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Should Photographers Post Pricing on Their Website?

Published: 14/12/2019

Author: Michael Lefebvre

A burning, and often divisive question that always seems to come up in conversation, and recently on a Facebook group that I’m a member of is, “Should I post my prices on my website?”

There tends to be three distinct camps of answers to this question:

  1. Yes, prices should be listed on your website!
  2. No, prices should NOT be listed on your website!
  3. It all depends...

At different points in my career, I’ve been firmly planted in all three camps.

The Case for Posting Prices on Your Website:

Fact: One of the top questions, if not THE top question, for visitors and potential new clients to your site is “How much does it cost?”. Many real estate photographers choose to post their prices on their site in the simple interest of transparency. We know that people coming to our sites have questions about price, so why not give them answers? It pre-qualifies clients when they reach out to you. They already have a sense of comfort that working with you is within their budget.

When I first started shooting real estate photography, I posted prices on my website. I was new, and quite frankly, I wasn’t that good. Potential clients weren’t yet coming to my site because they were deeply in love with my work and simply had to hire me no matter what the cost. On the contrary, at that point in my career, pricing was something I had to compete on. Listing my prices on my website was important in the interest of getting my business off the ground and developing a base of clients.

What is your business model? Are you a high-volume real estate shooter, maybe even with some staff photographers whose business really hums when you and your other photographers are out shooting 6+ homes a day? Perhaps you have your process down and it works repeatedly, time after time, like a well-oiled machine. Quantity is where the rubber meets the road for your business. In this case, I see no problem with posting specific prices on your website.

Do you solely shoot real estate and nothing else? If this is the case, posting prices on your site makes sense. You do one thing really well, and you make it clear to potential clients how much it will costs them.

There is an old saying that goes, “If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.” Some potential clients may get this saying in their head and be reluctant to even reach out to you if they don’t see some sort of indication of pricing on your website. Why restrict the potential for new client calls by keeping your prices shrouded in mystery?

The Case for NOT Posting Prices on Your Website:

Listing specific pricing on your website tends to paint your service, and in reflection YOU, as a commodity. Are we selling widgets or promoting a unique, highly-specialized service? But wait! Are you also selling fine art prints on your site? Post the price for those. It’s a product. People need to know how much a 24” x 36” print is before clicking “add to cart”. But if a client wants you to shoot a kitchen they designed, share the images with the cabinet maker (and maybe the contractor) and possibly run a full-page print ad with your images in the regional design magazine, that definitely warrants a personal conversation to discuss the details that can’t be addressed properly with an online price sheet.

At the PFRE Conference last month, Tony Colangelo quoted some great advice he got from Scott Hargis many years ago. Scott suggested that Tony look at the photographer he admired most and “be that guy/gal”. Model the behaviors and processes of the people you admire most. Take a look at the websites of photographers you look up to and maybe desire to base your career path on. Do they post prices on their websites? In my case, none of them do.

What happens when a top-tier interior designer in your market reaches out to you to shoot their latest project (a project you’d likely bend over backwards to shoot just to get it in your portfolio, btw!). The designer sees your quoted real estate prices on your site and expectations are set. Sure, you can get into a conversation about different types of licensing, shooting style, usage, etc… but the expectations have been subconsciously set because of the pricing you listed on your site.

By NOT posting prices on your site, you gain the opportunity to speak with individual agents and clients personally to discuss their specific needs. This offers you the flexibility to price different jobs as you see fit. Will some agents/clients simply not even reach out because your prices aren’t listed? Probably. They’re busy and may simply skip to the next website that DOES list pricing. But do you want to be working with clients whose first concern is price or whose first concern is quality?

Posting prices on your website immediately sets you up to compete on price. There is always someone who will come in lower than you on price. You need to understand your value and price your services accordingly. Competing on price is a one-way nosedive to the bottom. Who wants to be a part of a journey like that where everyone loses?

For the reasons stated above, I’m currently firmly in the “I don’t post prices on my website” camp. For me, the pros of NOT listing prices on my website outweigh the pros of posting prices online. But I can also see the “It depends” point of view….

Can’t We All just Get Along?

With all the partisan division plaguing our world these days, isn’t there somewhere we, as photographers, can meet in the middle on posting prices publicly?

As a compromise, for some real estate photographers, I can see the benefit of putting a “prices start at X” statement on your website. This gives potential clients a sense of whether their budget is in the same ballpark as yours, without restricting the upper end for more complex/involved projects. This approach lets real estate agents feel comfortable enough to call you (if your “starts at” prices are in their budget) while still keeping the doors open to higher-end clients who may inquire about your services.

Many factors can influence your decision as to whether or not to post pricing on your website:

  • What point in your career are you currently at?
  • What is your business model?
  • What are your plans for your future? Where do you see your photography business heading?

I’m curious to hear what the community thinks about this topic. Please cast a vote and leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!

[polldaddy poll=10477388]

Michael Lefebvre is a real estate and interiors photographer based in Rhode Island. He was the 2018 PFRE photographer of the year and now serves as a juror for the Photographer of the Month contest.

 

Michael Lefebvre
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18 comments on “Should Photographers Post Pricing on Their Website?”

  1. I voted 6 times! and they all counted.

    Gee isn't that great way to run a poll.

    Kind of like the way some unnamed politicians would love to be able to do.

    Please fix the poll or it's worthless.

  2. Interesting topic as many of us are revamping our websites for 2020! My thought is since currently I run a real estate photography firm (it pays for my daughters college and all her expenses) I publish my rates since it's my business model. But once I no longer have that expense of college I will transition my business to what I truly want to photograph. So it all depends on your business model and why you do what you do. Michael Lefebvre is correct on all points and it's not one size shoe for everyone - it just depends on what your business is. Like many of us that do real estate photography full time and in my case, it covers bills, mortgage, gear, college and I know what to expect in income every month and have not yet moved out of the real estate model since I have expenses that have to be paid every month without missing a beat so currently my prices are on my site and yes I am not the cheapest in my area of Greater Washington, DC and know I lose out to the folks that want that $99 rate and it's not me and I am fine with that. I am very happy with the clients I have and support my business and my family!

  3. I understand the reasoning for not posting prices. It all makes sense to me. However, in this day and age, where people can get almost any kind of information in an instant, I think most potential clients would find it irritating to be confronted with "call for pricing". They would just move on to another photographer who does have their prices listed. There's a difference, though, between run-of-the-mill RE photography and higher-end projects. I've tried variations over the years. Currently, I have my RE prices listed, and then have another page for Interior/Architectural photography where it does say "call for pricing".

    For about 15 years, I did website design and tried a number of different approaches. Before I gave that up 8 years ago, my pricing page said something like "Fee starts at $1000...". That weeded out the people who thought they were going to get a custom website for $50. I figure it's the same in this field; I'm at least weeding out the people who think they're going to get a home shot for $75.

  4. If you want to post your rates... do it. If you don't... don't. I don't think it makes a difference.

    For me, it's time consuming to have a client call, I go through my spiel, and then they say they can get it shot for half my rate. If they see the rate on my website, and the quality we shoot, I at least know they accept what I charge... so it does save time.

    I agree with Gutowski... the poll should have more accurate voting.

  5. I posted a variety of rates for a long time - with or without twilight, flyer design, property websites, etc... I think that too many numbers does tend to confuse the viewer. One thing I think worked well is that the page was a link, so when I would email rates, the page isn't static. (I highly recommend NOT putting pricing on a pdf. This way, if they save the email for a year and then click on the same link, they would then see the current pricing - no matter how much time passes.)

    I transitioned to a "starts at" model that seems to fit well. Now I just up sell the extras when they are booking online or on the phone.

    **Also here to say that if we just vote once, nothing has to be fixed. Stop breaking things... just use the honor system, people! If we were actually "voting" for something I'd understand this gripe. But seriously this is just a poll...**

  6. When I was fresh in the business I posted prices on my website. I no longer do, and can point to the exact moment that turned me.

    After shooting and growing my business for about a year, I got hired by an investor to shoot a new home he had built. So I gave him my regular schpiel, and charged my going rate at the time for interiors+twilight, $295. He jumped at it so quickly (he had already seen my work) that I knew right away I had left money on the table. With a little small talk I discovered that the last guy to shoot one of his projects charged him nearly 2 grand. What's more, he pulled up pictures of that job on his laptop and they were pretty average for real estate photos....bright image with pulled windows..ect.

    Right then and there I pulled my prices off of my website. These days I work almost 100% by referral anyway, so the contact is already warm.

    One final point. I never have been and never will be a commodity photographer (I mean really, 6 shoots per day?...are you insane!?), and agree with the OP that posting your prices does render you as such. If you want someone to come shoot a home for $100, those guys are out there but I'm not one of them as I refuse to participate in a race to the bottom. If that means fewer clients contact me, so be it. Those were the ones price hunting anyway.

  7. I publish my pricing for RE. I believe that whether you do or not is going to depend heavily on your market. If you are well known for doing primarily very expensive homes, pricing will be much less of an issue. If your market is middle market homes, agents will be shopping photographs based mostly on price and will just pass you up for a photographer that does have their pricing on their website. Very few are going to make the extra effort to call if they don't have to. Middle market PFRE is a commodity. Quality is important, but it's a price sensitive niche. When I make a pitch to an agent, the very first question is nearly always what I charge. I have to preface a general quote with what I deliver and how the price is based on the number of photos and where the property is located. I never quote my lowest possible price as that's all that they will remember and won't be happy if I remind them later that the price was for a property closer in with 3 bookings for the same day.

    "The designer sees your quoted real estate prices on your site and expectations are set. "

    That's fine if they understand that they get 10-15 minutes of composition planning on the walk thru, 2 hours of photography and accept the images as delivered. The scenes also have to be ready to shoot. If a vignette of a chair, reading table and lamp is in the shot list but the comp is blocked by other furniture, it's not going to happen as furniture moving is not included. I also charge extra for having an art director detailing and approving images as they are made. Since the sunset of my license is the sale of the home or end of the listing contract, the basic license would have to be reworked and I'd give it 6 months since that's the typical maximum for RE. Having a "top tier" designer want me to make images for them would be great, but if they are also showing themselves to be severely cost constrained, maybe that's a sign they won't be that great of a client. One of the pleasures of working with a good designer is they emphasize quality over quantity. That's not going to be the case if they want 20 images in 2 hours at rock bottom prices.

    I'd say look at the market you serve and what your competition is doing. I try to be aware of what my competition charges, but I don't base my pricing on theirs. If the local market raced down to $69/home, that would be a good indicator to concentrate on other work, but not that I would need to drop my shorts as well. I already know that those $69 shooters are going to be out of business in under six months when they've run out of money or figured out that a job at Home Depot pays more. If you get the the point where you are well known, the homes are on the upper end of the prices and the jobs more complex, a published price schedule may be useless. There could even be a 3rd argument for having two websites that are oriented towards different price points. Sure, some agents will figure out that both are the same person, but it could also mean that you aren't biasing your high-end work with listed pricing that is targeted towards the formulaic middle market.

    I always discuss jobs with the client. This is why I stay away from automated/online booking. I want to talk about each job even if it's a very brief conversation, have a look on Google Maps and TPE, and see if other photos exist so I can offer suggestions when I get back to them with a solid quote. I'll also look up whether drone photos are appropriate and if I'd need a FAA authorization for that property (lots of class D airspace around me). I'll also upsell twilight photos if the best time of day is very early or late since I'll already be there or can start a bit earlier. Having my prices on the website is a starting point. If the agent isn't shopping for minimum wage work, they are likely going to be better to work with and may even go for some additional services. Have you ever given somebody a stupid low price to get in with them and wind up being bombarded with complaints and requests for rework? I've had that happen too many times in my life to go there anymore. I'm more than happy to make the customer happy when they have reasonable requests, but the Blue Plate Special doesn't not include a free desert like the full menu price dinners.

    For those that use Text, how do you respond to "What do you charge?" and how much time does it take for that whole interaction?

  8. @Brian Roberts,

    That's a situation where you may have left money on the table, but how often has that ever come up. If you were happy with $295, you should have been fine and not kicking yourself. Obviously, this investor was paying a huge premium and if they were willing to shop, chances are that you wouldn't be getting that same $2,000/job. The upside is that they have (or had) $2,000/property to put into marketing. This means you could have room to offer more services to that client such as twilights, aerials, half/full day on-site, staging/detailing, etc.

    Let's say you gave him a quote of $1,250. He'll compare that to the $2,000 he was paying before and think, "Awesome, I'm saving a bunch of money". That works in your favor until somebody like me comes along and offers to provide the same level of service for $500. I'm thinking, "Awesome, this is over double my normal charge" and you get pulled from the rolodex. My problem becomes one of the investor finding somebody that will do the work for that $295 and I get deleted from the RFQ list too. I'm assuming similar image quality and service. The race to the bottom can be pretty steep and the lowest priced operators likely can't deliver the same level of quality or service. This is the same as the few people that charge based on the listing price of the home. It works wonderfully in my favor although I haven't seen anybody in my area with this approach. If the other photographer is much more expensive for more expensive homes, I'm in a great position with just charging my normal prices. It also means that I have the chance to shoot more expensive homes and have better images to put in my portfolio. It also gives me a better chance to get my legs under the table with agents that handle more expensive properties.

    When I say "commodity", I'm not saying 6 jobs a day, but commenting more on the approach to compositions and editing. I have a certain approach to finding compositions quickly that are "good enough" rather than spending another 5 minutes finding one that is "perfect" in my "commodity" service. I'd love the ability to spend the entire day on one job, but that's not economically feasible the vast majority of the time. I try to book no more than 2 and on longer days of the year I can work in 3 jobs a couple of times a week. Owners and agents don't want me on site all day for middle class homes and even my more normal 2 hours can be pushing it with some. I also like to leave some "headroom" so if a client is willing to spend more, I have more service to offer. That comes down to more staging/grooming and spending that extra time finding the perfect composition in important rooms.

  9. I mention on my website where my pricing starts, because new agents, and new clients, often have no idea what real estate photography costs, and they don't want to commit as a new agent on a budget, and find out later that its 700 dollars.

    I don't publish my specific pricing for the same reason I don't have sales or offer discounts. I'm reasonable, and if you like my work, you hire me.

  10. @Ken Brown,

    "That’s a situation where you may have left money on the table, but how often has that ever come up."

    Fair enough, but I still count it as a mistake. I learn from mistakes.

    "This means you could have room to offer more services to that client such as twilights, aerials, half/full day on-site, staging/detailing, etc."

    Indeed, and I did. Shot a video for him too, bringing the total to ~$500.

    "That works in your favor until somebody like me comes along and offers to provide the same level of service for $500. I’m thinking, “Awesome, this is over double my normal charge” and you get pulled from the rolodex. My problem becomes one of the investor finding somebody that will do the work for that $295 and I get deleted from the RFQ list too."

    This point is valid, but it is also a great example of why I don't participate in the race to the bottom. My current clients enjoy not only my photography but our relationship, as do I. In addition, having been a realtor for many years (I still am one) I understand that there is never any shortage of new realtor blood. The profession of real estate agent has a MASSIVE turnover, so there will always be new, enthusiastic agents for you to partner with. Many of them are price shoppers, and those ones I'm not much interested in. For the ones who do enjoy quality marketing, a little bit on the front end returns huge on the back end, and I can safely say that only a tiny cross section of my clients are pulling my rolodex card in favor of someone cheaper.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Ken. I enjoy your comments in these threads.

  11. @Brian Roberts,

    "This point is valid, but it is also a great example of why I don’t participate in the race to the bottom."
    Me neither. Although, I do love it when somebody leaves me tons of room to quote a fee I am perfectly happy to do the work for. I was talking with an agent at an open house who told me she had paid $450(ish) for images of the home where I was talking with her. A quick summing up from my one-off pricing (photos, twilight and aerials all together) would have been $350 from me for that location. My photos would have been better, but the ones she got weren't horrible other than the aerials.

    @Randall
    Discounts aren't a bad thing if they get the customer to do something that saves you time/money. I'll offer a discount for multiple bookings on the same day, vacant with a code or prepaid service. If they can schedule an appointment on a day when I'll already be in the area, that saves me travel costs and time. I like the vacant with a code jobs. I book those with a two day window and it lets me do them in several bites or get to them on my schedule. One of my big promises is that I show up on time to every job where I'm meeting the agent or owner/tenant. Sometimes that means having to skip lunch if a previous appointment runs later than planned. I hate that. I've recently offered the prepaid deal and have yet to have anyone take me up on it. I'll push more in the spring when it's busier. Only established customers can take advantage of it since it's non-refundable and the minimum buy-in is roughly 10-15 jobs. What it means to me is I have locked them into my services for the next several weeks/months and since they've already sunk the money, it's easier to get them to opt for more services on each job (and use up the deposit faster). I never have given a discount just for the asking. If somebody wants a discount because they are going to send me so much work I'll be missing sleep, I might do a deal where I charge them full price up front and if they hit the numbers they promise, I'll give them a credit to use on jobs going forward and then get them into prepaying.

    All of that said, there are 2 agents in my area that I might consider doing a discounted job for as a try out. Both of them close 10-15 homes per month. Being on their A list would be worth one discounted job. Nothing close to 50% off though. 10-20% as long as I don't have hard costs over a standard job which is usually just gas.

  12. Interesting conversation.
    I'm wondering why Branding, especially as presented by Tony at the conference, hasn't been part of this conversation.
    I also found it interesting the Michael didn't mention it in the original article. Maybe by design.

    In my view, price is part of one's brand. And, putting it on, or leaving it off one's website depends on that branding. Since, hopefully, the website is promoting one's brand.

    Decades ago we used a simple triangle model to relate price/service/quality. I don't think the model has gone out of style. The brand basis for the triangle is that it's possible to deliver on two of the three.

    That suggests that if one is focusing their brand on quality and service, then price isn't something that works to promote the brand. i.e. don't lead with price.
    If one is focusing their brand on price and quality, then its a feature and makes sense to include it.

    The options go on.

    For me, using the "what is my Brand" filter will make the answer obvious.

  13. @Brian Roberts,

    I've definitely been in the situation where I've realized after the fact that I've left money on the table...quoting a fee of $300 or $400 and then finding out that they would have easily paid 3 or 4 times that amount. It's a real kick in the gut. But it's so difficult to know where a client is coming from, how savvy they are. I've worked with high-end architects who seemed shocked at paying a few hundred dollars, and at the same time I've worked with mid-range RE agents who would have easily paid more.

  14. Photographers do their job and should get paid for it. There is nothing wrong with that. I post my photos for free on photographytalk this is a very cool service for any photographer. It does not matter if you are a professional or an amateur.

  15. I post my prices on my site. Just click on the "Schedule a Shoot" button and then pick the size of the house and you'll see the price for photos only, video only, or the photo/video combo.

    My preference is to weed out the low price people by letting them see first and never bother me with a call. I'm too busy growing my business to try and "sell" people who are borderline wanting to do business with me. Got bigger fish to fry and all that. Unfortunately, almost all my business is by referral. My phone number gets passed from a current customer to a new agent. New agents calls. Never sees website. At all. So my whole plan is foiled.

    The bright side of this is that because they are coming via referral they rarely seem concerned with price. Either that's because they have seen my work on the other agent's listings and assume that whatever I'm charging makes business sense or the other agent wouldn't be hiring me all the time (a good assumption to make)...OR...they have already dug the pricing out of the agent I am shooting for all the time prior to calling me.

  16. Thank you, I want to say that this is a great list. I used 5 applications out of 10. They are very convenient. For me, the main thing is to maintain the quality of the photo, and if there is an opportunity, then improve it. And if you need to enlarge photos, then it copes well with this task. You can increase not just the size, but also the number of pixels.

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