

  3. I can often schedule an appointment the next day. I've even been at a customer's office picking up a check for a job I did in the morning and left from there to another one they had that was just checked out as ready. I do all of my booking manually. First off, it's a chance to talk with the agent about the job. The more opportunities that I have to interact directly with my clients, the less I am of an automated and easily replaced machine. I also like to look up the property and determine what time of day will be the best or that I'm not being asked to book an appointment at the worst time of day for where the sun will be. I may also be on the other end of what is a large territory and it's not possible to get to the appointment in time. I may have promised a customer fast turn-around on their job and won't be able to take more work.

    The big question is "when will the property be ready?" There is little point in putting a listing up until the property is ready to be photographed and shown. I expect that for agents, there isn't any motivation to work with the sellers to get the home ready until the listing agreement is signed. That means that it can be several days to a week before a home might actually be ready for photography in many cases. There is no point in rushing to get the photography done if the house is a mess. During the holidays, that can be a big factor. I'm sure I'm going to be shooting homes this year that are all decked out in decorations and are prepped to accommodate relatives coming to stay over. It often means that I'll be getting another booking to reshoot the home after the decorations come down. It also means that the agent did do their job very well in preparing their clients.

    I typically guarantee delivery of images in 48 hours and often deliver the next day unless I'm backed up or I have other things on my schedule. If I know that I will have to deliver later than the 48 hours, I let the customer know before I book the job to make sure that they can accept the later delivery. For me, promising 24hour turnaround or delivery the next morning just isn't practical as standard practice. I'm rarely booked solid 2 days in a row, so I know that I will meet my 48 hour promise. Like price, being the fastest to deliver may not be a good marketing tactic. Customers will certainly remember if you don't deliver when you say you will. I can sometimes promise next morning or even same day delivery, but I add a rush charge for that since it can often mean giving up some sleep to make it happen.

  4. "It also means that the agent did do their job very well in preparing their clients." Should be "didn't do their job.....".

  5. Re Ken: "picking up a check for a job" - Nothing to do with the subject directly but I find it most strange one receives a check for payment. It is so slow, you have to wait for the check to be delivered with the post or pick it up yourself. Then you have to take the check to the bank to pay it into your account. All time factors which will delay other, perhaps more important work.

    Here in Europe, customers can make a direct transfer and pay directly into my bank account thus saving me from the work and lost time involved that I have just described. Doesn't that exist in the USA/Canada? Comments are welcome.

    Best wishes from Munich in Germany

  6. Scheduling depends on the time of year. Sometimes I book 2 weeks out. Most agents have a “to do” list for the sellers and staging to schedule.
    Our area delivers a lot more than 15 photos yet turn around is next day. I usually deliver anywhere from 30-40+ images. I’d love it if it where only 15!

  7. Yes, ASAP is the correct answer unless they are asking for a time in the future. I usually am able to accommodate within one or two days. At times, the Realtor is also present during the shoot doing their follow up paperwork and measuring the rooms. The other factor is physical location as have to factor in driving time and it can take at least an hour driving from one side of the county to another between shoots. Typically say delivered within 24 hours. Many time I have it within 12 but delay delivery until the next morning to not set the expectation of same day, and when they do request same day - they really think I was working. Multiple shoots for the same Realtor on the same day, I ask them which property they want first (outside of the owner's ears).

    On the issue of owners asking how soon will be listed with the inferred expectation of yesterday - the correct answer is "When Ready." I have trained my client NOT to take a iPhone picture of the front and list it that day, updating later and the reason why not is the supporting answer to give the owner for "When Ready" and state relatively short timeline for them to improve the property and photos. Realtors are in competition with other realtors and unfortunately a training tactic of "Get the listing now?" as your competitor will before the follow-up appointment by carrying a temporary "for sale" sign in the trunk to plant in the yard and script "sign here and will have in MLS today!" They are playing on the owner's lack of knowledge as it only serves the Realtor by locking out the competition with a signed listing, but cost the owner $$$. To understand that, consider the buyer's side - and what the Realtor should be telling them. Agents with buyers create a search that automatically email out a notification when a new property hits the market. Buyers actively looking in your neighborhood, at your price level, and your size home. You want to hit them with your best shot of a fully prepared property - not a single mandatory front photo and a lazy temporary narrative "More to come". The next email that automatically goes to that group is a price reduction.

  8. I am in line with what Ken Brown has indicated. I also do all of my booking manually. I keep meticulous records in a BGSS (Big Giant Spread Sheet). Over the past two years I have averaged 400 photo/video per year related client engagements. I do not "shoot" on the week ends unless it's at the sportsman's range with my wife. Of course some weeks are busier than others and some seasons are also.

    I averaged 11 days book to shoot lead time. Yes some were booked the same day and some were a month in advance. I don't ( or rarely ) shoot un-prepared homes. My clients like to book me as soon as they are sure of or the same day they get the listing. I say I will deliver in 24-48 hours. I typically deliver in 24 hours. That is, I deliver stills in that time frame. Some engagements, over 50% of them, include video or brochures or ads or posting on web pages or all of those. Those extras may take a day longer but with the stills they can get their listing up within their regulatory requirements.

    We have no required "lead time" we fill the shoot to the requested or earliest possible open slot considering the best time of day and the weather known at the time.

    I will say this. If you have agents that will move on from you if you can't meet their timing demands all the time then I don't want those agents as clients. They are looking at you as if you are a commodity and not a valued marketing partner. I have also found those type of agents rarely manage THEIR client's expectations in a reasonable manner. That is not a sign of continuing growth and success in an agent.

    To Ken's point "it depends on when and if the property is ready" there are a few homes that are ready all the time, most are not. All agents should manage their clients in a manner that the client understands exactly what to do to get the home ready for the photographer. I have mine trained and they have found over time that prep is beneficial and essential to quicker sales at higher prices. They explain that in their listing meetings. They also explain to the home owner they are going to expend funds to secure "the leading photographer in the area" (true or not). I make it a point to reinforce and thank them for their prep when I get on site. That boosts the value of the agent in their eyes and makes the agent more likely to appreciate our work as something more than a commodity. It also helps create repeat clients for both the agent and I.

  9. Since there is some discussion regarding "picking up checks," my delivery to collection time is 15 days on average. I have never missed getting paid. I have had to bug a few agents a few times but I always get paid. Those "slow payers" are included in that 15 day average.

    There are times when a client hands me a check while I'm on site for past invoices. Everyone likes getting paid and when that happens the client is a repeat client that would rather not be bothered with having to pay separately for each engagement on the day it is shot.

    This gives my clients the option to pay by check or PayPal or credit card. It also gives me the chance to upsell them at the time of the shoot or a day later. I'm sure there are many who will disagree with me but I hate to discuss price or payment while on site. In my mind of you are "Not a commodity" and you are running a professional operation, then you book, deliver, invoice, collect in that order. Yes I know there are some situations you have to collect. On FSBO engagements I collect on arrival in cold hard cash only.

    I work hard to maintain the aura of "I'm not a commodity" and not collecting while on site is part of that. 15 day collection should not hurt an operation that is working within the cash flow of their business. Everyone should know the cash flow implications of their business. If you can't wait 15 days something may be wrong with your operation.

  10. @Desmond - Exactly! Not to derail the thread - Direct transfers are not that common in the U.S.A. I know it's big in Europe but for some reason, it has never really gained traction here, Credit Card / Debit card is typically used here. I completely agree with you though, checks are something that adds more to the bottom line. The wait time for the client to process them, usually in the vicinity of 30 days - getting the physical check, updating your accounting software, taking time to deposit the check, waiting a few days for the deposit to clear, is way more than the 2.75% card processors charge. Oh and let's not forget about the hassle of a bounced check and the fees and time associated with that. When you are only talking about a couple hundred dollars - it just doesn't make sense.

    @Carolyn - Most of my clients are seasoned agents so like you, there is usually a punch list of some things to do that gives some time for flexibility. Very rarely does an agent sign a contract and have me out there the next day I think it really depends on the agent or the situation - like a Hubbard. I have some now that are booking appointments two and three weeks out. When I first started it was different, but much like our industry - agents are learning the value of home prep and staging for photography purposes.

  11. I usually promise 48 hours and deliver in 36 hours or less. Best to under promise and over deliver. People like predictability. The key here is to make sure that whatever you say you’re going to do, you have to do it.
    That said, a $3M property often takes longer than a $500k property and people appreciate it when you take the time you need to make sure every photo is perfect. Great question!

  12. What have the members found to be the best method for delivering photos? I have tried sending a link to my DropBox folder, Emailing a batch of photos at a time (max GMail allows is 25MB) and this is normally 2 to 3 emails. But the method I like best is compressing the photos into a zip file(s), I still have to send 2 or 3 emails but they only have to download 2 or 3 files, much quicker for them.

    The problem I have is there is a wide span of comfort with technology/email/internet. And I don't know if this makes a real difference but some clients are using AOL and it seems to add a degree of difficulty.

    I don't want to make it difficult for the clients but it's not always convenient to drive to meet them to hand deliver. Please tell me what is working for you.

  13. Letting the clients set the schedule on your website or some other 3rd party (another expense) service may work for those that are not doing several shoots a day, but for those that are, it is very inefficient. We take the requests for service over the course of the day and look at the existing schedule to decide when an opening is available. That way we are not going back and forth all day.

  14. The obvious answer is ASAP! But I agree with Ken... when will the property be ready for photos? That's always my first response to a scheduling request. This way it's understood that the agent has seen the home and is okay with its presentation. This alleviates my role as the "house-keeper, stager, mover, etc". I always try to get my clients scheduled within 48 hours, but it depends on the workload. In the busier months, we are sometimes 1-2 weeks out. I try not to schedule more than 3 shoots per day. Once we start packing weeks full of shoots, I'll either start adding in weekends or push my daily max to 4 per day. Several times this year we've had weeks of 20-25 shoots per week. Scheduling is also dependent on location. We shoot from Philadelphia to the New Jersey shore, from Delaware to North Jersey. Of course, 90% of our work is centralized to a 15-mile radius from our office and I try my best to schedule homes that are located close together.

    As far as turn-around time our policy is 24 hours, however, we almost always process and deliver the same day. Though it may be late in the evening, I get all the work off of my desk the same day. This is why we limit our shoots to 3 per day. With travel and processing, that's an 8 hour day.

  15. @Desmond @Bruce - I actually do accept direct transfer, credit/debit cards, paypal and checks. I prefer check because they are cheaper, I don't like giving the banks or CC companies a chunk of my profits. That said, I likely process far more payment than most here. It's not uncommon for me to take 20-40 checks to the bank at one time. So that little quarter mile trip does really amount to much on a per check basis.

  16. Depending on the time of year, any where from today to 4 working days out. In the fall and winter we are generally waiting on the owners to be ready, in the spring we will shoot as the sun allows. Photo are ready for download in 24-48 hours.

  17. @Desmond. Direct transfer is not common in the US. It can also take longer than a check. I used to pay some bills online but found that if I mail in a check/money order, it goes through more quickly. Counter intuitive, but reality often is. I let regular customers choose what payment type works for them. New customers with a limited track record I may ask to pay cash on the first job or two I do for them until I get to know them. I'll also accept credit/debit via PayPal in advance. I only have a few customers that I will bill. I've had to go after a couple of agents for non-payment and it just isn't worth the effort for the amount of money involved. Chances are good that the bank a check is drawn on is close by the office or there will be a branch on my way to my next stop. There's a fee for cashing the check often times (deductible), but I can then put that cash into my account and it will credit immediately or I can hold some out since I will often run a few errands when I'm down in "the big city". The little town I live in has only a very basic grocery store so I stock up when I'm out working.

    The broker's/agent's offices are usually in the same neighborhood as the home I am photographing for them so they are already nearby. Stopping in to pick up a check is a great excuse to meet other agents in an office and pick up some information on what might be coming up and I'll often find out about my competition. The big thing is meeting the agents and having them see you often. One office has a sales board in the back and I always take a look to see which agents are moving the most homes. If I'm not the one shooting their properties already, I know who I need to target. There may also be a new agent just getting started and I'll have a good chance of getting their business before they try somebody else.

    @Tim Sharp, there are a bunch of threads on delivering image here and on the Flickr group. If you have your own web site, you already have a way to host images for your customers to download that won't cost you anymore money.

    @Carolyn, You may have been training your customers to expect far too many images. Most middle class homes are overcooked with 30-40 images and into the realm of revealing too much. My service is based on a nominal 20 images which brackets to between 16 and 24 depending on the home. I could certainly make more images, but past a point, I am manufacturing views that just aren't all that unique from what I already have and are just filler. I prep my customers by letting them know that I will deliver more if they want them, but I charge more for extras. Once in a while, a home does really need a bunch more to show it off and the price will usually be a good indicator, but even some of those could marketed quite well with fewer. I stress quality over quantity. If they really want to spend the extra money, it might be better to spend it on staging and putting more time into massaging the details/lighting rather than just more images. I see listings all of the time in my area with 12+ images of the front and another 10 images of the backyard, a closeup of a fireplace that is already seen in 5 other images. There may also be 2-3 images of every small bedroom and 2 photos of every basic bath. I even have collections of water heater images, HVAC, propane tanks, outside AC compressors, pool mechanicals, etc that I use when I do presentations. There is my massive hall of shame with closeups of alarm and security details that should have never been posted, much less with closeups.

    If I were doing 30-40 images of every property, I'd have to cut my maximum number of jobs from 3 to 2 per day. If I could raise my prices so I was grossing the same, that would be great. I like to take my time and do a good job. I never want to have to ask to go back to a property to reshoot something and I definitely don't want a customer to request a reshoot.

  18. When can I schedule a shoot: As soon as I have clear time. And that of course depends on the number of jobs ongoing. I was listening to a realtor in La Quinta begging for a shoot from his photographer sooner than 3 weeks out. He said that was typical in the season. I just do it as soon as I am able.

    Turn around? Also as soon as I can but I don't promise anything although it is generally within 48 hours for stills, longer for video if I am shooting stills as well and depending on whether I am shooting a property that requires 60+ finished images or just 20+ images. I actually find I can deliver a video faster than I can stills. But both together means I either have to turn down work if I get busy or shoot them all and then get the stills (at least enough to get an MLS up and running) first, then follow with the videos. So far my clients are very understanding since they know I take a lot of time and care with the processing. They feel they are paying for the quality not the speed although both are preferable. I simply do my best to comply, week ends be damn'd.

  19. From the very beginning I modeled my business after Fred Light’s approach. In his epic podcast interview (search YouTube for “Nashua Video Tours Podcast” to find it) he said that he shoots 5 to 6 photo/video combos per day and delivers all the photos same day, most of the video same day, and any other video the next morning before he heads out.

    So I assumed that that was the industry standard.

    I have not been able to achieve that myself. With photos though, I always promise they will be “delivered the following evening between 9pm and midnight” and “video the following evening” So Monday’s photos get delivered Tuesday evening and Monday’s videos delivered Wednesday evening.

    My outsourcers are fast though. They typically have them waiting for me in the early morning after I upload them. That being the case I am gong to start delivering the morning after on most every shoot but keep the “next evening” as the standard. That way I can underpromise and overdeliver.

    I am hoping to move video delivery up to “the following evening” too. But again...keep the two-day delivery promise the same.

    As to scheduling, I have always done two projects slots per day six days a week. Sometimes I have added a third at the end of the day.

    Next year though I am considering hiring a driver/assistant and then I will simply add more and more slots to the end of any given day as they are booked. So start with two and when they are full open a 3rd then when it books add a fourth, if it books add a fifth up to a max of six. I would never have six open from the get-go. That would lead to a day where you have a 9:00am and a 5:00pm only with a gap in the middle. All my business is in one county about 40 minutes from my house so I would be stranded out there all day. So opening slots as they fill is the only way to do it effectively.

    Up to now lead time has been a four days at most. Now I expect to see that fall to one day out if they are flexible with scheduling.

  20. @ Tim Sharp - I have a designated website with Smugmug where I have set up password protected pages for all my clients. I upload the images here. Costs me £6 a month I think.

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