Real Estate Photography Pricing: How much should you charge?

In Marketing/Business by Jim Harmer

real-estate-photography

A basic real estate photography shoot from a professional photographer 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 are tired 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.

Real Estate Photography Pricing Examples

I thought it'd be helpful to see how some other real estate photographers are pricing their work so you can get a ballpark estimate on 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 to use as a starting point.

  • 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 (Real Estate Primetime).
  • A real estate photographer in Charleston, South Carolina is charging about $500 per listing. The listing price of homes she shoots are high end averaging around $1.3 million dollars.
  • 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. For a 3,000 square foot home, this would equal $270.
  • 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. Of course, this depends on the home and the quality of the photographer's work.

Figuring out what you should price your work for is extremely difficult. If you are too low, you could be leaving money on the table. If you are too high, you may struggle to find clients. That's why I decided to include a  real estate photography pricing template in my Real Estate Photographer's Starter Pack.  It will save you at least an hour of work since you don't have to create your own. Also, you can customize the template with your own pricing and package preferences.  In our $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 readers in the United States) allows businesses (yes, you have a business whether you've set up a legal entity LLC or not. Once you start conducting business, you are a sole proprietor by default.) 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. I use an app called MileIQ to track my miles and separate business from personal miles.

*Laws change over time. Improve Photography is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. Please consult with a professional prior to making decisions.

Equipment

The quickest way to make your real estate photography business unprofitable is to buy too much gear.  Fortunely, real estate photography does not require a vast assortment of lenses, the latest in camera bag innovation, or the newest iMac.  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, especially at the beginning stages, you need to cut expenses to make things profitable.

Post-Processing

Post-processing can easily take more time than taking the actual 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. To enhance your real estate photos, you should them in Lightroom by means of presets, actions, brushes. Another option is to outsource your images to a freelancer on Fiverr to do the job for you. It's best to do it yourself, but if you want to scale your photography business, you can find someone on Fiverr that will be willing to edit for a lower cost than you. Less work for you, but you are still making money! Go with whatever suits you most but do not forget that post production is VITAL to your success.

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 to the client. Don't be afraid to charge extra when you have to work more.

Turnaround and Timing

Real estate agents need the photos quickly after a shoot. Time is money. Also, they often can't give the photographer much advanced notice since new homes for sale need listing all the time.  So it's important for the photographer to have a flexible enough schedule to be able to fit in these types of shoots.

Having to constantly photograph homes with little notice and tight turnaround times can take a toll on your family life and lifestyle. You may need to charge more to make it worth your time.

Most real estate agents expect a turnaround time of no more than 48 hours after the shoot (and often 24 hours) so they can have the photos to put the home on the market as soon as possible.d

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. Your services are truly valuable. Many realtors earn 6% commissions on a sale. On a $300,000 home, thats $18,000 on the line. If you are hired by the seller, many times they have hundreds of thousands of dollars contingent on the sale. Do you think that makes it worth spending $200 – $500 on photos? Absolutely!

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 very easily shows the layout of the home 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 section 333 exemption template to allow you to use your drone for commercial purposes.

However, you don't have 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. Click here to see the one I like on Amazon.

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 into Matterport.

Ready to Start Earning Some Money in Real Estate Photography?

If you are serious about real estate photography, you should definitely 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 real estate pricing template.  The whole bundle is only $15.  Get it here.

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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..