Real estate photographers: How to get paid what you’re worth

In Build A Photography Business Show, Real estate photography pricing by Build A Photography Business

If you're a real estate photographer, what do you need to do to get paid what you're worth?

In episode 12 of The Build A Photography Business Show I shared a formula for pricing your real estate photography packages, and in this episode we'll go to the next step and talk about how you command higher fees. If going up against cheap competitors is an issue for you then I think you'll love this!

Here's what I covered in this episode (you can jump to the different sections in the video timeline):
0:00 - Intro
2:14 - How to get paid what you're worth
4:26 - 6 criteria to differentiate yourself
7:42 - Your reputation
8:52 - Your story
11:28 - Customer service
13:03 - Logo, colors and fonts
14:55 - Your website
16:22 - Social media content
18:11 - Summary of this process
20:22 - Q&A

How to get paid what you're worth

In the last episode of this show I presented a formula for building a price for your photography packages and other services, so you can take a look at Episode 12 if you want a full explanation of how that works.

When we were talking about pricing I had one photographer say that the big issue they face is: "Getting tight Yorkshire folk to pay what pro photography is worth!"

So I thought I’d take a look at this issue of how to get paid what you’re worth. Now, when I was starting to think through what I’d do if I was that photographer, I think I’d want to start by acknowledging the two criteria that our clients have when it comes to choosing a photographer – they all choose one photographer over another either because they are cheaper or because they are better.

What they mean by ‘better’ will vary a lot, so what we need to do as photographers is try and put ourselves at the top of that better column across multiple categories. So however they decide that they want a better photographer and not just a cheaper photographer, we want to dominate in that category.

What we also want to do is to structure our business in such a way that even customers who were looking for a cheap photographer are rethinking that decision once they see what we do, and hopefully we can help them shift to wanting a better photographer, not a cheaper photographer.

So when we frame it that way, we can then start to think through – OK, what makes a better photographer in the eyes of a real estate agent or a builder or an interior designer?

So what you could do is to list the elements that makes a photography business unique, and I’d define this as a photographer’s brand. It’s their brand and where they are positioned in the marketplace that really sets one photographer apart from the others.

So you take that list of elements that make up a photographer’s brand, you define what average looks like, and then define what ‘better’ could look like in the eyes of your clients.

So think through what it is that a customer can see that differentiates one photographer from another, and I know a lot of photographers will point to the quality of their photography, and you could definitely do that, but I’ve left it out of my list because I want to encourage you to not rely on image quality.

Now the reason I say that is that as photographers we’re often much better at picking up differences in image quality than our clients are, so while you might see a big difference in the way you use flashed exposures compared with other photographers who use ambient light, and you think that’s your big advantage, your clients may not be so good at picking up those differences.

So perhaps look at the other areas of your business, in particular the areas that your clients are better at judging, and see how they might impact on the way your potential clients see you.

So here are the categories I’d include when trying to define a particular photographer’s brand. I’d list:
1. The reputation of the photographer
2. Your story.
3. Customer service
4. Logo, colors and fonts
5. Website design and content
6. Social media content

So what you could do then is think about how you could excel in each of those areas, but make sure it’s in a way that is going to be noticed by your customers. I know a lot of photographers find that quite tricky to do because it’s hard to see your business in that way.

But this is important – you need to consider things from your customer’s point of view, and if you think you’re too biased when it comes to assessing your own business, get some people outside your business to help you.

For example, are there some other business owners or other photographers who could help you with this, or maybe bring in a business coach to help you. Find someone you can trust and then speak with them about this, and get them to take a really critical look at each of these areas in your business, and see what it would look like for you to be better.

So let’s go through each of these categories, and I want to emphasise that your market and your business is going to be very different to others, so I’m just going to generalise here but hopefully it gives you an idea of how you can work through this process.

Your reputation

Let’s start by thinking about the reputation of the average real estate photographer in your area, or if you aren’t quite sure, think about the average photographer in the industry. When we’re thinking about this, we’re looking at the trust that clients and prospects have in that photographer – do they believe that the photographer can deliver what they need?

Do they think the photographer will arrive on time, engage well with the homeowner, and act in a professional manner?

When you look at what everyone else is doing, what comes to mind for you? That’s what we want to write down in this first column.

Now in the second column we want to write down what a photographer with a better reputation would do, as defined by the client. What do you think that would be?

So in that column you’ll write down what better would look like where you are, and obviously this means you need to know your competition, but you also need to think creatively about how you could build a better reputation for your business.

Your story

The next thing to think about is your story. And what we’re doing here is not so much critiquing an individual story, but rather we’re thinking about whether a photographer’s story is being shared, and how that story is integrated into that business.

So in this first column,write down what the average photographer shares about their story, and you might want to visit some websites for photographers in your area just to be sure you’re being honest and fair in your assessment. Now you might find that often it’s largely missing, or if it’s there, it’s not very compelling. That’s usually what I find but check it out and see what’s being done in your local area.

Now in the second column you’ll want to write downwhat a better example of sharing your story could look like. Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out here – be ambitious and be transparent. Get people to buy into your story so they understand who you are and why you’re a photographer.

To give you an example, my story of how I became a business coach is that I was a real estate photographer for 17 years, but I struggled to find a business coach who could provide me with tools and training directly relevant to real estate photography. So I created a coaching program specifically for real estate photographers, giving them a support network and a space where they can access pre-made tools that will help their businesses grow and where they can grow as individuals as well.

So if that story resonates with you then you might want to learn more about what I do or reach out to me to find out how I can help you, whereas if I just said that I run a training program for photographers then that doesn’t provide the same level of connection between us.

Do you see what I mean? So you might want to share your story and the thing that makes you unique, and use that to differentiate you from the cheaper photographers in your area.

So think about your story as a photographer, and how could you incorporate that story and share it with potential clients in a way that is better than what most other photographers are doing?

Customer service

Next up we want to think about customer service, and this is a really broad category but it’s a really important one. In fact, the last couple of weeks I’ve been working through with my coaching clients as we’ve been defining what basic customer service looks like, and then what premium customer service is like.

And the reason that’s so important is that your clients may not be able to see any difference between your photos and another photographer’s photos, but what they can see is customer service … in fact, they’re really good at picking up on great customer service, so it’s something you really want to invest in.

So for this exercise that we’re doing, write down what average customer service looks like in your area. So maybe think about the booking process, how long it takes for photos to be delivered, the time it takes for you to respond to an inquiry, things like that. You want to define what normal looks like, and then in the second column write down what it would look like to be better.

How would you step up to a new level? What would you do with customer service to go from down here to up here?

Again, don’t worry at this stage about HOW you’ll deliver that level of customer service, just try and define what you could be doing, and you can figure out how you’ll do that later on.

Logo, colors and fonts

Next on our list is your logo and the colors and the fonts you use in your material. So we want to think about the quality of the logo, does it seem professional, and what message does it convey?

We also want to think about colors, and in particular we’re thinking about the consistency of those colors throughout a business. A strong brand will be very intentional with their color use on their website, social media, business cards, everywhere … whereas a weaker brand might use different variations of blue, or they’ll use one font on their logo, but then use a different font across their website or elsewhere.

So taking a look at our table, what does the average photographer in your market convey with their logo, colors and fonts?Are they consistent with those elements, or are they inconsistent?

Now you don’t want to be making assumptions, so take a look at what other photographers are doing, and assess their logo, colors and fonts.

After that you’ll want to write down what a better version of that could look like. So in that regard, we’re looking for consistency, professionalism, and the right mix of those elements relative to the particular brand. So a fun brand will have different colors and fonts to a formal brand – one isn’t better than the other, but we want to make sure there’s consistency there across those 3 elements, and in each space where those elements are seen online or in print.

Your website

The next thing we want to look at is your website, and this is an important one, in spite of the way that social media platforms have kind of taken over from websites, it’s still a place that your clients go to when they want to learn more about you or send you an email or book a photo shoot.

It’s also very easy to create a website that makes you look cheap – I’ve seen a lot of real estate photographer websites, and a lot look very basic and need improving. So what you might want to do is to write down what’s normal for a real estate photographer in your area, and then in the second column write down what a better than normal photographer would do with their website.

So with this we’re thinking about the design of the site, but we’re also thinking about the content on the site, and what that says about you as well.

Alright, so what would a better photographer have on their site? I think it’s going to be easy to navigate, it’s going to look highly professional, and it’s going to share the photographer’s story about why they do what they do.

So toss some ideas around, and see what you can come up with to create a website that positions you firmly in that preferred photographer category.

Social media content

The final thing to consider is your social media content, and we want to start by looking at the social media content of the normal photographer. Now what I see from most real estate photographers when I look at their stuff on Instagram or Facebook is portfolio content, so lots and lots of photos of the interiors and exteriors of houses. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s good to show what you can do, but if that’s all you’re sharing then I think you’re missing out on one of the big opportunities of social media and that is to educate and inform.

So in the first column write down what’s normal for photographers in your area, and in the second column in our table, write down what you could be doing better, and I think a better photographer will beusing their social media channels to share their knowledge and their experience to go a step above just sharing photos. I think this is a real point of difference, and if you’re looking for one thing that can really separate you from your competition, then find a way to use your social media channels to educate and inform. If you can do that then that will pretty quickly put daylight between you and the cheaper photographers out there, particularly if you can use video with you onscreen talking about your knowledge and experience.

Review this list

So now let’s take a look at this list – if you were very clearly doing better in each of those 6 categories, how do you think you would be perceived by agents in your local market?

I’d reckon that even agents who might otherwise go for the cheaper photographer would have to say, “That photographer costs a bit more, but they are better.”

You’re not going to be able to convince everyone, but if you’re doing all of these things well I think you’re going to make it pretty clear that you know your stuff, you’re great to work with and you’re highly professional, and I think that message sells well in any market, even if your price is a little higher than your competition.

Now how much higher you can push that price will depend on how well you can present yourself as the better option in those 6 categories. If you try some of these ideas and find that agents are still unwilling to pay your fee, then maybe check over your business again to make sure that you are delivering a better option in each of those categories in a way that your customers can understand. Keep going back to that framework and look at everything you do through their eyes, and that’ll help you to identify the areas that need changing.

Having said that, if you build a strong brand and if you are better than your competition in each of those six categories, but you’re not doing any marketing, then you might still struggle. So it’s super important that you get this brand story right and make sure you’ve got a great product to sell, but then you also need to go out there and do the selling and engage with prospects and invite them to work with you.

But it starts with having a great brand, so build your brand as we talked about today and when you get the brand right then you’ll progress to marketing and making sure everyone knows about you and what you do.