4 Types of Real Estate Photography
Did you know that there are four main types of real estate photography?
Yep, that’s right. We can break down real estate photography into four main sub-categories. We have listed down the four types along with a description of each sub-category. We have also included a typical mix of where your revenue will come from when starting your own business.
Residential (Revenue Mix: 80 to 100%)
This category will make up the bulk of your business as a real estate photographer. Residential photography includes condo units, single-family homes, townhomes, multi-family buildings of two to eight units, and luxury properties priced at over a million dollars.
Most photographers shoot exterior and interior images, with an increasing demand for aerial shots and video as well. In the US market, the usual practice is to deliver 20-30 edited images. In other more developed markets like Australia, five to 15 edited photos are more common.
The residential category is probably the best of the four types of real estate photography. Why? Well, you typically get a lot of repeat business from the same Realtor-client. Keep in mind that there are over a million Realtors in the US. Over five million homes are sold every single year.
While prices can vary significantly by location, these types of shoots typically garner around $100-400 per shoot. The average is maybe $200-250 for most average-sized homes (2,000 square feet) and markets (cities between 250,000 and 750,000 residents).
Commercial (Revenue Mix: 0 to 10%)
Commercial photography is less common than residential, but there are still several photographers who specialize in it.
What exactly is commercial photography? Strictly speaking, if you get paid for delivering photos, this is somehow "commercial." But real estate photographers and industry insiders define the term differently — and that is: "photos intended for any commercial purpose."
Commercial photography differs from residential photography in a few aspects. Residential photographers usually deliver images to their clients with a limited license. Until Realtors can sell the home, they alone can use the photos. While the home is still on the market, the photos cannot be used for any other purpose than for marketing and selling the house.
On the other hand, commercial photographs have less licensing restrictions. They have broader permissions and longer usage terms. Suppose a photographer is hired to take photos of a favorite restaurant in town. If the restaurant owner intends to use the images for several years for promoting his business over a variety of mediums (broadcast, magazines, print articles, web, etc.), that’s perfectly OK. Most photographers consider this commercial.
There are three main reasons why commercial photography jobs are usually more expensive than residential photography:
1. The value of commercial photos is higher. If a company makes more money from them in the long term, they are more valuable to the client.
2. Commercial jobs are more scarce, as they are not needed as frequently.
3. Clients hold commercial photographers to a higher standard. They usually require both higher-end equipment and more experience.
Regarding prices, they usually vary, and the subjects are also more diverse. Most commercial photographers charge anywhere from $100-300 per photo. It is a smart practice to require a minimum of maybe five photos to ensure a decent paycheck for your time.
Architectural (Revenue Mix: 0 to 5%)
This category can be considered an extension of commercial and residential photography. Architectural photography clients are typically architects, civil engineering firms, contractors, designers, or home builders.
When we hear the term architectural photography, we tend to think of exotic, modern building designs. However, architectural subjects for real-world clients don't usually fall into that category. Architectural photos typically focus on and highlight the flow of a single space or structure, functional design, or the quality of construction.
The pricing and licensing of architectural photography are quite similar to commercial photography. The significant difference is that in the former, the focus is on accentuating each building's structure and details.
As such, architectural photographers often work with their clients to decide on the exact features to highlight. When shooting, they carefully consider the lighting, angles, and environmental factors such as the weather and time of day.
Most architectural photographers also use better lighting rigging, more accurate tripod heads, and high-end tilt-shift lenses to achieve a polished, high-end product. More time is also spent in post-processing to ensure that every part of the image looks just right.
Interiors (Revenue Mix: 0 to 5%)
If architectural photography is the big sister, then interiors represent the little sister. As the name suggests, interiors are concerned with the flow and design of interior spaces and rooms. The focus is more on the emotional aspects — how the color, design, furnishings, and other amenities evoke a certain mood or feeling.
Clients of interior photographers are usually architects, interior designers, magazines, realtors for luxury homes, staging companies, and owners. The subject can be any space of any type, size, and price — especially if it has a unique design or story. A good example of this would be an old colonial home in New England with a history dating back to the American Civil War years.
Aside from luxury homes, other subjects could be businesses and products, such as high-end furniture inside a staging home.
The Bottom Line
You’ve now seen the four main types or sub-categories of real estate photography. So, which of them suits you and your business? Within the broad confines of real estate photography, there is a narrow path for all photographers, and YOU, to make a living and to express themselves.
If you'd like to be connected with a photographer in any of these fields or maybe learn a little bit more about real estate photography, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be more than happy to entertain your questions.