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Is There A Change To What Real Estate Photographers Should Be Charging?

Published: 12/08/2015
By: larry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week I got the following real estate photography pricing question:

When was the last time you did an updated story on what photographers should be charging. There are a lot of people in my area charging $100 or $125. To me this is way off! All the trades have gone up.

There's drive time, shooting, wear and tear on your vehicle, editing, equipment, computers, software, insurance. $200 seems like it would be fair.

What are your thoughts on this?

I agree, when I see someone in the US charging around $100 USD, I'm inclined to think that maybe they haven't updated their arithmetic recently to figure out their expenses and what they are paying themselves as an hourly wage etc. But every time we have this discussion credible people in some locations make the case that they can't get their local agents to pay more. I believe there are some markets where the demand for real estate photography is lower. And some markets where real estate photogaphers have been low-balling for so long that they have established a low standard price.

There are there are a bunch of factors to consider in the process of establishing your shoot price. There just isn't one number that works for everyone everywhere. I think it makes more sense to talk about a process you go through and all the factors to consider. I did that a post back in 2012 that listed those factors and I don't think that process or the factors have changed. Your answers to these questions may change over time so I think you should go through this process periodically and check the arithmetic. Your expenses change, you get better at your craft and many things affect what you should be charging.

For various reasons, there will always be people in your market that will be charging too little. There's not much you can do about it. Just make sure what you are charging makes sense for you.

18 comments on “Is There A Change To What Real Estate Photographers Should Be Charging?”

  1. Bottom line, you and your service are only worth what the area will pay. While you may think you are worth this or that, if no one is contracting you..... you are either overpriced or not as good as you think you are for your area and need to find another line of service.

    A blanket statement of what photogs should be charging is just rubbish. Each demographic is different with its own demands and needs. Anyone that has been in this business for awhile knows that what one gets in SoCal, is not what one will get in Kentucky. Then again what one pays for the cost of living in SoCal is not the same as Kentucky.

    BTW, the fact that someone in an area that gets far less than a major metropolitan area DOES NOT MEAN that they are any less capable, talented or skilled than the one in another area. There is a misconception that the dollar figure rates the talent of the photographer.

  2. I'm the Dallas area and there are many real estate photography companies around here. Most charge $100-$125. So I have to match my fees to that or agents will go with the lower price option. However, a new company has moved into this area and is offering HDR photos for $69.95! I don't know how they can make that work, honestly. I know I couldn't afford to go that low and have it be worth my time. I don't plan on matching that price, however, as I also offer agents other services such as inputting the listing to MLS, creating flyers, etc. (for additional fees, of course!).

  3. Yes, I do. I have found there is a good niche with agents who want/need an assistant on a part time, contract basis to help with listings. Since I'm at the house anyway it's only a little time to measure rooms and take notes, then input it to MLS for them. My total package for photos, MLS, flyer, etc is $250. Benefit to the agent is they don't have to do anything to the listing to get it active after they give it to me. Additional time aside from photos is maybe an hour or two.

  4. Interesting topic as we are looking to raise our prices in some markets. We employ contractors to go out and take photos and draw floor plans. I am pretty sure we pay a lot more per job than many of the national virtual tour companies. Frankly, from what I have heard, I do not know how they can get someone to go out and take photos AND do a floorplan and pay that person $75 for a 4000 sq ft house (basically 25% of the gross). We can't typically get anyone interested in working with us unless they know the starting rate is around $100 to them, which is where we do start. So, what kind of people are they getting to go do the work, and what is the longevity of their services. Agents are professionals and the good ones do value professionalism as well. I think that means you need to focus on the top 10 to 20% and let the bottom feeders go after the rest. But the top agents are also where the listings are, for the most part.

    We are not the cheapest, but we are also by far not the most expensive (which is why I think we can raise rates in certain areas). We focus on value add - adding a floorplan and 3D roomplanner, and other tools via our platform, beyond just photos. If you are interested we do have both direct service provider and reseller opportunities at http://www.floorplanonline.com to help you provide more and better content to help differentiate you. And get paid more ultimately.

    The race to the bottom otherwise is fast.

  5. Have to echo Jerry- the market in your area will dictate it. I'm in Boise, Idaho, and wages in Idaho are either the lowest or right near it for average in the country, so good luck charging a high rate here. This is why it is important to study your competition and compare your quality to theirs. Just offer a higher quality product and service than your competition, then you can justify a higher rate. That's what I do, and I stay busy because of it.

  6. So many of our comments admit that we are all bidding a basic generic service, the "Objective" of our activity sometimes is not spelled out. I truly feel "Our" success with a client is based on their "Gut Feeling" that our total preoccupation will be helping the Client/Agent/Broker/Owner/ is to "SELL" the property, not producing "Pretty Pictures". We try to take time to settle important issues: "is the kitchen crowded?", "Is the entrance covered in bad weather?", overflow parking, Bedroom Privacy, Things the prospects wonder about.
    I goes without saying, the professionalism of the photography says a lot about what to expect from the seller, owner. We are only a small piece, although important part of the "Selling Cycle". Our job is to Help Sell the Property, this should be our mission.

    We deserve to get paid for how much we assist is "SELLING THE PROPERTY".

  7. I totally agree with Jerry... the market will dictate your fees.

    When I started out doing listing photos I felt like the bad guy because my pricing started at $99 for homes under 2500 sq/ft. My market is flooded with photographers and there's plenty of work to go around. Some photographers charge $300 plus for what I do. But I did some market research before I came up with my pricing structure. It turns out that there was one photographer that EVERYONE was using and his prices started at $99. He offers fast turn-around times, great service and ever better photos. At the same time, the $300 guys get very little work (if any at all, because I've never heard their names mentioned) and some have 48 hour or more turn-around times and delayed scheduling times. So, did I want to compete with the $300 guys for no work or the $99 guy for all the work?

    In two years, I've established a client base of more than 50 agents from a dozen offices in my area. I'm averaging 20-30 shoots a month and every month I'm working with new clients. Now that I have an established client base and a reputation for great customer service and great photos, I can increase my fees. My guess is that I will shoot as many homes at my new rate, if not more.

  8. ".....the market will dictate your fees."

    In my area the three top brokers set the price and that price is 100 or less and they will not budge.

  9. The market will dictate what one can charge to some extent, but it's very important to calculate one's costs and net return on a job. If agents will only pay $70 and want 50 finished images, a slideshow, web site and flyers it's better to do something else that pays more like flipping burgers at a fast food spot. There can still be room at the top depending on how good the competition is. For somebody mostly shooting weddings and portraits, developing skills in Arch and Int and charging a living wage for it might not bring in full time work, but may provide a few jobs during the week. Being competent and reliable could be important if the local photographer isn't.

    Knowing your costs and what you are earning per hour or day is an important thing regardless of what the market says. The sooner you know that you are netting $5/hour, the sooner you can find something else to bring in an income before you are flat broke.

  10. Always a difficult topic. How do you set your rates (rhetorical)? Having been on the verge of relocating my business last year, I did a lot of research nationally. Rates, level and capability of competition, demand, and supply all vary significantly.

    I'm currently in the Detroit Metro market. I think it's safe to say I reside in and service one of the most challenging real estate markets in the country. I've also spent time testing price elasticity. Part of my price is based on what the market will bear, what competition is, as well as the types of homes 'I' want to shoot. My pricing puts me right in the target range desired.

    When raising the prices a second time, I noticed a slight slowdown in volume of activity. One agent grumbled, no one else blinked. The 'blink test' is also important. When the acknowledge your price without blinking, you're Ok. When you start seeing a number of people 'blink,' you know you're reaching or exceeding what the market will bear.

    One thing I've done recently is a light-weight updating of my portfolio. As my work's gotten better, I wanted to make sure it warranted the price. So far, seems to be working as desired.

    Cheers

  11. @ Jerry Kelley

    The key is below that statement in George's reply. Hard work and perseverance will out. Same thing happened to me and now I shoot 40+ homes, portraits, events, musicians and anything else that comes my way. Five years ago I quit an IT management job to be a photographer. If you endeavor to surpass your client's expectations with every job, they will not worry about the cost as much.

  12. I would not shoot a house for $100, that's my response. I tells me that there must be someone undercutting, the realtors are not getting listings or the market is slow in your area. I only shoot higher end homes, my clients (brokers) do not have the time, interest or knowledge in trying to do a professional photography shoot themselves. I do Real Estate, Product, Food, and some webdesign for local businesses and think it is wise to have my work diversified. I don''t photograph anything that talks anymore.

  13. @ Bill Yorston

    Bill, I noticed that you are shooting 50-60 or more photos per home. Obviously you can't shoot home for $100 if you are taking that many photos. My prices start at $99 for smaller homes that yield about 16 photos... no closets, basements, garages, etc. The prices goes up and up for bigger homes and at no point do they get any more than 24 photos. I shoot $200,000 homes to multi-million dollar homes. Again... I can choose to complete with the $300+ guys who will only shoot mansions for a few shoots every month or I can compete with everyone for all the cookies!

  14. I'm in an area where the demand for quality photos hasn't reached a breaking point yet. Over the past 5 years I've increase my rates as the market demands. I look at my services from another standpoint - I focus on offering photos. Video hasn't trickled into our market yet - I'm hard pressed to even get a homeowner or agent who is interested in a free video so that I can build that skill set. I've managed to develop a way for me to be in and out of a an average listing in 30 minutes or less with 15 minutes average editing time. Average home size around here is 1800 sq ft and average price in the area is $172k - agents are after quantity of photos rather than quality. I'd love to shoot one or two listings a day and be able to light every room and get the quality, but it just hasn't made it's way here. I've got 15 agents I shoot at least a property each week for, and another 45 agents who I shoot something at least twice a month. I price everything on the square foot - down to the square foot. It's worked with me, and agents know exactly what it's going to cost them. I have all my agents sign an agreement that outlines the rights they are licensed, time period, payment, etc. It also outlines the next price increase and the date that will occur. I've only had two agents who have ever complained about an increase, and they weren't very good clients anyways.

  15. @ Bill Yorston - Thanks to Bill Yorston, I have a new operational criteria, "don't shoot anything that talks, barks, or groans". Before, I just stuck to "We Don't Shoot People".

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