Hiring a Professional Photographer vs. Doing it Yourself

Female photographer checking pictures on camera and smiling. Caucasian woman in casuals standing in her office looking at the photos on her dslr camera.

You know real estate. Photographers know photography.

The skills that serious architectural (or real estate) photographers acquire can take years to master, and that’s a lot of time that busy real estate professionals simply don’t have. Anyone can occasionally get lucky and capture a decent image with a cell phone, but “decent” and “occasionally” aren’t reliable enough.

Non-professionals don’t deal with the timing issues, skills, and equipment professional photographers must master. Some of these include:

• Planning exposure of all sides of buildings and interiors relative to time of day / angle of sun.
• Camera positioning, exposure, depth, etc.
• Interior lighting with and without flash to reduce glare and improve color. (Many interiors’ true colors can’t be revealed without flash.)
• Processing of images: A single high-end photo could take an hour or more plus years of Photoshop experience to produce a high-quality architectural image.

Make an investment that makes sense.

We all spend money to make money. Marketing investments are an everyday necessity for almost any business, large or small. While it will take some time to sit down and calculate your ROI, you’ll be pleased when you crunch the numbers on your investment in photography. Many companies have seen an immediate response from improved photography quality.

Think of professional images as less of an add-on expense and more of a smart investment.

Things to Look for in a Professional Photographer

The barrier of entry for a top professional photographer is more than an expensive camera. You need to find a pro who not only owns the equipment and has mastered their craft but is a good communicator and runs a qualified, insured business.

Each photography discipline (real estate, portrait, wedding, sports, etc.) has its own unique rules and skillsets, so it’s a good idea for a property owner to hire a photographer who specializes in real estate or architectural photography. Dedicated architectural specialists are familiar with:

• The right angles and positions
• How to make sure there is no glare or reflection on glass surfaces
• Other “tricks of the trade” essential to make a property look its best
Simply put: You know how to sell a space, and the right photographer can expedite that sales process by bringing their own unique skills to the space. Find the one that works for you.

Tips for Choosing the Right Photographer

The standard price for photos depends on the market you are in and the skill/experience level of the photographer you are working with. In Columbia, South Carolina, high-end commercial property photos can cost anywhere between $40 and $200+ per photo license.

Some properties may only need a handful of photos (exterior, lobby, common areas), while properties with big blocks of available space and many amenities may require more.

Pricing structures can vary by photographer too. Some photographers may charge a session fee (often called a “day rate”) in addition to their per-photo price, while other photographers will have one flat fee for a set amount of photos.

“Real Estate” And “Architectural” Photographers

Generally speaking, most “real estate” photographers are dealing with high volume and will get the job done cheaper and quicker, but with a lower standard of image quality. “Architectural” photographers tend to have higher price points, but also spend more time perfecting the images and delivering higher quality (think of interior magazine photos).

Gathering Quotes / Budget
As with most things, it’s never a bad idea to get multiple bids. Balance your budget against the quality you require. Increasing your budget will often produce higher quality images – if you hire the right photographer.

Photo Copyrights
When hiring a new photographer, always ask beforehand about policies on image rights.

To cover your bases, request rights for both the property owners and the brokerage company to use in any format, and ask for a contract that lays the copyright-terms out in plain language. This will save you from future potential headaches. If the photographer has restrictions on usage, work out a mutually acceptable agreement. Some photographers are more restrictive with their images than others.

If you come across existing images of a property that you’d like to use, contact the owner of the images and confirm the appropriate usage fees. Neglecting to do so can land you in legal trouble, so be careful when using work not commissioned by you or your company.

The Bottom Line
With all this compelling evidence in favor of having professional photos taken for your property, it seems like a simple answer that can take your property to the next level. While investing in photography – or even just better photography – may be a process, Skyline Pictures urges real estate professionals to consider taking our advice and making the investment.



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