If you’re new to the photography industry or are simply looking into a career change, you might want to consider real estate photography. With the right lighting and pictures, you can help a real estate agent and their sellers to make dreams come true; what more could an artist want?
How much should real estate photographers charge? It will come down to the area you’re living in as well as how much time and expenses were expelled during the process, but the typical range for real estate photography is anywhere between $100 and $300. The higher the price tag, the more photos, experience, and specialty devices will likely be used.
Ready to jump into the world of real estate photography? First and foremost, you need to understand how to get your foot in the door, and what you can do to get the biggest bang for your buck. We’ll run down all the must-know factors that will ultimately shape how much you charge your clients.
What Is Real Estate Photography?
New to the biz and aren’t quite sure what sets real estate photography apart from the crowd? Well, it’s fairly simple: real estate photography, otherwise known as property photography, is the definition of a photographer taking photographs of a building’s appearance, inside and out.
In most cases, the photographer will need to use special lighting to ensure that the best features of the home or building are being captured. You will also want a camera that allows for proper real estate settings, as a picture of a living room is going to greatly differ from a landscape or portrait photo.
Keep in mind that sometimes real estate photography might include taking pictures of bare land as well if that is what is being sold. This may require extra skills and equipment, so make sure you speak with the client and have them be as detailed as possible about what they need.
How to Get into Real Estate Photography
There are a few important things a photographer should do before reaching out to clients. Some of these things include:
- Buying a real estate camera. In order to shoot the best real estate shots, you need a proper camera. I got to play with a Nikon D750 and I enjoyed shooting with it. If that's a little too high of a price right now, then you can try the Nikon COOLPIX B500. It's a top choice among competitors for a variety of reasons. With 40x zoom and 80x fine zoom, lens-shift vibration reduction, and video capabilities, it has all the features you’re going to want when taking real estate photos. Plus, it’s under $300, good enough to get started.
- Take a real estate photography class. This isn’t crucial, but it will definitely allow you to learn the skills necessary to put together some amazing real estate photos. I've been lucky to get a basic photography gig without proper training, but I still had a bit of experience that was valuable to the client. If you do the class route, you should end up with some gorgeous photos to put in your portfolio as an added bonus.
- Build your portfolio. Once you have gotten the hang of real estate photography (for the most part), you can start building up your portfolio. Ask friends and family members if you can use their home for some photos or offer your services at a discounted rate until you have a good chunk of experience under your belt (or camera, I should say).
- Hone your skills, then add more. Keep practicing; after all, practice makes perfect. Once you have nailed your basics down, you can start tossing in some extras that will make you more money, like taking videos or using a drone to capture photos up high and around the home. There's some really cool stuff you can do with a drone. More on this later.
Finding Clients for Your Real Estate Photography Business
Once you have some basic (but essential) skills and a portfolio to work with, you can finally get your foot into the door of real estate photography. You have a few different options when it comes to finding clients to work for:
- Look online for real estate photography jobs. It’s easier than you think to find a real estate photography job. Websites like Indeed, Upwork, and Monster will all have plenty of jobs available. Just keep in mind that there might be a lot of photographers applying, so give your application and portfolio some uniqueness, spunk, and personality. If you use proposal defaults or generic resumes that you send everywhere, prepare to be rejected.
- Consider freelance real estate photography. If you’re just doing the real estate photography thing part-time and don’t need an ongoing venture, then you’ll find luck freelancing on sites like Craigslist and Fiverr. The point is to do some searching until you can find a few quick jobs and nail them. (From there, you can also build up your portfolio to go full time). Don't underestimate the value of this. If no one will give you a chance, bet on yourself.
- Attend a real estate seminar. There are plenty of seminars held around the country, all throughout the year. The best thing to do is to check local events (usually in bigger cities) to see when the next one is coming up. There you can chat with local real estate agents and hand out your cards for when they need you in the future. You can also look at real estate ads to see which local agents are powerhouses and reach out to them.
- Create your own website. When it comes to selling your work, people want to see it before they believe it. If you can redirect real estate agents directly to your site where there is a multitude of pictures to glance at, you’re likely going to get their business.
- Add a blog to your website. Blogging is becoming one of the best ways to gain business. If you don't have a website, you are severly hamstringing yourself. Consider starting a blog and showcase a gallery of your own photographs along with tips and tricks for the agent to make the project even more of a success.
As you can see, diving into the real estate photography world has its challenges. If you are persistent, though, you will be able to find yourself plenty of work. Make sure you are continuously adding and updating your portfolio so you can show off how much experience you have, as well as how wonderful your work is.
Things That Will Impact How Much You Charge
The average person who has just stepped into the real estate photography world will need to start on the low end of the scale, which is usually around $80 to $100. Some newcomers may even want to go slightly below that until they have gained enough experience.
But for someone with years of experience under their belt, it can be a bit more challenging knowing exactly how much they should be charging their clients. There are two major elements that will impact how much an experienced real estate photographer charges:
Would it really surprise you to know that something in real estate involves location, location, location?
Someone who is dealing with property in upstate New York or along the beaches of Southern California is likely going to charge more than someone who is taking photographs in a small town in Kansas or Utah.
It’s important to always take into consideration your location when setting a price. While $150 may seem steep, it’s perfect for the experienced real estate photographer in a small town.
For a real estate photographer with plenty of experience in a larger city, like Los Angeles, the prices are going to be far steeper. Some photographers can get by with charging $300 to $400, and possibly even more if they add on ‘extras’ and ‘specialties’ like drone photos, 3D modeling, and so much more.
How Much Your Competitors Are Charging
You must also consider how much your competitors are charging. Think about it: if you and another real estate photographer in the area both have 3 years of experience, provide stunning photographs, and both offer the same specialties, the real estate agent is going to want to go with the cheaper option.
Do some research on your competitors before you choose your rate. Always make sure you’re checking in on real estate photographers in your area that match your skill level. You should never sell yourself short just to get a deal with a client, so don’t compare yourself to those who are just starting out.
On the other hand, if you are new to the field, then you will need to start off small. Don’t expect anyone to pay you over $200 on your first go around. Be realistic and allow yourself to build your clientele, portfolio, and website before beginning to charge more for your work.
Personal Things to Consider When Charging Your Clients
While your location and competitors' pricing will have a major impact on your average rate, there is also a multitude of more personal elements that will also impact how much you charge.
In fact, some of these elements will change from job to job. Always make sure to factor in these important things when deciding on the right number for your client.
Total Driving Distance
Gas isn’t cheap, especially if you’re in a city environment where you also need to factor in higher taxes, longer commutes, and plenty of traffic. For this reason, you should always consider the total driving distance into your final pricing.
When to Charge for Mileage
Now keep in mind that you shouldn’t make it obvious that you’re practically expecting your client to pay your gas. This is your business, after all, and you know that commuting is simply part of the job. For jobs that are local and don’t require too much gas or time to arrive, you won’t have to consider total driving distance as much. You can just get away with claiming mileage on your taxes.
However, in some cases, you might have a real estate agent that simply must have you as their real estate photographer. The problem is, their home for sale is in the nearby wooded area, and it takes about 45 minutes each way to get there.
If you have to travel a great distance, gas and time should definitely be considered when making a final price. You’re not only going to be using excessive amounts of gas on the way there and back, but you will also be spending potential work hours in your car to reach the destination.
If you’re driving far to reach the building for real estate photography, include it in your final price. To be fair, you may wish to use the federal standard for mileage rates, or you may be able to find out what the going rate is per mile in your area.
Tip: You don’t have to take jobs that are too far away from you unless you absolutely want to. It’s okay to tell your client ‘no’ if you don’t think it will be financially beneficial for you. Of course you would want to word it better than that, or you can also speak with your client directly about your concerns. Avoid being shady and you might find that they may be willing to pay a little extra right off the bat.
Let’s face it: you will spend a lot of your hard-earned money on your real estate photography equipment, which means better photographs for your client. You should be compensated as such!
The better equipment you’re using, the better the photographs are going to be. This should also be taken into consideration when setting a final price. Extra equipment like proper lighting setup, tripods, and drone usage should all be factored in as they will enhance the photographs.
Some photographers will sometimes like to double as designers when they’re going to a home. They will know exactly where to place certain things to get the best photo op, and this “staging” should also be added to the final payment.
Tip: When you are just starting out, you don’t need to purchase anything too fancy. Spending all your money on expensive equipment can do more harm than good when you’re beginning in the real estate photography world. Take it slow and build up your items as your skills increase and your photography becomes more sought after.
How Many Photos Are Taken
One of the most important things to take into consideration when deciding how much to charge for real estate photography is how many photos are taken. A client who is only asking for 10 simple shots isn’t going to want to spend too much, whereas someone who is wanting over 40 for their building should be prepared to compensate the photographer.
An easy way to make this easier on your client right off the bat is to offer a chart of what you can offer them, and for how much. Perhaps starting at $120 for 10 pictures is a good way to go for an experienced real estate photographer. Every picture after that can be around $10, which means you will be making $220 for a set of 20 pictures.
Always remember that how much you charge per pictures will depend on your experience level and personal preference. A great way to make it even simpler on your client is to offer ‘specials,’ like buy 20 photographs for $200, get the next 5 free. This gives the buyer some incentive, but don't expect it to always close the deal.
Tip: One great way to show a client you’re serious about your business and love what you do is to offer a few extra photos on set. If you’re done with the 20, they have ordered, consider asking if they wouldn’t mind if you captured their lovely spa in the backyard or the way they’ve added beautiful crown molding around the living room. This makes clients happy and will spread word of mouth.
Photo editing is going to be the most difficult and time-consuming task, but it is certainly the most rewarding. And aside from being rewarding to the photographer, it’s also an imperative part of the real estate photography process.
So, what’s included in real estate photography editing? (The better question might be what isn’t?) Some of the things you might run across while editing includes:
- Needing to replace skies. Just because the clouds in the background didn't cooperate with you doesn't mean the sky in the photographs has to stay this way. With the proper editing skills, you can turn any day into a the masterpiece you're looking for. Try to have a spare sky pictures folder with some of your favorite shots to play with.
- Masking exposures together from windows. Sunlight coming through the windows can have a major impact on how your photographs look. You may need to mask exposures together to find the right balance that pleases the eye (as well as your client).
- Adding grass to the yard. When homes are no longer being lived in, you can end up with grass that’s looking less than lively. As a photographer, you want the home to look in tip-top shape, so adding in some beautiful green grass should be on your to-do list.
- Tidy up the rooms. Oh no! The kids forgot to put their dinosaurs in the background away. You didn’t notice it at the time, but it’s an eyesore. What’s a photographer to do? Make the room look clean and dinosaur-free.
With all of these edits using presents, brushes, actions and such, you’re going to spend a lot of time in front of your computer trying to make these pictures look downright perfect. In some cases, you won’t have to do a whole lot of editing, but others will require much more work.
For an easy case that doesn’t require too much editing, you won’t have to worry about factoring in too much extra charge. However, a disastrous home that needs to come to life in the forms of your photos will require a lot of time and energy on your behalf, and you should be compensated as such.
Tip: Always make sure you’re editing the photos, even if they appear ‘perfect.’ Your job as a real estate photographer is to notice the little things in the photo that truly make a difference. A client that notices untouched photos may be bad for business.
Now that you know exactly what goes into a real estate photography project, you can project how much time you will need. Remember, the amount of time will change between projects.
Some may be closer by and easier to edit, which means you won’t need to charge as much as a larger-scaled project that needs more editing, more photos, and extra driving time on your behalf.
Don’t feel bad about charging for your time. You are using real estate photography as your career, and you should be compensated as such. Never let anybody try and low ball you because they are trying to save money and don’t understand your worth.
Instead, put more effort into positioning yourself and showing them this investment is worth it to secure the sale of the home.
Determining the Price of a Real Estate Photography Gig
To help find out the best price, you should talk to your client and get as many details as possible. Some of these details include:
- How many photos do they want? Remember that more photos should equate to more money in your pocket, but always recommend special deals and pricing; clients like this, and they will likely spread the word about your no-nonsense rates and specials.
- What type of editing do they need? Are you going to be required to completely manipulate the photo, or does the home essentially speak for itself? A shorter editing time or simpler edits won’t mean too much time on your behalf while editing and manipulating an image front to back should mean more money.
- How large is the property? This will help you decide how many photos really need to be taken. A small home should suffice with 10, while a larger-than-life ranch style home might need 30 or more. Speak to your client about this.
- What is the turnaround time? This is crucial! Most of the time, a real estate agent is going to want their photos returned in as little as 48 hours. This is typical and shouldn’t be too challenging. However, if the client is requesting photos to be done within the next 24 hours, you can charge them an extra fee for rushing your work. It's important to set appropriate expectations.
- Do they want any specialties? If you provide special features, there’s no harm in a little upselling. The client may simply not know exactly what you offer, and when they hear you offer videos for example, they may be elated and sign up right away.
- Where is the property located? This is also important, as you don’t want to spend too much gas or time on the commute. Knowing the location is also a good idea because you can drive by and get a good look at what you’re up against in terms of photography. I've rejected jobs based on time spent compared to income earned. Don't be scared to do this.
The best thing you can do is get as much information as possible from the real estate agent. Write everything down and inform the client you will get back to them shortly with a price.
Always make sure you’re informing them about special features you offer or any discounts or specials you might be offering at the present time.
Specialties That Can Increase Pay
When you have become an expert in the real estate photography industry, it might be time to step up your game and add specialties to your portfolio. This scales better than you think. The top two ‘specialty’ features that can increase your overall pay include:
Taking Videos of the Home
This doesn’t mean that you can walk inside the home with a video camera and call it a day. The real estate photographer is expected to create a stunning film that brings in the clients.
It should feel as though the person watching is actually inside of the home. This is no easy task, but with the right practice and equipment, you can make it happen.
Also, keep in mind that a home video should be somewhat of a walkthrough for the viewer. You should walk through the home in a way that the viewer has an idea of the overall floor plan before they come to visit. The video should always be straight forward, with no blurring or moving side to side/up and down.
Using Drones for Pictures
Drones are becoming more and more popular and for good reason. They simply help real estate photographers get some killer pictures.
However, drones can cost a whole lot of money, and you might need a special exemption or pilot’s license with the FAA before you are allowed to take pictures of a home using your drone. This may be something you want to sub-contract out to an experienced, licensed drone pilot. And this is definitely a cost you would pass on to your client.
With drone photos, you have the ability to capture photos you otherwise wouldn’t be able to with just your camera. Aerial shots are very popular and give people an idea of the entire lot they are considering purchasing.
An aerial shot is an excellent shot for the real estate agent and seller, and they should be willing to pay a lot of extra money to get this picture.
Less popular, but still notable is 3D modeling. 3D modeling will give a complete overview of the interior of the home, but it takes a whole lot of time and energy on the creator’s behalf to put together.
The good news is that real estate agents and builders are willing to pay the big bucks for 3D models of their homes. This is another service you may decide to offer your client, contract out to a professional, and add to your bill.
Virtual Reality or Other Specialty Shots
Somewhat related to 3D modeling is virtual reality. I've seen some interesting stabs at VR tours with tech savvy real estate agents. Most of the ones I've seen haven't been all that impressive, as they've just been panoramic shots viewed with a VR visor. Anything that can easily be viewed without VR is a wasted opportunity. However, VR tech and the implementation of the tech is getting a lot better.
Unfortunately, the hardware is still a bit cost prohibitive and setup can be a bit of a pain for the technologically challenged. Since it's still a bit costly, you'll really be able to crank up the rates with this offering. Finding or convincing realtors that want to do this, besides the visionaries, is a different hurdle entirely.
Real estate photography is a business that is continuing to grow and getting your foot into the door isn’t too big of a hassle. The bigger challenge is networking with the real estate pros and knowing what to charge. This will mostly come down to practice and your area, competitors, and the overall time and energy used to create stunning property photographs.
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