Just like in any other job, it’s a sliding scale that moves on many factors, such as if they are working freelance, on a contract, or as an employee for a larger firm. The amount they make also depends on the types and range of services they provide.
This is determined by what equipment they have and, most importantly, their individual skills and knowledge to use the equipment they have.
How much do real estate photographers make?
A residential real estate photographer can charge between $100 – $400 per shoot, while a commercial photographer can charge $100 – $400 per photo. A package including a 3D walk-through can command $500 up to $2,500. A full-time real estate photographer can expect to make between $50,000 – $150,000 a year.
Anyone can buy a camera, but only a photographer can use one (and yes, if you use a camera or drone to take amazing imagery, you are a photographer).
So what is important in determining how much a real estate photographer will make? The biggest factors in determining pay that I will get into here are job structure, equipment, services, and experience.
What is a real estate photographer?
Generally, real estate photography is photos (and increasingly videos) of real estate with the purpose of selling and showing the property. There are four main types of real estate photography:
Residential real estate photography
Residential is by far the most common form of real estate photography and will make up most of the revenue of someone pursuing this.
This generally includes photos and videos of houses going onto the market and will often be hired or contracted by a real estate agent or realty company.
A photographer can charge anywhere between $100 – 400 per shoot (which will often include 10 – 40 edited images of the property).
Pro Tip: Higher-priced properties often pay better than lower-priced ones, with more margin for the realtor and more margin for the photographer.
Commercial real estate photography
Commercial is a less common branch of real estate photography because these buildings are on the market less frequently, and there are fewer of them.
Commercial is usually office space, public use buildings, restaurants, and any other place of business. These jobs are harder to find and are often taken up by more experienced photographers but are higher paying when landed.
More time is spent on these photos and will be used for much longer than simply selling a house (residential). A photographer can often charge $100 – $400 per photo for this type of real estate photography.
Architectural and interior real estate photography
Architectural and interior are both very niche types of real estate photography but can be lucrative for the right person.
Architectural will be working for architecture firms and is similar to commercial, just less common.
Interior is not to be confused with the interior photos a residential photographer would take, but rather is more specialized in interior shots and will work for department stores, interior decorators, paint companies, etc.
They will also often have extensive experience and lighting setups to get the right shots. These types of real estate photography, along with commercial photography, can expect the highest pay rates, but jobs are sparse and infrequent.
Walk-throughs in real estate photography
More recently, there is a growing demand for a 3D virtual walk-through such as with Matterport or Insta 360 cameras.
One real estate agent I spoke to went so far as to say she would only consider photographers who also do drone photography and 3D as a whole package.
Aerial shots with the right drone can add to all types of real estate photography, and carrying a mini drone, such as any in the DJI Mini series or the EVO Nano, will help set you apart from the competition and get unique shots.
The fastest growing side of real estate photography is first-person view (FPV) walk-throughs.
FPV drones are small, nimble, and smooth, so they have become the top choice to fly inside a building. They give the viewer a true feel of what it’s like to really be there.
This is often done in one continuous motion with little to no cuts and, when done right, can look amazing. I’ve even seen one where the drone flies through a bowling alley and follows the ball behind the bowling pins!
These jobs can range dramatically, but I would charge no less than $500 and up to $2,500 for a full package with a fly-through.
If you are looking to pick up a drone to help your real estate photography, check out this guide.
All and all, a full-time real estate photographer can expect to make anywhere between $50,000 – $150,000 a year, although many factors can affect this.
But that is the beauty of choosing real estate photography as a career. There is no pay ceiling, and the earning potential really depends on the person, the area, and the services offered.
So, in other words, if you invest in the right equipment, training, and business basics, you can determine how much you make as a real estate photographer.
How do you become a real estate photographer?
Ok, so you’re sold, it sounds like fun, and you like the salary potential. How do you start? Practice, practice, practice.
Practice on a friend’s house, your own house, and other homes free of charge.
Then when you are confident in your abilities and have a portfolio of work to show for it, you can either make a website and look for clients, or look for a job with an already established firm.
There are also training courses you can take online to build your confidence and speed up your progress. Some great resources include The Photography Institute and Skillshare. Both are entirely online and for a reasonable price.
With a mix of practice, online learning, and real-world experience, you can be a great real estate photographer.
The list of equipment, like for all photography, can be as long or short as you want. It can very quickly get longer than I’d like to admit and is notoriously expensive, so it is important to find what works for you and remember that more gear isn’t always better.
For me, a small drone, a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, and a sturdy tripod are the basics I go to every shoot with.
Most drones can do a great job. I recommend a DJI Mini (1, 2, or 3) or Autel Evo Nano. Both are on the cheaper end but don’t fly like it. They are great drones that are small and easy to bring and fly just about anywhere.
For a DSLR, any entry-level camera should do. I shoot Cannon, but any brand does fine.
For commercial or architectural photography, a higher-end camera with a higher MP (megapixel) and bigger sensor size might be needed as the photos may be blown up very large.
These are usually full-frame cameras and are sometimes called medium format.
These days even an iPhone 14 shoots very high-quality photos and could be used for practice or more informal jobs.
A Matterport or Install 360 camera can have a higher initial investment but can pay for itself very fast with the increase in job price and volume.
More Services, More Demand, Higher Pay
Photography is often priced upon experience and skill, with real estate photography being no exemption.
A photographer just starting out or with only a few jobs under their belt is often going to work for cheaper or even for free to gain experience.
This is sometimes called “working for exposure.”
Often, the more years of experience a photographer has the higher their rates. This is because it shows in their work. As they accumulate a larger customer base, they are able to earn more by working quicker and more efficiently.
So at the end of the day, with the right training, lots of experience, and the right equipment, a career in real estate photography can be very lucrative and is a growing business that has the potential to pay more each year.
This is especially true with the advances in technology such as auto HDR modes, auto flight modes in DJI drones, and editing programs such as adobe lightroom getting easier and more intuitive every year.
It has never been a better time to get into real estate photography.