Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on April 22, 2023 Updated on December 3, 2023
$5,900 - $10,800
$52,000 - $208,000 p.a.
Time to build
$46,800 - $83,200 p.a.
Few things help sell homes better than stunning photos, which is why real estate agents and homeowners seek out skilled real estate photographers.
Real estate photography has boomed in the past decade, tripling in size. So if you’re a photographer looking for a niche, you could do much worse than real estate.
But starting a business requires business knowledge. Lucky for you, this step-by-step guide has all the insight you need to shoot your way to real estate photo success.
Step by Step Business values real-life experience above all. Through our Entrepreneur Spotlight Series, we interview business leaders from diverse industries, providing readers with firsthand insights.
Average level of education – The average photographer has a bachelor’s degree.
Average age – The average photographer in the US is 39 years old.
How much does it cost to start a real estate photography business?
Startup costs for a real estate photography business range from $6,000 to $10,000. Costs include cameras and equipment, as well as a vehicle to transport your equipment.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your real estate photography business, including:
Wide angle lens
Lights and light stands
Photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom
Setting up a business name and corporation
$100 - $500
Business licenses and permits
$200 - $300
$200 - $1,000
Initial Marketing Budget
$300 - $500
Camera and other equipment
$3,000 - $4,000
Vehicle to transport equipment - down payment
$2,000 - $4,000
$5,900 - $10,800
How much can you earn from a real estate photography business?
A real estate photography job should pay about $100 to $300, or more for larger homes. These calculations assume $200 per job and a strong profit margin, if you’re working by yourself, of 90%.
In your first year or two, you could work from home and photograph five homes a week, bringing in $52,000 in revenue. This would mean $46,800 in profit, assuming that 90% margin.
As you gain traction, sales could climb to 20 homes per week. At this stage, you might have an office and hire staff, reducing your margin to around 40%. With annual revenue of $208,000, you’d make a tidy profit of more than $83,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a real estate photography business. Your biggest challenges will be:
Having excellent photography skills
Standing out in an increasingly competitive market
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a real estate photography business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research real estate photography businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews.
Make a list of real estate photography businesses that offer similar services.
Review your competitors’ services – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies
Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.
You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing an architectural photography business or a real estate photography company that takes drone photos.
You might consider targeting a niche, such as aerial photography.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your services
Your real estate photos should include interior shots and exterior shots. You could also create 3D and virtual tours.
How much should you charge for real estate photography?
Expect $150 to $250 per job, but your prices will vary based on the size of the home and the services you provide. Check competitor prices in your area. Later, when you have employees, you’ll need to consider costs when determining prices.
Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market is going to be largely realtors, with whom you’ll aim to develop relationships so they consistently hire you for jobs. Find real estate agents on LinkedIn, Zillow, and other real estate websites.
Where? Choose your business premises
In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Real Estate Photography Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “real estate photography” or “property photography”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Panorama Property Portrayals” and “Blueprint Visions” over “Luxury Listings Imagery” and “Homestead Highlights”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation.
Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward.
Step 4: Create a Real Estate Photography Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A brief overview highlighting the focus of your real estate photography business, its goals, and market niche.
Business Overview: An outline of your business offering professional photography services for real estate agents, homeowners, and property developers.
Product and Services: Description of services including interior and exterior photography, virtual tours, aerial drone photography, and image editing.
Market Analysis: Analysis of the real estate market, demand for professional photography, and trends in property marketing.
Competitive Analysis: Overview of competitors in the real estate photography market, their service offerings, and pricing strategies.
Sales and Marketing: Strategy for attracting clients through online marketing, partnerships with real estate agencies, and portfolio showcasing.
Management Team: Information about the individuals running the business, their photography experience, and business management skills.
Operations Plan: Outline of daily operations such as scheduling shoots, post-processing images, and client delivery processes.
Financial Plan: Financial projections including pricing structure, operating expenses, revenue streams, and profitability forecast.
Appendix: Additional resources like a portfolio of past work, client testimonials, and detailed service descriptions.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to real estate photography businesses.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your real estate photography business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a real estate photography business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your real estate photography business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked, yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as UBOOKR or ULeadz, to manage your clients, scheduling, invoicing, and payments.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Create a website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales.
Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Schedule Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.
Starting a Real Estate Photography Business can be a lucrative venture, capturing the essence of properties to attract potential buyers. Beyond creating a website and networking, here are key strategies to enhance your business:
Showcase Before-and-After Shots: Offer potential clients a visual transformation by showcasing before-and-after photos of properties you’ve photographed, highlighting your ability to enhance the appeal of a space.
Social Media Sneak Peeks: Leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to provide sneak peeks of your latest projects, creating anticipation and showcasing your expertise to a broader audience.
Collaborate with Realtors: Partner with local real estate agents to offer discounted package deals, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that can lead to regular referrals and increased visibility.
Virtual Staging Services: Expand your services to include virtual staging, allowing clients to envision the potential of an empty space and providing an additional revenue stream for your business.
Interactive 360-Degree Tours: Differentiate your offerings by incorporating interactive 360-degree tours, providing a more immersive experience for potential buyers and setting your business apart from competitors.
Client Testimonials and Case Studies: Gather testimonials from satisfied clients and create case studies that highlight the impact of your photography on property sales, building trust and credibility.
SEO Optimization for Local Searches: Optimize your online presence for local search engines, ensuring that your business appears prominently when potential clients search for real estate photography services in your area.
Drone Photography Specialization: Invest in drone photography capabilities to capture unique aerial perspectives, appealing particularly to clients with larger properties or those in scenic locations.
Educational Workshops for Realtors: Host workshops or webinars to educate real estate agents on the importance of high-quality photography in property listings, positioning yourself as an expert in the field.
Referral Programs for Previous Clients: Encourage word-of-mouth marketing by implementing referral programs that reward previous clients for recommending your services to friends, family, or colleagues in the real estate industry.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your real estate photography business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your real estate photography business could be:
Stunning photos that sell homes fast
Gorgeous 3D tours of the best homes
The best real estate drone images in the region
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a real estate photography business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in real estate photography for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in real estate photography. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a real estate photography business include:
Photography Assistant – assist with photo shoots
Photographers – handle client projects
General Manager – scheduling, accounting
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Real Estate Photography Business – Start Making Money!
Real estate photography has boomed in recent years, and you can get a piece of the action while following your passion and helping people sell their homes. Eventually, you could have a whole team of photographers and build a local real estate photo empire.
Now that you’ve got some business savvy, it’s time to grab your camera and become the next big real estate photographer!
Real Estate Photography Business FAQs
Is a real estate photography business profitable?
Real estate photography can be very profitable. You can charge $300 or more for each shoot. You just need to build solid relationships with realtors in your area.
What is the growth potential of a real estate photography business?
You can grow your real estate photography business locally and hire a team to handle higher client volumes. If you’re successful and ambitious, it might even be possible to franchise your business.
Can you start a real estate photography business on the side?
A real estate photography business can be a great side hustle. You’ll just need to schedule your photo shoots in your free time. Eventually, you could turn it into a full time business if you’re successful.
How do I get my first real estate photography client?
Your best bet is to visit real estate agencies to offer your services directly. You can also network with realtors on LinkedIn or place paid ads on LinkedIn. Sometimes local real estate groups hold networking events that you could attend.
How to Start a Real Estate Photography Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Real Estate Photography Business Name
Create a Real Estate Photography Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Business Licenses/Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Real Estate Photography Business - Start Making Money!
Real Estate Photography Business FAQs
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Join our exclusive community! Subscribe to our newsletter and gain insider access to cutting-edge business insights and trends.
Thank you for subscribing! We can't wait to share our latest news and updates with you. Get ready for exciting content in your inbox.