I am an aspiring photographer but I'm trying to decide if its worth it for me or not. I have tried to contact some of the regional real estate photography companies to contract shoot for them but I can't get a good read on the photographer compensation. How much do real estate photographers usually charge when contracting? Do we charge by a percentage and if so what percentage would be normal to ask for? Or is it more common to charge a flat fee?
Great question! I doubt you will find a simple answer to the question you are asking because there isn't one simple answer. The answers are all over the map. I talk to people frequently that are getting paid an outrageously small amount of money to do contract shoots for other companies. The beginning photographer with no experience typically does not set the terms and conditions of working as a contract photographer.
The underlying problem is that there just isn't much profit margin in real estate photography. When you get two parties splitting the profit the real estate photographer looking to make a decent living, is frequently unhappy with the arrangement. I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm just saying that I run across a lot of unhappy contract real estate shooters.
The obvious motivation for someone new to the real estate photography business to work as a contract shooter for someone else is to avoid the hassle of marketing and post-processing. As John says "Keep the hassle to a minimum and still make a few bucks."
But the fact is learning to shoot real estate or how to sell your services to listing agents just isn't all that difficult! Sure, being and an independent real estate photographer takes time and some hard work but the experience of thousands of people out there doing it shows that it's very doable. Here are a couple of data points to back up my assertion:
So the bottom line is you can contract to shoot for someone else who is likely to want you to sign a non-compete agreement and give them 30% to 50% of the shoot price or be independent and work for yourself and make more.
Instead of working as a contract real estate photographer for someone else I urge you put a little more time and effort into the job and be independent. In the long run, you will be glad you did!