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What Should You Charge For Real Estate Photography?

Published: 24/02/2012
By: larry

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

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.

 

87 comments on “What Should You Charge For Real Estate Photography?”

  1. When I started out as a freelance graphic designer there was a general rule of thumb that every 3rd check goes to the government. Or, if you're charging $30 an hour as mentioned above, you get $20 and the government gets $10.

  2. Thanks Larry - I think this is a topic that needs to be restated at least 4 times a year. Eventually it will sink in. rather than a discount on the whole job, we usually offer a monthly special - i.e. a 10 second video for virtual tours for half price or a twilight shot for half price when you buy a full package. We have one special a month year round. Next month is March and we do the video special in March, it seems to bring in a lot of business.

    By the way - don't forget to add my friend Dave Williamson of Timeless Image Photography in Perth, Au. Not only did he branch out onto his own, but he has steadily been increasing his prices and type of services he offers in the past year - and...he is so busy I hardly have time to "FACETIME" with him these days. The more value he is putting on himself, the more he offers his clients, the more clients he is attracting. Great job Dave!

  3. and lets not forget 4 buck gas will soon be the "new norm" perhaps even higher. and soon in the US at least, we will all be mandated to buy health insurance, so for those getting by with none now that will be further expenses to think about

  4. This is something I need to seriously consider doing. Not sure what would be the best way to do it, but It would be interesting to see a poll or chart of RE photographers prices and their location/city?

  5. @Brian - I've thought of doing this but it's far too complicated to do. There's actually a way to get at the same thing in a different way. If you use "real estate photography" in Google trends it shows the interest or demand in real estate photography geographically over time. It's showing you here geographically the most people are doing searches for the term "real estate photography". This tracks the interest shown on this blog almost perfectly... notice that there's only a few cities in the US that even come close to AU.

  6. I haven't really used google trends before..but NH is the top for "real estate video" in the US?? Im in NH just starting to offer video to my clients and in the Seacoast Area so far it's not a big thing yet..Realtors are a little slow here adapting to up to date marketing ideas.

    Maybe due to Fred being in Nashua and how popular his business is.. but he mainly works in Mass. hmmm

    http://www.google.com/trends/?q=real+estate+video&date=all&geo=usa&ctab=0&sort=0&sa=N

  7. @Scott- I didn't forget taxes. Taxes are a cost of doing business... they are in your cost of showing up.

  8. One of the biggest pricing challenges I have found is from the 'aspiring RE photographers' and the established RE photographers who are doing RE photography as a side business. Aspiring photogs call and ask if I will train them. I offer them encouragement or direction but let them know my margins are slim which leads into the conversation of pricing. The standard response is, 'I also do this or that so I will be able to price low to get some business'. I try to educate them on their costs long term but it goes through one ear and out the other. They also see pricing by other quality RE photographers and figure they are making it at $150 or less so they can too. The run and gunners have asked me to shoot for them because they have so much work ... but I tell them I can't shoot for $99, probably less after their cut. I love what I do and will continue to invest in myself and produce a quality product but darn it's a struggle ...

  9. Thanks for the reminder, I really needed it! As a new Real Estate Photographer, I am sticking to my guns on price. I know I would get business faster if I lowered my prices, but I feel my fees are competetive in my market (avg $130-$150). While I am open to running promotions, especially as I get started, I refuse to work for free. That said, it is so discouraging to see a local agent/photographer advertise $45-$65 packages, even if his quality is sub par.

  10. Ya that seems about right from our calculations. $150-$200 is a good price point I think. After fiddling around with different pricing scenarios, that range seems to be profitable for us and an acceptable cost for the client. I'm not sure if the seasonal nature of the market is as marked in the US or Australia as it is here in northern Canada, but that's definitely something else that has to be considered. If you're accepting $80 per shoot and you have a dry spell of a few weeks, I can't imagine how you would cope. At least with a more reasonable rate you can actually give yourself a buffer. Perhaps this is not an issue in larger centers with vibrant markets though - I'm operating in a city of 70,000 with no other communities within 75 miles so market fluctuations and seasonality have to be taken into consideration.

  11. In my opinion charging $30 an hour is not enough. Mine starts at $60 an hour minimum. You have to keep in mind the slow period of the year (Winter) you might not work as much. You also need to save for the future and at $30 you can't much as much in to your future savings.

  12. Shoot I hit submit before I was done typing. I was also going to say. You listed me as an example of someone who has raised their prices and is more successful because of it. I raised my prices once already by about double what I first started at. That is what he was referring to in the article.

    I am even going to be raising my prices again this year to a whole new level. Including packages that run over $1,000. It really matters what you charge. Even at doubling the price I was at I still found I was not making enough to feel like I could slow down and offer the quality service I really want to offer. I was charging just enough that if everything went smoothly I was making about $60 an hour. If I ran in to an issue that required more time and focus I found that I was starting to dip below $60 an hour. I am raising my prices so that I can slow down overall and offer better quality photographs. It will eliminate my need to make sure I stay under X number of hours per job. It will also make it so I have a continued role in the sale of the house. It will let me commit to an agent and say I am with you through the sale of this house. Then it is not just me taking photos once and saying "good luck on the house, see you next time you have a new house to photograph." I want to make sure I am there for the agent so if they a new exterior shot because of a change in paint color or a price reduction I can do that for them.

  13. @Robert- Absolutely, you are right on... $30 is a place to start as you more and more experience and do better work it makes perfect sense to raise your hourly rate.

  14. I've found pricing the hardest part of setting up a business like this.

    I'd love to know, in a nutshell, what everyone is doing for $150? In my market, I'm probably on the high-side at $150 but I'm arguably the best (at least in my own mind). I'm an former old school film photojournalist who quit and sold real estate for the past 18 years and have now turned back to shooting real estate in the past 18 months. I was used to much higher rates back when. As a agent, I can tell you agents are loathe to spend anything although they are now realizing that the game is changing and paying for photography is essential. I liken my fee to what they may pay for a single ad in a high end publication and point out that my product goes a great deal further in scope and use.

    Anyway, in my market the MLS and Realtor.com (nationally) accommodate 25 photos so that is what the agents want minimally. So I'm providing 25 photos for my $150. It varies, but I probably average $30 per hour - not enough. I often give repeat clients discounts or extras. Anyone else want to chime in?

  15. @Joe Edens I don't give discounts. I just say something like "I would love to give you a discount.... and I will once I can walk up to the butcher at the meat counter and ask him for a discount." I do offer a loyalty program. If you do 10 shoots with me you get the next one free. That devalues my services by about %10.

    I got walked on once or twice by poeple trying to get as much of a discount out of me as possible. It just feels disrespectful. I had a client who I dropped because they kept asking for a discounts. I stopped doing work for them.

  16. @Robert Barr-

    Right, I agree. The operative word was "repeat" customers. Basically, I'm doing the same - rewarding continual customers with an incentive. It's just not as structured as yours.

    Thanks

  17. It might help to create a reward structure for your good clients. Find what % you would want to discount to your good clients. Then spread that across a certain number of shoots. It takes some effort to keep track of the shoes. I do it for the clients so they don't have to do anything like a loyalty card. If you don't like the thought of doing a completely free tour then offer a half off discount after X tours. That way you still make something for your time.

  18. Larry, I just did a photo shoot of a luxury home for a real estate company here in hawaii. Shortly after I sent them the photos, the interior designer emailed asking me how much I would charge her per photo to use some of the images. Is there a standard price or equation for reselling photos? Any advice here is greatly appreciated!!

  19. @Andy- There is no standard. Photo licensing prices depend on what the images are going to be used for. You typically license images for a specific and limited purpose. Website? Advertise the designers product? Licensing to Designers typically brings more than to real estate agents.

  20. I think part of the problem that comes up for some people is relying too much on what other companies and/or photographers are charging. If you are the only photographer running your own business, you have to look for similar comparisons - NOT try to compare your business with a larger, national company that has numerous photographers. There is a vast difference in the overhead costs of a larger company where they can spread their costs between the number of photographers than when you are doing it yourself. There can't be enough emphasis put on the fact that this is a *cost-based* business and those costs can vary from one individual to another.

  21. I just don't see how someone could charge under $75 for a small house, much less under $100 for a large (over 2000 sq ft.) home. However, there are many photographers in my city (St. Louis, Mo.) who do so. I have my prices at a bare minimum but real estate agents here still value cost over quality.

    There is only one person listed on PFRE for the area, and she is charging only $55 and gives a free website and virtual tour slideshow for that price. Very frustrating, but that's what we deal with here.

  22. Just an observation. When I first started, wasn't sure of myself and the pics were just OK, of course the price was pretty inexpensive

    But for me at least, as I understood this better and knew I was delivering quality shots, I raised my prices and didn't back down or feel guilty or pressured to lower them just to get the job

    It is like the difference between a Toyota Corolla and a Lexus 450. You pay for quality and there will always be a demand for it

  23. Chris -

    Let's keep the discussion civil and refrain from childish name calling. As an adult you should be able to express your opinion without such animosity. It may be popular in some forums but not here. Additionally, in case you weren't aware, Larry is our host.

  24. Reed Radcliffe - I'm a real estate photographer in the St. Louis area as well but not listed through PFRE. Most agents around here (my personal feeling/experience) don't see the value of hiring a professional for images that appear only on the MLS. If they do, the quality doesn't seem to be a major issue - as long as the pictures are decent. I think the MLS is partly to blame because the overall size of the pictures seen on the Internet are small and usually so compressed that they manage to make good pictures look poor. Like Larry mentioned in previous posts, agents that are low on the totem pole or new generally make $16-$18,000 per year. They a tough to market too. I wish I can offer advice how to market to these agents - still trying to figure that out for myself. That is why I think its important to find the top tier agents who not only want to show pictures on the web but pictures through printed media, flyers, postcards. This is where good photography will stand out better.

    I looked up the photographer you mentioned that is listed in the St. Louis area through the PRFE site and charges $55 for a basic shoot plus free slideshow. Gave me a sinking feeling. I hate to say it, but I think most agents find the quality (based upon the site's portfolio) acceptable. Plus a lot of agents don't care if the pictures of the house are so lovely it can be in Architectural Digest. They just want a "photographer" to come to the home and take some pictures giving the home owner the feeling that they are doing all they can do to sell the property. They don't understand that a good picture can mean more interest in showings or higher selling price over a fair picture.

  25. I for one am glad that Larry gives people a starting point, and reminds them about gas, insurance, taxes, travel time, equipment cost, equipment depreciation etc. which is really handy for the newbie. Unless people have been self employed for a few years, they may have not thought of these cost. A business is different than a hobby.

  26. @Joe

    Lets not get over dramatic bud, I wasn't calling anyone names, I was simply stating a fact.

    Telling people from totally different areas of the world what they should and shouldn't be charging is stupid. Do you think that a pool cleaner from Holywood, California charges the same as a pool cleaner from Hamilton, Ontario?

    There is no question its good to have a point in the right direction, but in the end you have to do a ton of research pertaining to your service area to come up with your own pricing.

  27. As far as discounts go, I had a hard time with that. I fiddled around with some discounts and came up with a scenario that rewards return clients by doing invoices on a monthly basis. The first shoot is full price, the second 3% off, the third 6% etc. to a maximum of 15%. By sending out invoices at the end of the month some high volume/top producing agents (the ones we want as clients) have generated significant savings. This system has met with positive feedback from clients while at the same time not being too much of a bump to the revenue stream.

  28. I keep prices low and charge a la carte for extras (web site, twilight, pshopping, realtor.com, etc). I cant lower my prices more than they already are still feed my family AND have time to sleep, so when discount negotiations take place I try to remember to offer extras for free rather than discounting my base price. This works well, the client gets a bonus and you still come home with a full piece of bacon (its good for showcasing new offerings too). I DO offer discounts for referrals though; I will take 50% off of a clients next shoot for a warm referral that closes.

  29. Great post. As someone that is looking to get into the real estate / architectural photography business you are spot on as to determining your rates based on your costs, this is just business common sense. Unfortunately there are a lot of folks out there willing to work on the cheap with the mindset that they are going to have all the customers flocking to them. I've seen this in the IT consulting trade as well. Craigslist is crawling with bottom feeders. I'm guessing the ones charging really low ball prices may not even be legally registered business's (not paying taxes, etc.). If you don't charge an appropriate rate, you don't value your business and neither will your clients. The funny thing is the clients shopping based on low ball prices will still look for discounts or what they can get for free. All you can do is make yourself standout from the crowd and continue to improve your skills and give great customer service. Let the bottom feeders eat whats on the bottom of the tank.

  30. @Robert- Yes, the whole point is you must have your pricing thought out so you know when to walk away. It helps to understand that you don't want to do business with all agents. Only the top few percent of listing agents understand marketing... you don't even want to waste your time competing with the $50 to $100 a shoot photographers.

  31. Where I live you can get a hamburger for $.99 and down the street you can get a hamburger for $16.00. Funny how both businesses are doing well. There is an audience for every price.

  32. Great suggestions. I would also add that, in any service-related venture, it is usually not a great idea to price yourself against the bottom of the barrel. In fact, quite the opposite: By pricing yourself near the top of the competition you can often attract quality-conscious buyers who are more concerned with quality than price.

  33. Maybe I've overlooked it but in pricing and profit no one mentioned overhead. $30 / hr isn't $30 / hr when one considers overhead such as camera, lens, software, accessories, insurance, professional services (accountant, legal), utilities, gas, mileage, etc, etc, etc.
    It doesn't make any difference if you're expanding the real estate photography market, increasing your bookings and posting more jobs unless you are profitable. If you reimburse yourself at the IRS mileage rate a 15 mile (30 mile round trip) will cost you > $15.00. Depreciate your camera, lens, add the cost of your photography insurance (liability, E&O, equipment at a minimum), software and updates, post production, computers and media. Divide your total overhead cost by the number of hours that you will have productive, income producing hours in a year then subtract that from your hourly rate. It becomes very clear that your profit margin is very small on a $30.00 / hr shoot.
    When your're working for someone else and making $30.00 / hr your only expenses are your taxes, FICA, medicare and optional expenses such as insurance. Not so when you're working for your self and the overhead is yours.
    Not knocking anyone's prices, you charge what you charge. 'Jus sayin' that you should really look at what your business cost and what you are charging and ask yourself "Is this the money that I want to make".

  34. I was contacted by 3 agents to shoot over 100 homes for them a month. After I gave them a price sheet and what I would be doing for them ect... They all said "wow you are expensive" fyi my price was $90 they said they were looking to pay the following.
    BPO - $15
    Driveby -$5
    V-Tours- $30
    * I didnt even mind talking about gas prices and explaining at that wage I would be paying them to take the pics. Oh well.

  35. When I started out on my own, my prices were based on the pricing the company I used to work for charged. After a little while, some of my regular clients suggested I should raise my prices. And I did. More than once because in the meantime gas prices were taking a toll. Only now after an incredibly slow fall and start of the year do I have 1 client who told me, I was her high-end go-to. Given the history we have, I do believe her.
    And I agree with Larry: One does not want to do business with every agent.
    At this point I average $250 per listing (~some $185, others ~$450, occasionally more). Considering my relatively low overhead, I still need about 200 shoots/ year to make roughly $50k. And $50k doesn't get me far in DC.
    My biggest problem is developers: I am hired by the agent, shoot and charge for the listing (licensed images for duration of listing being active on market for initial agent), then the developer wants to use the images in their online and print portfolio. But doesn't understand that he will have to pay for the license to do so, and it's more than what the agent gets charged. I have based these prices on recommendations of the ASMP . How can I make them understand????

  36. I work in a small market in Australia, and we have enormous pressure from 'bulk' franchisee companies offering extremely low rates for photography. The photographic standard they set is really poor, but they get bookings because they can offer such a cheap price on printing too ie $200 for 15 photos, AND floor plan AND 50 full colour brochures. All their photos are edited remotely, and sent back to them the next day.

    I work for myself, and charge $180 for 25 photos, or $160 for 18. Believe it or not, that's pretty expensive where I am, and the pressure to lower the price is intense. I have however managed to get some consistant clients who are happy to pay more for more quality and service. I couldn't imagine sending off my photos for someone else to edit for me.

  37. Hello,

    I have a small request to ask you...
    I am part of a government program, which helps individuals start their own business, and part of the requirement is to contact individuals who do similar work and get their feedback (and submit this info before I can be fully accepted into the program). Well, I plan on starting a Photography & Web Design business that caters to the real estate market. I was hoping I can get your input? It would be greatly appreciated! If so, could you answer a few questions via email or I could call you and we can discuss. If you could get back to me either way by Friday, that would be great!

    What is your pricing?

    How many photos do you provide your clients?

    Are there any major cost to running your business?

    What makes your business unique?

    What are your methods of marketing?

    Are there any Associations/Networks you are a member of?

    What are your strengths as a business? What do you do well?

    Is there anything you would improve on as a business? What do you not do well?

    Thanks for you help!

  38. I've found myself in a rather interesting situation, and I'd love your suggestions:

    I know a ton of agents where I live and have been trying to get more into real estate photography. I've recently started working for several agents that are from the same firm because the photographer that the firm primarily uses is extremely backed-up. The firm pays a flat fee of $100 for shooting a home. $50 is covered by the firm, and the remaining $50 is covered by the agent. The firm cuts the check and somehow the agents' $50 is taken out of his/her commission/paycheck/whatever. After I shoot the house and deliver the photos, I send an invoice to the agent and he/she then forwards it to the appropriate person/department at the firm.

    My thoughts are that $100, although better than nothing, is not enough given the amount of time it takes me to take the photos and post-process them. As far as I know, the $100 is fixed and is not proportional to the size of the home. I'm trying to come up with a strategy to meet with the firm's leadership team and propose a new/different pricing strategy that makes it much more attractive to me (obviously) and worth my time.

    If it takes me an hour or so to shoot a home and then 2-3 hours in post-processing, that's around $25/hr which I feel is too low.

    Additionally, agents aren't always respectful of my time. Homeowners aren't either. I won't get into the politics of what the agent/homeowner relationship should or shouldn't be, but if it's not stable or there's not good communication, my time can be wasted. If the house isn't ready to be photographed, or like yesterday, a landscaping company was there at the house and I had to wait an additional hour to finish the exterior shots, and let's not forget the price is fixed at $100, I get the short end of the stick.

    Sure, getting paid by the hour might be better, but the firm probably doesn't understand what the post-processing entails and is probably less likely to want to pay me for those hours if it doesn't really and truly understand the amount of work that goes into this. Agents will probably be much more responsible and respectful of my time if they are paying me by the hour, but then again, that could really make things more complicated.

    Can anyone recommend a good strategy to use when and if I get a chance to meet with the leadership team to discuss and/or propose a new plan? I think the primary photographer (that I'm now starting to replace on shoots) is more than likely getting more work elsewhere because he's not making what he could or should be. I haven't argued or tried to change the pricing at this point, simply because I wanted to work for a few agents and let them see what kind of work I can do. Now I'm getting more calls, but I'm still stuck at the $100 mark and I want to get that changed, if possible, and soon!!

    Would really love your thoughts and opinions on this if possible. Thanks!!

  39. Those Realtors are lucky to have a firm that pays for a portion of their photos. I'd suggest that the agent's pay extra so that you can charge a reasonable rate. They'd still be paying $50 less than other agents.

  40. @Jake- I think one of the best strategies is to do some research on what other service professions are charging in your area for similar travel and time on the job. The profession I like to compare RE photography to is routine yearly furnace check. Takes about the same time to travel to and from the job less time on the job about same amount of technical equipment and for example in Seattle area they charge $180. Agents fully understand this and don't try to get them to do it for $100.

  41. After reading all of the threads on this topic on this website, I am sorry to say but I think somewhere along the way photographers have gotten the notion that they are worth more than everyone else. Did you spend 10 years in school to become a photographer that should be worth $100 an hour? Probably not. As a professional, if you are a professional, what should your time be worth? I consider my time to be worth $50/hour. That is an honest wage in my opinion, for professional work. In the next couple of years that may go up. If you are a professional, that means you've streamlined your processes and can honestly say that you believe the work can't be done any better, or any faster for that matter.

    My basic shoots are $99. My shoot time ranges from a half hour to an hour, longer for properties larger than 2500sq ft, but my prices go up for more square footage as they should. Post processing, less than an hour. Why? Because my processes are streamlined. 2-3 hours post processing to me seems absolutely insane. If you are spending that much time in front of the computer than you are like all the rest of the fauxtagraphers out there. Taking bad shots and hoping the computer can fix it for you.

    If I only work 4 hours a day, only on weekdays, I've earned myself $1000 in a week, and managed to live a pretty relaxed lifestyle. If I work 8 hours a day, thats $2000 a week. If I was smart, I would shoot all the properties myself, and have a co-op student doing my post for me at $14 an hour, and I could easily swing 6-8 shoots a day, earning me $4000 minus $600 for the labour pay out a week. That being said, I realize that real estate photography in canada isn't always as busy in the winter months, but real estate photography is more or less my fallback to ensure that I have money coming in. I charge more for portrait photography.

    The point is, stop worrying what everyone else is charging. Be honest with yourself and your abilities. Charge what you need to charge for your area to keep yourself busy enough to make an honest living. I think part of the reason so many agents struggle with using photography for real estate is simply that photographers think they are part of some elite crowd who should get paid more than everyone else.

  42. Thanks Carston,
    You are correct in saying this.Sorry you other guys/girls But we are just mere mortals like Lawyers truck drivers etc.My point is that we are not creating Art work and selling this for a few grand !! are we??
    I have seen plenty of Real estate agents/salespeople that given a half hour briefing on a camera can actually do a good job given the small amount of time on a camera.There will be some of you who argue this but just look at youre local Builder who may do very well but he doesn't ask for commission once his creation has been sold 2 months later!
    I also think that some photogs get the idea we are supposed to get rich quick and retire at an early age living on royalties somewhere.Sadly not the case but for a small few of them that get lucky.

  43. Why not adopt a standard rate as in a percentage of the home price. One tenth of a percent of the home value seems about right. This way the price of home more accurately depicts the complexity of the job then does mere square footage, and you get compensated in a way that scales with the job easily, and never encroaches on the realtor's fees in a variable way but is constant as a percentage. Also it scales with inflation, when, if home prices rise your fees in dollar terms will also. And after all if you land a $5,000,000 home, why shouldn't you get paid 5k for the work. That is nothing compared to what everyone else will make on the deal from the bankers to the agents. The closing cost fees are more then that on a home like that, we photographers really need to rethink what we are worth.

  44. Hello, I just stumbled onto this blog. Although I just started in real estate photography, I have been an agent for several years. I guess I became a photographer fairly early on in my real estate career. The brokerage was supposed to provide photos for the MLS and what I got was simply appalling. These sellers are paying a hefty sum to have their home marketed, and their transaction negotiated. Brokerages were falling flat on their faces in the "marketing" area. So I decided to learn as much as I could about photography. I'm not the best "salesy" person in the world, but I am a good marketer. Over the past two years, a few agents (not many) started calling me to do their photos. Over the past year, I decided to move over more into real estate photography.

    But now I have the same problem as Nick. All of a sudden a huge franchise has come in and they are doing things for pennies. God only knows what they are paying their photographers. It can't be much more than minimum wage. Their fee for 25 photos of any sized home is $130! This is in New York where the cost of living is sky high. Adding a virtual tour? An extra $10.00. Brochures? Just add a few bucks more. Since there is considerable travel and gasoline involved at over $4.00 a gallon and NY is wicked expensive, its a real problem. They have contracts with several of the big box brokerages. The quality is OK, but I'm very underwhelmed by it. Given the pressure on the photographers, they must be literally rollerblading through the property which would account for some of the quality issues. What worries me is that so many big-box brokerages are gobbling this up.

    Agents that I know are actually WHINING that their prices are still too high? Huh? The cost of living being what it is, you aren't going to get away with much less than $50 an hour and be able to survive as an independent contractor....even that is dicey. $70/hour gives a comfort zone.

    I am just outside NYS (20 miles north) But the same thing is happening down there. They must be taking photographers desperate for work and running them ragged.

  45. @Ruthmarie- Yes, I hear a lot of this predatory behavior going on my "big-box" companies. They are taking advantage of the fact that people are hurting and willing to work for less just to get a job.

    This predatory behavior is why I do everything I can to educate beginning real estate photographers that they can be independent, not work for the "big box" company and come out ahead. However, it requires that you become a business person and market yourself and track your expenses so you know how much you are making.

  46. Lorin,

    I think you have the best approach from an economics standpoint: Photographers should base their prices relative to the value of the home; that is, the value to the agent and homeowner on the sale of the home, particularly if published pictures help to sell the home faster than it would without such pictures. Size and complexity of a shoot are important considerations, but, as you know, home prices are a function of many factors, the value of the land in particular neighborhoods, for example. Many small, even run-down homes can be pricey, depending on where they are.

    The point is, homes are priced the same way everything else is priced--in relation to cost, but also in relation to the value to the buyer. Real estate photography shouldn't be any different.

    For example, a million dollar home for sale will sell eventually, I suppose, without any photo advertising at all. But if it sells six or eight weeks sooner with photo advertising than without, which is not an unreasonable scenario, then the present value of that million dollars is greater than it will be 6-8 weeks in the future. How much greater depends on current interest rates. I don't know what that value would be, but even at a 4% annual interest rate, the value of that 6-8 week advantage is more than $100, and closer to $1,000.

    Of course the photos have to be of good quality for a such a home to sell quicker than it would otherwise. And, too, it would be hard to prove that the home wouldn't have sold when it did without the photos. But generally, although figuring the cost of doing business is crucial to pricing, one must also consider the value of good photos to the ones who benefit from them the most--the agent and homeowner.

    Unfortunately, i think we're a long way from the industry's adopting this idea. For the present time, the fair market price for shooting a 2500 sq. ft. home appears to be around $100-$150. Without greater research into the benefit of home photo advertising and showing evidence that it helps to sell homes faster, and establish its value in the minds of the public, we're going to have to struggle for every dime.

  47. There seems to be a lot left out of these posts. Everyone keeps talking about a flat rate for a shoot, or "I charge $100 a shoot", but no one has talked about what they are doing after the shoot. Are you comment posters using HDR photography, in which case retouching is mandatory and is often a longer process than the shoot itself, or are you just taking a single shot of each room in which case exposures are never that great and windows are blown out? Also, how many shots per shoot? Don't you break it down a bit? More shots equals more time and more work. Hand retouching in photoshop (most HDR compostiing software sucks unless you know what you're doing and have a good eye for what looks natural) is a labor intensive process and, to me, is the majority of the work in these type of jobs.

  48. Just to give you guys a laugh. I did some PFRE for a short time. The experienced I gained was great and I ended up transitioning to web design but I realized that this quote was very true.

    "Doing a good job around here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit; you get a warm feeling, but nobody notices."

    Here's an email I got from one of the top producing agents in our area:

    Hi Dan,
    Would you be interested in doing photos again for me? I can't pay more than 30.00 per house and if I do virtual tour 40.00. Let me know please.

  49. A friend of mine and her father own an Appraisal Company in Middlesex NJ. She recently asked me if I would take the pictures they need of homes. So far she has sent me around Middlesex County and Somerset County. I live in Middlesex County. She pays me $25 for a job. If she sends me on 3 or more jobs a day then she will pay me for gas which is an extra $25. If she send me to take comp pictures she only pays me $25 and that could be for 5-6 houses and over a 1/2 hour or more away from my home. Today for example, she is only paying me for comp pics. I drove from my home all the way to Somerset County to take pics of 5 homes, so that's only $25. Then she sent me to Middlesex County to take more comp pics of another 5 homes, so that's only $25. The whole trip took me 2 hours and 45 minutes. My question is am I getting screwed? Should I be getting more money? Should I get gas money each time? I use my own car, my own camera and my laptop.

  50. @Danielle - 86% of PFRE readers that are real estate photographers charge $100 or over per shoot. See the third poll from the bottom on the PFRE poll page. The primary reason such a large percentage of RE photographers charge $100 or over is that if you take the time to add up what it costs to show up a any given property shoot the photo and then spend any time in post and delivering the photos you'll probably find you are hardly making any money at all. Do the math. To look out for yourself in the business world you need to be able to track and estimate your expenses and figure out what doing the work is costing you and then building your costs into your price... don't let someone else set the price.

  51. 3% Commission of a $400,000= $12,000 x2(if you list and sold)=$24,000.

    So what's wrong with .1% fee?

  52. @Manny- First of all it is extremely rare to get both the listing and selling side of the commission, secondly 90% of agents you meet do just a handful of transactions a year and have substantial expenses that need to be covered. There is no way you could run a business in real estate photography by charging a commission based on price of the property.

  53. Photographers talk so often about how difficult it is for others to understand exactly what we do and the amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes and I feel the same can be said for Agents.

  54. I've been a professional photographer since the early 60's and can tell you this topic has been on the minds of photographers for far longer than I've been around.

    Having started as a photojournalist, I switched to advertising as the magazines began to cut costs, starting with photographers. It didn't take me long to figure out that expenses alone were a subject that needed close monitoring, let alone my time, and in response to the comment earlier, yes, I spent many years on my education, an tens of thousands of dollars as well.

    As the years passed, I discovered that many photographers had no real grip on what their costs were, let alone any feeling for what their time was worth. When I transitioned into RE, I found that agents don't have any idea of what the value of their time is either, let alone someone else's.

    Get real, people, cars now cost well over 20K, and you're donating that and all your equipment, your knowledge and experience and much more. Working for $100 to $200 per shoot just doesn't cut it, and you're losing your shirts.

    Keep up the dialog, we'll all gain from the realization that our abililties are worth far more than most are getting, and the additional respect you will garner can't be priced.

  55. Larry, I just red your ideas and advices and all the comments and reactions from others.
    According to a Realtor who also has a real estate law degree, above subject is a dangerous subject and lawyers can make it their business, because it might leads to price fixing.
    I am not a lawyer and do not know if he is right, but I just want to give you and evrybody else a hint what that person had told me.

    In person, I have learned a lot from all the writing.

  56. I live in Houston, one of the hottest real estat areas in the country, if not the world. The number of 'run and gun' low quality RE Photographers has increased substantially over the last year and a half. At least once a week I am told by a realtor that my prices are too high. I'd like the group's opinion. I use social media for quite a bit of my advertising. Should I try to justify my prices online? For example, should I mention during my advertising why I charge more for what I do and the services I provide?

  57. I'm shocked at how little people are charging for property photos. I'm assuming you all must be using cheap equipment and not doing HDR, etc? The least I'll shoot a house for (high end market overall) is $400 for a small condo, $500 for a house, and $800 for a house with light staging. And I'm undercutting my competition by 1/2 or more on price. I suppose I'm doing a higher quality job than others here who are charging $100 or so, but I don't see how you can justify prices like that. Of course, it costs more to live where I do (mountain town) than a lot of other places, but nevertheless, with a $6k DC flash setup, a $3k two light studio strobe kit (use on big homes sometimes) and several other smaller strobes and wireless transmitters, I must have $13k in lighting equipment. And then there's my Nikon D3, D800, tilt/shift and other lenses (about $20k or more in camera gear), and the Mac Pro, monitors, website, etc etc... How the hell can anyone be doing this for so little? Add my time to process HDR and strobe shots, and well... it's a LOT of expense. Not to mention car, food, gas, etc.

    I transitioned into professional architectural photography in the past year (from part time, shooting for realtor, architect and builder friends), and my aim is to be publishing my work in magazines like architectural digest and others. The only reason I'm pricing things cheaply at the moment is to get more business from realtors in order to bulk up my high end portfolio. With that done, I expect to be charging $2k-$4k per shoot, or shooting inexpensively and selling to high end magazines (this happens with architecture firms and magazines, where the mags will basically foot the bill). I'm curious, though, what the other people in the upper echelon are charging? I know photogs who shoot for snowmobile manufacturers who make $300k a year just doing those sorts of things. I'm not fully apprised of what true high calibre professionals are making in real estate (via various avenues - builders, architects, magazines, commercial, hardware makers, and realtors), so if any of you are reading, I'd be curious to hear your input...

  58. Sam, you're living in a fantasy world. Everyone else lives and shoots in the world of budget shooters. Your $400 for a small condo? In most markets photogs get $99. And you're charging half of your competition? All your fancy equipment wouldn't mean squat to brokers in any other town. Sorry, your post reminds me of what photogs might have said 8 years ago before everyone, I mean everyone, owned a camera or an iPhone and could take pics "decent" enough for the average broker to be thrilled with paying $59 for 15 shots.

  59. Hi guys, I`m kinda new in RE (and in photography in general), was wondering - how do you proceed with the copyrights? I guess as you are taking the picture you retain the copyrights, but then - do you offer (or not) copyright transfer (at the appropriate price of course)?
    Do you ask for property releases in order to license the images to magazines, agencies etc.? In case you haven`t obtained property releases, do you still use the images for extra benefits, like uploading on micro or macro agencies, as some of them wouldn`t care of releases or would be still able to sell them with editorial licenses? Can you use the images for self-promotional purposes, do you make an agreement on how you could possibly use the images further(written on paper and signed?) with the contractor every time you are hired?
    I could use some light in here, thank you in advance :]

  60. Hello all,
    I consider myself as a amateur photographer with a artsy eye that loves a challenging angle shot. As far as presentation from the start it is in the eye of the camera to draw a interest to a buyer.
    I would target myself to a upscale housing primarily and forget the haggling once your repution has been proven and established.
    So paint with the camera and bring it to life like a piece of art!
    And don't forget have fun!

    Charlie

  61. Hi Guys,

    I am a part-time agent at Memorial Houston Real Estate. I just bought a Canon 650D to start off real estate photography as well. This article has been a good read for me as I am a newbie in this. I love to shoot houses and the texture and edges of the house. So I decided to put my passion into work.

    I will be visiting more often to this blog!

    Cheers!

  62. Dear PFRE,

    I am an experienced magazine photographer here in the St.Louis Area. On the side, I take BPO Pics for an Agent for $10 a house, $15 a house outside the county. Let me know; am I getting the short end of the stick?

    I would really like to know how much the industry standard pay rate is for taking Broker Pricing Opinion Pictures.

    This money doesn't ad up and I think I'm getting Mad
    - Johnny B

  63. I think as a rule you should be charging more than your highest competitor and spend your time over marketing your value. If you are as good as that competitor.

    If not, charge what your worth.

  64. @John - I try hard to keep comment screening to a minimum, but I've found over 7 years of doing this if I don't screen comments the discussion on controversial subjects like pricing can get out of hand very quickly. My general guidelines are that I don't allow personal attacks, and I allow much more "in-your-face" comments if the commenter supplies a URL for their personal website so everyone can see that persons work, prices etc. The idea is if you want to remain anonymous I let you get by with less. And further, if you don't agree with my screening, I'm happy to discuss it with you. I've been known to change my mind.

  65. Larry,the reason for not putting a URL in is because I started a business in this field that I think is different from what others do and until I have a good client base I do not want others to get the same idea.
    That's another part of protecting your business rather than protecting your pricing.I think pricing is related to your area,the competition and what you offer. Many photographers do real estate on the side. Then it's much easier to ask $300 for a shoot against someone who only does real estate in an area with lots of competition. Again,when you start out and need to put bread on the table you are prepared to sell your soul to the devil. Once you become a household name you can up your prices. It works like that around the world....

  66. This has been very helpful to read all these posts. After much research and time in tjis business of photography, I feel comfortable that my rates are in the middle of the.going rate. I set
    all my commercial rates the same. RE, food and
    product photography is $200 hr with a 2 hr minimum.
    After taking into consideration the time I have learned this
    trade, Cost of my equipment, travel and mileage, time of photograph y
    Almost more importantly, time dedicated to post editing and
    delivery, its a gift to clients when these images sell their products well!
    Too many times prospectiive clients try
    To devalue my service or ask me to lower my rate. Those are not the clients
    I wish to have. Plumbers, engineers, dentist s arent asked to reduce their rate for their trade.
    I dont either.

  67. I am in CA and like the idea of %
    of home listing price.sounds great!
    As well as a referral discount for next listing.
    I also give 30 photos to the agent

  68. @Jake, As both a long time Realtor and real estate photographer, I highly recommend you collect payment either at the shoot or when you deliver the photos. Real estate agents are notoriously difficult to collect from... many are just barely getting by. A very popular technique for collecting payment is Squareup.com which allows you to take credit cards on your smart phone... See: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2011/11/16/are-you-taking-credit-card-payments-for-shoots-on-site/ and a payment on delivery system is described at: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2012/07/22/paymenttab-com-a-way-to-get-paid-when-your-client-downloads-photos/

  69. Wow! Thank you all. I'm the new kid on the block, and all your feeds absolutely grabbed my attention. Specially, last but not least, Lani's post. He's sooo right. After all, a car mechanic's rate in Chicago approaches $125. per hour for labor alone. Union laborers here earn about $40 per hour. These are very limited skill sets, so why are photographers treated so shabbily? After all, we're educated, skilled and spend tons on cameras, computers, software, etc.

    gotta run,
    Jack

  70. @Jack, how photographers are treated has less to do with how educated they are and more to do with how educated our clients are...

  71. As of today, I just sent notice out to some of my clients as to the raise in my pricing. Hope it goes over well. Not the the price raise is outlandish.

  72. Hi guys, I´m from europe and like to read those price discussions. I´m very suprised how little you charge on a professional real estate photogrpahy (talking about houses more than 800.000€) ?
    100-150€ (or $) per final photo should be the MINIMUM!
    How can you survive if you sell your work for just a few bucks?
    We have to tell and show our customers, that they get something special. Something that has its price. Sell the Quality, sell your professionalism...
    Most of my customers did not hasitate to hire me....For me the first contact is the most important part. If you get a professional look, get a high end presentation folder, talk a little bit about your technique and spend talking what the customers will get and how he can profit, it should be okay..... get the deal for a good price.

    I only make business if I can close the door at the end of a day and leave the room with a smile...but for 30-70 bucks per hour... this cannot be okay.

    (can I say bucks... ? sorry my english is not perfect.... 🙂 )

  73. These are some good comments, back and forth about how you should price your shoots. I start charging at $100 per shoot (Flat Fee). If I have to travel outside of my stated area, I charge for that as well. One of my clients is a builder and I occasionally travel 45 minutes to an hour, which I charge $150 per house. Keep in mind these are empty homes. I generally will look at price and SQFT of a house as well and then go off of the $100 Flat fee. If I am shooting a $500,000-$1,000,000 home or even higher, I will charge accordingly.
    Keep in mind, where you live has a a lot to do with you pricing your shoots. I get the whole "price what your worth" thing, but you can price reasonably and agents are usually very loyal to their photographers, at lest that is what I have found. I would rather $150-$200 and shoot 10-20 homes a week, than try and price $500+ and have no success. So you need to find out what others are changing for your area. If someone is charging $75, start at $100-$125. If you shoot homes and they like the final product, you're in and your name will get tossed around to other agents.

    ....Again, depends on your area.

  74. EKP Rate Chart

    0-1500 $ 75
    1501-2500 $100
    2501-3500 $125
    3501-4500 $150
    4501-5500 $175
    5501-6500 $200
    6501-7500 $225
    7501-8500 $250
    8501-9500 $275
    This is my second year in business as a real estate photographer... As of the end of June I photographed my 500th property I photograph a property every two hours and take as many as five in one day… I do HDR photography using light room efuse... My editing takes about 20 minutes per property.... I do sky replacements and fill in TV screens with black and a gradient...
    I will be raising my prices as soon as I get the amount of clients that I would like and I am too busy to handle all the work.... My goal is a minimum of $100 per property and then five cents per square foot over 2,000 sq ft... My goal is $10k per month... $500 per day 5 days per week... $2.5k per week x 52 weeks $130k...

  75. You can charge people for what they don't know they are getting. As a real estate agent plus a photographer, most agents don't know the difference between a photo shot with an ipad and a fully edited photo shot with an expensive camera. As well as many MLS systems don't allow photos to be uploaded if they have had any post edits. Supply and demand there is only a demand for good photos in real estate not professionally edited photos. Most high volume agents (500 plus units a year) dont spend more than 50 per shoot and they always out sell those who spend more. You have to pick your businesses you can shoot 500 houses at 50 a pop or 5 at 400 a pop lol

  76. @Anthony, I've never heard of any MLS prohibiting edited photos. Your contention that there is no demand for professionally edited photos is contrary to all of my experience and likely that of most professional RE photographers. The best agents are more likely to have the best marketing. I know this holds true in my area. Of the top 5 agents, 4 of them have their listings professionally photographed and the 5th has been dropping in rank for the last couple of years from the number one spot she held. The office she works from has a staffer that takes photos for all of the agents for "free" and they get what they pay for, images from a point and shoot camera and little in the way of post processing. Since the "photographer" frequently shows up in mirrors when they aren't taking images a foot from the floor, it's easy to see the level of gear they are using. The color, exposure and geometry issues lead me to believe that they don't do any post processing.

    Any agent closing 500 sales a year without quality photos would be amazing. There is no way around getting what you pay for. I couldn't make enough money at $50/job to justify my business and I don't fear any newcomers that charge fees around that figure. They'll be out of business so fast that it doesn't affect me.

  77. Hello Eric Knieper,

    I have been thinking about getting into Real Estate Photography for some time now.
    In my area of the world {MA} it seems like the agents and brokers are CHEAP. Unless you are in perhaps the Boston area.
    Appears like you have a good business and business plan. 500 properties seems like quite a bit of business. Would love to learn as to how you get that amount of work.

    My real question is, ex. what does 0-1500 $75 mean?
    Can you explain your EKP Rate chart a bit further.
    My interpatation of it is as follows,
    It seems to me that what you are trying to convey is perhaps the representation of square feet per property equals the Price charged,
    or the total number of properties that you shoot would reflect your price within those ranges?
    I am just curious. the thought process behind it probably goes deep and beyond what I can imagine.

    Thanks in advance.
    Ed

  78. Real estate photographers usually charge between $150 for necessary shots and up to $1,500 for an extensive package (e.g., including drone shots or video tours). Costing for residential and commercial drone photography Baltimore may vary sometimes.

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