Everyone starting out in real estate photography wants to know, "what should I charge for real estate photography in my geographic location?" There isn't a simple answer that works everywhere. Over the years I've done several posts that address real estate photography pricing from several different angles but recently while talking to someone about pricing I realized that I've but never summarized a complete pricing process. So here is my attempt at doing that:
- Determine your cost to show up: This is basically figuring out your expenses and distributing those expenses over the number of estimated shoot you do in a year. Take care that you are including all your expenses in your pricing estimates. Here's a post on determining your cost to show up.
- Determine what your time is worth: The US dept of labor statistics says the average hourly rate in the US has been about $23 per hour for several years so it's not unreasonable to be in this range.
- Determine the average time you spend on a shoot: You've got to include driving time, shooting time and time spent on post-processing and delivery. Your total time is likely to be about 3 hours.
- Compute your ideal shoot price: Your shoot price is equal to your cost to show up plus your time charge. Ideal here means to cover all of your expenses and make a decent per hour wage.
- Research your local service market: This step is just a verification you are in the right ballpark. Compare your ideal shoot price to what other service people charge in your area. Other service people in your area are doing similar services to real estate photography in your area and have been in business for a long time. For example, routine furnace people have to show up, and spend slightly less time than you will spend doing a shoot so compare there charges to your ideal shoot price. So your shoot price shouldn't be less than the furnace maintenance guy! Here's a post on this kind of research I did several years ago.
- Research your competition: Check out what other real estate photographers in your area charge and compare your quality to theirs. Researching pricing can be difficult because not all real estate photographers list their prices on their web site. Find others in your area by checking the PFRE real estate photographer directory. There's a tendency to do nothing but pay attention to what the competition is charging. The fact is far too many beginning real estate photographers don't charge enough to cover their cost to show up and their time.
- Determine your competitive shoot price: Be aware that the photographer with the lowest shoot price is not always the "winner". The problem with the real estate photography business is there are a lot of folks out there that haven't gone through the process in #1 through #6 above. They are in the business part time to just make a few extra bucks and so they tend to not include all their expenses like you need to to stay in business for the long haul. So if you just lower your price to their's you are going to be sucked into taking a big cut in what you are being paid for your time or if you go too far you won't even cover your expenses. Don't try to compete just on price!
One thing you need to understand is that a low price doesn't always get you more business. I have seen several cases where when photographers RAISED their price they got more business because the became more attractive to upper-end agents. Here are two specific cases:
- Peggy Taylor, of Tampa, FL.
- Robert Barr, in Woodinville, WA.
Both Peggy and Robert have raised their prices over the last year or so and are doing much better as a result.
Update Feb 29, 2012: My goal in this post was to review ALL the factors you should consider in doing your pricing. I realize there is geographic variation in pricing. But what I run into time and time again in talking to people that charge $60 per shoot or $75 or $99 per shoot is they are only considering what others are charging. Many times they don't even know what they are making per shoot or what they make per hour. My whole motivation here is to help people take care of themselves! It tears me up when I run across someone getting $36/shoot from a large national company with no milage and is supplying their own equipment. I think the first step in looking out for yourself is being independent and the next step is doing the 7 analysis steps above.