These days nearly everyone researches their real estate purchases online. Having great real estate photos with your listing can mean a higher sale price, more offers and even a faster sale when you sell your home. The National Association of Realtors found that 89 percent of homebuyers found online photos helpful during their home search and 58 percent of all homebuyers found their home via a mobile device like a phone or tablet. Research by real estate giant Redfin shows that in every listing price tier, homes for sale that had DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) photography were more likely to sell within six months than homes with point-and-shoot photos. That means your smartphone pictures, while functional, can't compete at the same level as professionally shot real estate photography.
No matter how fabulous your condo, flat, house or manor, if you don't have professional photography that showcases your place in its best possible light, it's like you're throwing money away. Just like with online dating, people are drawn to beautiful photos that showcase all the great features and interiors, not shadowy selfies. Real estate photographers specialize in working with the shadows and lighting that are inside and outside of homes. They understand how and when to shoot photos based on the location and setting of your home, how to frame the best inside shots, and the best times to plan a photography shoot. Real estate photographers use professional editing software to retouch each photo for optimal outcomes. The end result is a selection of photographs that illuminate your home or commercial property's assets and soften the not-so-perfect parts.
You can also use real estate photography to make your place as attractive as possible for home sharing websites like Airbnb and VRBO or for real estate listing services or for marketing on social media. With gorgeous home photos, you can have a higher asking price for your Airbnb rental rate than you can with shadowy smartphone pics. Beyond residential properties, real estate photography or commercial photography is crucial for commercial real estate sales. And if it's a high-end home or office, you may want someone who specializes in showcasing architectural photography as well. Whether you're leasing or selling commercial properties, pro photos can get you top dollar for your office, farm, empty lots or real estate developments. Of course you can take your own real estate photos, but with so much riding on the results, it's a good idea to invest in professionally shot photographs. Studies have shown that professional real estate photos garner nearly twice as many online views and that professionally photographed homes actually sell for more.
When searching for the right photographer, look for one with an existing real estate portfolio. Shooting real estate photos requires different strategies and techniques than shooting portraits or wedding photos. Many professional photographers specialize in making real estate look its best for potential buyers, lessees and renters, so find one who has an aesthetic you like and that is experienced with both interior shots and exterior shots. The cost to have real estate photographs taken is based on a variety of things including the number of final retouched photos needed, the number of hours the photographer is onsite, the amount of time the photographer works on the photos in post-processing (editing and retouching), the square footage of your home or building, the time of day you want the pictures shot (twilight invariably costs more) and other add-on services.
Here are the factors that affect the average cost of real estate photography.
Number of photos
Most real estate photographers provide tiered pricing based on the number of photos you want. This allows you to determine how many photos you deem necessary (you can ask your real estate agent for guidance) to best showcase your house. If you don't want to bump up to a higher-priced package, but think you need a few extra photos, some photographers will charge per picture to provide you what you need. Often, the more real estate photos you purchase, the lower the cost per picture you'll pay. There are also some photographers who charge by the hour, rather than per photo. There's no right or wrong way for real estate photographers to charge for their services, so make sure you are clear on costs before you hire a pro. Here are examples of average tiered package price ranges from XL Visions of Chicago:
- $130 for 13 photos delivered within 24 hours of the photo shoot
- $165 for 25 photos delivered within 24 hours of the photo shoot
- $195 for 40 photos delivered within 48 hours of the photo shoot
Photographing a one-bedroom bungalow with no backyard will take significantly less time than a six-bedroom, two-story house with a half-acre landscaped backyard. For this reason, many real estate photographers base their prices on the square footage of the property. For example, Art by Art in Los Angeles charges $200 on average for properties up to 2,500 square feet and $250 on average for properties from 2,501 to 4,000 square feet. If you have unusual circumstances, such as loads of undeveloped land for which you don't need photographic documentation, you can negotiate with the real estate photographer to talk about cost-saving strategies.
Time of day
Some photographers charge extra for photos taken at twilight or at night. Weekend photo shoots may also command higher prices due to photographer availability and increased competition for services. Twilight and nighttime photo shoots can cost more because of the lack of natural light. Shooting at twilight is more complicated and takes more technical expertise to capture great shots in the low light — and there is very little time to snap the perfect shot. For evening photos, the pros need the right lighting, lens and equipment to fight glare from the flash and have your shots turn out right. Although they can cost more, real estate photos that are taken around twilight can have an undeniably magical glow and can really show the beauty of your property. Your landscaping, architecture and exterior lighting can all shine in beautiful sunset and evening shots. A company may charge $100-$200 extra for twilight photos, depending on the size of the property. For example, Real Image Pros charges $99 for their standard daytime real estate photography package. They charge an additional $179 for clients who want exterior photos taken around sunset. In another example, XL Visions charges $90 for 3 twilight photos, $150 for 5 twilight photos, or $295 for 10 twilight photos.
Giving buyers a bird's-eye view of the property for sale can boost interest and even perceived property value. Whether you are showcasing the amenities of a commercial property (such as the beautifully landscaped garden of your boutique bed-and-breakfast business) or you want homebuyers to see an uninterrupted overhead view of the home you're selling, aerial photography opens up new horizons. Using a remote-controlled drone equipped with a camera, photographers can capture views they are unable to snap from the ground. Drone or aerial photography will typically be an added fee in addition to your real estate photography prices, but if you want to show off the size of your lot or your amazing landscaping, the investment can provide great returns. Pricing for drone photography will vary by company and by the number of retouched photos you desire. For example, Real Image Pros of Buford, Georgia, offers unlimited aerial images for $249. Some photographers also offer 180-degree and 360-degree panoramic photos for an additional cost. There can also be a difference in the price of residential drone photography and commercial drone photography pricing. For example, Art by Art charges $200 for 8 retouched residential drone photography shots, while drone packages for commercial real estate photography from Art by Art start at $400.
If you want to offer potential buyers a more interactive experience of your house, you can pay real estate photographers to upgrade your photos to a virtual tour. Real Image Pros explains that their virtual tour consists of an animated intro with the seller's contact information and all the details of the property for sale. This intro is followed by an animated slideshow of the real estate photos and panorama viewer, all set to music. This add-on to a residential real estate package by Real Image Pro costs $40, on average, and includes syndication to many popular real estate sites and a free YouTube version.
XL Visions offers a similar service they all a Fusion Virtual Tour. They synthesize the high-resolution photography they have taken at your site and include spherical panorama and video and audio presentation along with their patented marketing tools. This is an add-on feature to their standard real estate photography packages and ranges in price from $15 to $45, depending on the level of marketing features you choose to include.
To really showcase your home for sale, you can hire a real estate photographer to film a short video of your property. The cost of the video tour will vary based on home size, film features that you select, and the amount of post-production work and editing required. Simple video tours from Real Image Pros cost $99, on average. These video tours include an intro page with seller or agent contact information as well as details about the listing, such as number of bedrooms and square footage. The video tour from Real Image Pros edits together 360-degree video shots of each room to create a cohesive visual of your home. Real Image Pros also offers an upgraded video tour that starts at $299. The higher-priced video tour from Real Image Pros has a more cinematic feel with clean transitions from room to room and informative, onscreens displays for each room. Additional upgrades the company offers include human interaction, narration and aerial video. The type of video package you chose will likely depend on the demographic you are targeting and the sale price you are hoping to earn for your home. Buyers who are planning to spend more on purchasing a home are likely going to expect a higher level of marketing as they search online. A compelling video can get them to move from looking online to scheduling a walk-through and, finally, to making an offer to buy your home.
Packages and add-ons
To get more bang for your home marketing buck, consider buying an all-inclusive package from your real estate photographer. Instead of buying interior photos from one photographer and a home tour video from another, you'll likely see savings by purchasing multiple services from one professional. Remember, you can get a lot more from a real estate photographer than just images. Here are some examples of average package pricing and the different add-ons provided from a real estate photographer in Southern California:
- Basic package, including a virtual tour and digital marketing package with up to 25 final images and more: $109-$129
- Standard package, which includes all of the above plus more marketing add-ons and up to 35 final images: $189
- The Full House, including all of the above as well as an expanded virtual tour that covers the entire home and property and up to 45 final images: $249
Another service that may help sell your home sale is offering homebuyers professionally created 2-D floor plans. For example, XL Visions charges on average $80 for floor plans of a one-floor condo (or similar), $150 for floor plans of a two-floor town home (or similar), or $220 for floor plans of a full house with three floors.
Commercial real estate photography
There may be higher fees for commercial real estate photography than for residential real estate photography. Some real estate photographers base pricing solely on square footage, while others may charge varying rates depending on the property type. When working with apartment complexes, hotels or similar locations, Real Image Pros charges an additional $20 for unlimited shots of the property's amenities such as the pool and spa, lobby, recreation center and fitness room.
Ask about package deals to potentially save money over buying a la carte services. But make sure you really need all of the add-ons offered in the package. If you're listing multiple properties over time, developing an ongoing relationship with a real estate photographer can provide you savings. They typically are willing to negotiate lower rates for your loyalty and ongoing business.
Photos to get
When you set out to hire a real estate photographer, consider your goals before contacting them. Think about the size of your home, your planned list price, who you see as the ideal buyer (retired couple, a young family, well-to-do single, etc.) and the highlights of your home and property that you think will really appeal to that target audience. If you're working with a real estate agent, they can help guide the photography vision.
Your real estate photographer is the pro, but it's also helpful for you to have an idea of the number of photos you would like and what you want to see in them. When booking the photographer, let them know what to expect when they arrive and what your home is like. Tell them whether your home has a lot of natural light or if it's darker inside. Let them know if there are lot of windows or a unique staircase you want captured, or if you'll want them to highlight the landscaping.
Preparing the photographer with an idea of what they'll be shooting can help them bring the right equipment and will help you get the best results. Even if you are not photographing each room, consider what's important to see from a buyer's perspective and direct your real estate photographer accordingly. The exterior front of the home is critical, as are the main rooms in your house. Buyers need to see the kitchen, living room, main bedroom and main bath, and central living areas, at a minimum. The pro will know to showcase each room's assets, but for example, if they are shooting your main bedroom and you have a gorgeous walk-in closet, make sure that's captured in the shot. If possible, it's also important to get photos of additional bedrooms, bathrooms, dens, home office, and as much of the landscaping and exterior features as possible.
Noah Wright of Real Image Pros recommends that you answer the following questions before you contact a photographer: What is your budget? How soon do you need the images? Where will the shoot take place? Will there be human models involved? What are the weather considerations?
Homebuyers purchase homes that they can envision living in. For that reason, when you are selling your house, it's important to take your personal imprint off the place to make room for others to dream big. Home staging accomplishes that by creating a tastefully neutral space that almost anyone can imagine living in. Home staging also greatly reduces visual clutter and creates easy movement through the home. The Real Estate Staging Association reports that staged homes spend 90 percent less time on the market than those that are not staged. Couple a well-staged home with well-done real estate photographs and you can take your home sale all the way to the bank.
A fantastic home stager will play up your home's strengths (those gorgeous French doors in the main bedroom) and minimize attention to its weaknesses (outdated cabinetry in the kitchen). Hiring a home stager to declutter and revamp your home before you have professional real estate photos is a smart investment. Even the most gorgeous real estate photos can't sell your home if your space is crowded and it's hard for buyers to picture living there.
Home stagers can minimize, rearrange and redecorate your existing furniture and decor. They can also bring in furniture and decor to stage an empty house in preparation for real estate photos. An empty house is nearly as hard to sell effectively as an overly cluttered, too-busy house. An empty house looks cold and uninviting. The cost to hire a home stager can range anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars on average, depending on how much hands-on help you need, and whether you need additional furniture or decor brought in.
Some real estate photographers offer virtual home staging. Using special software, they can transform your real estate photos of an empty house to appear as though the rooms are stylishly staged with furnishings, decor and appliances. For example, XL Visions charges $50 for 1 staged photo, $80 for 2 virtually staged photos, or $150 for 3 virtually staged photos.
How to prepare
To make the most of your real estate photos, be prepared for the photographer. Talk with your real estate agent about what needs to happen to get the house camera-ready. If you're planning to sell your home, you will probably choose a date to put it on the market a few months ahead of time, so make the most of that interval. Your real estate agent might advise you to plant flowers and have a lawn crew come whip your lawn and gardens into shape. For the home's exterior, address any peeling paint with touch-ups or dirty areas with low-pressure washing. Have the windows in your home and garage professionally cleaned inside and outside before the photo shoot. Sparkling windows look fabulous in real estate photos.
Inside your home, consider hiring a home stager to create the best visual setups for your photo shoot. You will certainly want to clean the inside, top to bottom, or hire a professional cleaning crew to scrub inside until everything shines. Art by Art also urges homeowners to make sure all light fixtures are in proper working order. All this may seem like a lot of work, but it will pay off when you sell your home with a great return on investment.