Most of us photographers struggle immensely with pricing our services. Doubt, pressure, and contradicting opinions can all cloud our judgement and make it even tougher to set clear rates.
With real estate photography, however, you want to have clear cut packages that you can quickly relay to a potential client. Let’s take a look at a few things to do to get you clear on how to price your real estate photography services.
Study Your Market
The more you know about current photographers in your local market, the better prepared you’ll be to jump into it. Knowing your local real estate photography market means that you know who some of your competition is. You know what rates they charge (or starting rates or rate ranges). And you know what level of quality they deliver.
You can clearly see where you fall in comparison. Are you priced higher than most? Great, but now you need to make sure people know why.
Are you priced lower than most? Make sure you can still have a sustainable business and that your process fits the revenue margins.
Do you offer something unique that you know your competition doesn’t? Great! Let people know about that differentiation.
Knowing your current local real estate photography market will help you define your offerings and know where you fit in.
In my local market, for example, there are real estate photographers that charge anywhere from $100 to $500 for photos only. Rates go up for things such as twilight photos or video tours, as well as higher rates for larger-than-usual homes.
However, looking at website portfolios shows that the quality of work delivered can also vary greatly from one end of the price range to the other.
Looking for images that seem to be on par with your current work will give you an idea of whose rates you should relate to.
Talk to Agents
Talking to your potential or current clients and asking them what they’re looking for and what turns them off is a simple way to hone in on your offering.
Do your clients love that they only deal with you directly? Fantastic! Now you know that you need to remain the face of the company, even if you bring in outside help.
Do your clients look for the fastest possible turnaround? Then you want to make sure that your process is streamlined so you can deliver as quickly as possible.
With real estate, turnaround time is often very fast. Real estate agents are anxious to get the home on the market as quickly as possible. This tends to mean 24-48 hour turnaround is expected. I personally turnaround real estate photos in 24 hours.
Real estate agents can also tell you if they often look for extras such as video tours, twilight photos, or neighbourhood photos. Be sure to take these into consideration when thinking about your rates. Think about offering them as add-ons agents can choose for individual listings.
Besides talking to agents, don’t be afraid to reach out to other real estate photographers in your area! There’s enough work for everyone. Most of us are excited to share what we’ve learned.
Also, building your network of fellow photographers is great both for support and future referrals!
Quality vs Quantity
There are two basic routes that you can take when it comes to real estate photography – quality or quantity.
Do you want to do standard listings, but streamline your process to do a large quantity of shoots? Or do you want to photograph high-end listings, but take more time with each shoot and do fewer shoots overall?
If you choose high-end listings, this is where you’ll get more caught up in the editing. You’ll also take your time a bit more during the shoot. Photos tend to show off unique design elements or sweeping views. With this option, though, comes a higher rate.
Putting quality and artistic expression above all else means that you’ll be investing more of your time, energy, and expertise into each shoot. Therefore, clients need to invest accordingly.
If you choose to focus on quantity, then you’re still delivering quality work, but the expectations are set a bit lower. Instead of focusing on artistry, you’ll want to make your process as streamlined as possible so that you can turn over client work as quickly as possible.
The focus will be on delivering sharp, clear, and well-lit wide shots so that potential buyers can see each space in the home.
Many of the listings will feel the same, so the process can feel a bit repetitive. The advantage of this route is that there’s a larger market looking for these services. There are simply more listings in the median range. This means clients will be easier to find in the beginning, which makes this option a great one to start with.
With lower price tags, this is also a great range to fall into while you learn the ropes. You can refine your workflow until you’re seasoned enough to offer high-end property shoots. The price tag for each shoot will be smaller. Your investment of time and energy should be as well.
While you can certainly offer your services for all types of properties, I’ve found that most photographers eventually fall into one niche or the other for the bulk of their work.
Reverse Engineer Your Real Estate Photography Rates
To reverse engineer means to take a look backwards at your process. This way you can have a better idea of what to charge up front. For example, think about how many hours you spend on a typical real estate photography job. This includes everything from client communications to travel time to the actual shoot and the editing time.
Now consider how much you need to make hourly to cover expenses, pay taxes and other costs, and leave yourself enough profit. Multiply that hourly rate needed by the number of hours that you take for a shoot. And voila! This should be the rate you charge.
This can be a tough one to carry out. We often spend different amount of time on each shoot. However, it works to at least give you clarity on what you’ve been getting hourly. And you’ll figure out whether you need to go up or stay at current rates.
Keep in mind that in the early stages your shoots will take longer and the times will vary more. As you develop your workflow more, the time spent on each job will stabilise. The overall time spent on each job will get shorter.
This is a great exercise to try early on to see how different rates break down. You can also try it when you’re a more seasoned photographer to audit your rates (which is a good idea every year or so).
Test Your Offering and Be Open to Adjusting It
At the end of the day, there will still be some trial and error. Once you’ve done your research and decided on an offering, put it out into the world and take note of reactions. Stay open to the possible need to make adjustments to fit what your clients need. But don’t let yourself get swayed by every tiny bit of feedback either.
It’s always a good idea to go through the above steps about once a year to audit your rates and see if there’s anything you need to change. Incorporating client feedback into your process is also a great way to consistently gauge responses.
Perhaps you have a follow-up email that you send to your client after each shoot to see if they’re happy with the results, if they have requests for future shoots moving forward, and if anything stood out as exceptional from this shoot.
When faced with whether or not to make a change to an offering, I consider two things:
- Does the suggestion come from a client or potential client that I want to work with?
- Has this suggestion come from multiple people?
If the change is sparked by a comment from someone that is not a good fit as a client, then I would most likely not implement it. They’re not in my target market. Likewise, if I only got this request from one client out of thirty, then I’ll most likely hold off on making any changes until others make the request.
Settings rates for your real estate photography services can be nerve-wracking, but it doesn’t have to be! Getting to know your market and having a lot of information are key aspects. These will help you gain clarity on rates for your services.
Even once you have those real estate photography rates set, though, remember that we’re always learning and adjusting our rates! As you improve and clarify your niche, be sure to revisit the above tips to ensure that your rates grow right alongside your real estate photography business.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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