How to Price Real Estate Photography: Why I Switched from Packages to Square Footage
How to Price Real Estate Photography:
Why I Switched from Packages to Square Footage
One of the most frequently asked questions in the independent real estate photographer circles (aside from, "what lens should I use?") is, "How do you have your pricing set up and what do you charge?" I get it, we all want to know what everyone else is charging to stay competitive. Everyone thinks they are at least average and aim to charge about what everyone else charges. Not only is this a terrible business model to follow but it doesn't account for the many different shooting scenarios a real estate photographer will encounter.
Since most Realtors get the same commission regardless of the sale, they already know how much everyone else is making. What a Realtor faces instead is the question, "What sets me apart from the 3,000 other agents in this city?" If everyone is charging the same price (with the exception of those few who will discount their commission, something we'll talk about in another article) then how do you avoid being a commodity (a raw material or basic good sold for the same price everywhere; like corn syrup or crude oil)? We'll discuss that later as well.
Back to the original question, "What is your real estate photography pricing?" When I was running Kirk Bergman Photography, Salt Lake City's Premiere Real Estate Photographer, I took on the same approach that wedding photographers take: pricing based on packages. I thought that having several packages at several different price points would position me to best serve a wide variety of real estate professionals in my area. My pricing ranged from $140 for fifteen images (usually more) all the way up to $1099 for 45 images, a video, a website, and a bunch of other stuff. I increased my packages around a 10+n increase in photos delivered: 15, 25, 35, and 45 (I actually had 2 packages at the 35 photo level). Great, I figured this would help me attract the agents with smaller homes that only needed 15 photos and the agents who had larger homes that could easily support 35 or more images.
Here comes the biggest problems I experienced with that pricing model.
The complexity of a home is usually directly related to it's square footage. Meaning, the larger the home, the harder it is to photograph. This leads to the problems with that old pricing model:
Problem number 1: Complex spaces require an expert understanding of lighting, composition, and spacial awareness. Sure I could only take 15 photos of this house (when it really needs 30, see point number 2) but each of those 15 photos would need multiple off camera flashes, light modifiers, and remote triggering to photograph appropriately. Those techniques (and the time required for the setup) are really outside of what $140 can buy. You simply don't go into a Mercedes dealership and expect to get a new S-class for the price of a Camry.
Problem number 2: Many agents don't ask for the appropriate number of images. By only asking for 15 photos when we really need 30 (or more sometimes) they are doing their clients a disservice by not showing all the house has to offer. It would be like hosting an open house and only letting the potential buyers see 50% of the home while the rest remains behind locked doors. That wouldn't make much sense. To overcome this problem in the past, I've usually delivered way more photos than asked (and paid) for. I never had an agent tell me, "I only paid for 15 photos, I don't need these extra 8 images."
Problem number 3 (bonus problem): many times the agents didn't want the extra stuff I had in my packages: flyers, websites, videos, etc. Sometimes they gladly accepted them and used them, but I often heard, "I don't need that other stuff, just the photos." Which is fine. But now the agent is paying for things he or she isn't getting and it's not fair to them. And I'm pricing my packages to include those extra things which is confusing as to what I really charge for photos.
Problem number 4 (we're on our way to a Jay-Z song): most other real estate photography shops charge by number of images and go through a house counting their shots. If they are hired to take 35 photos it sometimes ends up looking like this:
1. Living room
You get the idea. This upsets me (and many agents) because the photographer missed all the opportunities inside the house to show the great space. But because they said they'd deliver 35 photos, by golly, you'll get 35 photos come hell or high water.
To fix these problems, I moved to a more simple and straightforward pricing model: 9 cents per square foot. This positions every house to be lit, composed, and shot appropriately. It also allows me to provide the quality of work I want to deliver to my clients in the first place. Smaller houses are usually easier to shoot and have a lower cost. Larger houses, like one I recently shot with 20' vaulted ceilings, are harder to shoot and are priced in a way that allows me to open my entire bag of tricks.
At the end of the day everyone wins. The agent wins by getting the best photos and the appropriate number of images to show the entire home. The homeowner wins by having every important detail of her house photographed. And the photographer wins by getting compensation equal to the amount of skill required.
Agynt Studio is making waves in the Real Estate marketing industry for Real Estate Agents and other Professionals in Salt Lake City. I'd love to hear what you think!
Keywords: interior, marketing, photography, photography business, professional, real estate agent, real estate marketing, salt lake city real estate photographer
So do you actually give the photos to your client? Or a limited license to use them?
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