Probably one of the most common questions I hear is “how much should I charge for real estate photography?”. It’s sort of a tough question to answer and a lot of people struggle with it but in this post I am going to do my best to help you answer this question by outlining some important points to think about when setting the prices for your services.
So as I stated in the intro I get a lot of questions on this topic of how much to charge for real estate photography or people asking me how much I charge for a shoot. Sorry to disappoint but I’m not going to get into how much I charge in this post. Why? Because unless you live where I live and operate under the same circumstances then what I charge for my services is more or less non-pertinent to you. Pricing is relevant to your local market and your own personal situation. In other words, what you should be charging depends on many different factors. My goal in this post is to outline what some of those factors are so you can make an educated decision on how to set the proper prices for your services. If you are confused on this subject then I hope the following info will help you out. Alright, let’s get into it.
The first thing you need to take into consideration when setting your prices is what your operating costs are. How much does it cost to run your business? Luckily the business of real estate photography has relatively low overhead which is nice but this is something to keep in mind for pricing. Here are some things to think about:
How much have you spent on gear and how soon do you want to recoup that cost?
How much are you paying in income taxes?
We have to travel around a lot so how much are you spending in gas and other car related expenses?
How much are you spending on business insurance?
How much are you spending for online subscriptions like Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, website hosting etc...
And the list may go on for you. It's just a good idea to add up all these expenses so you are aware of how much it costs to run your business or if you are just starting out you can estimate these costs to get a sense what it will be. If you add up all these costs for a year and subtract that number from the gross income your business made that same year you’ll have your net income. If you divide your net income by the amount of shoots you did that year then you’ll have the average amount you made per shoot. At that point you’ll be able to assess whether or not that amount is reflective of the amount of work you put in and whether it was worth your time or not. If you are pricing yourself really low this may be an eye opener because when you factor the time it takes you to shoot and edit each job into the amount you make after expenses you may be surprised to find you are making something like $4 an hour and that is just not sustainable and you need to raise your prices.
WHAT IS YOUR TIME WORTH TO YOU?
This leads us into our next question which is “what is your time worth to you?”. Do you have a dollar amount that you would like to make roughly per hour? This is something to definitely have in mind when setting your prices so that you can ensure that you are happy with the compensation you are getting for your time. As I was just saying in the last section, the last thing you want is to find out at the end of the day you are making $4 an hour. Take note of your average time investment for a shoot i.e. how long it takes you to do a shoot on site, edit a shoot, travel time to and from a shoot etc… Then you can take the average amount you make per shoot minus any expenses and divide that net amount by how many hours you put in to do the work. Are you happy with the average amount per hour? If it’s not the amount you had in mind that you feel your time is worth you then you will probably want to make some adjustments.
RESEARCH YOUR MARKET
As I was getting at earlier, it’s very important to be aware of what your competition is charging in your area so you can price yourself accordingly. There’s quite a bit of variation in pricing in different areas which is why it's important to focus on your own immediate market and not what someone in another state or country is charging. Spend some time and do your research.
This is probably the most important step in setting your pricing because when you present your pricing to clients you want to be confident in your numbers and know where you stand amongst your competitors. Check out some other photographer’s websites in your area and see if they have their pricing on there. If they don’t you could send an email saying you're interested in their services and inquire about how much they charge. Once you get a good idea of the range of pricing in your area then you can start to figure out where you fit into that picture.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when first starting out is thinking they should undercut all the competition by pricing themselves super low thinking that will get them clients. This is a big mistake as I was implying earlier. You’ll be making next to no money, attracting the worst kind of clients that you will not retain and it’s an unsustainable business model. Clients that go for that sort of thing are one time clients that you will probably never hear from again because they will just go with whomever gives them a better deal. You want to build loyalty and long-time relationships with clients and those types of customers want a quality, reputable photographer so you need to portray that with your product and your pricing. Being the cheapest person in town sends the wrong message and you will be setting yourself up for failure.
So where should you price yourself? My suggestion would be starting out somewhere near the middle of the field and see where that gets you. You have to stand by the quality of your work and what you charge and be confident about it when you speak to clients. Explain to them your process and why it’s high quality and make the case of what sets you apart from the pack. If you’re confident and know your worth it will show. A lot of photography is perception. There are plenty of photographers out there whose work isn’t necessarily great but they have a booming business because they exude confidence regarding their work and they believe they are worth what they charge and clients perceive that as “this person really knows what they are doing.”
Ok, now let’s get into price structuring. Here are some common ways that real estate photographers structure their pricing:
Charging a price per image that is shot (for example $5 per image).
Charging by square footage tiers (for example 2000 - 3500 sq ft is “x” amount, 3500 - 5000 sq ft is “y” amount and so on).
Pricing per square foot (meaning an actual price per square foot. For example 7 cents per square foot of the house so 2500 sq ft multiplied by 7 cents would be $175)
Pricing by packages (for example package A is up to 25 images, Package B is up to 40 images and so on).
Ok so those are pretty much the most popular ways of how most real estate photographers structure their pricing. Let’s now break some of these down and I will give you my personal opinion on them. Personally I charge by square footage tiers. Why? Because it's simple and easy for clients to understand which is what I think your goal should be when it comes to structuring your pricing. Herein lies the problem with the pricing per image or per square foot methods because they require your client to whip out a calculator to try to figure it out and that is just too confusing and unnecessarily complicated. You should be able to tell them what you charge and they should immediately be able to understand it in my opinion.
I’m also not a big fan of pricing by packages with a set number of images. The reason being some clients will try to take advantage of you. I’ve done shoots like this and what happens is clients will hire you for a huge 6,000 sq ft listing and order your lowest package which is let’s say 25 images saying they just want 1 or 2 shots of the main rooms. Then you get on site and do the 25 images and they say “you don’t mind taking just a few more do you?” and you feel obligated to do so to make your client happy. You end up taking more than was agreed to and then you have to either suck it up and not charge for the extra images or have an awkward conversation about charging them more for the shoot. By telling them you will be charging them more you run the risk of them feeling like you are nickel and diming them even though you are right and they should be charged more because they went over. See how this could be a problem? This whole conundrum can be avoided by not structuring your pricing with hardline limitations like this. It’s also annoying to be counting and keeping track of how many images you are shooting when on site. It’s much nicer and freeing to just concentrate on your photography and do a good job.I know from experience about how many images I am going to shoot and how much work the job will entail depending on how big the house is so that is why I structure my pricing by square footage tiers. It’s clear and easy to understand pricing and I can just go into a job and shoot at will without having to think about how many images I’m shooting the whole time and I know I’m charging appropriately and getting the proper compensation for my time.
I really hope that the information in this post was helpful to you in deciding how much to charge for your services. I think the main takeaways are to research your market and know where you fit in with your pricing, have a clear and easy to understand pricing structure and to make sure you are being properly compensated for your time. Pricing is definitely a trial and error process that will most certainly need adjustment over time. If you are getting no responses or bookings from people then your price may be too high or conversely if you’ve reached a point where your phone is ringing off the hook and you are getting more jobs than you can handle it's probably time to raise your prices.