As a professional headshot photographer, portrait photographer and real estate/architectural photographer, I am constantly faced with the question of what is the correct monetary value of my time and my delivered product?  

The idea behind this blog post came as a result of a voicemail and ensuing text exchange with a  real estate agent here in Boston who  shall remain nameless this past Thursday evening.  Suffice it to say I have known this agent for a very long time which makes the response all the more surprising. * I normally wouldn't  share a private exchange like this,  however, a) No  names or genders have been included and b) I think this is worth discussing as it's something every photographer will face at one time or another.

The Exchange

Voicemail - received at 7:30 pm:

"Hey Charlie, it's blah blah.  I know this is last minute and you're probably (unintelligible), but I need to get a house photographed; pretty much tomorrow.   If you could give me a call back.  It's a beautiful property in (town in the Boston area), about 6,000 sq.ft. Just let me know, I'm kind of scrambling.  But okay, hope you're well,  thank you."

Ensuing text exchange:

Me: "The question is who cancelled on you to be calling me the day before trying to shoot a 6,000 sq ft home. Sorry but unfortunately I’m booked shooting headshots in-studio tomorrow."  (  I was trying to be light-hearted as I know this person).

Agent: "No one cancelled just a quick turn around. Are you available within the next few days? If not no worries! Thanks for getting back to me.  Btw it’s a house you would be pumped to have photos of not your average place."

Me: "Could you do 11:30 on Sun? 6,000 SqFt, Sun $800. You okay w that?"

Agent: "I could do Sunday. What do you provide for $800?"

Me: "Well the quality for one, and I’ll have them back by EOD Monday. I’m okay if that doesn’t work for you. Totally understand."

Agent: "Ya totally get it. Really though? This would have been something  we could attempt and do more business. Just want a realistic price. Sounds like you have plenty so congratulations! Totally understand"

Hmmm.  A "realistic price."  What this agent and many others like this person don't understand is the time and care I take to make my images high quality and not just your average real estate photos w flashy scenes, that display shadows, bad white balance, blown out highlights in the  windows, etc.  etc. I'm not even adding into this equation, fitting this in over the weekend on a Sunday and getting the images back to the agent the next day.

Realistically this would have taken about 4 1/2 hours to shoot plus roughly :45 drive-time back and forth.  Then an additional 6 hours + for the retouching?  When you factor that in to the  total cost of $800 it's not  that much from my perspective particularly when  you consider the hourly breakdown a realtor receives when they pick up their commission.

Know Your Value

I have been told numerous times by realtors (most recently this past Thursday), that I should charge more as a photographer; and yet this agent felt that what I charged was unrealistic.  What this person fails to understand is that my value and my booking rate is based on a few important metrics.

1)  The time it takes me to shoot a property, or a headshot or a portrait which have their own criteria.

2) The time it takes me in post processing to actually assemble the image and make it shine. *See video below.

3) The value of my time as a professional in general; what is the value of 10-12 hours of my time (shooting and retouching)?

Consider the Reverse.

If realtors would reverse the spotlight on themselves and do the same math I think they might have a different perspective?  This home will  undoubtedly be listed for millions of dollars which means a commission payment of thousands of dollars for the listing agent.  As a former manager for Coldwell Banker I know the amount of commission realtors take home.   

For example, let's say this property will  be listed for $3,000,000 (which is probably a very realistic estimate given where this property is located.  A typical starting commission split is 55% (this is a seasoned agent so I'm guessing her split is well above this).  The majority of listing contracts in the Boston area are written with a  2.5% commission on the sale of the property.  On a $3,000,000 home that's $75,000.  At the very lowest commission split of 55% that would then result in a $41,250 commission to the agent. $41,250 - $800 = $40,450.

Let's go back to this agent's exasperating text back to me.  "Really though?"  The photos are the most important marketing item for selling a  home and this agent was shocked that I would value my time enough to charge my worth when I'm making peanuts on a dollar per hour cost basis particularly in comparison to what this agent  will take home.

Quality Photography Sells

In this RISMedia article, the author points out that:

  • "Homes with high quality photography sell 32 percent faster."
  • "Homes with more photos sell faster, too. A home with one photo spends an average 70 days on the market, but a home with 20 photos spends 32 days on the market."
  • "For homes in the $200,000 to $1 million range, those that include high-quality photography in their listings sell for $3,000-$11,000 more."

My Process

As an example of the time I take on my images, I created this screen recording of just one retouched image from a recent real estate shoot to show the time I spend with my post-processing.  This was just one image out of 18 I had shot for this particular property.  I've included the final image as well below.  

What is YOUR value to your own business.  Sometimes you just have to say thanks but no thanks.   You're not going to work with every client and that's okay. I have learned to do the same for headshot and portrait inquiries as well.  It took time to get to this place but I'm confident with my abilities and am comfortable with my decisions.

Thanks for reading!


Real Estate Photography Retouching - All Pro


380 Beacon St. Unit 2 Boston-10