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What is the Minimum Yearly Amount You Would do Contract Real Estate Shooting For?

Published: 15/05/2017
By: larry

Marek in Boston says:

I am interested in what photographers that just take photographs (no Post-Processing or marketing) and supply those photos to a contracting company make. I would keep them busy up to maybe 8-9 hrs per day and much less in off season.

I am seriously considering hiring some contract real estate photographers that I could engage as contractors (not as employees, so we don’t have to pay workman's comp, their taxes, etc). They would have to supply their own equipment. I know this way they'll take care of it. What level of income would I have to pay them?

Great question! I've also had people as what they can make being contract real estate photographers. I think it varies quite a bit what contract real estate photographers make.

I've included a poll below to get readers input on this subject. Previous polls that we've done provide related data points:

  1. The annual salary poll (3rd poll down on the page) indicates that 67% of readers make below $40K annually.
  2. This recent poll indicates that over 90% of readers are independent real estate photographers.

Please take the poll below.

[polldaddy poll=9746101]   [polldaddy poll=394863]

13 comments on “What is the Minimum Yearly Amount You Would do Contract Real Estate Shooting For?”

  1. Scott, over 100k means OVER 100K. How does that not go high enough?

    The question can't be answered because we don't know the basic cost of living ratio for any given area. Affordable places to live are based on median home cost divided by median salary. Any area that has a median income of $50,000.00 and home cost of $150,000.00 has a cost of living ratio of 33%.

    Point is that the income in Manhattan Beach, CA must be greater than Barstow, CA to maintain a 33% cost of living income. I could probably charge 2 to 3 times the rate for marketing a cheap home in Torrance CA that will sell for $890,000.00 than could sell in some small town in New Mexico for $125,000.00. So as a contract photographer $50.00 a home in New Mexico might be a good living but wouldn't begin to cut it elsewhere.

    We hear this all the time "What should I charge?". First we need to understand the local economy of the person asking the question and not offer irrelevant advice that may very well end a career before it ever gets started. Whether in the position of the proprietor or the picture taker, they need to know the local going rates and then go from there.

    Also the above poll is asking Professional Real Estate Photographers what they would charge to be a picture taker. That's like asking an accomplished and successful portrait photographer how much the mall's quick in and out studio would have to pay him to work there. Where all of his knowledge will have to be to shelved because it would conflict with the chains preset lights and tripod that's been bolted in one place.

  2. Need to add:

    "Probably wouldn't consider a contract real estate photography job."

    I guess there is a point where money talks, but I am happy doing what I do.

  3. @ Bill -- when the scale goes up in units of $20K and then stops at $100K, the clear implication is that the highest conceivable number must be somewhere just past $120K -- which is way low in my opinion. There's a very large difference between $100K and, say $200K.

    But my larger point was that "contract" work, being nothing more than a machine operator pushing buttons, sounds like a horrible way to make a living, to me. So my number would be Thirtytwo Trillion.

  4. I would be curious to see a more recent poll on what real estate photographers make annually, as the previous poll is so out of date. If the contract company provides the brand, website, marketing, support, the processing of all photos, as well as, other photographers to cover clients when you are on vacation, shared knowledge and training, then the costs for the contract photographer include some significant reductions. A company with a known presence can give a newer real estate photographer more business faster, often helping them earn more than they could trying to break into some markets on their own. That said, they should still be paid according to the level of work they do. Too many run-n-gun companies take advantage of their photographers and pay them pittance. If they are going to work contract, they are still running their own business and they need to consider what they need to earn for it to be a viable business. They will have to pay self-employment taxes on their earnings. For the company, you need to invest in your contract workers if you want to keep them, want them to stay committed to excellence with both the clients and the photography. They are trying to making a living, same as you, and you will churn through them if you do not deal with them fairly. To be fair, I own a company with 5 contract photographers, under a different model than Marek is suggesting and our experienced photographers net well above the average earnings of independent real estate photographers, if the 2010 poll is still relatively indicative of the industry. Contract work is not all equal, but can be a very reasonable option for some. Obviously it's not for everyone, especially those that already have a successful, well-established business. We must all do the math and find the niche where we will enjoy what we do!

  5. @Julie - the Poll on the annual income of real estate photographers has been up on the blog for many years both before 2010 and after 2010. The 2010 date on the Poll page is when the Poll page was created as a place to collect all the important polls I've done here on the PFRE blog. I replicated it above in this post to give it more exposure and more votes.

    There's little point in starting another poll for the same thing because polls like this aren't for a specific period of time they are intended show a general situation.

  6. @Larry - Thank you for the clarification. When we started our business in 2007, professional photography was only being used by a small number of agents in our area. Now that has changed dramatically and keeping up with the demand is highly challenging for multiple photographers. As the real estate photographer demand, added media services and the price of real estate have increased in many major markets, it just seems like the upper 50% would be increasing in number of photographers and potentially their income. If someone once made $20k, can they now enter $80k? Or once entered, they cannot enter a new income level? If they do, it would certainly skew the poll numbers. I know it isn't meant to be scientific, but I think that the amount of time passing and increased services offered (3D, drones, more video) could definitely affect the data. Maybe I'm wrong! Just something to be considered! Thanks!

  7. @Julie - Yes I understand and agree with what you are saying. My point is that that a simple poll like this is just not a good way to do detail and precise market analysis.

    This poll generally shows that nearly 80% of real estate photographers make less that $60K and 20% are making $60K and over. You've probably heard of the 80/20 rule. It apparently applies to real estate photography.

  8. @Larry - You are right. The 80/20 rule here makes perfect sense, especially when I consider the great number of part-time photographers out there. I do appreciate everything you bring to the table in helping us pursue best practices and to make good, strong business decisions. There is always a great deal to glean here. Thank you!

  9. I am not sure that I would ever sign a contract for a year. I would rather see a free lance contract price per house or per hour. Then I would choose to work or not based on my actual schedule. When we shoot for other agencies - they always pay us by the house and when I hire photographers I either pay by the day or by the house. And, I would never associate my images with someone else's processing so it would be a package deal if they hired me or one of our contract freelancers for shoot and process. And, when we use free lancers we choose our photo processor carefully even if we are the ones doing the shooting.

  10. @Julie - I just looked at you website and I have to say that... I am impressed!
    I would love to know about your business model. Learn how do you make your Photographers happy and at the same time grow your business.
    I've been trying to figure out how can I design my Real Estate Business in terms of expansion, as I am at the point that we turn away new clients almost every day (at the pick season time of course) and it... bothers me to say no... .
    I am always completely open to new ideas and changes.
    Unfortunately, I find myself working about 14hrs per day...., almost never a full weekend... and it is just... too much... .
    I want to congratulate you on your SUCCESS!!!

  11. @Julie, Your company has more of a flavor of a co-op as opposed to a nationwide "RE services" organization. All of the large national companies I have information on pay very low wages and treat the photographers as highly replaceable employees while classifying them as independent contractors. The area I am in isn't very hip to professional photos (yet), so having several photographers competing for the few jobs available is tough. I'd love to have other people doing the paperwork and handling most of the calls. I still like editing and would hate to completely hand that off to another person, but there are times when it would speed things up. There needs to be enough business to keep an office busy with cushion for when it gets slow. Everybody involved would need to have a stake in the company and accept that the business is seasonal.

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