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Should Real Estate Photographers Charge Extra for Photo Editing?

Published: 19/05/2017
By: larry

Polina asks:

Recently I've started researching what other photographers offer in their packages and I still can't make up my mind on what is the best way to deal with Photoshop work. While I deliver completely ready-to-go images for a flat rate, I see some others charge separately per image for editing other than basic color correction. I'm talking about stuff like cord removal, dead grass spots, etc. What do you think is the proper way to do it? Is there an "industry standard" on final image? I personally don't understand why would someone deliver a customer half-way done image and expect a request for touch ups for extra money.

We’ve talked about this before and while there is no industry standard many believe you need to do the basics, like removing a dead (but heavy) potted plant from the porch photo, or enhancing a sky, etc. But beyond that, the photographer’s terms should include the phrase “Properties will be shot ‘as is'”. It’s the agent’s responsibility to have the house looking the way they want it to look. Making the photographer take responsibility for the fact that the place hasn’t been made presentable is unreasonable.

If you are specifically asked to do more than the basics, make sure you are getting paid for your time.


11 comments on “Should Real Estate Photographers Charge Extra for Photo Editing?”

  1. This will seem like a no brainer but it does happen, your setting are off, something tilts all images. You may spend an hour or better fixing the mess. But it was your mess, not theirs. and if bad enough, you go back and do it again, BEFORE they ask you to.

  2. This phrase says it all:

    "I personally don’t understand why would someone deliver a customer half-way done image and expect a request for touch ups for extra money."

    One answer, because the photographs are meant to represent the property as it is. If you want to throw in grass, remove items, etc that are going to take you extra time, then that is something you should think about as an additional income source. Your post skill set should be at a level where "fixing" dead grass spots, sky replacement, cord removal, etc. takes you but a minute or two to accomplish per image. Offer a number of images per shoot that you will include additional post on, then anything else, $$ per image. Factor that into your initial fees, BUT, don't give it away!

    To many times I see photographers so thankful that they finally have a gig that they spend several hours on post to make those property images Perfect (if they can). Now you have a client that will expect that service moving forward....... What happens when you get two gigs a day? If you are going to work, make sure you are getting compensated for it. That is if you want to be a profitable business........

  3. Should you discount jobs where you do no extra editing?

    Once exposure/contrast, color and geometry are accurate, anything else is extra. Some photographers have a "Blue Sky Guarantee" and do a sky replacement on exterior images as a standard service. Other photographers do a full beauty retouch on every image. If you are dealing with high priced homes and commanding top dollar, you may be able to spend half a day on site and a full day in post or more and still make money. If your clientele are representing middle class homes, the lavish attention to detail is overkill for the market. Some agents may want the extra service, but if that's your baseline, you will wind up pricing yourself out of a whole bunch of work.

    Our artistic side wants to deliver perfection in every image, but RE photography is a business too and you can't do if for long if it doesn't pay the bills. I don't know how an image can be considered "half-done" in any objective way. It's going to be in the eyes of the customer. I always stress to my customers that the best way to get great photos of a home is to start with making the home look great. If they expect me to spend an entire day removing trash cans, straightening pictures on the wall, eliminating cords, landscaping and other staging in Photoshop so it looks realistic, they're gonna have to pay for it. I happily do little things such as "Fixing" the dead lamp in a ceiling can light since it can be done quickly, but some things get to be massive projects to get right. Many of those can be done faster by re-taking the image. Would you charge to return to a property for pickup shots that you thought were fine? Often/Every time?

  4. This is a money maker for me. I tell them exactly how the property must be set prior to my "foot hitting the ground" when I arrive. I let them know "if there's a chicken bone in the corner, when I'm done it will be a great looking chicken bone but will still be a chicken bone".

    My rule of thumb is if you cant do it in LR then it's an extra charge. In LR with the magic brush in a few seconds you can take out those specks sometimes even that yard sign if it annoys me. No charge for that as long as the agent does not request it. Remember that's seconds on a few images not minutes per image.

    Not to making money. It's not my fault if it's raining or cloudy that day or the grass is burnt out in the summer. I offer my "Well known Blue Sky and Bunny cloud replacement" for a small fee on a few exterior photos. This is a value add service they pay for without a second thought. They even tell their client's, while reviewing the images "Don't worry about the skies, when he's done they will look beautiful and really stand out..." It's a value add service. No one ever turns down that service. No one ever complains. I do 2 to 5 exterior images for a fixed price if the changes are not to complex. I make anywhere from 10% to 25% more than normal total for shoots where I do this. Broken down to time spent I can make anywhere from $100 to $200 per hour for actual extra time spent doing that. I always deliver the original images along with the improved "Bunny cloud" images so they can see the dramatic improvement of the look of that home taken while it was raining.

    For builders I routinely remove construction debris from the yards and add new lawns for their spec home. I always charge an additional fair price for that. They pay without thinking about it.

    In other words this is a very valuable service that saves them time and assures them a good first image on the MLS regardless of when it is scheduled. That saves them, and me, from having to reschedule shoots because of weather. That enables me to shoot more and make more money.

    Those front shots are what makes the listing stand out. They are the most important ones. Don't give the quality of the most important shot away for free.

    Oh and BTW I do on occasion fix that dead bulb in that chandelier or vanity or exterior front lights, if it's noticeable, in LR for free and not a real pain. You can do that in LR eazy peazy with magic brush.

    I have invested time and effort developing specific ways to handle these few problems very fast. It's no longer the "time it takes" that matters.

    Remember that story about the guy that shows up on the job and hit's the thing with a wrench and it starts working? He sends a bill stating $1 to hit it with a wrench $100 to know where to hit it. Don't sell yourself short or give valued knowledge away free.

  5. PS... based on the current comments I don't think "...there is a PFRE community consensus that you need to fix the skies and remove potted plants etc. without extra charges" We are business man first and artists second. These types of replacements and touchups are at time very complex and not the normal person can't do them. That's what we are paid for. If you do them without extra charge make sure you build the time you "might" spend into your basic charge and tell them it's in there. Then you are not doing it for free and you will refuse to be a starving artist.

  6. Everybody, thank you for a valuable input - It really helped me to get a perspective on things. I found quite a few things that I can start implementing and but the hardest thing for me would be to learn how to set "rules" for my agents 🙂

  7. @Polina Don't set "Rules" .... Set "Terms" Does that sound like the same thing, pretty much, but the mind set is that you can negotiate the terms, but not break the rules.... The use of the word "Rules" comes off as a negative thought in the minds of clients
    So I would suggest using the word "Terms" when expressing your rules.
    Example would be, so "Hello Joe Blow new client, we are pleased to have you work with us on creating the best possible marketing images for your properties. Since this is your first shoot with us, let's take a couple of minutes to go over the Services and fee's, the terms and what both of us expect when working together"

  8. I have fun out there shooting homes.

    I have fun perfecting those shots in my own home.

    Sometimes it seems I should be paying my clients for enabling me to engage in all that fun.

  9. Jerry, although I certainly used the world "rules" very loosely here, I like all your suggestions and I appreciate you taking time to write these very informative messages here!
    Thanks to everyone, i'm moving in the right direction!

  10. Hobby may seem an an accurate description to main-stream folks.

    To me, photography is a creative expression some people appreciate enough to express their gratitude in compensation for a work well done.

    Running a business has nothing to do with it.

    All that stuff takes care of itself.

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