How to Become a Real Estate Photographer for 2022 (in 6 Steps)
The real estate photography business is a lucrative one to get into. The time and resources that you invest in the real estate industry will eventually pay off the more practice and exposure you get.
Learning the ins and outs of the trade can be rather daunting and somewhat overwhelming for those without prior background. However, there is an abundance of resources to learn from and you only get better with more hands-on experience.
The edge that real estate photography has over the rest is the dedicated investment that any client and real estate agent already expect to make in you. They have put in a lot of hard earned money to have their property as attractive as possible, it is only right to complement it with high quality real estate pictures that showcase the very best features.
To help get you started in your new venture, we prepared a handy guide on how to become a real estate photographer in just 6 steps.
Real Estate Photography - Getting Started Tips
Whether you are already a photographer under a different industry, or are completely new to photography, we have all the real estate photography tips and tricks that can help get your career going.
Before getting into detail, let’s first explore what exactly real estate photography requires, what you need to get started, and what important reminders to keep in check.
What Does Real Estate Photography Entail?
While it may sound straight to the point, real estate photography is much more than meets the eye. For one, you may want to decide whether you want to focus on residential real estate or commercial real estate, since these two will need similar yet special skill sets. Of course you can also tackle both, but just be prepared to wear many hats as you go along.
Real estate photographers do much more than capture images. You must consider:
- Staging the space, such as rearranging furniture, adding decorations, and the like.
- Getting the lighting right
- Creating a shot list of the images you will need
- Maintaining your photography equipment
- Editing high quality photos with fast turnarounds.
- Marketing strategies
- Sales aspect
- Admin work
The bigger your team grows, the more you can delegate, but if you are planning to start small, your job description can get a little lengthy.
You will mainly be working with real estate agents to photograph homes and offices for online listings. While it may not apply to other categories of photography, it is common knowledge in the real estate world that realtors would usually need a quick turnaround with deadlines.
On average, you should be able to deliver the photos within 48 hours. Because of this, there is very little time to edit all your shots, and you will have to familiarize yourself with quick and easy editing tricks.
An alternative, or rather additional, option is having your real estate images available online as stock photos. This gives you a passive stream of income, and involves less pressure when it comes to delivery.
What Do You Need To Get Started?
Having a checklist of all the things you need to get in order can go a long way. We will discuss these in detail below, but to give you an overview of what you’re in for, here are the list of things you need before diving right in:
- Your photography equipment
- Your pricing strategy
- Your marketing plans
- Your budget
- Your preferred editing software and the means to maximize it
- Your curiosity and determination
6 Steps To Becoming A Real Estate Photographer
Realistically, the road to becoming a professional real estate photographer has a few more steps in store for you. Essentially, these 6 are what you should keep your focus on and build with if you want to have a successful start and a steady growth.
Step 1: Research on and invest in quality photography equipment
Real estate photography, or any kind of photography for that matter, needs much more than just a camera. If you really want to capture stunning imagery that brings you above the rest and gets you winning shots with each project, you will need to get a few more things in your bag.
Some of the essential tools are:
An HDR DSLR, full frame camera that you are comfortable using.
Wide angle lens to capture more of the space and minimize risk of distortion.
A tripod to prevent blurred or shaky images. It is also an essential tool in getting the best, most accurate angles each time.
A remote shutter button so you can control when the images will be taken without having to touch or move your camera.
Extra lighting such as flash, diffusers, and umbrellas since real estate photography tends to have the most challenging lighting hurdles to overcome.
Step 2: Figure out your own pricing strategy
On average, most real estate photographers with ample experience and a good set of skills under their belt can earn between $40,000 and $62,000 every year. This number varies based on location, photographer’s experience, type of property, how many days the photo shoot took, how many photos are needed, and so on.
If you are still starting out, you may want to stick with a friendlier price range as you build on your skill set. This of course is entirely up to you, but keep in mind the factors you should take into consideration when computing your pricing strategy, such as:
- The hours you spend preparing for the shoot (shot list, research, studying the space, and so on)
- The hours you spend shooting
- The size of the listing
- The hours you spend on image processing
- How much capital you spent on the equipment and software
We dive more into the nitty-gritty details of figuring out your pricing strategy with our pricing guideline below.
Step 3: Gradually build your real estate photography portfolio
Unless you are banking on people you already know to hire you without much to show for it, then you will need to start gradually building your portfolio. It is understandable not to have any projects lined up yet, and we suggest asking your friends and relatives if you can practice shooting their properties.
You can also take photos of buildings and commercial spaces within your area. We suggest taking multiple images of the same property, in differing times, to showcase that you are flexible when it comes to day, sunset, twilight, and even night photography.
Step 4: Invest in yourself by learning photography tips and tools online, and by practicing on your preferred editing software
Like they say, there is no better investment than yourself and we couldn’t agree more. By taking online courses, or even short courses in universities can go a long way when it is time to apply them on the field,
Similarly, practice editing on your preferred programs as often as you can to ensure you learn the tools and maximize their usage when the clients start coming through. It would also be great to feature only your post-process photos on your portfolio so your future clients get a better feel as to what lengths you are capable of and what you can offer.
Step 5: Get yourself insured
Like in almost everything in life, you need to get your career insured. Many budding photographers may not realize the gravity of getting yourself protected but it can really save you on a rainy day.
There are many decent insurance coverage plans that can cost less than $2,000 per year, and it can help you avoid multiple risks. The insurance coverage should be able to protect your gear and equipment in case of accidents. Similarly if you, your team member, or your client trips over some of the wiring and other objects during the shoot, the insurance company can cover for the medical bills.
While it may seem unlikely, these things happen and it is always safer to be sure than sorry.
Step 6: Market yourself through your own website, social media, and networking events
Now that you have everything in place, it is time to show them what they’re missing! There are 3 factors we suggest applying within your marketing strategy, namely:
Creating an online website. Having your own website will make it easier for clients to look you up and find your listing when searching for photographers within their vicinity.
It is also a great way to showcase your portfolio, rates, contact details, and other information you want to put out there. There are various website builders today that can help you make one for free, they even have easy to use templates and custom designs to make the process a breeze. You can check out Format, Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress. We recommend investing in a personalized and unique domain to look more professional and trustworthy.
Build on your social media presence. Market your website and services on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and maybe even LinkedIn. Of course you won’t need to be present in all platforms, but it is important to get a good reach into different markets and join in on varying communities.
Network during social events. Many business owners love networking events since it helps them get to know the people they may possibly work with. Attending conferences or partnering with real estate agencies can help you grow your customer base and get your name out there.
Photography fairs and conventions are also great places to meet other photographers and build your own network of professionals that may be looking for assistants.
Equipment You Need For Real Estate Photography
When equipped with the right set of tools for the job, it will always make the task an easier and more enjoyable experience. Earlier, we mentioned the top 5 tools we highly recommend you invest in for your real estate business. Below, we discuss them in further detail.
An HDR DSLR, full frame camera
The reason we specify HDR is because investing in a camera that supports multi-exposure bracketing is an essential advantage in real estate photography. The HDR technique is what helps you get the hero shots you see on listings and publications, which is why you are better off with a camera that supports it.
The reason behind its success is that a bracketing compatible, full frame camera is able to capture much more data and create a higher quality image. It enables more of the visible light spectrum to be processed into the image, allowing you to see through the shadows for more details and depth.
Wide angle lens
The most common type of camera lens used in real estate photography is the wide angle. This is because it can capture the entirety of the scene, making the property appear as spacious as it can get – but not in an exaggerated sense that it creates a false impression.
With wide angle lenses, the focal length is relatively short and can help increase the space within the photos. We recommend looking for one within the 10-24mm or 16-35mm range. Our top 4 picks that match this are:
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED
This Nikon lens is highly versatile as it is perfect for both interior and exterior shots. For interior, shoot at 16mm and go up to 35mm for exterior images.
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
This Canon option is an ultra-wide-angle lens and has been regarded to be one of the best lenses for real estate photography.
Sigma 1-24mm f/4 DG HSM
Designed with Canon cameras in mind, this Sigma lens offers zero distortion and impressively fast focusing, making it an ideal lens for real estate photography.
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L UD
This Canon option is an ultra-wide tilt-shift lens, which enables you to take unique real estate images.
Bonus tip: While many believe that fish eye lenses are great for capturing wider shots, this is not always the case when it comes to real estate. Fish eye lenses create a distortion that does not showcase the listing as it is in reality and can even be unappealing to the eyes of the viewer.
A durable and stable tripod
We have and always will say it – a tripod is an essential tool in photography and you need to invest in a quality model that can be with you throughout all the upcoming shoots. This tool will be carried around, packed in a bag, placed in the trunk, extended and folded multiple times, and will carry heavy equipment. All these considered, it is important finding one made of strong and lasting material, and one that can withstand varying weather and terrain as well.
A tripod helps in getting your angles just right and your camera securely fastened while you go about the process. The best material for the job is definitely carbon fiber as it is much stronger and more durable than aluminum. It is also designed and built to last you years, probably even your entire career.
A remote shutter button
Once you have your camera and tripod set up perfectly, the last thing you want to do is touch it and risk losing the angle or producing a blurred image. To prevent having to manually click the shutter button, purchase a remote controlled shutter button that is compatible with your camera so you may take photos from a safe distance.
Extra lighting tools
Lighting can be a tricky element when it comes to real estate. Natural light is always the best option but in the absence or insufficiency of it, you will need to compensate with alternatives.
Artificial lighting found inside the house can often create a colorcast on the image, which is why we recommend shutting off all lamps when shooting. Instead, extra lighting tools can be of service such as flashes, diffusers, and umbrellas. These can help highlight features, soften light, create a bounce, or open up some shadows.
If you feel that an umbrella and diffuser may not be as necessary quite yet, at least invest in a single flash to complete your set up.
What Kind of Real Estate Photography Pricing Guidelines Should I Follow?
As briefly mentioned above, there are multiple factors to take into consideration when figuring out how to price your services. While it can feel a little confusing in the beginning to calculate your time, effort, and market value, we are here to tell you it doesn’t have to be complicated! In fact, it could be as easy as our 2-step model.
The first thing you should do is to cover your costs. This could look something like the example below:
Cost of Materials + Cost of Labor + Overhead = Total Cost
Once you have that number, factor in your desired profit (and yes, this is different from cost of labor), to come up with your final price. This could look something like the example below:
Total Cost + Desired Profit (ex. 20% of Total Cost) = Final Price
This method is called the cost-plus pricing model. As your business strengthens and expands, you can adjust your rates a little further to reflect your true talent and worth, but this could make a good starting point.
The reason why it is important to factor in all your costs is so you know how much it really takes to keep the business afloat. This prevents expensive surprises from coming about.
Cost of Materials
The costs in producing your final product should not come out of your pocket. Keep track of your expenses when it comes to your hard drives, cloud storage, and other digital space that could count as billable items. Other factors that apply could be transportation fees and specific items that the project at hand required.
Cost of Labor
Labor does not only mean during the photo shoot itself. This could also reflect the time you spent preparing your shot list, scouting the area, staging the space, cleaning up, commuting to be in a meeting with the client, editing photos, uploading the final work, and so on.
In order to put a price tag on this, you need to be more aware of just how much time you will be spending on the tasks – count the hours and stay realistic. Your pricing should reflect how much you feel your time is worth, and with more experience under your belt, that cost can gradually go up. For as long as you deliver quality work on time and are professional throughout the project, the client will want to agree with your perceived value.
Overhead costs are the things you invest in that last longer than the project. Under this, you should also consider how much you have spent on camera equipment, insurance for your gear, editing software, post-production equipment, lighting, backdrops, and so forth. If you have an assistant or an accountant, their salary counts as overhead as well.
Your marketing efforts and the money you spend on advertising falls under overhead costs, this not only includes online strategies but also those in print.
The quality and type of tools you use can directly affect your work and how efficiently you can deliver, which is why these should be included in the details you factor in.
In order to calculate this when sending a quote, add up all your overhead costs and then divide that number by the projected amount of jobs you may work on a yearly basis. That final number is what you should add to your cost-plus pricing.
Total Overhead Cost / Projected # of jobs in a year = Price to add in your cost-plus calculation
Now that you have a grasp on how to work your pricing and keep track of the expenses, you can either stick to that method, or apply further pricing strategies, such as the following:
Set Different Rates For Different Sized Properties
The bigger the listing is, the more rooms and features you will need to photograph and edit. To ensure you do not undervalue (or overvalue) your work, you can opt to set package rates depending on the square feet.
A quick example would be:
- Under $200 for properties that are 3,000 square feet or less.
- Over $200 for properties that are more than 3,000 square feet.
Adjust Your Rate Based On The Time Of Day
If you need to take sunset or night shots, this will involve more equipment and post-production time compared to images taken during the day. It is understandable to charge a little more for this extra effort and resources.
Higher-End Listings Mean Higher Rates
Keep in mind that the higher the listing goes for, the higher the value of your photograph should be. After all, it is your image and talent that helps this property sell for what it’s worth.
Outsource What You Can
Becoming a real estate photographer will have its set of challenges but for as long as you keep at it and are determined to hone your skills, your efforts will come back to you a hundred fold.
To help you keep things in check and running smoothly, we highly suggest sourcing out what you can and hiring other professionals to take the load off your shoulders. A lot of professional photographers outsource for editing, which can take up more time than the actual shoot itself, By doing so, you save the time and effort you would have otherwise spent trying to beat the 48 hour turnover.