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Setting the right price enables real estate photographers to focus on running a business efficiently and ensuring profit. However, there are different ways and factors to consider when you’re deciding on how to charge for your work. Let’s discuss how to calculate rates, create packages, and avoid common real estate photography pricing mistakes.
Professional photography pricing depends on the product or service you're offering. Although for real estate work, it can cost a few hundreds of dollars for photos only, then thousands of dollars on the high end, or for premium add-ons.
One of the best parts of running your own business is the ability to have more control over how much you make and how to spend it. Since there are different niches, take a look at these sample rates you can modify according to your work requirements.
Whether it's a small residential or large commercial real estate building, a basic photo shoot can start at $100 and reach up to $15,000 or more for complex day shoots.
Another option is to set a base rate per square foot. For instance, charge $80 per 500 square footage, which also covers the post-processing. Hence, a 2,000 square footage home would give you $400, then you can increase the price depending on the style, add-ons, time, and location.
Prices for this kind of footage can depend on the equipment and location. Some locations require a permit to fly a drone, so consider that as an additional fee. Also, professional pilots typically have licenses, which means their talent fee would be higher than amateur operators.
In general, you can charge anywhere from $200 to $350 per hour. Some photographers even offer up to $5000 for a lengthy shoot with high-resolution photos.
Some clients would inquire if you can also shoot portraits for their agents or team members. While this is a different area of specialty, offering a headshot photo shoot lets people make the easy decision to hire you for all their needs rather than going to another photographer.
A professional portrait shoot may let you earn about $100 to $1200 per hour. The rates can go up depending on the package inclusions, such as the number of edited photos, time, location, storage, delivery, and usage rights.
Offering 3D, staging, and virtual tours are an excellent way to get high-paying clients, as these premium products are increasing in popularity. However, the price would generally depend on the 3D camera and software you would use.
For instance, you can offer a monthly subscription fee of $50 per month for Matterport. Meanwhile, you can try charging a flat rate of $300 per properties up to 10,000 square footage if you're using iGUIDE.
Having a consistent and well-planned price list is among the things that draw the line between a professional photographer and an amateur one. Similar to other photography niches, it's important to consider your fixed and overhead expenses when determining how to charge clients for your real estate photography business.
The average fee covers the expected number of sessions you would have per year.
For example, if you would charge $150 per photo shoot and you only have 90 sessions per year, that means you would only make $13,500 per year. Furthermore, you won't actually bring every cent home because there are expenses for this kind of work.
As you can see, it's not ideal to simply use one pricing for all sessions per year; you need to calculate it according to the other factors we're going to see next.
Similar to working for a company, your time in the industry and experience can influence your income. The same goes for photographers. A neophyte photographer with a year of experience would earn less than a top-rated photographer despite doing the same kind of work.
While properties can have both imperfections and beautiful aspects, a well-experienced and trained photographer can highlight the most desirable parts of a structure. This is the skill that customers need to pay for, not just your ability to use a camera.
Your experience would show your expertise in aspects such as taking photos, setup styling, and post-production. This is why a real estate photographer who knows how to edit photos with virtual staging can earn more than someone who can only do basic retouching.
Since the market covers a wide range of properties, the kind of property you will photograph can also impact how you set rates. Think of it this way: a tiny house can take significantly less time to shoot rather than a multi-story commercial building.
When dealing with large-scale properties, you can consider giving an all-in package for a shoot that covers interiors, exteriors, and even some headshots for the agents.
For example, a two-day shoot for a mid-rise apartment can cost $3000, whereas a one-day shoot for a one-story office building would only cost around $1000. The difference relies on the number of floors, amenities, and the structure's value. This is why it's essential you determine the property type first.
Like any other kind of shoot, the more photos your customers want, the more time you need to shoot and edit, making it reasonable to ask for higher fees.
For instance, you can set a flat rate of $150 for 12 photos within 48 hours after the photo shoot.
However, be cautious as some customers may find pricing per image to be a bit more expensive. Although, this is a better option if you normally accept rush work.
While all photography niches require basic shooting equipment, photographing a listing would also need you to invest in some specialty gear. These are the basic tools you need on a shoot.
Using these gadgets inevitably involves some risk of wear and tear, so you must set aside a budget for repairs or insurance. Moreover, you have to consider overhead costs in the possibility that you might need to purchase new camera bodies, lenses with different focal ranges, or spare batteries.
Suppose you would spend $3500 per year to maintain or upgrade your gear. If you have 400 sessions per year, that means you need to get $8.75 per photo shoot for the equipment budget. You might not notice it immediately, yet your equipment would make much difference in pricing.
Not all customers would know or understand the need for investing in reliable editing and client management software. As a photographer, you know the importance of having updated and licensed editing software if you want to use all of the available tools and functions.
It's common for editing software like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom to have monthly subscription fees. Storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive also have fees for increased space.
Aside from that, it's much better to invest in client management programs than waste your time writing everything down on paper. Particularly when you have team members, using online applications enables you to communicate with your team anytime.
Business mileage is also one of the most crucial things to include in pricing. Consider how long it would take for you to travel. For example, ask for an extra $200 for roundtrip expenses when traveling 100 miles from your home to the photo shoot location.
If you own a car, you also need to take into account gas, maintenance, and depreciation. Suppose all of these would cost up to $4000 a year, and you get 250 sessions per year, then that equates to an extra $16 per photo shoot.
On the other hand, you may consider waiving the travel fee if the shoot is within your service area.
The turnover of the final products can also influence your pricing as this relies on the complexity of the shoot as well as the mode of delivery.
Suppose your usual timeframe for editing and digital delivery is about 3-5 working days. For customers who want prints, you can extend the turnover time to 7 working days.
With that said, you can set a rush fee if agents want to get their photos earlier than your standard schedule.
As the photographer, you automatically own the rights for the images you take, which gives you the right to reproduce, distribute, or display them as you deem fit. However, a client may want exclusive privileges for the pictures, and this where you can earn hefty sums of money.
One way to price licensing is to offer per usage rates depending on the kind of listing. For instance, you would sell the rights for $2000 per photo, which also covers approval to use it for their web marketing plans for up to 6 months.
Another option is to sell rights per photo, which is a better option if customers only want a few images. With this pricing type, you need to compute the cost of goods for the file. For example, if the labor and materials cost $300, you can multiply that by a 2.50 markup factor to give you $750 per photo.
Managing a photography business isn't all about taking photos; you also need to think like a business owner to handle non-creative aspects and keep your work thriving. It involves planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling all necessary resources for you to do a photo shoot and deliver products.
Business operations also cover the financial, marketing, and legal aspects of managing a business per year. All of these would consume time, money, and resources, so you need to consider your cost of doing business when developing rates.
The simplest formula for you to create real estate photography prices is to add the value of doing a photo shoot, while still considering possible expenses that you can incur.
Take a look at this sample scenario: a company calls you and asks how much it will cost them to have a photo shoot and get 15 photos of a 2,500 square feet home.
While this is how a basic calculation can look like, you can add more factors or products. You can either use the $921 figure as the exact rate for this kind of shoot, or modify it to a package of $920 or $915.
Even with formulas, templates, or guidelines for setting rates, dealing with prices can still feel like you're drowning in numbers and lots of technicalities. Remember these key points when it's time for you to develop prices.
While the housing and commercial market is a year-long industry, you might encounter downtimes due to competition or season. During such situations, you can venture into something like monetizing a blog, teaching photography classes, or selling stock photos.
Some managers and realtors have offices where they would want to display large prints of the properties they are selling. While selling prints is an excellent way to diversify your products and earn more, digital photos can give you more sales as most listing customers prefer digital goods.
While raising prices can be a bit tricky, it's common for businesses to increase rates once per year. However, it's crucial to consider where your business stands in terms of competition and market. You can change fees if the cost of doing business is getting significantly bigger.
Despite different ways of charging clients, it's vital that the rates cover business expenses and profit. Make sure to consider your time, skills, and resources when pricing your work. As long as your rates justify the quality of your photos, people would see the value of hiring you.
So what do you think? Does this work in your area?
For additional resources, read our article on commercial real estate photography pricing.