But how do you find one? What will it cost? And will there be limitations on how you can use the images afterward? We asked a few architectural photographers across the United States for guidance.
There are two kinds of photographers who specialize in shooting homes: architectural photographers and real estate photographers. If you’re looking to document a project strictly for selling purposes, then a real estate photographer is the way to go.
“Real estate photographers are very inexpensive,” says William Wright, an architectural photographer in Seattle. “They will go through the house in less than an hour and generally don’t touch anything.”
But if you want photographs that capture the artistry and character of a space, Wright says an architectural photographer is your best bet. “Architectural photographers will meet with you and figure out the best approach, think about the styling, move the furniture around and put a lot more thought into getting the photos,” he says.
Although today’s photographers shoot digitally and no longer have to send their work out to a lab, they still have to manipulate each photo individually, adjusting the lighting and color, removing distractions like motion detectors or stray electrical cords, and often piecing together the best attributes of several images to create one perfect composition. The cost for this processing may be calculated per photo or per shoot, but generally adds anywhere from $40 to $90 per image to the cost of the shoot.
When negotiating fees with a photographer, make sure you ask whether the cost of an assistant and processing fees are included in the price.
Who owns the photos? Unless you’ve made arrangements in advance, the photographer retains the copyright to his or her work. You will be granted permission to use the photos for advertising or promotional purposes, or to post images on sites like Houzz. But if a third party, like a magazine or a manufacturer, wants to publish the images or use them as part of an ad campaign, that usage must be negotiated with the photographer, who may seek additional compensation.
If you want to own the images outright, with no restrictions, the photographer will typically request an additional fee equivalent to the creative fee (the part of the bill related to doing the actual photography).
“A professional brings a lot to the table,” says veteran architectural photographer Susan Gilmore of Minneapolis. “Considering [the designer] could win awards for this or use it for advertising, it’s not a lot of money. The better a project looks, the more work it’ll bring.”