How to Start a Real Estate Photography Business in 2022
The world of real estate is a flourishing industry for amateur and seasoned photographers alike. There is an endless amount of listings going on and off the market regularly, with real estate agents and home sellers looking to invest in high quality images that can generate more leads and rack up sales. Because of the steady rise in demand, real estate photography is proven to be a lucrative business that when properly nourished, can be a long standing career for many.
The edge it has over other fields is its combination of both the arts and business. To be able to successfully start and maintain your own, you must understand both ends of the spectrum and how to properly manage them.
In any given space and time, starting a business in itself is a little daunting. To help break down the process and support you through each step of starting your own real estate photography business, we have prepared the following guide.
Start With A Concrete Business Plan
If you want anything as important as starting a business to go a little smoothly, you must first come up with a concrete plan as a guide that can keep you on your toes and remind you of the end goal.
Like with every big project, it is best to cut up your tasks and objectives into chunks at a time. This way, the pieces seem more manageable and achievable, without the big picture adding any sort of pressure. Steps that can help you shape your plan are:
Determining your goal
To start off, first determine your short-term goal and your long-term goal. This consists of listing down the small milestones you want to achieve that can eventually add up and bring you to your main objective.
Deciding on a niche
Real estate photography has many disciplines to it and while a photographer can very well work in several niches, it would be best to start building your brand strongly with one as your specialty. You can narrow down what niche is best for you by asking:
- Would I prefer to do high-end, mid-range, or smaller properties?
- Would I prefer commercial or residential real estate?
- Should I go into hotel or Airbnb photography?
- Am I able to meet the demands of this specific niche?
And other questions that can really zero in on an area of expertise that you can build on, and use as a foundation to create brand awareness. You can also add in more niches, as you feel more comfortable and confident in your business.
Narrowing down your target audience
By deciding on what niche you want to focus on, then you can better narrow down your target audience. It is highly advisable not to blindly as this can quickly lead you to promoting (and spending your resources) on the wrong people.
For a successful business venture, you should be confident in knowing whom you are speaking to, what their needs are, and how you intend to meet them. Otherwise, you will have difficulty getting your message across.
Real estate photographers can choose between working for a real estate agent, property owners themselves, or a mix of both.
Putting together your brand
Now you know what your objective is, what you want to focus on, and whom you want to offer your services to, it’s time to shape your brand around that. Choose a name for your business, a logo, and decide on your marketing strategy.
Estimate Your Costs and Incomes
Every new business venture requires some capital, and when it comes to real estate photography, it may be a hefty one. It’s good to estimate your starting cost as well as your ongoing costs in order to better determine how much you need to charge and earn to turn this into a successful career.
What are your starting costs?
Your starting costs are what you need to purchase in order to get the business going. This would include all your necessary photography equipment, an editing software, and a website domain and insurance.
What are your ongoing costs?
Apart from the initial investments, there are also costs that you will have to maintain all throughout your career. This could include business operation, website maintenance, taxes, marketing, salaries of assistants, rental fees if you decide on working at the office.
Decide what rates to offer
For starters, it is best to research on how your competitor’s prices are so you can better understand what you are up against. The prices you set out for your services should vary on multiple factors, including:
- What type of property it is
- How near or far the property is located
- How difficult or easy it is to access the location
- Amount of preparations required before the actual shoot
- How challenging the project at hand is
- If 3D or aerial photography are to be included
- The total number of photographs needed
- If there are any extra services required such as express delivery
- Usage license
Once you have determined the above factors1, you may opt to set your rate on a per photo basis or a per day basis.
The average cost of photography for images taken during the day cost around $150 to $350 per shoot, while images taken during dusk or twilight can go up to an average of $750 to $850 per shoot. When it comes to drone real estate photography, average rates can go up to $150 to $300 for a set of 10 photographs.
If you and your client agree on a per day basis contract, rates should already reflect the editing and post-production process necessary for the final number of photos ordered.
If you are looking for a more detailed list of estimates, we have categorized the three general project types below and the various fees they may incur. It is important to take note that these are directly affected by the factors listed earlier and merely represents a ballpark estimate of the standard rates within the real estate industry today.
For a mid-rise commercial building
Photographer’s Fee: Around $1,250. This is already inclusive of the research, planning, scouting, a full day photo shoot of either daytime or dusk/ twilight, and a standard Marketing Use agreement.
Digital Production Charges: Around $550. This is already inclusive of digital capture, processing of RAW files, gallery previews, the final high resolution file preparations, delivery of around 10 final high resolution photographs, finished TIFF files, an image library of each photograph un-retouched, and JPEGs suitable for on-screen usage.
Other Production Charges: Around $325. This is already inclusive of assistant fees, expendables, mileage, and other miscellaneous fees.
TOTAL: Around $2,125
For a small retail property
Smaller retail properties do not usually require interior shots since the main objective of most marketing materials is to showcase the location itself, the surrounding neighborhood, parking availability, landscaping, and the similar factors.
Photographer’s Fee: Around $975. This is already inclusive of research, planning, scouting, a partial day photo shoot of exteriors, and a standard Marketing Use agreement.
Digital Production Charges: Around $375. This is already inclusive of the final high resolution file preparations, delivery of around 5 final high resolution photographs, finished TIFF files, an image library of each photograph un-retouched, and JPEGs suitable for on-screen usage.
Other Production Charges: Around $35. This is already inclusive of expendables, mileage, and other miscellaneous fees.
TOTAL: Around $1,385
For a large 3-building, mixed-use property
In this scenario, the property to shoot is of a much larger scale and has more spaces to cover. This type of project will most likely need more than one day of shooting.
Photographer’s Fee: Around $2,400. This is already inclusive of research, planning, scouting, two full days of interior and exterior photo shoot of both daytime and dusk or twilight, and a standard Marketing Use agreement.
Digital Production Charges: Around $800. This is already inclusive of the final high resolution file preparations, delivery of around 15 final high resolution photographs, finished TIFF files, an image library of each photograph un-retouched, and JPEGs suitable for on-screen usage.
Other Production Charges: Around $350. This is already inclusive of assistant fees, expendables, mileage, and other miscellaneous fees.
TOTAL: Around $3,550
Have The Right Equipment
Having all the necessary gear to shoot high quality photos is essential to every real estate photography business. While the latest model iPhone is capable of taking vividly striking photos, you will need to actually get a professional camera and other essential tools if you want to establish your name in the industry as a reputable and competent real estate photographer.
While a lot of budding photographers worry how much capital this may incur, we are happy to report that not all photography gear will hurt your wallet. In fact, many in the affordable range perform well enough to take sharp and vibrant images. The important thing is to secure the specs you need for your type of shots, all else are a bonus.
A quality camera
You do not need the most expensive and highly advanced camera on the market to take good real estate photos. Whichever brand and model you choose, we recommend getting a full frame camera since these have the power to capture more detail and have your photos come out as stunning as possible.
A full frame camera has bigger and better pixels, which offer more color information and natural light that your camera’s sensor can process. This greatly prevents noise in the dark areas of the photo, and keeps your images crisp and smooth.
However, if a full frame camera is out of budget, crop sensor cameras work just as fine, most especially if you pair it with a good set of lens.
When it comes to real estate, we suggest investing in a wide-angle lens because this allows you to capture as much of the space as you can. Just ensure that it is not ultra wide, or anything bigger than 12mm, otherwise, your image will end up looking distorted and unrealistic.
Full frame cameras work best with a 14 – 24mm lens, while a cropped sensor camera works great with a 10 – 20mm lens.
A tripod is one of the most important tools you will need out on the field, They help in keeping your angles perfectly aligned, your images very sharp, and your lighting just right – because of this, we recommend investing in a high quality one even if it may be a little pricier.
Especially when you are shooting in low light you will need your equipment as sturdy as possible to prevent camera shakes. When taking AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) photos, your camera will be taking multiple shots of the same angle with varying exposure levels, and a tripod can guarantee that not a single mm is off frame.
Lastly, a tripod assists in maintaining a balanced plane, allowing you to achieve neat lines (both vertical and horizontal) with every shot.
A shutter release trigger
A shutter release trigger has two main functions, namely:
- It releases the camera’s shutter
- It triggers the flash
These both allow you take photos remotely and prevent your camera from moving most especially when shooting with slow shutter speeds. You may also download apps on your mobile phone that could work the same way.
Speaking of flash, we recommend investing in a good speed light. Since you will still be starting out, one speed light should be fine. You can choose either handheld or mounted on top of another tripod.
Speed lights are necessary to make the entire space pop and also to highlight all the essential details that would have been drowned out with unbalanced shadows.
Sell Your Photography Skills
Now that you have a clearer perspective as to where you want to take your business, the steps you need to take in order to get there, and the equipment necessary to make it happen, it is time to market your services.
Gradually build your portfolio
A crucial factor into getting noticed as a real estate photographer is by having a professional, impressive, and easily accessible portfolio online. It is understandable not to have any projects lined up yet, and we suggest asking friends, colleagues, family, or even your local mom and pop shop if you can practice shooting their properties.
You can also do a photo walk wherein you stroll around, taking photos of building and commercial spaces within a neighborhood. A good way to showcase your skillset is by taking multiple images of the exact same location, in different times of day such as sunrise, daytime, sunset, twilight, and evening.
Once you have your content ready, make your portfolio easy to read through and easily speak to your target audience. We also advise separating your shots into different categories such as hotels, offices, and so on.
Start a website with your portfolio
While printed portfolios may still be beneficial in some cases, having one online as well will really make an impact on the reach and leads you can gather. Creating your own website to showcase your work, link to your other channels, and also serve as a direct means to contact you is great for marketing. A website can help clients easily find you when they search for local real estate photographers.
Apart from housing your portfolio, you should also have your rates, complete contact details, and other information such as an About You page or a running blog about photography and industry updates.
There are numerous website builders today that can help you easily make one for free, some of them even have user friendly templates and custom designs to make the process much faster and easier on your end. Some great website builders to check out are Format, Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.
Lastly, invest in a personalized and unique domain name as it helps you look more professional and can amp up your credibility.
Be active on social media platforms
Social media has rapidly become a quick and easy way to market services online. Because of how highly shareable the content is on each platform, word gets around faster.
To bring in more foot traffic, market your website and services on various social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. You do not need to hard sell or have any sales talk captions – providing samples of your work and how to reach you is already well and good.
In order to establish social authority, you need to work on your social media marketing to attract more followers. The more people follow your page, the more relevant it will seem to those who haven’t yet. A few quick tips to boost your social media marketing are:
- Post regularly
- Invite people to like your page
- Run ads
- Mix up your content with photos and behind-the-scenes videos
- If you run a photography blog, share your articles there
- Be engaging with those that comment and share your posts
- Participate in communities that can help you network
Keep in mind that you do not need to be present in every single social media platform, but it is important to know where your market will most likely be and connect with them there.
Keep your clients coming back
Understandably, the first stretch of marketing your business will be focused on garnering leads and gaining new clients. This is when you do a bulk of your networking, promoting your ads, possibly making cold calls, and the like.
However, once you start getting clients, there is a whole new phase of marketing to add to your existing strategy. You must work to keep your past or existing customers coming back to you. A few days to do so are:
- Always treat them with respect and professionalism.
- Try to be as accommodating and open minded to their vision as much as you are with yours.
- Be accommodating, as they may have many questions before, during, and even after the project. This is a good sign that they are invested in it and trust your knowledge.
- Always submit projects on time
- Have good, open communication with them
- If there is an issue or concern, work to address it properly and immediately
Aside from it reflecting well on your business, having more clients that thin positively of you will lead to more referrals – one of the most effective forms of advertising. On top of that, you may also ask your satisfied clients for reviews on your website and/ or social media pages.
Get a business card
It may seem a little old school but these are a staple essential in the business world. Having a business card handy can ensure that you are always ready to give out your contact information should you unexpectedly meet a potential client.
It is also great to bring out during open houses, conventions, and other times you would be networking.
Network during social events
Speaking of networking, it is advisable to do so regularly and intently. You can attend conferences, partner with real estate agencies, go to photography fairs and conventions, and the like
All these efforts can help you slowly grow your customer base and get your name out there.
Reach out to real estate agents
If networking at big events seems a bit much for you, or you want another way to build professional relationships, try reaching out to real estate agents directly. In their line of work, they will most likely require a good photographer regularly.
You can find them in your local listings and in open houses.
How and Where Can You Learn Real Estate Photography?
Being skilled at real estate photography is not something you acquire overnight or just by watching a few YouTube tutorials. It is through practice and determination that you can gain the necessary skillset to achieve high quality photos and be confident enough to work your way around the camera.
Apart from applied knowledge, other ways you can learn real estate photography are through:
Websites like Coursera or Udemy offer online courses for real estate photographers than can teach you the basic techniques and skillset needed to start. Anywhere from camera settings, lighting settings, understanding how to work with different weather conditions, and more.
Connecting with others in the same niche
By establishing a good professional relationship with other photographers, you can practice more with them and learn from each other.
Seminars and conventions
There are usually a lot of seminars and/ or events for photographers. These usually have guest speakers, equipment suppliers, and a lot of other individuals that contribute to the field. This is where you can apply the saying “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room”.
Work as an assistant
Just like with any profession, you can start by working your way up. Having a mentor or working as an assistant to an already established real estate photographer will be a great learning experience and can truly make a difference in the knowledge you gain after,
Not only will you understand that basics better, but you will also learn how to apply them in a way that maximizes your resources as advised by someone who has been in the business for years.
Is a Real Estate Photography Business Right For You?
If you are reading this, then it’s safe to say that the interest in real estate photography is there. Perhaps, you may even have a strong passion for it. While these two are very important in determining if this is the right business for you, there are still other factors to weigh in that can further clarify if it is a practical decision in the long run.
Are you flexible on turnaround time?
Different clients have varying time frames that they will need to stick to. More often than not, real estate photography involves short turnaround times as the listings have to go on the market.
Are you open to take a chance on different markets?
Your clients will have varying standards, needs, wants, and budget. Ask yourself if you are able to cater to a wide range of property types and client preferences.
Otherwise, if you want to stick to a very specific market base, you will need to consider that your income may not be as regular or that you may have to exert more effort into your marketing strategies.
Do you have an eye for architecture and beauty?
Skills can be honed but you would be an even better fit for the industry if you already have a natural eye for detail.
Are you able to commute or drive to and from varying locations?
Real estate photography will require you to visit many different sites, all with your gear in tow. Are you able to easily find transportation while carrying this around or would that pose a challenge?
There you have it! You can keep this article as a guide for when you take each step to fulfilling your real estate photography business. Know that there will be a few road bumps and lessons to learn along the way but that’s all part of the process – so keep shooting and have fun while you’re at it!