Real Estate Photography Pricing: How much should you charge?

In Marketing/Business by Jim Harmer79 Comments

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A basic real estate photography shoot from a professional photography generally costs anywhere between $110 and $300 per shoot for photos only (no video).  Notice I said “from a professional photographer.”  There are always new photographers who are willing to test the waters in real estate for $80 or so, but most real estate agents tire of the issues that come along with hiring someone who doesn't have good business processes in place–late delivery of photos, no invoicing procedure, poor quality work, etc.

A basic shoot generally involves minimal driving distance for the photographer, and delivery of only 25-50 photos.  Obviously, the more photos the photographer is expected to deliver, the more time it will take for the photographer to take, cull, and post-process the photos.

Example Real Estate Photography Prices

I thought it'd be helpful to see how some other real estate photographers are pricing their work so you can get a ballpark for what you can charge.  I'm not saying in any way that you should charge these prices if you live in one of the example locations. These are just examples so you can get a ballpark.

  • A real estate photographer in Maine is charging $225 for homes over 3,000 square feet, and $190 for homes under 3,000 square feet.  This does not include any video work.
  • A real estate photographer in Utah is charging about $130 for photos only, or $300 for videography.
  • A photographer in Oregon charges $115 for real estate photos.
  • A real estate photographer I found in Phoenix charges between $165 and $225 for daytime photos, or $200 to $260 for real estate photos shot at twilight.
  • A real estate photographer in Charleston, South Carolina is charging about $500 per listing and the listings average about $1.3 million dollars–high-end listings.
  • A real estate photographer in Georgia is charging $80 for photos, but someone in the same city is charging $295.
  • A real estate photographer in Dallas is charging $165 for photos only, or $375 for photos and video.
  • A real estate photographer in Utah is charging 9 cents per square foot of the home.  This is for photos only without any video.
  • A real estate photographer in Miami is charging between $250 and $500 for photos only.
  • In Boise Idaho, the rates usually go anywhere from $125 to $500 per listing–depending on the home and the quality of the photographer's work.

If you need to figure out your own real estate photography pricing, I actually sell a real estate photography pricing template for just $15 in my Real Estate Photographer's Starter Pack.  It will save you about an hour of work in creating your own, and you can customize the template with your own pricing and package preferences.  In the $15 Real Estate Photographer's pack, you also get a legal contract to use between you and the real estate agent, and 10 Lightroom presets for real estate photography to make your photos look polished and professional right from the get-go.  Check out the Real Estate Photographer Starter Pack here.

Factors to Consider in Setting Your Prices and Packages

Driving Distance

Driving to a shoot can cost a photographer a lot of money when you think about the actual cost.  Once you consider the time it takes, the wear and tear on the vehicle, and gas prices, you may realize that driving is your biggest business expense.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  In fact, driving can be a big money earner.

The IRS (for listeners in the United States) allows businesses (yes, this is a business whether you've set up an LLC or not) to write off 56 cents per mile you drive in your personal vehicle.  Unless you're driving a Tesla (like I wish I was), your cost to drive a mile is not nearly that high even when you account for repairs, depreciation of your vehicle, gas, insurance, etc).  For most people, you're actually earning some money for each mile you drive.  If you carefully track every mile you drive, this can be a big write off at the end of the year for a real estate photographer.

Equipment

The quickest way to make your real estate photography business unprofitable is to buy too much gear.  Frankly, real estate photography does not require a vast assortment of lenses, the latest in camera bag innovation, or an iMac 5k.  It requires serviceable equipment capable of shooting photos which are only going to be seen 400px wide on an MLS listing anyway.

I'm not saying that quality gear is completely unnecessary.  I love photo gear more than anybody.  But I am saying that to make a business work, you need to cut expenses to make things profitable, and real estate photography is not normally a high-end business.

Post-Processing

Post-processing can easily take more time than taking the pictures if you get sucked into the details of a shoot.  Replacing skies, masking together exposures for the windows, and other time-consuming edits can dramatically change the amount of money you need your real estate photography to earn in order for it to make good business sense. If you want to enhance your photos, you should do editing real estate photos in LightRoom by means of presets, actions, brushes or outsource your images to online real estatephoto editing company like FixThePhoto to make this job for you. Receive which variant suits you more but do not forget about post production at all.

My rule of thumb is that a standard package should offer the type of editing typical of what could be accomplished in the Lightroom basic panel (camera raw), and mostly with a Lightroom preset.  If I am going to need to round trip any of the photos into Photoshop, then I'm going to need to charge a premium package to the client.

Turnaround and Timing

Real estate agents need the photos quickly after a shoot, and they often can't give the photographer much notice of when a listing is coming up.  So it's important for the photographer to have a flexible enough schedule to be able to fit in these types of shoots into a schedule.

Consider the toll that doing real estate photography can take on your family life and life style when you may need to go photograph a listing any time of the day, with little notice.  You may need to charge more to make it worth your time.

Most real estate agents expect a turnaround time of not more than 48 hours after the shoot (and often 24 hours) so they can have the photos to put the home on the market.

Your Region

Obviously, pricing will vary greatly depending on where you live.  A real estate photographer in San Francisco is far more likely to be able to charge $200 for a real estate photo shoot than a photographer in Waco, Texas.  However, don't undervalue yourself just because you live in a small town.

Premium Services

While most real estate photography is really just a short photo shoot inside the home to capture 35 or 40 photos, some real estate photography gets far more complicated.  Real estate photographers can command a premium for their work and get much higher-dollar figures for each shoot by offering more specialized services.

The most obvious premium service is video.  While any photographer could put together a simple slideshow of their photos in video format, a good real estate video is much more.  It is usually done with a steadycam, walking throughout the home so that the video feels buttery smooth and shows the layout of the home easily to potential buyers.  You'll also need to purchase music to put with your videos.  I highly recommend audioblocks.com if that's something you're interested in (that link is an affiliate link).  The reason I like audioblocks is that they let you use the music in commercial projects, and you can download as many songs as you want for just $99 per year.  I've really liked having that subscription to use in my photography and video projects.

Another add-on service is drone photography, which has become very popular for real estate.  Drones allow for an elevated perspective of the outside of the home and the neighborhood which gives the potential buyer a better sense of the home.  However, the FAA has put a hard limit on the ability of photographers to use drones for commercial purposes.  You'll need to fill out a section 333 exemption with the FAA.  It's free to do that, but can take time to research, so you may want to look at using my $15 section 333 exemption template to allow you to use your drone for commercial purposes.

However, you don't need to use a drone in order to get an elevated perspective.  A cheaper and faster way to get a simple elevated shot of the front of a home is to simply use a painter's pole with an adapter on the end for a tripod screw.  Then raise it up 20 feet and you're ready to shoot.  You can trigger the camera remotely with a trigger trap or other wireless release, or just set the camera to use an intervalometer.

Another option for charging a premium is to do 3d modeling of the inside of a home.  This is expensive and time-consuming, but if you have a client who is a home builder, you may be able to charge a significant amount of money to accomplish it.  If you're interested in doing 3d modeling of homes, you should take a look at Matterport.

Ready to Start Earning Some Money in Real Estate Photography?

If you are, you should really check out the Real Estate Starter's Pack that will help you do the job quickly and professionally by giving you a contract to use with the real estate agents, 10 Lightroom presets to make your real estate photos look polished, and my simple real estate pricing template.  The whole bundle costs $15.  Get it here.

 


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..

Comments

  1. Jim my son is in a two year photography school at Antonelli Institute of Photography in PA As a freshman he goes through the thought process that all of us did, “How am I going to pay for these loans and is this worth it”. Well since I follow you around on social media and your website, I foward him various business information such and tips such as the one you just spelled out. In short, I am thankful of people like yourself who are transparent about the inner circle of photography information. Hopefully he will see this through and get out of my wallet. Lol. Thanks again, GOD Bless

    1. Author

      @Allan – Thanks for your comment. I sometimes feel like I’m spending a lot of time in my office writing and wondering if it really will help people. So thank you. Good luck to your son… and your wallet 🙂

      1. It definetly helped me today as my girlfriend and I who just started our business just read this to get some better ideas of what direction to head in. So really, thank you for taking the time out of your day to write this. You did do something that helped another. Good luck to you and keep giving your input!

    2. You don’t need to go to school to study photography. Lessons are free all over the internet. You don’t need school loan. Use that money to buy a better camera and play with it. Or give me the money if you don’t know what to do with it.

      1. True, if you’re doing portraiture or weddings and can provide a compelling “portfolio”. That said, most larger (read: lucrative) real estate agencies/brokers won’t look your direction if you don’t have a bachelors directly related to the field. Does it have to be from Brooks Institute or NYU? No. But even if you go to a smaller state school with any interest in pursuing photography as a career, one should at very least minor in photography and major in something like business admin or marketing, or vice versa. Food for thought.

        1. Most businesses just care about the quality of your work. A relative few care whether or not you have a MFA… let alone a simple bachelors in fine arts (photography) of all things. Generally speaking, unless you’re teaching photography specifically, a photography ‘degree’ isn’t worth the paper it’s written on because you’re no more likely to get a job than someone without a degree with the same or better quality work. Hiya is 100% correct, you definitely do not have to attend photography school for jobs and you darn sure don’t need a photography degree to satisfy realty brokers of all people. ** Most lucrative photography jobs are gained on your performance, not some piece of paper stating you have a “degree” in something which isn’t indicative of your actual skill set… unlike having a PhD in physics which (unlike photography) is relevant, and often required for research jobs and progression in the field and academia, etc. Best in photography to all of you!

      2. being an assistant to a professional is how i got started . i was lucky enough to be trained by a freelance photographer out of N.Y.C.as an assistant for about 5 years and then started shooting on my own after getting the right equipment . understanding lighting and your camera take time , so practice ,practice practice . professional magazines help as well.

    3. Wow I graduated from Antonelli in “84” back then it was at Plymonth Meeting, PA. I am still a working photographer currently working for the US Government as a staff photographer

  2. Nice article…and comes at the perfect time for me. Pricing is really a difficult decision to make. When I first started up in a small town in Oregon I started at about $80 for a basic shoot. My son in Orange County, Ca charges about $200. Now I am in the Palm Springs, CA area. What to do?…. What to do?…. I’m thinking around $150 to $200. Is there a good way to find out what the pricing is in my area?

    I would really be interested in your real estate photography pricing pages but there isn’t a link to where I can purchase them. Could you please let me know where to find them.

    Thanks… Bud

      1. Jim, I just purchased that package. I use CS6; is there a chance that you have the presets available for this software in lieu of the LR presets? No worries if you don’t. Just worth the inquiry. Thank you.

  3. I own a Real Estate Photography business and I found your article spot on accurate. I offer standard services that includes basic post-processing and editing. Anything outside of my standard editing services are considered “extras” and are billed at an hourly rate. This includes sky replacement, removal of objects, advanced editing, etc. Normally, the basic services are all that is needed but I have run into situations where the home isn’t staged properly and I have been asked to do more work in Photoshop to clean up the images.

    I also went in to a Real Estate office and pitched my services to the group of Realtors during one of their monthly meetings. This helped me gauge my pricing better and secured me a number of clients. I hope to do more of this soon.

    Great article!

  4. I started out as a real estate photographer but am getting more and more high dollar($1M+) listings, work for interior design firms, luxury builders, and architects. The entry point of the real estate photography market can be a tough gig. It doesn’t take long to get burned out working with realtors who complain that you cant get the photos to them in 3-4 hours after the shoot or balk at paying $150 out of their $9000 commission. Plus, you might find, very quickly, that you aren’t being challenged with the work that you can afford to produce at the rates you can charge. This is why I am moving to Architecture and Interiors photography.

    A couple more tips for the new RE photog: Check out the “Real Estate Photography” “and “Real Estate Photography with Lights” FB groups. I have learned more about improving my RE photography for these groups than any other source (except, naturally, Improvephotography.com.) These FB groups will give you tough feedback on your work but its very worth it. I didn’t take long before my clients noticed that my work was much better than what they had seen for others i the marketplace.

    And let me second Allan’s thoughts. Improve Photography, including all the contributors and podcast hosts, is a true diamond in the rough. There is no better source for clear unpretentious discussion about photography from real people who are just trying to get better at their craft. Jim is a gifted communicator (and entrepreneur) and we are all better off for the work he (and crew) do here. Thanks Jim!

  5. I am a real estate photographer in Nevada and I charge one tenth of one percent of the listing price for a photo and video package. Aerial photography and video are premium extras (an additional 40% of the original fee). Just thought I’d share. Great article, great website. Thanks.

  6. Hey Jim,

    Loved the latest IP Podcast, funny enough, I am starting a commercial photography business to run separate from my Wedding / Portrait business. I’m just putting together the site (Squarespace, with the discount code). So it was great to hear that you are making a similar “experiment”. I will be following you to see how you get on, i’ll be picking up your little help pack too.
    Quick question though, maybe you could work it into the next IP podcast where you touch on Real Estate Photography, when you can’t get to a property for the Blue Hour, is sky replacement a good idea ?

  7. Hi Jim….My PC packed it in and I lost my lightroom steal presets. Could you resend them to me please? Keith Boyd

  8. Hey Jim

    love the podcast !!!!!!!!! Just wanted to mention ( and you may have already heard) the FAA requires a licensed pilot to operate a drone for commercial photography/video. Commercial as in ( if you earn any money from these photo’s or video ) If you do not earn money and do it for fun you do not have to have a pilots license. If this is your hobby you do not have to have a pilots license. You can Google this to get more details, but they are not kidding around and must either have a pilot’s license or hire a licensed pilot to fly it. Several photographers nation wide have been contacted by the FAA and the penalties are very high. This goes for weddings, etc. The UAV market is going through growing pains.

  9. Jim: Actually there has never been ONE person fined by the FAA for flying commercially without a 333 Exemption. Not one. Anywhere. They have attempted to fine a couple of outfits for flying unsafely (near airports, restricted airspace, etc), but NEVER for flying commercially. The FAA does not make law, and there are no LAWS regarding flying drones commercially.

  10. I have just stopped real estate photography. There was so much BS with the realtors wanting the photos ‘now’ taking ages to pay. I was forever chasing them for my money. They wanted more and more but grumbled when I wanted extra. So I have branched off into a different field now. Portraits and model portfolios. Doing quite well for just starting a few months ago….

    1. I have been shooting RE for 3 years and here’s my payment system that works great for me: I shoot the assignment first, making sure that I know exactly what the pricing should entail. I often can get the agent to up the photo count based on my “expertise” while at the shoot. I can also suggest upgrades like an elevated shot, virtual tour, or twilight shoot. Then, when I get into editing (and I know exactly what I will be delivering), I use an online SQUARE invoice to bill the client. They must pay the invoice before I release the final images the next day. Viola! I never have to chase down a payment because they can’t get the photos until they pay! Never any complaints. It does cost a percentage to use SQUARE, but it’s well worth the price in saving my sanity!

  11. I have a question that probably indicates just how much of a novice I am and maybe how I shouldn’t do RE photography, but I really enjoy photography and would like to earn a bit of a side income if possible. On the opening shot of this blog what are the settings you used to get that shot? I took a shot of my house and its not nearly as well lit as that house (which I realize may be due to just naturally more lights on the house than what I have).

    In my case, the only real external lights are on the porch. I tried turning the lights on in the rooms, but they didn’t light up the windows that much. I might need to open the blinds?

    Finally, what time of day do you take the pictures? I am not sure I actually understand when “blue hour” is. To take a picture at blue hour seems to require alot of light, but to use a paint stick seems to require a fast shutter speed and high ISO. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.

    Thanks

  12. Hi Jim,

    Just like you I have started my Real estate photography this January, however I’ve been offering complete Virtual tours. ezamaniphotography.com
    This has been a very slow go and I have not been able to get any clients yet. wanted to see if you can check out my work and give me some advise on how to get this off the ground.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Ershad, Just curious what software are you using to do virtual tours? I was doing virtual tours through google photography, but I was using there software to upload photos and put together the virtual tour.

  13. Hi Jim,
    I started doing real estate photography last year, and I was getting a pretty good workflow from realtors. I haven’t had one client this year, but I’m not being pessimistic about it. I know it will happen soon. I listen to the Improve Podcast and Tripod every minute I’m driving. This may sound odd, but this specific podcast is more soothing for my anxiety than classical music or a white noise device. Listening to the podcast has helped me as a photographer so much. Not just skill level, but confidence, and legalities pertaining to each type of photo shoot I do. Thank you for the real estate photography package. It is definitely worth $15 especially since you know the legal system so well. Thank you for everything you do. Keep it up! You know I’m listening!

  14. Hi I enjoyed your article, very helpful. I am considering the package you offer but I don’t have LR yet I used Photoshop CS5.

  15. Question. I downloaded and have submitted your 333 exemption request. Did this format work for you and approximately how long did your request take?

  16. Was looking forward to something like this sample contract and some pricing ideas for a while.
    (and just bought the kit)
    Shooting only for my Realtor wife the last years, we thought it’s time to make a full business out ot it.

    Thanks

  17. Jim,
    Thanks for the info! I found this to be well written, thorough, and all relevant. While I had an idea, you helped me realize how I wanted to approach it!
    Little background, I am a photographer who has recently gotten his real estate license and began practicing in Indiana. I believe I’m going to offer a basic photo package for those who just need to get basic photos for a listing for $80 (local market you see…). And then a higher end package for the stuff I’d really like to shoot like high dollar homes which will be shot with much more care in mind such as twilight, aerial, and etc.
    Thanks again for the info!
    Mitch

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