Real estate photography is a fun (and frequently in-demand) niche of the photo industry, taking you to a slew of gorgeous homes and stunning properties! But pricing for this service can certainly feel more complicated than the actual photoshoot itself. To get you started on the right foot, this guide to real estate photography pricing should help you figure out how much you should charge.
When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no cost to you. We evaluate products independently. Commissions do not affect our evaluations.
The Basics of Pricing
Whenever I’m asked the contentious question of “what should I charge?” I always wish that I could give you a solid number and send you on your way! The reality is, pricing isn’t that simple when you’re a business owner. In fact, you can’t even accurately use anyone else’s pricing to sort out your own either (although you definitely need to know what the competitors are charging, more on this later).
Numerous factors go into your magic hourly rate or package number and I won’t be privy to any of that information, that’s on you to sort out! Let’s get down to the basics and figure out your CODB as a starting point for pricing.
Calculating the CODB
CODB isn’t just a weird-looking acronym, CODB stands for cost of doing business. This refers to how many out-of-pocket expenses you have to keep the business running, and the result equals your break-even number.
Of course, you want to make a profit as well, but you definitely need to know the minimum of what has to be made to cover all of your expenses.
CODB is the reason that nobody can actually give you a solid number to charge because everyone’s business costs are different. For example, my business might be less expensive to run than yours due to my location, or yours could cost way less because you have an exclusive 50%-off deal with someone who provides a service your business needs.
The formula for calculating your CODB is business expenses + necessary salary ÷ the number of billable days = the cost of doing business. If your head is spinning, don’t worry, we’ll break it all down for you.
For real estate photographers, your CODB expenses calculation will probably look something like this. Remember to consider this all on an annual basis, not per situation. If you don’t know an exact number, just use your best guess:
- Flash(es)/external lighting and other accessories
- An assistant (if needed)
- Editing programs for real estate photographers (most are on an annual subscription these days, so this part should be easy)
- Equipment service and repairs (stuff breaks, factor this in)
- Phone and phone service (clients need to contact you, right?)
- File storage solutions
- Mileage and vehicle expenses (houses don’t walk up to you!)
- Professional development (this refers to classes, workshops, online education, etc.)
- Advertising and client relations (you have to find clients somehow)
- Business insurance (MUST HAVE)
- Equipment insurance (MUST HAVE)
- Health insurance (welcome to the land of the self employed)
- Business licenses (some states require this)
- Government fees and permits (some states require this)
As for salary, I suggest starting with sorting out how much it costs for you to live. Your rent or mortgage, food, all that good stuff. Like expenses, you want to calculate this on an annual sum, like, “I need a minimum of $20k per year”.
The number of billable days refers to how many days a week you intend to work. Since real estate photography involves houses that aren’t going to sprout legs and walk away, you can really set this to anything.
Add everything up and check out your number. The number you get is what you should charge at a minimum. As life requires money to continue living, you need to factor in how much you want to take home in your wallet as well – so go back to the formula and swap out the “necessary salary” with a “desired salary” and see what you get. I like doing both because it gives me a more well-rounded picture.
Your Value and How This Justifies Your Real Estate Photography
Now you have some numbers in hand and a basic idea, then what? Well, whatever price point you start considering setting because it achieves your annual desired salary needs to have a justification behind it. This justification isn’t for you, it’s for your client. You have to add value to your work that makes your client understand your rate.
For photographers on a general basis, your value includes:
- The number of years of experience you have
- Your education background
- What your portfolio offers in terms of quality
- Recommendations, reviews, and positive client commentary
- The skills you can offer (for example, are you well versed in the ‘flambience’ technique?)
For real estate photographers, your value also includes:
- Turn over rate (how quickly you can deliver finished images)
- Ability to work with different kinds of properties
- The real estate agents or firms you’ve had business dealings with
- Any sort of awards or notable mentions
Gather all of this information up and formulate it into any pitches, client documents, or website bio you have.
The Importance of Market Research
I know that I said above that you can’t accurately use the rate someone else is doing because it may not apply to you, but you should definitely do market research on your area of business and see where your prices fall in with the others in your niche. This helps you determine if you’re charging too high, too low, or reasonably. With this, you can adjust your rates as needed.
Look up real estate photography businesses of all levels in the places you service, from high-end mansions to quaint family homes. See what they charge and see what they offer for the price.
What’s Changed in 2022?
With the above being said, the state of the economy and the state of societal changes have an impact on what you charge. Unless you’ve been living in a cave deep down underground, you know that 2020 was the craziest year in our modern human history.
The pandemic impacted the world, which rippled into changes in every industry on earth – including photography.
I think one of the most significant changes to the photography industry was the limitation on personnel in a room. Although this impacted industries such as weddings and events more than real estate, it definitely affected the size of crew you can have with you during a real estate shoot in some states.
The real estate market as a whole changed, depending on where you reside, there was either a brand-new abundance of houses on the market or it fell to a complete standstill. This continues to ring true in 2022, where real estate has either increased tenfold or dropped horribly based on the area.
On the positive, the market is up in many places – a survey from RealEstateBees actually states that “75% [of real estate photographers] are seeing new opportunities opened by the pandemic.”
Because real estate photographers walk through people’s homes and touch objects to adjust things in houses for the right shot, this became a tumultuous idea due to the potential for virus spread.
In 2022, disinfectants and cleaning requirements still persist and can impact what you need to change. Refer to CDC guidelines for those requirements.
Taxes are also frequently adjusted. This could impact how you price your real estate photography work. Generally speaking, taxes increased in 2022. Get in touch with your local tax specialist or CPA to find out how and adjust your rates if needed.
How Much Should You Charge?
To preface this section, I will admit, I may be a professional photographer, but real estate is not my expertise. This could be of benefit to you because this will show that those not-versed in real estate photography (like some of your clients) will discover the same facts I did. How easily accessible industry information is might impact how you charge for your services.
According to my research, data from Salary.com and ZipRecruiter both show that the average annual salary of a real estate photographer is somewhere between $43,017 to $63,561. The average hourly is between $150 – $350 per hour, but this is location-dependent.
For example, an agent in Los Angeles can charge on the higher end of the spectrum versus one in a small town in Alabama. That being said, you also have to keep in mind that the cost of living varies from town to town. It costs a lot more to live in Los Angeles, California, than it does in a lot of other places.
Exploring various real estate photography websites revealed that pricing is divided by either charging hourly for the time it would take to shoot, or opting for pricing that is dependent on square footage. For example, charging $90.00 per 500 square feet. With this rate, a 3,000 square foot home would come to $540.00.
Many real estate photographers have additional “premium” add-on services, such as drone photography. Which leads us into our next section…
Does Drone Photography Increase Your Rate?
Remember how we chatted about value earlier? Well, every service you can provide adds further value to your work. For the real estate niche, drones and aerial photography can add a lot to your current pricing structure. Being able to capture an entire property from the air gives a good idea of the real estate’s placement, scale, and size, and it’s just fascinating to look at!
Drones add a lot of value because it can be a tedious process to learn how to fly a drone well and then acquire a commercial license to be a real estate drone operator, which means there isn’t a ton of competition to begin with.
On the flip side, drones also add a lot more to your cost of doing business because it isn’t cheap to go through all the classes and certifications, so you’ll need to add this into the formula as well.
To give you a very general idea of what drone video and photography requires, any drone weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States. You must receive a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA to operate your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107).
To truly offer aerial services, you must obtain a Commercial Pilot license. To fly the drone over a residential area (where most real estate photography takes place), you will have to provide advanced notice to the FAA and the drone has to be “unlocked” to fly it there.
That’s quite a bit of effort – but it can yield great financial results.
Good Luck with Your Real Estate Photography Pricing
While we can’t give you an exact number of what you should be compensated for your real estate photography, we hope this guide helps you figure out that perfect number that is fair to your clients and, most importantly, fair to yourself!
With some number crunching and research, we’re sure you’ll come to a competitive rate with ease.