Below I’ll answer the question of how much real estate photographers make annually, monthly, and hourly, complete with monthly income tables and updated data and figures for 2022.
The income figure starts with a fairly broad range and ends with a specific figure based on assumptions we make around the factors discussed in each section below.
If you read each section you should be able to have a much firmer grasp on how much you could make as a real estate photographer in the US market. Or, skip to the section that grabs your interest with the links below.
Table of Contents (Quick Links)
In this lesson you get detailed answers for:
- How Much Does a Real Estate Photographer Make a Year
- Number of Homes You Can Expect to Shoot Each Day
- Expected Income You Can Earn Per Home
- How Does Seasonality Affect Your Monthly Income
- How to Increase Your Income With Marketing
- Monthly Income of a Real Estate Photographer
- Hourly Income of a Real Estate Photographer
- A Day in the Life of a Real Estate Photographer
This is the first lesson in the How to Become a Real Estate Photographer course. A premium (and completely free) course written by the Kristian Pettyjohn, CEO of PhotoUp, the leading provider of software, services, and systems for real estate photographers.
Undeniably, real estate photography is an excellent way to expand an existing photography business or turn your photography hobby into a flexible and profitable career.
Seasonal in nature, a real estate photography business can provide steady income year-round, but your larger profits are made in the busier summer home selling season.
What I personally like most about the real estate photography industry is the flexibility, variety, and earning potential it affords photographers.
Particularly if you already have some camera gear, the business has a low barrier of entry, has low operating costs, and the market, while competitive, is expanding.
As a real estate photographer, if you want to pick up a shoot here and there, done. Want to do an all-day luxury portfolio shoot or prefer to be in-and-out in an hour to make a quick buck? Very doable.
Want to earn six figures being a photographer? It’s easier than you might think.
How Much Does a Real Estate Photographer Make a Year?
The short answer is that a full-time real estate photographer can expect to earn between $50,000 to $150,000 as a solo photographer, quite a bit more if you build a team over time.
For those who commit to sales and marketing (discussed in later lessons in this course) and commit to their business full-time, the average real estate photographer can reasonably expect to earn the following:
Okay! We’re talking real money.
While there are many more factors to consider, such as the amount of investment required for gear and marketing, being a real estate photographer can be a very profitable business.
All things considered, having worked with thousands of photographers over the past decade with my team at PhotoUp, here is what you need to know to calculate how much you can make as a real estate photographer.
Number of Homes You Can Expect to Shoot Each Day
Typically, your earning potential as a real estate photographer will chiefly depend on how many homes you shoot each day.
While I’ve literally met photographers shooting 8-10 homes per day in the summer, this is frankly unrealistic for most photographers (and downright crazy, but more power if you have this much energy).
Given that, the average full-time real estate photographer shoots between 2-4 homes per day at the height of the busy season in the summer and 1-2 homes per day in the slower winter season.
Additionally, an average residential home shoot takes 60-90 minutes depending on the home size, though larger homes can take longer.
Increasingly add-ons are becoming the norm in real estate marketing, which can add more time to your shoot (and more profit). Examples of common add-ons include:
So, four shoots in a day will likely take you 6-8 hours with drive time, and this is before any photo editing and business sales or administration.
As a result, if we consider four homes per day to be a safe maximum of shoots per day, you should expect on average to shoot half of this amount during the summer busy season. And a quarter in the slower winter season as you first get started.
Expected Income Per Home (4 Crucial Factors)
Next, we need to look at data on how much income you can earn per home you shoot. There are 4 big factors here: client type, location, offerings, home size.
1. Client Types
When you are looking to estimate your earning you need to determine what type of client you intend to service. There are four common client types broadly speaking in real estate photography:
While you can find training online from photographers shooting luxury homes hanging out of helicopters or shooting 25 flash shots per frame on exteriors and spending hours per photo editing, there is a good chance this isn’t going to be you, at least not at first.
For true luxury properties, agents can spend tens of thousands on marketing, but this is the 1% of the 1% of real estate photography. So let’s cross out luxury clients for now.
Architects are generally one step below luxury, at least in their pay scale. These are often portfolio shots for architect firms or home builders, who might complete 10-20 projects per year. Often, you can charge $500-1,000+ for these higher-end shoots.
Again, not likely where you are likely going to start as an existing portfolio and reputation are generally needed to break into this space.
Additionally, the volume is small enough that architecture photography is limited unless you live in a big city or a luxury market like New York or Jackson Hole.
Commercial photography is often viewed as an auxiliary or parallel path to residential real estate photography.
For one, commercial photography is primarily found in medium to large cities with spaces ranging from commercial buildings to photos of hotels or restaurants, to imagery for marketing agencies.
Second, pricing is on par to Architecture photography and can be quite complex (and fun) given the larger spaces. Again, let’s cross this off your client list for our earnings model.
Real Estate Agents
Awww, yes, the mainstay client of most real estate photographers. Given there are nearly three million real estate agents in the US alone and over five million homes sold each year, this is the target client for most real estate photographers.
Depending on your location and offerings, most real estate photographers charge $150-200 per shoot as a base price. However, the price can be further adjusted based on the additional factors below.
2. Market Location
For starters, when it comes to income per home the location of your market matters. Two factors come into play: cost of living and the population of your city. These often go hand-in-hand, but there are always exceptions.
Cost of Living
And what I really mean is the median cost of homes in your area. Generally, the higher the cost of homes, the higher you can charge.
In recent years home prices have surged, with the median home price now over $400,000 nationally.
If homes near you are selling above or below this amount on average, you may need to adjust your pricing up or down accordingly.
Typically, the larger the city, the more scarce land is, and thus home prices are higher. However, some cities in the midwest and south are still affordable relative to cities on the coasts.
With a larger population generally means more upper-end homes, which typically demand professional photography and media when listed for sale.
A good starting point is 250,000 in a metropolitan area. Surely, if you live in a bigger city, you may be able to charge slightly more. And the opposite goes for smaller cities or towns (though you may have less competition as well).
3. Home Size
While real estate photographers can debate which pricing model is the best forever (we’ll discuss this at length in future lessons), most photographers charge more for larger home as measured by square footage.
For example, if the base price for a 1,500sf home is $150, it’s not uncommon to charge $50-100 extra for each additional 1,000sf.
In addition, it’s also good to know that in most markets the average home size will be between 1,500sf and 2,500sf.
4. Service Offerings
Probably the most under-appreciated way to build a profitable real estate photography business is being a media and marketing company, not just a photography company.
This is a larger industry shift known as Real Estate Photography 3.0, or REP3 for short.
That said, while some offerings require you to invest in more gear, there can be a good return on investment.
Some popular offerings which can assist in moving your price per shoot above your base price include:
Average Income Per Home
With all these factors taken into consideration, it’s safe to assume that the average real estate photographer can expect to earn around $200 per shoot.
As you’ve seen above, depending on your client type, location, home size, and offerings, you may actually see this go as high as $300-500 per shoot or more.
Seasonality Can Affect Your Monthly Income
The real estate photography industry (like most photography businesses) is highly seasonal and follows the real estate market.
How much so?
To give you a better idea, our historical data at PhotoUp shows that on average across over 200 US markets the winter is about 60% slower than the summer.
This isn’t strictly true everywhere. If you live in more southern latitudes, sales may only dip 10 or 20%, or even go up in the winter.
On the other hand, if you live in very warm locations, like Phoenix, I’ve actually see business volume go down in the summer (I guess home buying in 120º weather isn’t ideal).
More specifically, there is a pronounced drop in order volume following US Thanksgiving at the end of November through the first two weeks of January.
From mid-January onward you can expect a nearly linear increase in business through the Spring, then accelerating sales in April through the peak, which is typically June or July.
Often, there is a small dip in orders during August as families settle and send kids back to school. The business then remains fairly steady for September and October.
Steps to Increase Your Income With Marketing
If you can learn early that starting a business means learning sales and marketing, you can quickly overtake your competition and break into any market.
There are really two places where you should invest your time: driving traffic to your website and buying agents as much coffee as possible (that is, set more in-person mirco meetings).
Let’s take a quick look at both.
However, a website doesn’t equal traffic. There are two ways to attract website visitors: paid google ads or organic search engine optimization (SEO).
Google ads obviously cost money, but can get you traffic from day one. Organic ranking is even better, but requires energy and time. That said, it’s best to work on both.
If possible, set aside $200-500 per month to run a google ads campaign, remember you only pay when people actually visit your website.
On the organic ranking side, content is king. If you can muster the discipline to write two blog posts per month, there is a good chance you can move to the first page of google within 6 to 12 months. And once you do, you can dial back your paid ads.
Conclusively, if you don’t have the cash for ads right away and if writing isn’t exactly your thing, get ready to collect more Starbucks stars than ever…
There is a strong correlation between the number of agents you connect with in person and the amount of photo shoots you will book.
For instance, I’ve talked with a real estate photographer who very successfully rented a small office in a real estate broker office and grew a small team of photographers chiefly from their proximity to agents everyday.
Agents are a busy bunch, so I recommend building a list of agents in your local area and sending them a quick email intro with a request to connect for 10 minutes at their office.
Naturally, ask what their coffee beverage of choice is and you’ll fast make some new friends. A great lesson to learn is people do business with people they like and know. Coffee and proximity.
So when you show up to a meeting, frame it as coffee with a friend, not a hard sales meeting. Get to know them. Also, ask them what is most important to their business for marketing their listings and see where you can add value.
Monthly Income of a Real Estate Photographer
Now, that we’ve learned what factors can affect a real estate photographer’s earnings, we can make the following informed assumptions as a starting point to project monthly and annual income:
|Busy Season Max Daily Shoots||2 shoots per day|
|Average Price Per Shoot||$200 per home|
|Working Days Per Month||20 days per month|
You might say, “Gheez, those are some pretty low numbers!”.
True, they are modest (which is a wise way to model). However, not only are they reasonable, turns out they can still produce quite the respectable income:
|Seasonal Volume||Daily Orders||Monthly Income|
While just a model, it’s helpful to see a real estate photographer can earn $72,800 per year by shooting a very reasonable number of homes each day.
Hourly Income of a Real Estate Photographer
Do the quick math ($72,800 / 12 month / 20 days / 8 hours) and as a real estate photographer you can make nearly $38 per hour on average.
Not too bad. What’s crazier?
Increase your max busy season shoots to three shoots per day and your average income per home to $300 and your annual income would exceed $163,000.
To sum up, in this lesson, we learned that the major factors that affect how much real estate photographers can make each year are:
- The Number of Homes Shot Each Day
- The Average Price You Earn Per Shoot
- The Seasonality of Summer vs Winter
- Online Marketing & In-Person Sales
Besides, we also discovered it can be quite a profitable business with earnings in the $60-120K range within your first few years. And possibly more if you are disciplined in your marketing and sales.
Next Lesson: A Day in the Life of a Real Estate Photographer
While it’s a great first step to verify what you can make as a real estate photographer, you need to ensure you actually like the daily, fast-paced workflow, dare I say grind, of the real estate photographer’s life.
While it’s tempting to say, “Perfect, just 1.6 homes per day?! That’s a walk in the park!”.
In real life, you will never shoot a pleasant 1.6 homes each day.
More likely is this scenario: in the summer Monday is slammed with four shoots from Realtors who landed new listings over the weekend.
Then perhaps, you will have just one booking on Tuesday, two on Wednesday, none on Thursday, and an urgent last-minute booking from your biggest client Friday at 4 pm (and to think you were so close to a perfect three-day weekend!).
In the winter it’s quite the opposite story. If you are a one income household or unaware of the big swings in seasonality, things can get scary quick as your order volumes drops off a cliff.
Welcome to the real estate photographer life: fast-paced, seasonal by nature, and a heck of a lot of fun!
In the next lesson (coming soon), we step through the daily workflow of a real estate photographer in more detail.